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Headlines 26 August, 2016

Headlines 19 August, 2016

Headlines 12 August, 2016

Headlines 5 August, 2016

Headlines 26 August, 2016

Czech Rep: Anti-Islam hoax rally ought to have been banned, says Prague mayor

22/8/2016- The rally that Martin Konvicka's Initiative anti-Islam group organised in the centre of the city on Sunday and that caused panic among tourists ought to have been banned, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova (ANO) told journalists on Monday. "This was the absolute failure of an official and I want to draw personnel consequences from this," Krnacova told CTK. Members of the Initiative arrived at the historical Old Town Square on a military vehicle, wearing camo uniforms and leading a camel and carrying an Islamic State flag. They "played" an invasion of Prague by IS. The performance aroused panic among people in the square, mainly foreign tourists. In the morning, the Prague City Hall released its official statement that it could not have banned the rally.

Prague officials knew that persons disguised as soldiers will attend the rally that Martin Konvicka's Initiative anti-Islam group organised in the centre of the city on Sunday, but they could not ban the event as they knew no more details, the City Hall said. However, Krnacova said the application for the rally had really included a mention about fake weapons. "However, this is not substantial. The application ought not to have been permitted in the first place," Krnacova said. The police are checking the Sunday rally as breach of the peace. Konvicka told CTK on Sunday that he had mainly wanted to shock the public. "I disagree with the acceptation of migrants, but I do not think it is normal that some people drive across the Old Town Square, arousing fear and panic," Krnacova said.

The Greens have filed a criminal complaint over the Sunday rally, party leader Matej Stropnicky said on the Facebook on Monday. "At first, the police were checking it as spreading a false alarm, but after consulting the state attorney's office, this was changed to breach of the peace," Stropnicky said. "However, it seems to us that in this way, the act can only be denoted as a minor offence," Stropnicky said. The rally can deter foreign tourists from visiting the Czech Republic if the foreign press, especially in Europe and the USA, reports about it, Jan Papez, deputy chairman of the Association of Czech Travel Agents, has told CTK. "In the long run, we have been considered a safe destination. The events of this type can easily demolish this image of the Czech Republic," Papez said, calling the rally a large embarrassment which would, as he hoped, not have any durable effect on the number of foreign tourists.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Valery Novoselsky, Romani activist and founder of the Roma Virtual Network, has passed away

22/8/2016- The Roma Times news server cites a report published by the Romani editors of Swedish Radio that Romani activist Valery Novoselsky of Israel, who founded Roma Virtual Network, passed away on 20 August 2016 at the age of 46. Mr Novoselsky passed away while attending a Romani music festival in Riga, Latvia. Mr Novoselsky was born on 15 April 1970 in Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, USSR. He lived there until 1993. From 1993 to 1995 he lived in Moscow, after which he moved to Israel. In July 1999 Mr Novoselsky established Roma Virtual Network and pioneered Romani community presence on the Internet. Through several different listservs Mr Novoselsky distributed information from and about Romani communities to the entire world. In the year 2000 he became a member of the International Romani Union. He was also an active member in other European Roma institutions. In addition to Romani activism, Mr Novoselsky contributed to the work of many public initiatives, attending conferences and similar events.
© Romea.

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Finland: Former PS deputy councilman of Helsinki to be charged for ethnic agitation

Former Perussuomalaiset (PS)* deputy councilman for Helsinki, Olli Sademies, who suggested last year on Facebook that Africans should be forcibly castrated will be charged for ethnic agitation, according to Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest-circulating daily.

22/8/2016- Sademies, who is a retired policeman, was sacked from the PS in September. The former PS local politician denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was innocent. “Freedom of speech and expression also includes saying things that may even upset some population groups,” he was quoted as saying in Helsingin Sanomat. “I hope that the district court [of Helsinki] acquaints itself with the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights on this matter.” During 2009-2014, only 27 people have been sentenced for ethnic agitation, according to MTV, which cites Statistics Finland. The greatest number of sentences for ethnic agitation were given in 2012, which was 12. Ever wonder how people like Sademies were ever accepted in the police service and the PS? It says a lot about how much denial there is in Finland about racism.

* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”
© Migrant Tales

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UK: Corbyn in racism row over treatment of black MPs

22/8/2016- Jeremy Corbyn was embroiled in a racism row last night with one of his frontbenchers over his treatment of minority ethnic female MPs. Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, said she would she would have taken the Labour leader to an industrial tribunal if she had been in any other job. She levelled the charge at Mr Corbyn – which he strongly denied – as the first ballot papers in the Labour leadership contest were sent out to an estimated 640,000 members and supporters.

Backing Smith
Although she has remained on the Labour frontbench as shadow minister for culture and the digital economy, Ms Onwurah is backing Mr Corbyn’s challenger, Owen Smith. In an
article for the New Statesman, she protested over his handling of a decision to split her post with another BME (black and minority ethnic) MP, Thangam Debbonaire. “Jeremy made it impossible for two of the very few BME women MPs to do their jobs properly, undermining both us and Labour’s role as the voice of opposition to the government,” she said. “If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in – given that only five per cent of MPs are black and female, picking on us two is statistically interesting to say the least.

Disputed
“Indeed as Thangam was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time he could have faced disability action as well.” Her version of events was disputed by a spokesman for Mr
Corbyn. He said: “When Thangam Debbonaire was appointed as a dedicated shadow minister for the arts in January, there was a negotiation about the division of responsibilities with Chi and Thangam, but at no point was anyone sacked. We regret that Chi feels she was singled out, but this was clearly not the case.”
© I News

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British want EU migrants to stay after Brexit, says poll

Post Brexit, a ‘moderate core’ backs controls on the unskilled but are happy to welcome key workers

21/8/2016- More than eight out of 10 people in the UK believe EU migrants already living in Britain should be allowed to remain after Brexit, including 77% of Leave voters. The figures are revealed in new poll for the British Future thinktank which wants a “national conversation” on immigration as part of a comprehensive review of a system in which, it says, “the public has lost all confidence”. In its new report, “What next after Brexit? Immigration and integration in post-referendum Britain”, British Future claims that its ICM poll confirms that the majority of people in post-referendum Britain fall into what calls the “anxious middle” – while concerned about the pressures of high migration, they also accept the benefits that migrants bring to the economy and wider society. Before the release of the latest immigration statistics on Thursday, the first since June’s referendum, the poll suggests that the public would be happy to see some flows of immigration increase but want reductions in other areas, notably the number of unskilled workers.

It finds that three-quarters of those polled agree with the call for a “sensible policy to manage immigration that controls who comes to the UK, but still keeps the immigration that is good for our economy and society, and maintains Britain’s tradition of offering sanctuary to refugees who need protection”.

Other key findings include:
¡ 84% say EU citizens already living in the UK should be able to stay. This includes a majority of both Leave voters (77%) and Ukip supporters (78%);
¡ Only 12% want to cut the number of highly skilled workers migrating to Britain; nearly half (46%) would like to see an increase, with 42% saying that it should stay the same;
¡ Almost two-thirds (62%) want numbers of low-skilled workers reduced.
British Future argues that opening up a public debate about immigration now would bring about a new consensus on the divisive issue. “There are sure to be changes to immigration policy once we know what shape Brexit takes,” said Jill Rutter, director of strategy for British Future. “That will bring challenges but it also presents an opportunity – for a comprehensive review of a system that is widely believed to be failing and in which the public has lost all confidence. Rebuilding public trust, in an immigration system that is competent, effective and fair, must be part of this process. Engaging the public in the decisions we make, through a national conversation on immigration, would help to start rebuilding that trust.

“It will also cut through an overheated, polarised debate to reveal the moderate core of public opinion on immigration. Most people have more nuanced views than those found in our public discourse. Given the choice, voters would be content with much immigration staying the same and some of it increasing, if they had faith in the system and could see reductions in other areas.” The poll reveals that the public is split roughly down the middle on refugees. Just over half (53%) think the number of refugees offered protection should be reduced while 33% think the country should offer sanctuary to about the same number of refugees as it does currently and 14% would like it to take more. The poll also suggests the public makes clear distinctions between different immigrant worker groups. Only a quarter of people want fewer migrant care-workers, with 27% saying they would like more and 48% saying the number should stay the same.

Four in 10 welcome more migrant engineers, compared to only 17% who want fewer. More people said they would like to see more migrant IT professionals, doctors, nurses and scientists than would prefer a cut in numbers. It also confirms that even Leave voters are keen on some forms of migration.Only 15% of Leave voters want a reduction in the numbers of highly skilled workers migrating to Britain, while 45% want an increase and 40% want numbers to remain the same. When asked about migrant IT specialists, engineers, scientists, care workers, doctors and nurses, the majority of Leave voters wanted an increase or the numbers to remain the same. Only when asked about unskilled workers, construction workers and hospitality staff did they prefer to cut numbers. Thursday’s immigration statistics are expected to show a rise in EU nationals applying for British citizenship. Experts suggest this may reflect worries about their status in a post-Brexit UK.
© The Guardian.

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Turkey calls Austria ‘capital of radical racism’

Amid a growing diplomatic spat, Turkish foreign minister has called back its ambassador to Austria for 'consultations and to review ties.’

22/8/2016- Turkey is withdrawing its ambassador to Austria, the Turkish foreign minister said Monday, amid a growing diplomatic spat. Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ambassador Hasan Gogus was called back to Ankara for “consultations and to review ties,” citing Austrian authorities’ decision to allow alleged supporters of Turkey’s Kurdish rebels to hold a demonstration in Vienna over the weekend as well as rising anti-Turkish rhetoric in Austria. Ties between Turkey and Austria have been tense for several weeks, with a top Austrian official saying Turkey was heading toward a dictatorship and other leaders calling for an end to Turkey’s European Union membership talks. Turkey, in turn, has described Austria as the “capital of radical racism.” “We saw that ... the PKK and its supporters were given permission to stage a demonstration in Vienna,” Cavusoglu said.

“This does not comply with honesty or sincerity. We couldn’t stay inactive against this attitude which supports terrorism.” He was referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey and its allies consider a terror organization. Fighting between the PKK and Turkey’s security forces resumed last year after a fragile peace process collapsed. The group has stepped up attacks targeting police and military in Turkey and at least a dozen people were killed in a string of bombings last week. Cavusoglu said Austria’s top diplomat in Ankara was also called to the ministry over the demonstration in Vienna. There was no immediate response from Austrian officials. “Unfortunately, the ground for our bilateral relations and co-operation to continue as normal has disappeared,” Cavusoglu said.
© The Associated Press

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Turkish protestors demand justice after brutal transgender murder

Hundreds of protestors have called for justice after a transgender woman was brutally murdered in Istanbul. Turkey ranks number one in Europe in transgender murders.

21/8/2016- Demonstrators in Istanbul gathered on Sunday calling for justice and a hate crime law after the murder of a transgender woman earlier this month. The body Hande Kader, a LGBT activist and sex worker, was found burned beyond recognition in a forest outside Istanbul after she was last seen getting into the car of a client. She was prominent figure in Turkey's LGBT rights scene. About 200 protestors held banners reading "We will not diminish [the value] of one more person. Justice for Hande. Justice for everyone." Other placards read "transgender murders are political" and "the state is the perpetrator." They were joined by two opposition parliamentarians. Police with water cannons and tear gas stood by, but the protest passed peacefully. In the past, LGBT rights activists and police have clashed during protests.

According to a report published in March by the rights group Transgender Europe, Turkey is first in Europe and ninth in the world in transgender murders. Between January 2008 and December 2015, 41 transgender people were killed in Turkey. The Turkish Human Rights Association documented in 2015 at least 21 transgender hate murders or assaults, including attacks involving guns, knives and clubs. Hande's murder was the most recent act of brutal violence against transgender people since Syrian refugee Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found decapitated last month in Istanbul. Police often harass transgender people and their murders are seldom thoroughly investigated. Homosexuality and licensed sex work in government-run brothels is legal in Turkey. Many transgender people in Turkey are involved in sex work on the streets or in illegal brothels, putting them in danger of violence.

LGBT activists have said they are often harassed and discriminated against and subject to homophobic statements from the government and society that lead to hate crimes. They have demanded the government pass a hate crime law.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Spain: Referee stops Sporting vs Athletic game due to racist chants

The Asturias club have previously been fined for racist abuse towards an opposition player

21/8/2016- A match in La Liga has been stopped by the referee due to racist chants aimed at a visiting player. Sporting Gijón's game with Athletic Club was stopped after around half an hour when the home fans began to abuse Athletic's young forward Iñaki Williams. The 22-year-old is Spanish born from Liberian parents and became the first black player to score for the Basque-only club in 2014. When chants broke out at Sporting's El Molinón ground, referee Clos Gomez halted proceedings as some of the home side's players pleaded with fans to cease. The Gijón club have previously been fined for racist and abusive chanting after a 2008 incident involving Getafe winger Joffre Guerrón, albeit a paltry €3000. Former president Manuel Vega Arango said at the time, "we want to continue being very proactive and Sporting will always root out any type of racist behaviour. "You can't have a policeman for every fan, but we have to try and make sure this doesn't happen again." In January, La Liga investigated alleged racist chants aimed at Barcelona forward Neymar by supporters of cross-town rivals Espanyol.
© The Daily Mirror

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Hungarian MEP suggests 'Put pig heads on border fences to deter Muslim refugees'

Just 146 of 177,135 asylum applications to Hungary were approved last year

20/8/2016- An MEP has proposed putting pigs' heads on Hungary’s border fences to deter refugees trying to enter the country. The country’s right-wing government has been criticised internationally following its perceived harsh attitude towards refugees. As part of measures to block refugees seeking to enter the country, Hungary erected a vast border fence in the hopes of stopping movement into their borders. It recently emerged security forces have begun making scarecrows in crude attempts to deter refugees trying to enter. In response to criticism over the tactic, Hungarian MEP for the Christian Democratic European Peoples’ Party Gyorgy Schopflin tweeted: “Human images are haram… pig’s head would deter more effectively.” The Twitter account is listed on the official website of the European parliament as Mr Schopflin’s account. The MEP’s suggestion prompted anger online.

Andrew Stroehlein from Human Rights Watch said: “Your words are disgusting. I would expect that from anonymous neo-Nazi trolls but you’re an MEP. Act like one.” In return, Mr Schopflin said criticisms of him were “beginning to resemble hate speech” and refused to apologise. Hugary has been criticised for appearing to hold unduly harsh attitudes towards refugees and for failing to take its fair shair of asylum seekers along with European neighbours. Local politicians have cited concerns that to do so would cost too much financially and compromise Hungary's Christian culture. Of 177,135 asylum applicants to Hungary in 2015, just 146 were approved, according to government statistics. In March of last year, the Hungarian government declared a state of emergency in the country due to Europe’s refugee crisis and deployed an additional 1,500 security personnel to the country’s Serbian frontier in a bid to deny refugees entry.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has defended the country’s stance on refugees, citing his desire “to keep Europe Christian” and announcing: “We are experiencing the end of a spiritual-intellectual era. The era of liberalism. [This] provides the opportunity for the national-Christian thinking to regain its dominance not only in Hungary, but in the whole of Europe.”
© The Independent

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Greece: Refugees in camps targeted by mafia gangs

Aid workers warn of imminent disaster as centres become breeding ground for criminal activity, including drug smuggling, human trafficking and violence

20/8/2016- Fresh evidence is emerging that refugees stranded in camps across Greece are falling victim to rising levels of vice peddled by mafia gangs who see the entrapped migrants as perfect prey for prostitution, drug trafficking and human smuggling. Details of the alarming conditions present in many of the facilities comes as the Greek government – facing criticism after the Observer’s exposé of sexual abuse in camps last week – announced urgent measures to deal with the crisis. A further four refugee centres, it said, would be set up in a bid to improve severe overcrowding, a major source of tensions in the camps.

Aid workers say an estimated 58,000 migrants and asylum seekers in Greece are increasingly being targeted by Greek and Albanian mafias. Tales of criminals infiltrating camps to recruit vulnerable women and men are legion. “If nothing is done to improve the lifestyle of these refugees and to use their time more productively, I see a major disaster,” warned Nesrin Abaza, an American aid worker volunteering at the first privately funded camp known as Elpida (Greek for hope) outside Thessaloniki. “These camps are a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, gangs and violence. It seems like the world has forgotten about them. They are not headline news any more, so therefore they do not exist … but the neglect will show its ugly head.”

With an estimated 55 centres nationwide – including “hotspots” on the Aegean islands within view of Turkey – Greece has effectively become a huge holding pen for refugees since EU and Balkan countries closed their borders to shut them out earlier this year. In private, many Greek officials express alarm that numbers are growing amid worrying signs that the five-month-old deal signed between Ankara and the EU to keep the flows in check is on the verge of collapse. Although nowhere near the level of last summer – when at its height 10,000 people streamed into Lesbos in a day – arrivals have risen visibly since last month’s failed coup in Turkey. In the 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday some 261 migrants and refugees – nearly double the normal number – were picked up on islands.

Unable to move on, frustration has mounted among the thousands now stuck in limbo. On the back of uncertainty and anger over delayed asylum processes, marooned migrants say they have become sitting ducks for criminals as they move in. “I never knew a thing about drugs and now I am doing drugs,” said a 17-year-old Syrian youth detained in a camp that stands in a defunct Softex toilet-roll factory on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. “This camp is horrid. We live like animals in tents in burning heat.” Drugs, he ventured, had become the central cause for violence, with brawls erupting frequently. “The Greek and Albanian mafia come here and push the drugs,” he explained conceding that he financed his own habit by illicitly sneaking into Macedonia, where he bought cartons of cigarettes to sell in the camp. “The police are non-existent. They see drugs, stabbing, fighting and do nothing. They do not care. The world does not care.”

The testimony, which is backed up by human rights groups that have deplored the appalling conditions in Greek detention centres, comes after the EU released €83m (£71.8m) in April to improve living conditions for refugees stranded in the country. The UN refugee agency, the International Federation of the Red Cross and six international NGOs were given the bulk of the funding. Greece by then had already received €181m to help deal with the crisis from Brussels. Announcing the emergency support, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, claimed the assistance was “a concrete example of how the EU delivers on the challenges Europe faces”. “We have to restore dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible,” he said.

But four months later, as allegations of sexual abuse and criminal activity envelop the camps, questions are mounting over whether the money was properly administered. In addition to bad sanitary conditions and lack of police protection, the latest revelations have shone a light on whether the humanitarian system is working at all. “There is no emphasis on humanity, it is all about numbers,” Amed Khan, a financier turned philanthropist who founded Elpida, told the Observer. Elpida, also established in a former factory near Thessaloniki, has a tea room and yoga centre and, seeing itself as a pioneering initiative, encourages refugees to regard it as a home. In the month since the camp opened its doors, it has won plaudits for being the most humane refugee centre in Greece. “Nobody is using money here efficiently or effectively,” lamented Khan. “The humanitarian system is the same one that has been in place since the second world war, it lacks intellectual flexibility and is totally broken. The real question to be asked is, has the aid that has been given been appropriately utilised?”
© The Guardian.

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Czech student spies on radical Muslims in Germany

22/8/2016- A Czech student wore niqab and was going to mosques in Germany for two years in order to gain information about radical Muslims for the German intelligence, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes on Monday. The 24-year-old woman created a list of 52 Muslims who were the most radical, including their names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail contacts, the paper writes. When she arrived in Berlin, she wanted to get acquainted with the Salafi fundamental version of Islam, although she is a Christian. She decided to go to the Al Nur mosque in which hatred of unbelievers was preached according to German media. In the Al Nur mosque, she addressed girls in niqab, the full-faced veil, and told them she was interested in Islam. "All were mistrustful of me at first, suspecting that I am a journalist, but as soon as I said I would like to convert, their mistrust disappeared. I was afraid, of course," she told the paper.

After several weeks of going to prayers and to the Quran school she formally converted. As she believed that some imams and other Muslims praised Jihadism, she contacted the secret service. "For example, Aziza from Algeria who taught the Quran was among the most radical. She defended armed jihad, hated democracy. Nobody condemned it there," she said. The German counter-intelligence provided the student with an audio recording device, a special cell phone and two of its officers had regular secret meetings with her. The German counter-intelligence BfV writes in its latest annual report that it had dozens of informants from the Muslim environment. According to its data, the number of German radical Islamic Salafists increased to 7000 and more than 1000 of them were ready to commit terrorist violence. After one year, the Czech student moved from Berlin to Munich where she continued to go to a mosque and cooperate with the BfV.

The Muslim community repeatedly tried to find a husband for her, the last one of whom was a jihadist who probably went to fight in Syria for Islamic State, but she always managed to reject the offer, saying she still felt too young or that she wanted to marry a Muslim in her homeland. In Germany, she learnt Arabic, made pictures of the mosques, maps of their interiors and audio recordings of the lectures. At present, back in the Czech Republic again, she is hunting for people who recruit for the Islamic State terrorist organisation on the Internet and she decided to focus on security studies, MfD writes. "People are connected by their faith in the mosque and it is a venue for social contacts and getting to know others. These contacts are then maintained through the social networking sites," she told the paper, adding that she mostly operates on Facebook and various discussion forums.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Germany: Report: Number of neo-Nazi rock concerts on the rise

The first half of 2016 has already seen some 98 far-right musical events in Germany, with some concerts drawing thousands of fans, reported "Die Welt." Authorities have warned that such events serve as recruitment tools.

20/8/2016- Right-wing rock concerts, far-right party meetings with musical acts, and so-called "Liederabende" (song recitals) are on the rise across Germany, "Die Welt" newspaper reported on Saturday. In the first six months of 2016, a total of 98 such events have already taken place, the newspaper said, citing an Interior Ministry response to an information request from the Left Party. Of that total, around 40 were rock concerts and 49 "Liederabende" - where right-wing extremist singers and songwriters perform to small audiences.

'Safe haven' for the far-right scene
Although the events take place all over Germany, the central state of Thuringia was the uncomfortable home to 14 events so far this year, according to data from the Interior Ministry. In fact, a right-wing music festival called "Rock gegen Überfremdung" - which roughly translates to "Rock against foreign infiltration" - is set to take place in the small Thuringian village of Kirchheim on Saturday. The migrant crisis-themed rock festival is expected to draw around 800 neo-Nazis - more than the number of inhabitants in Kirchheim, "Die Welt" reported. "There is a risk that Thuringia will become a safe haven for all types of extremists, since they must feel less exposed to persecution here," Thuringia state parliament member Andreas Bühl told the newspaper. He criticized a lack of security personnel for the rise in right-wing extremism in the state.

A troubling trend
Compared to the first half of 2015, the number of right-wing musical events has risen sharply in the first half of this year. Between January and June in 2015, a total of 63 right-wing musical events took place. With this year's figures already up to 98 events, 2016 is possibly on track to surpass last year's record. The number of right-wing extremist musical events taking place in Germany has hit a four-year high, Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) reported. Last year, the agency clocked 199 musical events. However, 2016 has already surpassed last year's records. In May of this year, the largest far-right musical event in recent years took place in the Thuringian town of Hildburghausen, the BfV reported on its website. Around 3,500 visitors from Germany and some neighboring European countries traveled to the festival "Rock for Identity - Music and Speeches Against the Abolition of Germany." In comparison, the largest right-wing rock concert last year drew 650 visitors.

Rock concerts as 'gateway drug'
The data on right-wing musical activities goes back years, which begs the question: Why keep tabs on right-wing musical activities? In its government information request, the Left Party cited "numerous studies" which prove the importance of music to right-wing extremists. They said right-wing rock music and concerts served as a "gateway drug" for newcomers and especially teenagers. The Left is not alone. On their website, the BfV says the "right-wing extremist music scene" has been under strict surveillance since the 1990s. Recent crime statistics released by the BfV show a spike in far-right violence in Germany last year, as well. The agency also noted the importance of musical events for establishing first contacts with possible new recruits and for maintaining party relationships. According to the BfV, live concerts for right-wing extremists are "a means of self-expression," a place of belonging. They are spaces to communicate not only about values, but enemies as well.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Call-to-arms by populist right AfD

Populist right-wing AfD party co-leader Frauke Petry has encouraged Germans to carry firearms. She claims the government has lost its state monopoly to protect the public, especially in thinly populated areas.

20/8/2016- Petry, who caused an uproar January by suggesting German police could use firearms to deter incoming refugees, on Saturday called into question Germany's policing and stringent gun ownership law in the wake of deadly attacks last month. There were no grounds for concern when citizens armed themselves for self-protection in areas where austerity measures by national and regional governments had "systematically ruined" police services, Petry told the Funke Media Group based in Essen. "Every law-abiding person should be in the position to protect himself, his family and his friends," Petry said. Greens co-leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt promptly accused Petry of negligently stoking anxiety and said trained recruits should be hired where Germany's "good" police forces were depleted. That would improve public perceptions of safety, "not weapons for all" as advocated by Petry, said Göring-Eckardt. "Weapons don't belong in the wrong hands."

Police slow, Petry claims
The AfD co-chairperson had asserted that any further tightening of Germany's Weapons Ownership Act would disadvantage citizens. "We all know how long it takes for police, especially in sparsely populated areas to arrive at the scene of deployments," said Petry, just days after the AfD wrangled over its leadership. This would harm "reputable" citizens and not those who obtained weapons in the "darknet" [hidden Internet], she added. "Many people are increasingly feeling unsafe." Petry was referring to a 31-year-old man arrested by police last Tuesday in Marburg on suspicion of supplying a modified Glock 17 pistol used by a deranged 18-year-old German-Iranian to shoot dead nine mall visitors in Munich on 22 July. Many were teenagers. Seven of the nine had migratory origins. Authorities said that attack did not appear to be linked to Islamic extremism and instead was inspired by the 2011 mass killing by Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik.

Two regional state elections pending
Petry's call-to-arms remarks precede a September 4 election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany's thinly populated Baltic coast region of 1.6 million residents, currently led by a Social Democrat (SPD) premier, Erwin Sellering. It is also where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her federal Bundestag electorate and a region where neo-Nazis have been challenged by liberal citizens in townships such as Jamel. An Infratest survey published Friday showed Sellering's SPD polling 26 percent, followed by 23 percent for Merkel's CDU, 19 percent for the AfD, 16 percent for the Left party and 6 percent for the Greens. On 18 September, Berlin city-state goes to the polls, with the SPD mayor Michael Müller and CDU interior minister Frank Henkel seeking re-election. Earlier this week, Henkel and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania's CDU interior minister, Lorenz Caffier, were the leading advocates of controls on women wearing burqas, full-body clothing that obscures even the face but hardly worn in Germany.

Gun ownership law tightened
In the wake of a 2002 massacre in eastern Germany's city of Erfurt, where a 19-year-old shot dead 16 people, Germany tightened its firearms ownership law several times. It established a federal weapons registry in 2013. The law now requires tight regional council supervision of licensed hunters and sporting shooters, psychological suitability tests, proof of the need to own a weapon as well as weapons and munitions expertise. The minimum age is 18. The latest figures show that there are some 1.9 million gun licenses issued to sporting shooters, hunters and collectors in Germany, and some six million legally registered weapons. The number of illegal weapons is speculative. Germany rules out any automatic right to weapons ownership akin to Article 2 in the US constitution. A German's gun license can be withdrawn in the case of a criminal record or unsafe storage. Residents have, however, resorted to seeking the so-called "small arms license" to allow them to carry blank guns and pepper spray. In the first half of 2016, such authorizations jumped 49 percent, to 402,301 individuals, according to the Federal Statistics Office.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Headlines 19 August, 2016

Slovakia to ban far-right train patrols by vigilantes

Slovakia's justice ministry has drafted a law to stop nationalist vigilantes patrolling trains.

18/8/2015- Since April, green-shirted members of the People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) have been mounting their own "security patrols" aboard trains. On its website the LSNS said it had had to act after a 21-year-old woman was "assaulted by a hooligan gypsy [Roma]" on a train near Levice. Train security is the job of police and rail authorities, the ministry says. Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska said nobody could replace the police in protecting citizens. A legal amendment will go before parliament to stop the vigilante patrols. The LSNS organised patrols on the Zvolen-Levice line, in central Slovakia, alleging that the police were failing in their duty to the public. The new timetable of the Slovak Railway Company says that nobody can perform activities aboard its trains, unrelated to passenger services, unless they have written authorisation.

Echoes of Nazi era
In March the LSNS won more than 8% of the vote in Slovakia, entering parliament for the first time, with 14 seats. Party leader Marian Kotleba is an admirer of Slovakia's wartime existence as a Nazi puppet state, and used to wear a uniform modelled on that state's pro-Nazi militia. On its website the LSNS says it wants a Slovakia "safe for all decent citizens so they are not terrorised by gypsy or other extremists and corrupted politicians". It also names pro-Nazi wartime leader Jozef Tiso among "our national heroes". Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest who persecuted Jews in line with Nazi policy, was hanged for treason after World War Two.
© BBC News

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Bulgaria: Syrians Alarmed by Media’s Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

The Syrian community in Bulgaria wants the state authorities to investigate the growing number of xenophobic media articles that denigrate refugees and migrants. -

18/8/2016- The Bulgaria-based Free Syria Association and the Association of Syrian Refugees warned at a press conference on Thursday that the country’s media was negatively distorting the image of refugees. “We feel obliged to thank [Bulgarian society] for the tolerance and empathy it demonstrated so far, but also to note that propagating xenophobia and intolerance towards others… is a precondition for new conflicts and divisions,” the Syrian organisations said in a joint declaration. Their reaction was provoked by an article, broadly shared on social networks, in which someone identified as a 16-year-old Syrian girl claimed that the majority of the Syrian refugees hate Christians and “only think about how to cut their throats”.

But Akram Nayuf from the Free Syria Association said this was completely incorrect. “A real Muslim thinks that Christians are his brothers and sisters and would never hurt them,” Nayuf said. Mohamed Yusuf from the Association of Syrian Refugees added that “someone wants to spread fear in Bulgarian society and such propaganda has to be stopped”. The Syrian organisations insisted that the controversial article had been fabricated and that no such attitudes existed among refugees. “We live in this country, we feel it is our homeland,” said Mohamed Ez, another member of the Association of Syrian Refugees. Such articles are not uncommon in Bulgarian media, where hate speech against refugees and migrants has been on the rise in recent years. According to a recent study by the Sofia-based Media Democracy and the Centre for Political Modernisation, website owners see hate speech as a tool to increase traffic.

The Open Society Institute in Sofia has also registered a rise in hate speech, claiming that negative attitudes towards Muslims have grown from 11 per cent in 2014 to 38 per cent in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of refugees who remain in refugee in Bulgaria has grown in the recent months, as a result of the closure of the so-called ‘Balkan route’ to Europe. Currently, almost 2,700 asylum seekers live in the six refugee camps in Bulgaria, while in February they were 540, the latest data from the State Agency for the Refugees shows. “The measures at our western border [with Serbia] have been boosted, so it is normal that the channels have been closed and that they [migrants] cannot leave for Western Europe,” the director of a refugee centre in the southern Bulgarian town of Harmanli Yordan Malinov told Nova TV on Thursday. The representatives of the Syrian community said that some refugees have even started backtracking to Bulgaria from Germany and Sweden, after realising how difficult it would be to integrate there. “All we ask for is some help for those people who want to stay here, so that they can survive,” Mohamed Ez told BIRN.

Political Modernisation, website owners see hate speech as a tool to increase traffic. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/syrians-alarmed-by-hate-speech-against-refugees-in-bulgarian-media-08-18-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=a85f5c12b4-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-a85f5c12b4-308289045#sthash.zZFheZTX.dpuf

© Balkan Insight
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Russia: Outrage after religious leaders back female genital mutilation in Dagestan

Two prominent religious leaders in Russia have provoked outrage after suggesting female genital mutilation could help reduce sexual promiscuity.

18/8/2016- The scandal erupted on Wednesday when Vsevolod Chaplin, a former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, rushed to the defence of Ismail Berdiyev, a senior Muslim cleric from Dagestan who said “all women” should be subjected to the practice to eliminate sexual depravity. Mr Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Centre of North Caucasus Muslims, made the controversial comments when asked to comment on a report into the practice published earlier this week. “All women should be circumcised so there would be no debauchery on earth, so that sexuality is minimised,” Mr Berdiyev, a prominent figure in Dagestan, told a correspondent from Interfax, a Russian news agency. “The Almighty created woman to bear and raise children,” he added. “[Circumcision] would not affect that. Women would not stop giving birth. But there would be less promiscuity.”

He went on to clarify that although Islam does not prescribe the practice, “it is necessary to reduce female sexuality. If it was done to all women, it would be very good.” Mr Berdiyev was commenting on a recent study that found female genital mutilation is common in remote mountain villages in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s north Caucasus. Research by the Russian Justice Initiative, an NGO, found that in areas where the practice continues female genital mutilation tends to be carried out on girls up to three years old, without anaesthetic and often in unsanitary conditions. The researchers said most cases they came across involved removal, or part-removal, of the clitoris and labia.

Archpriest Chaplin, one of the most prominent Orthodox priests in Russia, rushed to the mufti’s defence after outraged headlines splashed across Russian media and social networks. “What feminist howling!” he wrote in a Facebook post defending the right of minorities to preserve religious traditions. “Circumcising all women probably isn’t necessary. Orthodox women don’t need it because they are not promiscuous,” he wrote. “Of course God created women to bear and raise children. Feminism is a lie of the 20th century,” he added. Mr Berdiyev himself later said he had been misquoted. The United Nations estimates 200 million women and girls across 30 countries where the practice is concentrated are victims of female genital mutilation. The practice can cause severe pain and long term health problems and is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights.

# The report authors found that the custom is mainly practiced among peoples who adopted Islam later, which might suggest that it has pre-Islamic, tribal roots.
# The issue of FGM barely enters the public sphere, as it is either heavily tabooed, or is considered a part of local tradition to be preserved, the report says. Gathering exact numbers is difficult, but RJI's researchers estimate that tens of thousands of Dagestani women have been affected.
# The operation is usually carried out by the female elder of the family, in the homes, and it is done to girls up to the age of three, but sometimes as old as 12.
# Not only medical and legal, but also religious experts of Dagestan disagree on the permissibility of FGM. Intizar Mamutaeva, the Ombudsman for Children's Rights in Dagestan, however, called the practice a violation of children's rights.
# Perhaps 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation, the UN estimates. The practice is concentrated in parts of Africa and the Middle East but is also known in Asia and Latin America.
Above # compiled by Anna Azarova for TOL news.
© The Telegraph

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French authorities report ‘spectacular’ rise in Calais migrant camp population

Local authorities in the French port city of Calais on Friday said the number of migrants living in the infamous “Jungle” camp has seen a “spectacular” rise over the summer, increasing by 53 percent in just two months.

19/8/2016- At the middle of August, authorities counted more than 6,900 people in the camp – the highest number since it was created sixteen months ago. In June 2016, an official census reported 4,480 people. Earlier this month, however, local humanitarian aid groups, L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees, took their own census, which counted more than 9,100 people. Local authorities have previously said their goal was to reduce the number of camp inhabitants to about 1,500. Most of the refugees and migrants in the Calais camp come from conflict zones like Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq or other countries with poor human rights records, and have come to Calais with the hope of sneaking across the English Channel to Britain, where many have relatives or the hope of obtaining work.

Aid agencies say the recent increase can be attributed to an influx of migrants who have travelled from southern Europe. The Jungle camp, which sprung up in April 2015, quickly grew into a slum village consisting of mainly tents and makeshift huts. In winter 2016, authorities decided to dismantle the southern part of it in a bid to encourage the displaced to instead move into heated containers or tents on the northern rim of the camp, or accept bus rides to welcome centres elsewhere around France in an attempt to ease the pressure on Calais. Some 750 shipping containers, including heating and sockets for electricity, have been set up.
© France 24.

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French police apprehend 10 Muslim women for wearing burkinis

Four women were fined 38 euros for wearing burkini

18/8/2016- Ten Muslim women wearing burkinis to the beach have been apprehended by police in the southern French city of Cannes. Arguing that the burkini defies French laws on secularism, Cannes is one of three towns in France to have banned the garment amid tensions after a militant attack in nearby Nice killed 85 people on Bastille Day on July 14. The moves have sparked an intense public debate, with Muslim groups calling them unconstitutional, divisive and Islamophobic. The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, will rule on the legality of burkini bans in coming days. The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, will rule on the legality of burkini bans in coming days. France's prime minister, Manuel Valls, however on Wednesday said he opposed the burkini as an "enslavement of women" and a "provocation". “That is not compatible with the values of France," he said in an interview with La Provence newspaper, although he fell short of backing a full national law against the swimwear. "I support those who have taken measures [to ban burkinis]. They are motivated by the desire to encourage social unity," he said. "I don't think we should legislate on the issue. General rules on clothing restrictions cannot be a solution."
© World Bulletin

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France: Orthodox Jew stabbed in Strasbourg

18/9/2016- An Orthodox Jew was stabbed in the stomach in broad daylight in the French city of Strasbourg on Friday, local authorities said, by an attacker who several witnesses said shouted an Islamic religious phrase. The 62-year-old man was recovering in hospital and his life was not in danger, a Strasbourg rabbi told Reuters. His assailant was a man with a history of psychiatric problems, the local prefecture in the eastern French city said. It did not confirm he had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the stabbing, which took place on a street. French regional newspaper Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace said the attacker had been arrested and was being questioned by police. No one at the Strasbourg prosecutor's office or local police was available for comment. France, home to both the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe, has been under a state of emergency since November when militants killed 130 people in Paris coordinated attacks claimed by Islamic State. The group also claimed an assault on a Jewish supermarket in the capital in January last year in which four people died.
© Reuters

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France: Three more migrant camps evacuated in Paris

Over 800 migrants were peacefully moved out of three camps in north-east Paris on Wednesday morning.

17/8/2016- The makeshift camps had only been set up a few days earlier; and are regularly evacuated but often reappear shortly after. "Eight to nine hundred migrants from three camps situated at the Quai de Jemmapes, Place Stalingrad and Avenue de Flandre," Paris police chief Yann Drouet confirmed to Le Figaro. "Sixty to 70 women and children were evacuated as a priority." The operation began at 8am and continued through the morning. Drouet said that the migrants, who were of Afghan, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali origin, had been taken to the local police station where they would receive any necessary report. Since the end of July, police have carried out over twenty operations to evacuate camps in the 19th arrondissement, where many camps have sprung up. During some of these evacuations, riot police were drafted in to help and police turned tear gas on the migrants. Nearly 80,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2015, but it has been affected less than its European neighbours by the mass influx of migrants over the last 18 months. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo pledged at the end of May that the city would get a humanitarian camp, built to UN standards, in the coming months.
© The Local - France

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Sweden: Gay footballer deported after being arrested at Pride event

A young gay football player will most likely be deported after not providing enough “evidence” that he’s gay.

17/8/2016- Andrew Nagbe, 22, had his residency application rejected, and is currently in a detention centre awaiting deportation. On the August 23 he will be sent back to his native Liberia, where it’s illegal to be gay. “I want to play football and live as an openly gay man in Sweden,” he said. Nagbe says he is worried he will be imprisoned for being gay and abused if he’s sent back. “In prison I’ll be beaten and raped every day until I am released and leave the country again,” he said. “Everyone I know in Liberia knows I am gay now, so they won’t hold back.” The midfielder came to Sweden originally on trial with a third-tier Swedish team, Umeå FC. At the time he was arrested, he had been playing for Södertälje FK, a popular town for migrants. He attended the Stockholm Pride festival in July, where he was arrested by migration officials, who told him there was not enough evidence that he’s gay, despite his claims that his life would be danger if he returned to Liberia.

Liberia was recently ravaged by the Ebola virus outbreak, which exacerbated pressure on local LGBT advocacy groups. The news is especially unusual given Sweden’s positive record on LGBT rights, including offering compensation for trans people who in the past were forced to be sterilised as a “cure”. Metin Rhawi, a major politician from the ruling social Democratic party, called the decision “heartless”. “Should someone scared for their life be deported so cold-heartedly?” The UK Home Office recently issued guidance banning caseworkers from asking LGBT asylum seekers for explicit details about their sex lives – but they can still be quizzed about local gay bars.
© The Pink News

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UK: 289 Islamophobic tweets were sent every hour in July

In total 215,246 Islamophobic tweets were sent from English-speaking accounts in July

18/8/2016- The number of times anti-Islamic insults are used on Twitter is rising month-by-month, a new report reveals. Analysis of the social media site found 215,246 Islamophobic tweets were sent in July this year – a staggering 289 every hour. Spikes in offensive language correlated with acts of terrorism, with the largest number of abusive tweets sent the day after the devastating Nice attack, the research says. Researchers at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the Demos think tank, said identifying tweets that were hateful, derogatory and anti-Islamic was “a formidable challenge”. They first collected all tweets that contained one of a list of terms that could be used in an anti-Islamic way, including ‘Jihadi’ and ‘Terrorist.’ Most are too offensive to be published. Between 29 February and 2 August, 34 million tweets meeting the criteria were collected, but most were not anti-Islamic or hateful.

Algorithms were built and used to identify Islamophobic context within a tweet. For example, classifiers were built to separate tweets referring to Islamist terrorism from other forms of terrorism and then distinguish between messages attacking Muslim communities in the context of terrorism, from those defending the communities. The researchers found many of the tweets, which were identified as derogatory and anti-Islamic, included specific references to recent acts of violence and attacked entire Muslim communities in the context of terrorism. The largest of the spikes within July was the day following the Nice terrorist attack, with 21,190 tweets on 15 July. Not far behind, was the day after the shooting of police officers in Dallas on 8 July, when 11,320 Islamophobic tweets were sent. The 17 July was the next worst date, with 10,610 Islamophobic tweets sent the day after the attempted military coup in Turkey, followed by the end of Ramadan on 5 July, with 9,220 tweets.

The day of an IS attack on a church in Normandy on 26 July, 8,950 upsetting tweets were posted, according to the study. The think tank has been monitoring Islamophobic activity on the social network since March and said July recorded the highest volume of derogatory tweets of any month yet. It found an average of 4,972 Islamophobic tweets were sent a day since March. Demos geo-located locate many of the tweets collected and found Islamophobic tweets originating in every EU member state. As only tweets in English were recorded, the majority were traced to English speaking countries. However outside the UK significant concentrations were identified in the Netherlands, France and Germany. In December 2015, Twitter updated its policies to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time. The move has been followed-by agreements with officials in the EU – as well as Facebook and YouTube – to remove hate speech from their networks.

"Our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others," a Twitter spokesperson told the BBC. "We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it's happening and prevent repeat offenders."
© Wired UK

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UK body calls for urgent action to tackle racial inequality

A UK government body has called for urgent action to tackle racial inequality in Britain. It said the country's reputation for tolerance was under threat, accentuated by xenophobic attitudes in the post-Brexit period.

18/8/2016- A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission found the situation has worsened for black people and ethnic minorities on numerous fronts over the past five years. Race it found was the motive behind 82 percent of hate crimes recorded in England and Wales, adding that there was an "unprecedented spike" in hate crimes after Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU. Black people are more than twice as likely than white people to be murdered in England and Wales than white people and three times more likely to be prosecuted and sentenced, the report found. "The combination of the post-Brexit rise in hate crime and deep race inequality in Britain is very worrying and must be tackled urgently," said commission chair David Isaac. "If you are black or an ethnic minority in modern Britain, it can often still feel like you're living in a different world, never mind being part of a one nation society," he added. Britain can expect widening social divisions and increased racial tensions unless the government takes urgent action to tackle deep-rooted inequalities, the new chair of the watchdog warned.

May or may not
Isaac said he was encouraged to hear commitments to tackle inequality made by Theresa May in her first prime ministerial statement in July, but warned that the government must back this up with a race equality strategy. Previous efforts to address race inequality had been “piecemeal and stuttering” and had amounted more to “one nation platitudes” rather than policies, he said. “So far the government's economic plan since 2010 has not been paralleled by a race inclusion plan that prevents cutting some communities even further adrift from equality of opportunity.

As unequal as ever
In work, black employees with degrees are paid on average 23.1 percent less than their white counterparts. White people are more likely to be employed, better paid and in positions of power, the commission said. The unemployment rate for white British people was recorded as 6.3 percent, compared to 12.9 percent for ethnic minorities. The parliamentary commission said there had been some progress, with an increase in the number of people from ethnic minorities gaining degree-level qualifications. Meanwhile, white working-class boys had the worst GCSE results overall – while conversely Chinese and Indian educational achievement was improving. Just 6 percent of black school leavers attended a Russell Group university compared with 12 percent of mixed and Asian students and 11 percent of white school leavers.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK: BBC Islamophobia discussion interrupted by Islamophobia

‘If you’ve got something to say, then you can say it.’

18/8/2016- A Muslim student was forced to confront Islamophobic abuse in front of BBC cameras, after being interrupted during an interview for a documentary on anti-Muslim hate crimes. Ruqaiya Harris, 23, was being interviewed by journalist Catrin Nye for a BBC report on social media abuse when the incident happened. Talking of the frequent calls for Muslims to condemn acts of terror by so-called Islamic State, Harris said it had now come to the point where “I don’t really think that me condemning these kind of attacks is going to change people’s opinions.” But after making the point, Harris was interrupted by a man called Paul. After repeated interjections, Nye asked the man to keep his voice down, but Paul responded that he was exercising his freedom of expression, before adding “There’s no Sharia law here”. Harris immediately stood up and confronted the man, and is seen on video calling him out for the comment.

“If you’ve got something to say, then you can say it. Do you want to talk about Sharia law. You want to talk about Sharia law to me? We’ll talk about Sharia law. You obviously said it for a reason.” Paul’s defence was that he “wasn’t talking to you”, but the claim failed to convince Harris, who asked: “Who were you talking to? Who were you talking to, Sir?” Paul responded that he felt he and others were losing their freedom of expression, and when quizzed on why, responded: “Because we are. We’re being told to be politically correct when we don’t want to be politically correct.” Harris went to sit down next to him and responded: “Okay listen, political correctness is one thing; I understand that you feel that you want to have a right to say certain things. But we don’t want Sharia law.” Paul responded “Conjecture, whatever”, before saying that Islam was not a religion but an Ideology and walking off.

In a longer video of the incident (incident at 5.45), Harris said she was saddened by the “normalisation” of Islamophobia. “It’s almost like I can’t sit in a park with you and have a conversation without some kind of Islamophobe wanting to get a word in,” she told Nye. Harris also added that many people often “struggled to differentiate” reports they hear and see in the news media on Muslims from everyday Muslims. The footage was released to coincide with the revelation that Islamophobia on Twitter has increased month on month. Think-tank Demos found significant spikes in the use of anti-Islamic language in the immediate aftermath of news events, particularly terrorist attacks. It also discovered that more than 215,000 Islamophobic tweets were sent in July 2016 – an average of 289 per hour. Demos geo-located many of the tweets collected and found Islamophobic tweets originating in every EU member state. As only posts in English were recorded, the majority were traced to English-speaking countries, but outside the UK significant concentrations were found in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: How Brexit brought UKIP to its knees

Leaving the EU was the far-right party’s finest hour — now its future looks bleak.

17/8/2016- Britain may be on its way out of the European Union, but the party that did more than any other to make it happen is in crisis. Since the referendum, the United Kingdom Independence Party has descended into open warfare. After a series of internal disputes, plots and alleged backroom stitch-ups, not a single leading figure in the party made it on to the leadership ballot to replace Nigel Farage, who stood down shortly after the vote for Brexit. If Brexit was the apogee of UKIP power, the party’s decline since then has been dramatic. The prospect of Brexit was the glue that held the party together. Without it the UKIP machine looks dangerously fragile, especially since Prime Minister Theresa May declared “Brexit means Brexit.” The party’s future as an electoral force in British politics is not only of interest to hardline Euroskeptics. UKIP’s electoral prospects will have dramatic implications for British and European politics more widely, from the future of the Labour Party to the prospects of another Conservative victory and any future Brexit deal that might emerge under May’s premiership. All sides in the UKIP civil war admit the party is at a crossroads, and some senior figures are openly saying it might be time to call it a day.

Making plans for after Nigel
There are five candidates in the race to succeed Farage, but almost every senior party figure believes it will be a battle between Lisa Duffy — a local councilor who attracts anti-Farage types of all stripes — and Diane James, a member of the European Parliament who appeals to “mainstream Kippers.” Steven Woolfe, the runaway favorite who was seen as Farage’s chosen successor, was blocked from standing after failing to send in the relevant paperwork on time — he missed the deadline by 17 minutes — and is said to be considering a legal challenge to get back into the contest, two senior party figures in regular contact with him said. Woolfe’s supporters — backed by Farage — are also vowing to call an emergency general meeting to purge those in charge of the party’s internal bureaucracy.

Allies of Woolfe expect his support to transfer to James as long as he remains out of the contest, as most expect. “If Steven was on the ballot, he would’ve won it comfortably,” one close ally said. “In terms of people who are going to vote in this election, it really isn’t a contest.” Senior figures say the party has split into factions: UKIP’s MP Douglas Carswell, party leader in Wales Neil Hamilton and MEP Patrick O’Flynn — all of whom will likely back Duffy — on one side and the bulk of the party loyal to Farage’s vision on the other and likely to support James. “You’ve got the Farage wing of the party, the Hamilton wing and the Carswell wing,” one Woolfe ally said. “The Carswell-Hamilton wing are being quite successful in promoting their candidate Lisa Duffy and are doing reasonably well in media terms. But the actual feeling in the membership is so strong — at least 80 percent is Faragists. That vote would’ve gone to Woolfe, it will now go to Diane James.”

But Raheem Kassam, Farage’s former right-hand man and election supremo, warned against complacency. He said: “It looks to me [like] Lisa Duffy is gaining momentum and endorsements, which is absolutely shambolic.” Part of the reason for that surge, he believes, is the recent backing of veteran UKIP MEP Gerard Batten. “What Gerard brings is a different wing of the party. She’s got the Hamiltonians, she’s got the Carswellites, she’s got the Suzannites [supporting Suzanne Evans, one of the party’s most prominent figures], she’s got the O’Flynnites. Now she’s got the Battenites, who are the people who really want UKIP to go in a more [Dutch far-right leader] Geert Wilders direction,” Kassam said.

Kassam was brutally dismissive of Duffy’s ability. “Lisa is fighting a campaign to win. She’s not fighting a campaign because of anything she believes in. The only thing she genuinely believes in is a KFC bargain bucket.” “The thing about Lisa is she is doing what she is being told to do. She’s saying what she’s being told to say to get the endorsement of other people.” Exactly the same charge is leveled at James. “If Diane is leader I think it will be a nine-month holiday,” one UKIP MEP said. “I would think post next year’s electoral cycle, Arron [Banks, UKIP’s main donor] would have a decision whether it’s Steven [Woolfe] or Nigel [Farage, to take back control of the party]. It will depend on Nigel’s disposition. The danger is you’ve got a seat-warmer rather than a leader.”

Another senior figure in the party and Duffy supporter agreed that Farage casts a long shadow over the party. “Nigel will remain UKIP leader in Brussels. UKIP as a party has very little money and very little patronage and employs very few people. Much of what people think of as UKIP is funded through off-balance-sheet funding and a lot of that goes back to various Brussels-based funds. If he remains in charge of those funds, he will retain enormous patronage.” “He may not be the leader of UKIP, but all those little goons who run around the UKIP office [will be loyal to him]. I suspect that will be his game plan. You notionally take a back seat, but you’ll have all the people in the press office and God knows what else doing what you want. That means you get all the best gigs on Marr [the BBC’s flagship political show] and elsewhere.”

Over and out?
Farage himself is adamant he will not interfere — unless the government renege on Brexit. “I’ll support the party in what it does to keep the pressure up on Brexit. But in terms of being involved in party politics I shan’t be,” he said Tuesday. “My intention is not to stand for election again — any form of election. But if Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit then I’m going to have to. But do I see myself coming back to the party leadership? No, I really don’t.” Farage insisted he would back whichever candidate was elected and would not be a backseat driver. “I’m just not going to do that. That would be very, very foolish and I’ve no intention of doing it.” “I will continue to pop over to the European Parliament to give the odd speech over there, which I enjoy more than they do. As far as UKIP is concerned, I will support the leader, I will support what they want to do.”

But he was scathing about the party’s officials and backed calls from Banks and allies of Woolfe for UKIP to be dramatically overhauled. “We’ve frankly gone backwards over the last year or so,” he said. Farage believes one future for UKIP could be working closely with Leave.EU, the referendum campaign group led by Banks that has developed into a powerful online force in its own right. He said: “I think Leave.EU should morph into a very active political pressure group. After all, the Left have got one — it’s called Momentum [a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting campaign group].” “Banks has got nearly a million people signed up. Of those a large number are pretty active. As an organization, lobbying for causes, keeping up the pressure on Brexit, Banks is in a great position.”

Blame Farage
One senior figure insisted that while the party needed reforming, Farage was to blame for the current state of UKIP. “Nigel was a very overbearing leader. There was a little clique of minions which Nigel would keep, who would run around saying ‘the boss wants this, the boss wants that.’ Which means there’s no corporate competence. That’s been on display recently.” “Anyone [not] slavishly loyal to Nigel, they were dissed at every opportunity. That’s where we are this summer.” Regardless of internal party management there’s no doubt Farage has been electorally indispensable for UKIP. Tom Mludzinski, from the respected pollsters ComRes, said the basis of the party’s success was “the strength of Nigel Farage’s personality.”

“They’ve come a long way in the last few years. Now is a really testing time. They’ve got what they wanted in terms of the referendum. Their battle to stay relevant is going to be quite tricky.” “Where are they looking to be competitive and how they do it? Is it in Conservative seats or Labour heartlands? It looks like they are moving to Labour heartlands, but it’s difficult to see how they can get a leader who could garner as much attention. Without him they are going to have to rethink their strategy.” Unsurprisingly, Farage’s supporters agree. “Look at what’s happened to UKIP since Nigel left,” Kassam said. “The entire thing is crumbling. Nigel was the glue that kept them together. Without that guy there would’ve been no UKIP. They would’ve torn each other limb from limb. They love nothing more than going after each other — I think they love it more than Brexit.” In the end, this is perhaps the one thing which binds UKIP together after Brexit. Whoever wins, the infighting will continue and Farage will remain the most important figure in British Euroskeptic politics.
© Politico EU

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Italy: Amid Fear Of Radical Islam, Opponents Try To Block Construction Mosque

18/8/2016- The construction of a mosque close to Italy’s famous leaning tower of Pisa has come under fire as opponents gather signatures trying to stop the project, claiming it could become a focal point for Islamic radicalization. “According to a recent poll, 57 percent of Pisans are against the mosque,” said politician Gianluca Gambini, one of the leaders of the campaign, the Telegraph reported Thursday. “It’s not just that it would be built in the wrong location, just 400 meters from the Leaning Tower, but also because people know that mosques are places where there is a risk of radicalization.” The construction of the mosque was provisionally approved by the city council, but a petition has gathered 1,800 signatures, according to the Express.

Italian politician Magdi Allam, who is a convert to Christianity from Islam, called the petition as “Italian revolution” and has spoken out against Islam in the past. The petition comes at a moment of heightened attention and debates over Islam in Europe. Terror attacks by members and sympathizers of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Paris and Brussels over the past year have led to heightened security and debates over radicalization. Italian authorities deported a Tunisian national last week who they said was planning an attack on the leaning tower of Pisa. A police report on the case said there was “evidence the Tunisian sympathized with extremism and ISIS,” AFP reported. Italy has not been hit by a large-scale terror attack.

The petition in Italy is just the latest case of controversy and backlash surrounding Muslims in Europe. In Germany the far right Alternative for Germany party tried to block the construction of a mosque earlier this year. In France, five towns have banned women from wearing burkini, full body bathing suits worn primarily by Muslim women, at the breach. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls voiced his support of the ban Wednesday saying the clothing was part of “the enslavement of women.”
© The International Business Times

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Swiss-Italian frontier becomes flashpoint in Europe's migrant crisis

16/8/2016- Nine months pregnant and desperate to cross from Italy into Switzerland after fleeing Ethiopia, a young woman along with her husband are among hundreds stranded by a Swiss border clampdown that is drawing international scrutiny. Swiss authorities reject accusations they are violating would-be refugees' rights to seek asylum. But a growing throng of migrants waiting near Como in northern Italy and aid workers tell a different story: The Swiss border is effectively closed. "Wait here until we understand the situation," volunteer Lisa Bosia Mirra told the Ethiopian couple, who did not give their names, after they sought her help with Swiss asylum applications. "One week at least."

Mirra, a member of the regional parliament in Switzerland's Italian-speaking Ticino region that borders Italy, told them not to try to cross until then, since to be registered and deported could dash any hope of winning Swiss asylum. Still, the pair, fearing the prospect of the mother giving birth in a Como park without shelter or sanitation, said they would try their luck anyway and enter Switzerland, a longtime haven for refugees, by train. Several hundred migrants have slept on towels and blankets in the park near Como's train station since the Swiss clampdown began in mid-July, separating people from relatives or friends who had crossed some months before. Non-governmental and human rights groups like Amnesty International and Bosia's Associazone Firdaus have called for clarifications from Switzerland over migrants' claims that they were denied a chance to speak to border authorities and that requests to seek Swiss asylum went unheeded. Swiss left-wing politicians are checking for possible violations of Swiss asylum law.

With the migrant crisis now in its third year, more people are arriving and more are dying on often dangerous journeys to Europe from northern Africa and the Middle East. For many migrants, Italy has become the gateway into Europe now that - in response to a public backlash over the more than one million who streamed to the continent in 2015 - borders have slammed shut along the Balkan corridor and an accord between Turkey and the EU has stemmed an influx into Greece. More than 140,000 asylum seekers are now housed in Italian shelters, up sevenfold from 2013. Italy has increasingly struggled to cope as Austria, France and Switzerland have turned back migrants seeking onward travel.

"Failure of Dublin System"
In Switzerland, asylum requests fell by more than a third year on year in July, even as those trying to enter rose. Last week alone, Swiss border guards swept up nearly 1,800 people trying to cross from Italy without permission. More than two-thirds have been turned away since July, up from one in seven through June this year. Swiss Customs said this upholds the law - under Europe's so-called Dublin System for handling refugees, migrants can be returned to their first country of registry - and reflects a rise in migrants aiming to transit elsewhere in Europe. Under Swiss law, its Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must process anyone requesting asylum. That means border officers or police must put asylum seekers in SEM's care even if they are ultimately deemed ineligible to stay.

But many of Como's migrants, including minors, told Reuters in interviews that they were rebuffed directly at the border despite presenting documents showing they sought to join family in Switzerland. It remains unclear if people were being rejected en masse under any formal policy, Bosia said. Norman Gobbi, the local Swiss police director, has told local media of a more restrictive practice where only plausible asylum requests were being considered. Those requesting asylum only after being rebuffed for initially saying they wanted to travel onward were being returned to Italy, he said. "This situation is an expression of the failure of the Dublin system," Swiss parliamentarian Carlo Sommaruga said last week as he met young Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis, many of them children, who traveled across Egypt and Libya to Europe.

These young people told stories of persecution at home - a father jailed, an uncle murdered, women raped - which they said made fleeing necessary. Abdurre Dire showed scars on his hands, face and wrist he said came from police in his native Ethiopia. "If I had not left, they would have killed me," he said.
© Reuters

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For left-behinders, populists paint a picture of a better future

The new normal is unlikely to be a return to settled party rule, writes John Lloyd

16/8/2016- Too much attention is being paid to how bad populist leaders such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Jeremy Corbyn are, and to how their programmes, left or right, will ruin the countries they aspire to govern. There is too little focus on the hope and optimism they give their many millions of followers. It is true, for example, that Mr Corbyn, leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, cuts no figure as a prime minister-in-waiting, as most of his parliamentary colleagues have discovered. But the minority support he attracts to Labour — and more importantly the signal sent by the Brexiter majority in June — speak clearly of frustration and resentment at being “left behind”. It is the constituency to which Hillary Clinton spoke in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination in the US presidential race: “Some of you are frustrated — even furious. And you know what? You’re right.”

Other EU countries are not faced with Frexit, Itexit or Deuxit but their political establishments also have “left-behinders” who refuse to support the mainstream parties. The popularity rating of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, rose to 27 per cent, according to a BVA opinion poll published last month, surpassing François Hollande, the Socialist president, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, of the centre-right Republicans. In Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic party lost the mayoralties of Rome and Turin in June to the Five Star Movement, an inchoate populist party that demands a referendum on the euro and leads, narrowly, in several opinion polls. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) won seats in some state legislatures this year and is calling for a vote on EU membership. The anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats have been challenging the Social Democrats, who lead the government, in opinion polls. In Austria, the re-run of April’s election in October may put Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom party in the presidential palace.

In the US and Europe, rising inequality, wage stagnation and workplace insecurity merge with concern about fragmenting communities, exacerbated by fear of unregulated immigration and terrorism. The fusion of these forces produces a popular energy that in America went rightwards, to Mr Trump of the Republicans, and left to Bernie Sanders, Mrs Clinton’s former rival for the Democratic nomination. In Europe, it mainly goes to the right. A large part of working class voters in the leading states of the democratic west favour rightwing politics as a bulwark against immigration, as a protest against the ending of secure work with steadily rising incomes and as a poke in the eye of their elites.

After the June referendum in the UK, mainly working and lower middle-class people appeared in interviews lamenting the loss of community, the presence of immigrants who did not become part of it, and the threat of the EU displacing Westminster as a sovereign power. Such talk is often dismissed as a search for better yesterdays but it also speaks to a wish to make the UK a better place than it has, for these respondents, become. Mr Corbyn wants to make his country a better place through socialism; Mr Trump favours America First; Ms Le Pen, national revival outside the EU. Too few critics recognise that for millions these are sketches of a better society. The established parties will probably prevail. Mrs Clinton is probably the next US president. Mr Corbyn is not expected to occupy 10 Downing Street. Ms Le Pen may make it into the second round of the presidential election — only to be beaten heavily in the final vote, just as her father was in 2002. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government still commands the centre, right and left.

But the new normal is not likely to be a return to settled party rule. Political elites have neither vigorously enough renewed their offerings to the electors nor shared their disillusionment. The moderates in the UK Labour party, for example, have failed to produce a vision for a new relationship between social democracy and a much changed capitalism and globalisation since the Third Way debates under Tony Blair in the 1990s. In Europe, the future of the euro is threatened by EU ambivalence about where sovereignty should lie and the failure of the single currency to be either stable or a mechanism for closer union. This is a fearful time, with popular authoritarian leaders to Europe’s east probing for advantage. Liberals of left or right cannot emulate the populists but their leaders have no choice but to work harder at shaping a politics of freedom that does not feel like in-difference to left-behinders on the part of out-in-fronters.
John Lloyd is an FT contributing editor
© The Financial Times*

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Germany treads cautiously in court case to ban far-right party

18/8/2016- In his decade as a neo-Nazi skinhead in eastern Germany, Manuel Bauer says he beat up foreigners and disabled people, stabbed a cigarette in the eye of a 12-year old boy and assaulted a Muslim man and his pregnant German wife. Bauer, who led two racist gangs, the "League of Aryan Fighters" and "Revenge Act", says groups like his carried out violence on behalf of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which has a seat in the European Parliament and five seats in one of Germany's 16 state assemblies. Bauer was jailed on a 22 month sentence for extortion, causing bodily harm and arson, before he quit the right-wing scene with the help of a support group. Today he works with refugees from Afghanistan and Syria. He says the NPD should be banned. "There is too much democracy if you allow anti-democratic forces like (the NPD) to exist," said Bauer.

The NPD denies that it is behind violence, and says it is being unfairly targeted as a group over the behavior of some individuals. Reuters was not able to verify independently any relationship between the party and Bauer's former groups. The upper house of parliament is trying to impose just such a ban. It has lodged a court case which alleges the NPD is inspired by the Third Reich, believes in ethnic German supremacy and incites people to torch refugee hostels. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule in coming months. Germany recorded 1,408 violent acts carried out by right wing supporters last year, a more than 42 percent rise from the previous year, and 75 arson attacks on refugee shelters, up from five a year earlier, according to an annual report by the BfV domestic intelligence agency published in June.

But at a time when far right parties are winning votes across Europe, and Germany itself is struggling to integrate an unprecedented influx of more than 1 million foreigners last year, some experts in right-wing extremism say a ban could be counterproductive. Germany's federal government, while officially supporting the case, has declined to sign on as a party to it. A ban would deprive the NPD of around 1 million euros it receives in public funds as a lawful political party, and prevent it from contesting future elections, although it is not clear what would happen to its existing seats. The party would be barred from holding rallies in public, and the authorities could punish people who persisted as members. But in practice, followers could avert punishment by forming new organizations, or take their activities under ground, making them harder to detect.

That would “make it even more difficult to recognize right-wing extremist players and to develop appropriate ways of countering them,” said Matthias Quent, director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society in Jena, in eastern Germany. “Bans can easily lead to people and small groups being criminalized and being driven underground and then they radicalize. Then the danger, which is already large, from right-wing terrorism would increase.”

Federal Government Stays Out of Case
The NPD publicly disavows violence and rejects accusations by the authorities that it is connected to skinhead gangs like the ones Bauer used to lead, or to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) blamed for the murders of nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. NPD lawyer Peter Richter said it was wrong to judge the party based on the actions of individuals. "No one can predict whether an acquaintance who seems completely normal today will tomorrow commit a terrible crime," argues Richter in his defense to the court, which he sent to Reuters in response to a request for comment. Individual NPD figures have fallen afoul of German laws that ban Holocaust denial and punish praise of the Nazis.

The NPD's European lawmaker Udo Voigt has described Hitler as a "great German statesman". Before being elected to the European parliament, he was found guilty of incitement, including honoring Hitler's SS. He was given a 10-month suspended sentence which was upheld on appeal. The case to ban the NPD is being brought on behalf of the Bundesrat, parliament's upper house, which represents Germany's 16 regional state governments. The federal government's decision not to sign on as a party to the case is seen by some as a sign that Berlin is uncertain of the wisdom of pursuing a ban. The government denies it is half-hearted. "The German government, in particular the BfV domestic intelligence agency, supports the Bundesrat case for a ban and is contributing its expertise. The government therefore does not deem it necessary to have its own motion," said a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry.

She also noted however that a ban's impact would be limited since it "cannot eliminate the extremist mindset". Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, justice minister from 2009-2013 when the federal government was considering its position in the court case, said there was a high risk the trial could conclude without a ban, making it counter-productive. “The NPD is an appalling party. But that is not sufficient for a case to ban them,” she has said.

Banning Difficult
Despite Germany's strict laws against hate crime and expressing Nazi sympathies, it also sets high hurdles for outlawing political groups. Only two parties have been banned since World War Two - the Socialist Reich Party, a successor to Hitler's Nazis, in 1952, and the Communist Party in 1956. "A ban is a heavy weapon and the hope was, after the war, it wouldn't have to be used. But it is there if necessary," said Christian Pestalozza, a law professor in Berlin. The NPD has been around since 1964 and survived a previous government lawsuit to ban it, which collapsed in 2003 as some of the party officials used as witnesses turned out to be government-paid informants. To ban a party, the Constitutional Court has to find that a party's aims or behavior seek to undermine or abolish German democracy. But it also has to find that it poses a genuine, serious threat. Declining public support for the NPD may make this harder to prove, said a senior legal source.

Support for the NPD has dwindled as Germany's migration crisis has changed right wing politics, with parties that express dissatisfaction with immigration growing far bigger than ever before, but also trying to distance themselves from the radical right fringe to win over more mainstream voters. This past year, a new group, the AfD, founded in 2013, has seen its support in opinion polls swell to about 12 percent by adopting an anti-immigrant stance, while disavowing the far-right trappings and rhetoric of groups like the NPD. The NPD is too small to appear in most opinion polls, but German officials estimate its support has ebbed to just 1 percent from closer to 1.5 percent. NPD membership has fallen to just 5,200 from around 7,000 a decade ago. The AfD now has seats in eight state legislatures, compared to the NPD's one.

Removing The Swastika
For Bauer, banning the NPD is necessary to stop far right politicians from using racist gangs as muscle. After prison, fearing reprisals, he left his home in the state of Saxony, gave up his nickname "Pistol" and removed tattoos including a swastika. He spoke to Reuters at a location he asked to keep confidential to protect his security. NPD lawyer Richter said he had never heard of Bauer and had no comment on his allegations. Bauer was never a member of the NPD but says some members of his racist gangs were linked to the party, which provided them with vehicles. While party figures would keep their hands clean, they would use gang members to carry out violence, he said, without naming the party figures involved. "If I've got a business and want to harm my enemy I can get someone else to do it for money or for a promise. That's how the NPD does it," said Bauer, between long puffs on a cigarette. "It was racist. We were against people with mental and physical disabilities. Everything the Third Reich targeted."
© Reuters

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Germany: Merkel's deputy flips bird at far-right protesters

16/8/2016- A top German politician has received applause — and some criticism — after making an unambiguous gesture of disdain toward far-right protesters. A video posted online late Tuesday shows Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel flipping the bird at a group of neo-Nazis in the central German town of Salzgitter on Friday. The clip shows about 10 far-right protesters holding placards accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy of being a “race traitor” and praising Gabriel’s late father, a committed Nazi. At first, the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party is seen laughing at the demonstrators before raising his middle finger and turning away. While some on social media criticized Gabriel for his coarse reaction, many praised the gesture, with one user on Facebook commenting: “I can’t like that often enough.”
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Berlin cuts ties with refugee housing firm after 'unspeakable' emails

A guillotine to behead migrant children? Berlin has fired a company operating shelters for asylum seekers after senior managers exchanged remarks to that effect - and more.

15/8/2016- In a flurry of emails, they went on in great detail about children to be beheaded by a guillotine, the corpses later to be burned in a "large-volume crematorium." The senior PeWoBe employees seem to have greatly enjoyed their fantasies. Now, perhaps, they no longer find it a laughing matter: The city of Berlin has canceled its contract with the refugee housing management company. PeWoBe, which stands for "Professional Housing and Assistance Company," runs 11 refugee shelters in the German capital, and several more in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. The firm prides itself on offering residents an "adequate support service by professionally trained staff," a glance at its website shows.

Far beyond gallows humor
Now that the internal correspondence full of macabre remarks has merged, professionalism is the last thing that comes to mind in connection with PeWoBe. Via email, several senior employees discussed what they should do with a 5,000 euro ($5,600) donation. A sandbox was out of the question because the residents "would quickly turn it into an ashtray or a local toilet," wrote Peggy M, director of one of the shelters. Instead, she suggested getting a "child guillotine." Other employees sent her photos of guillotines and decapitated heads. Beheadings are so messy, another female colleague warned: "There's always splatter." They also discuss a crematorium for which they would award an environmental certificate because the waste heat "is used for a cause." "We're so good," the employee concluded, adding that the "maximally pigmented" refugees could do the cleaning up.

The email correspondence was leaked to the city of Berlin, and over the weekend, the media began to pick it up. "The current handling of the unspeakable - and as far as I'm concerned inexplicable and unjustifiable - email correspondence shows that we can no longer work with PeWoBe," Berlin Social Affairs Minister Mario Czaja said. Apart from the emails, indications of deficiencies in several shelters had led to doubts concerning the company's "suitability" for the job, he said. "Even after repeated inspections, the problems hadn't been solved," Czaja said. The contract was canceled without notice, he added: "We're looking for a new management company. None of the shelters will be closed."

Litany of complaints
PeWoBe first made the headlines three years ago when crowds including far-right extremists protested for weeks against the company's refugee housing in Berlin's eastern Hellersdorf district. The local "Hellersdorf Hilft" (Hellersdorf Helps) initiative has long complained about conditions at the shelter - and more recently, about the shelter's new director. Peggy M. has a far-right background and ran for a far-right party in local elections the town of Bernau in 2008. It turns out this is the same woman who raved about guillotines for children. At the Hellersdorf shelter, she is said to have introduced herself to the refugees with the words "Me boss, you nothing." The initiative says she immediately disconnected Wi-Fi at the shelter. "It's unfortunate that it took this email scandal for the company to be dismissed," the initiative's press spokesman Stephan Jung said, adding that there had always been sufficient grounds.

The refugees regularly complained of an atmosphere of intimidation, Jung said, but declined to give more details because PeWoBe has filed for injunctive relief, threatening a lawsuit against the initiative. "We're a small group of volunteers," Jung said, adding that "Hellersdorf Hilft" can't afford to go to court. A look into the archives of local Berlin newspapers reveals irregularities in connection with PeWoBe. The company allegedly forged employee lists in order to conceal the fact that they had far fewer staff than the city of Berlin stipulates. Also in connection with the company, the suspended head of Berlin's Department for Health and Social Affairs is being investigated for allegedly having referred assignments to PeWoBe because his godson was head of a firm entangled with PeWoBe through shareholdings.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Far right in uproar after police break up 'political' BBQ

Local officials say the group hid their political reasons for meeting from the city in order to rent out a space to grill.

15/8/2016- Police reported on Saturday that officers had called an end to a grillside gathering of around 50 “openly right-leaning people” in Ebersburg near Fulda, Hesse. A police spokesman told The Local that someone from the group had rented out the space, saying they were going to celebrate there, but hid the group’s political leanings. Officers then noticed that the group had banners with such statements as “Kaiserreich” (German Empire) and paratrooper-style jump boots - typical apparel of far-right scene members. “It was clear that they only had political purposes in meeting,” the spokesman said. “If officials had known the political reasons, they would not have allowed them to rent the space.” After consulting with local authorities who said the gathering should not be permitted, “strong police forces” then arrived to put an end to the event. Police said that the group was cooperative and left without any confrontations or need for arrests. The spokesman explained that local officials have the final say in who is allowed to rent out such spaces, so long as they do not discriminate against certain protected minority groups. But journalists at the right-wing newspaper Junge Freiheit criticized the police action on social media. Editor Felix Krautkrämer took issue on Twitter with how the police report stated that the group had "withheld their views" when they booked the grilling space. "Notice: if someone is 'right-leaning', that must always be honestly specified when renting a grill space," he writes.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: At least 10 injured in huge fire at Hessen migrant centre

14/8/2016- Shocking photos shows a huge plume of black smoke rising from the site, which is made up of dozens of accommodation units. At least 20 of the containers were believed to be ablaze in the central German state of Hessen. Eight-hundred migrants are currently living at the site, with accommodation buildings housing 120 of them damaged in the devastating fire. Most of those injured are suffering from smoke inhalation. There have been hundreds of arson attacks on migrant centres or organisations in Germany in recent months. At least 665 centres have been attacked in 2016 alone, according to a recent police report, who said the majority were “clearly” far-right inspired. However, police investigating the cause of the fire have already ruled out arson. They believe the fire started accidentally within the site itself.
© The Express

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German far-right leader wants to send refugees to islands outside Europe

13/8/2016- The head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) says Berlin should send rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to islands outside Europe and turn its refugee office into an emigration bureau. The influx of over one million migrants last year fueled support for the AfD, which now has seats in eight of Germany's 16 state assemblies and is expected to make a strong showing in state votes next month in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Party leader Frauke Petry made the suggestions in an interview with the Bild newspaper published on Saturday. "Illegal migrants and asylum seekers whose applications are rejected will be accommodated on the two islands outside Europe that are protected by the United Nations," Petry added, without naming the two islands she had in mind.

German media interpreted her remarks as a reference to Nauru and Manus, two Pacific islands where Australia funds camps to hold asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach its shores by boat. They are told they will never be settled in Australia. "I propose the transformation of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees into an office for emigration, which ensures that all illegal migrants leave this land as soon as possible," Petry added. The refugee office has been overwhelmed since last year with hundreds of thousands of asylum applications. Known for her fiery speeches to AfD supporters, Petry sparked an uproar earlier this year when she called for German police to be allowed to use firearms against illegal migrants. Most of the more than one million migrants who arrived in Germany last year are refugees escaping war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
© Reuters

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Austria: Arson attempt on Turkish center, 2 arrested

15/8/2016- Two suspects were arrested after they threw Molotov cocktails at the offices of a Turkish association in the Austrian city of Wels late on Sunday. The attack on the Avrasya Culture and Sports Association comes at a time of rising anti-Turkish sentiment in Austria fueled by far-right politicians. Police said the two suspects may have links to the PKK, and the head of the association complained that they were a target of both the PKK and far-right groups. Mustafa Arslantaº said the attack left some windows of the building shattered, but police said the Molotov cocktails did not light the building on fire. "Turks currently face prejudice all across Europe. We are targeted by both the PKK and the far-right," Arslantaº said, without elaborating on threats they had received.

An investigation is underway into the motives of the arson attempt. Those of Turkish origin in Austria faced reaction from authorities after they staged rallies against the coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey. Austrian politicians criticized the demonstrations in favor of Turkey and a town banned the display of Turkish flags in residences. Wels is governed by the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Norbert Hofer, a presidential candidate who is known for his staunch opposition to Turkey's European Union membership. Hofer said in a recent interview that Austria should remove citizenship for Turks after he questioned their "loyalty."
© The Daily Sabah

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Austria: Hofer proposes burka ban and Turkish passport blocks

The far-right presidential candidate has kicked off his election campaign with an interview in which he supports a ban on burkas in Austria, as well as blocking Turkey's proposed EU membership.

14/8/2016- In an interview published on Sunday with the mass circulation Oesterreich tabloid, Norbert Hofer, the far-right Freedom Party's (FPÖ) candidate for president of Austria, outlined his position on several topics, including a proposed burka ban, similar to the one in France. Matching a similar position to this political opponents, Hofer also supports a block on negotiation with Turkey over an EU accession. He goes further however by suggesting that if Turkey does join, or the EU doesn't reform to allow more freedom for member states, then he would support an Austrian exit from the EU institutions. After recent security incidents in neighbouring countries, Hofer is now leading in the polls for the re-run of the presidential elections, due on October 2nd.

When asked if he was confident of victory, he responded: "I'm not sure of victory. But I am an optimistic and life-affirming human being and hope it ends well. When I meet people on a mountain bike tour who want to be photographed with me, the response is always positive." He characterized his independent opponent, Alexander Van der Bellen, as both a Green, and a former communist, while describing himself as a Libertarian. When asked about Brexit, and the far-right parties in France and Netherlands who are adamant for an EU exit by their countries, Hofer admitted that they are not in agreement on all points, such as nuclear power, which he opposes. In any case, he suggested that if he is elected as President, he will suspend his membership of the FPÖ, and focus on working solely at a federal level, in the interests of Austria as a whole.

Hofer also called for an investigation into the rapid mobilization of Turkish residents in Austria, which saw over 5,000 demonstrators on the streets of Vienna in the wake of the failed coup attempt in Turkey. In particular, he was concerned about how many of those Turks kept their Turkish citizenship, which is illegal due to Austria's strict dual-citizenship laws. He specifically called for a ban on naturalization of Turks resident in Austria, until the dual citizenship issue can be resolved. In a related question, Hofer talked about Germany's discussion on a possible ban on religious clothing, such as a burka. "Yes, and I think [a ban] makes sense. It's not the case that someone says, 'Wow, I want to go to Austria and must not wear my burqa.' No. I need to know in advance that there is a burqa ban and then I can decide if I want to come."
© The Local - Austria

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Denmark: Muslim school vandalised with anti-Islam graffiti

“Fuck Islam” and “Islam out of DK” sprayed on school walls

14/8/2016- Denmark’s first Muslim boarding school, which is located near Fuglebjerg in southern Zealand – was on Wednesday night vandalised with anti-Islam graffiti. The walls of the school were sprayed with hate messages such as “Fuck Islam” and “Islam out of DK”, while several windows were painted with targets. The school staff were shocked and shaken, and the Danish Islamic Community (DIT) has called on Danish politicians to distance themselves from Islamophobia.

Condemn racist hate crimes
“This is the most uncomfortable thing I have experienced,” Ahmet Deniz, the school’s headteacher, told sn.dk. “When a Muslim boarding school is openly harassed as grossly as in this case, politicians should distance themselves from it and condemn racist hate crimes of any kind,” stated DIT. Local police said they were treated the vandalism as a serious case. “We don’t know if it was just a boyish prank, but we would rather not have this developed into something extremist,” Peter Haslund, a police officer from Næstved Police, told DR.
© The Copenhagen Post.

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Czech tour bus owner removing Auschwitz design following uproar

18/8/2016- The owner of a Czech tour bus that advertised the Auschwitz extermination camp as an emotion-packed holiday destination will remove the vehicle’s controversial design showing oversized pictures of inmates from the Nazi extermination camp and a massive yellow Star of David. The action comes following an outcry from Czech Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders. “I’m taking it off today and tomorrow, and it will be gone,” the owner of the tour company that operates the bus, Svatopluk Strava, told JTA on Thursday. “Most of it has been removed already.” The design completely covered the vehicle. Along with the inmates’ photos and the Star of David, it featured a picture of the notorious Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) inscription as well as the slogans “Let’s Go to Auschwitz,” “A Journey through Emotions” and “Our Guides Speak Czech.”

The design was applied in June when the vehicle, owned by Balkanbus, a small tour agency based in Bluèina, some 135 miles southeast of Prague, was used as a prop in a “stylized documentary” depicting the life of a Czech neo-Nazi and his family. The film, titled “The World According to Little Dalibor,” includes a scene of the main characters visiting the Auschwitz memorial, according to the film’s director, Vít Klusák. “While working on the scene, we came across the strange world of the adventure tourism industry in the former death camps,” Klusak told JTA. “Our bus was a critical reflection of this phenomenon. I think it is extremely absurd and tasteless that Auschwitz and Terezín are being advertised just like Disneyland or Niagara Falls.”

After the filming concluded, however, the filmmakers and the bus owner failed to make sure the satirical design was taken down. Klusák said the producers would pay for the removal, but Strava was concerned the paint on the bus could be damaged in the process and decided to keep the design. He used the bus for several trips to Auschwitz, but soon heard from the Czech Jewish leaders. “We wrote letters in mid-July to the film production company and to the bus operator telling them that we considered the design of the bus offensive and tasteless, and we asked the bus owner to remove it,” said Petr Papoušek, the head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic. “But we didn’t hear back from either of them, and we were considering legal action.”

The uproar stunned Strava. “I didn’t realize it was going to be such a scandal,” he said. “I’m no Holocaust denier, I regularly take Czech schoolchildren to Auschwitz, and I always get goose bumps thinking of what had happened there. So I just removed it, and if the paint is damaged, I’ll be considering suing the filmmakers for the costs.”
© JTA News

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Czech Rep: Uproar over ‘satirical’ bus advertising Auschwitz vacations

Old movie prop promoting the Nazi death camp as fun holiday destination decried by local Holocaust survivors, Jewish leaders

16/8/2016- A “satirical” tour bus in the Czech Republic advertising the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a fun holiday destination has been condemned by Holocaust survivors and local Jewish leaders. The camp’s notorious sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work sets you free”) is seen emblazoned on the side of the double-decker bus alongside a large Star of David and images of real Jewish victims murdered by Nazi Germany. Text along the side of the bus cheerfully urges people to “Come to Auschwitz — A journey through emotions,” and notes, “Our guides speak Czech!” The bus was originally made as a film prop for a satirical movie by Czech director Vit Klusak examining the emerging Holocaust tourist industry in Eastern Europe. However, after filming was completed the bus was sold to a local tour company that has refused to remove the decorations.

Critics have slammed the bus advertisements as insensitive and have called for the bus to be repainted. Holocaust survivor Erika Bezdickova, whose entire family were murdered at Auschwitz, said she was “absolutely appalled when I spotted the bus,” according to Britain’s Daily Mail. “I think that only a person with no moral decency could make a business out of the Auschwitz catastrophe,” she added. “Not only is it reprehensible, but those responsible should be punished too.” According to the report, Prague Jewish Museum Director Leo Pavlat has contacted the bus owner requesting the images be removed immediately. The owner, Svatopluk Xaver, said he cannot afford the $1,670 it would cost to remove the stickers and repaint the vehicle.
© The Times of Israel

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Czech Rep: Pride Parade gets 40,000 marchers

14/8/2016- The annual Prague Pride parade on Aug. 13 saw some 40,000 participants, according to preliminary estimates from the Czech Police as well as a private security firm. If confirmed, this would be a record for the event. There were very few counter protesters, just a few stray individuals with signs, and no reported clashes. This was the sixth annual parade, the first one in 2011 had some 7,000 participants and it has grown more or less each year, depending on the weather. While most people missed it, at the end of this year's parade there was a tribute to the victims of the massacre at an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida. A sign saying “We are Orlando” hung from the bridge Èechùv most, and 49 black balloons, one for each victim, were released as the parade approached the entry to Letná Park.

The parade, which began in Wenceslas Square and ended in Letná, was headed by Omar Sharif Jr, the grandson of the famous actor. The younger Sharif has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights in the Middle East. Following him in a separate car were two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of gay men and trans women who wear flamboyant versions of nuns' habits but also do a lot of charitable outreach to for the gay and trans community, as well as the homeless and those afflicted with HIV. Sister Roma and Sister Vish before and after the parade were available for selfies. Sister Roma claims to be the most photographed nun in the world. The two nuns came from San Fransisco. The lead banner of the parade said (in Czech) “I love _____,” which was one of the themes of this year's Pride Week.

Marching unofficially in front of the parade — between the police vanguard and the first banner — was a man in a Batman costume. Whether he had any message or just simply enjoyed a good parade was not clear. Another prominent vehicle in the parade was from the US Embassy. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro and other embassy staff gave out flags, pins, beads, roses and candy to people at the start of the parade and along the route. He and other volunteers sported shirts saying that LGBT rights are human rights. At the party at Letná the staff distributed a quiz of LGBT milestones, and gave out pins and similar prizes. Some Czech political parties also had a big presence in the parade. The Greens and the Pirates both had contingents behind banners and carried signs showing support of LGBT issues and rights. A group marching under an anarchist red banner with a raised fist had signs calling for free love, not a free market.

The NGO Amnesty International had people with signs calling for more respect of human rights. Several companies also had a prominent presence including tech firms Microsoft and IBM and PR firm Ogilvy. Local gay-friendly establishments like Erra Cafe had a visible presence. Signs could be seen from foreign groups coming from Germany and Norway, among other places. Religious people who were pro-LGBT had a large presence this year, with signs saying the two ideas did not have to be contradictory. Most people, however, marched in small groups of friends with signs carrying their own messages about LGBT rights. Wearing a rainbow flag as a cape was a popular accessory this year, even more so than in previous years. Flower garlands also were visible, with one small group turning it into a Hawaiian theme with a ukelele. Several dogs also sported rainbow flower necklaces and seemed to enjoy the excitement even if the issues were over their heads a bit.

Perhaps because the turnout was even higher than last year, the percentage of flamboyantly dressed or underdressed people seemed small compared to those in regular street clothes with some rainbow decoration. A few people had leather animal masks, and small handful wore outfits of leather straps and metal rings. There was a Conchita Wurst impersonator and handful of old-school drag queens with elaborate wigs and makeup. Signs offering free hugs were prominent. The parade ended with a party in Letná Park, with two stages and a ring of stands offering everything form food and beverages to free and confidential HIV testing. Pride Week did not end with the parade. There was a picnic on Sunday, Aug. 14, and some other final events.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Greece: Helping refugees get facts, not rumors

Many refugees are at a loss in their makeshift camps in Greece. Volunteers have set out to help them get the information they need and debunk false rumors. Marianna Karakoulaki reports from Thessaloniki.

13/8/2016- When refugees were stranded in Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border, new rumors about the border being open again emerged every other day. People would pack their belongings and run towards the Macedonian fence only to be pushed back - oftentimes with force. Although most refugees are now in official refugee camps in Greece, those rumors have not stopped. There is a new story almost every day about the re-opening of the Balkan route, organizations supposedly giving refugees pocket money or how long people will have to wait in Greece. These rumors then lead to heated arguments among refugees. With an estimated figure of more than 57,000 refugees in the country, and new arrivals of approximately 70-170 people per day, the task of informing people of their rights and options is challenging. Volunteers have set out to help them get the right information they need.

The "Mobile Info Team" provides answers to the refugees' most pressing questions. Those who initially created the team sometime in March were part of a soup kitchen in Idomeni at the time. "While delivering soup we had the feeling that there were so many questions, but very few answers," Michael, one of the volunteers here, told DW. Michael, 36, from Germany initially planned to stay in Greece for two weeks. He has been here for almost seven months now. He arrived in Idomeni in January and was chopping off vegetables at a soup kitchen that was providing healthy food to refugees before joining the Mobile Info Team. They decided it was important to have a place "where people could come and learn anything they need," he added.

Different kind of aid
Several times a day, they go out and meet with refugees at ten different camps around Thessaloniki. Due to restricted access for independent volunteers to several camps, the team holds the sessions outside of each camp. By now, refugees know when to expect "the people who have the answers" as many say. The team also has a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and a blog where they share information in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu - the languages most of the refugees here speak. The seven members of the self-funded group spend a lot of time researching, evaluating and cross-checking the information they give out. They share details from news sources to official reports by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Greek authorities and information they get from direct contact with groups of lawyers and other NGOs. "We try to always provide reliable information and refute misinformation with every way that we can," Giorgos Kyritsis, the government's spokesman for the migration crisis, told DW. "Anyone [who] arrives in Greece is fully informed of their status in English and where possible in their mother tongue," the government official added. He said Greece couldn't have predicted the need of interpreters, "but volunteers and NGOs provide a helping hand and we do everything that is possible," Kyritsis said.

'No one explained the details'
As the Mobile Info Team sets up their mobile "office" - a white plastic table, some chairs and wooden boards - groups of refugees start approaching. The team's blue van moves from camp to camp; today, the volunteers are outside the refugee camp of Softex near Thessaloniki. "We do have some information from the UNHCR, but everything makes much more sense after talking to the Info Team and reading their flyers," a Syrian refugee who lives at Softex told DW. "For example we were told that relocation might take several months, but no one explained all the details." Khalid, 34, is the heart of the team. He's a refugee himself from Iraq who arrived in Lesvos in early March waiting to be relocated in Europe. As soon as he got to Greece, Khalid started helping out volunteers, doctors, and oftentimes the police with translations. "Unfortunately, the most common questions we get are the most difficult to answer," he said. As Khalid explains, most refugees want to know how long they will have to wait in Greece - but there is no clear and specific timeframe and it may take from two months from the time of their relocation interview till six or more.

The volunteers say face-to-face meetings are more important than the online resources they share. Michael adds it's getting more and more difficult to leave the people they are helping as they've formed close relationships with some of them. "It is difficult to let go when there is so much need." Khalid on the other hand believes that those who, in an unfortunate turn of luck, found themselves stranded in Greece should help one another because they are all in the same situation. "While living in the makeshift camp of EKO near Idomeni I noticed there was a serious lack of translators, that's why I started helping volunteers," Khalid said. "I was living in uncertainty; I know how it is and how people feel." He also said they often have negative news for the refugees - especially when they need to inform people that they might need to stay in the refugee camps for a long time as their relocation may take several months. "But it is something that needs to be done," Khalid added.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Headlines 12 August, 2016

France: Human rights groups vow to challenge burkini ban on Cannes beaches

Muslim organisations also among those to decry ruling signed off by mayor David Lisnard outlawing full-body swimsuits

12/8/2016- A French human rights association and Muslim groups have said they will take legal action against the mayor of Cannes for issuing a decree banning burkinis from the resort’s beaches. David Lisnard signed off on a ruling last month preventing women from wearing the full-body swimsuits in the Côte d’Azur town. The decree was introduced shortly after the Bastille day attack in Nice in July, where a delivery driver killed 85 people when he ploughed into crowds celebrating the French national holiday on the seafront. The decree states that Muslim women wearing burkinis could be a threat to public order and will be cautioned and fined €38 (£33). “Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent,” it says.

Thierry Migoule, the head of Cannes municipal services, said: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach ... but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us.” Lawyers, human rights groups and Muslim associations have described the decree as illegal and preposterous.  In a statement, Hervé Lavisse from the Cannes-Grasse section of the French Human Rights League said: “This is an abuse of law and we will take it to court.” Rightwing politicians needed to calm their “discriminatory fervour and defend the spirit of the republic,” he said. France has some of the toughest legislation on headscarves in Europe, including a law passed in 2004 on religious symbols that bans girls from wearing the hijab in state schools, but no current laws ban anyone from wearing a headscarf or full-body bikini at a public beach. Wearing a burkini remains legal in France as a whole.

The niqab, or full-face veil, was banned in all public spaces in 2011 by the former president Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a law against anyone covering their face in public. But a burkini, which covers the head and body for swimming while leaving the face uncovered, does not contravene that law. State workers must by law be impartial and neutral, and so cannot show their religious belief with an outward symbol such as a headscarf, but this applies only to public service workplaces such as hospitals and town halls. “Wearing a burkini, headscarf, G-string or feather cabaret costume is not banned by the law,” tweeted Feiza Ben Mohamed of the Federation of Muslims in the South. She said the organisation, based in Nice, had lodged court papers with the intention of annulling the decree.

Marwan Muhammad, the executive director of the Collective against Islamophobia in France, said he would go to court to get the decree scrapped. His organisation succeeded in legal action in 2014 to overturn a mayoral decree seeking to ban headscarves and religious symbols from summer events in Wissous, near Paris. Serge Slama, a public law lecturer at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense told France Inter radio that the decree had no legal basis and was merely a “political message ... tinted with Islamophobia, racism and anti-religious feeling”. Questioned by newspaper Nice-Matin, Lisnard, of the centre-right Les Républicains party, said: “I don’t have time for controversies ... I’m simply banning a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist extremism.”

Lionnel Luca, another hardline member of Sarkozy’s Les Républicains, signed a similar decree banning burkinis in the nearby area of Villeneuve-Loubet. Islamic head coverings have long been a highly contentious political issue in France. In the run-up to the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections, the topic is increasingly being raised, not least by Sarkozy, who this week insisted that Muslim headscarves should be banned from universities and in private companies.
© The Guardian.

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French Court Rejects Bid to Shut 72 Migrant Camp Eateries, Shops

12/8/2016- A French court rejected a demand Friday to close 72 eateries and shops in the makeshift migrant camp in the northern port city of Calais, but the prefecture said it will continue legal action against what it calls a dangerous underground economy. The Lille court turned down the demand of the Prefecture of the Pas de Calais region, the state representative, to permanently close the operations which humanitarian organizations contend are a lifeline for the estimated more than 7,000 migrants in the camp, commonly known as "the Jungle." A statement by the prefecture said the installations don't respect sanitation rules, risk fires and are a source of public disorder. "Administrative inspections of the underground commerce and judicial actions will be continued," it said.

Later, the prefect for Calais, Vincent Berton, announced that the state was lodging an appeal against the court decision. Thousands of free meals are legally handed out daily to migrants by a state-backed association at the camp and others. However, humanitarian organizations contend that this is not enough food for the growing number of migrants in the camp, and migrants can stand in line for hours for a meal. The prefecture sent inspectors into the camp in July to check shops and restaurants, including hairdressers, seizing and destroying numerous products and detaining 19 people. Shops and restaurants were then ordered closed — though some reopen quietly at nightfall.

Maya Konforti of Auberge des Migrants, or Migrants Shelter, a mainstay aid association for migrants, said the court decision allows aid groups and migrants to buy time. "We're going to see ... how we can improve things," she said by telephone. But, she added that "a restaurant in the jungle will never be legal." The court action, she said, is "sheer harassment." The prefecture razed the southern half of the Calais camp in July, after a court gave the green light — but barred the destruction of houses of worship and schools. Most migrants in Calais, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa, travel to northern France to try to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.
© The Associated Press

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Russia: Where It’s Illegal to Make Noise in Churches and Cemeteries

Who are the Russians being tried for ‘hooliganism’ under Article 213 of the criminal code?
by Elena Shmaraeva


In this recently published article, Russian news site Mediazona explains how Article 213 in the Russian criminal code has changed over time, and why it won’t be used to arrest the “golden youth” who race elite-preferred luxury SUVs. Instead, the law applies to participants in mass fights, neo-Nazis, environmentalists, punks, activists from the opposition, and assorted other malcontents – around 1,000 per year say the statistics.

11/8/2016- On 14 May, in Moscow’s Khovanskoe cemetery, a bona fide battle took place: several hundred people settled scores using a variety of weapons. Three died and dozens were arrested. According to the official investigation, labor migrants from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan had been “defending” themselves, aided by members of their respective diasporas. The “attackers” were Russians, mainly from Chechnya and Dagestan, who wanted to take control of the cemetery’s income and demanded half the migrants’ pay, earned from grave-digging and other services. Most of the people involved in the armed conflict were arrested under section two of Article 213 – “Hooliganism committed by a group of persons.” The maximum sentence: seven years.

A month before the events at Khovanskoe cemetery, on 16 April, Moscow’s Khodynka Field was the site of a meeting of automobile enthusiasts. The media called them “street racers” but, as it turned out, they were members of the organization “Fighting Classics” – restorers of old Soviet vehicles. Their page on social media site VKontakte laconically describes the organization as “Zhiguli – that’s what we’re about” (Zhiguli is a Lada model produced by the Russian factory AvtoVAZ.) Giving the cars a tune-up was a loud process and, as it was about 10 p.m., neighborhood residents called the police. The car lovers didn’t heed the first request from police officers to leave the area and, in protest, surrounded a police car “shouting insults at the officers.” As a result, the drivers, who had “organized a group of no fewer than 10 people on Khodynka Boulevard to show off their vehicles,” had a criminal case opened against them by Moscow police – under Article 213, section two.

How the Article Was Toughened
“The ‘Hooliganism’ statute appeared in Soviet Russia’s criminal code in the 1960s and, as far as I know, it was the subject of much debate: it had fairly broad wording that assessed not the scope of damage the injured party sustained, but the nature of the acts committed – the violation of public order,” explains Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the SOVA information and analysis center [which works on human rights issues, as well as nationalism and racism]. In the 1990s, a case was opened against Nazi skinheads under this law: even if the victims were not seriously hurt, the attackers’ actions thoroughly met the definition of “contempt for society.” “In 2003 this statute was transformed, and the determining factor became the presence of ‘weapons or objects used as weapons,’ ” Verkhovsky continues. “This wording applied mostly to group fights, where the law was applied most often. Waving a broken glass bottle, shards facing out, falls under the category of ‘object used as a weapon.’ And Nazi skinheads were also arrested under this law, because brass knuckles and even heavy-duty boots could be considered ‘arms’ in a fight.”

In 2004, Article 213 was used to try National Bolsheviks who had stormed the Health Ministry. The Tver city court found them guilty of hooliganism and destruction of property. The “NatBols” were protesting the monetization of healthcare benefits and, according to investigators and the court, used a nail gun as a weapon. In reality, the party members used the power tool to nail shut the doors to the office, but a witness believed it was a real gun. The seven people who found themselves on the defendants’ bench were sentenced to five years in prison. In 2007, Article 213 was revised again, after legislators passed the law “On amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation in relation to the improvement of state administration in the sphere of countering extremism.”

“The key signifier of a crime, what actually qualified something as a crime, was still the disturbance of public order,” says Verkhovsky. “But section one now had parts ‘a’ and ‘b’ – respectively, the use of weapons or objects as weapons; and a motivation based on ideological or religious hatred. A crime didn’t need to have both parts, either one was enough. If the ‘motivation’ clause had been in section two, that would have been clear. But the way it turned out – it can be either this, or that. That meant that it became possible to criminalize acts as ‘hooliganism’ even if there was no bodily harm or damage, no weapons – only the motivation of hatred or enmity.”

In November 2007, just a few months after the amendments to Article 213 passed, a plenum of the Russian Supreme Court issued a ruling on how the law should be applied. The document noted, in particular, that “a subject’s clear disrespect for society is expressed by the premeditated violation of generally recognized norms and rules of conduct, driven by the guilty party’s desire to counter others, and to demonstrate his or her contempt for them.” Judges were instructed to indicate in their verdicts exactly how a defendant had expressed contempt for society. The Supreme Court also ruled that a weapon is any object used to physically or psychologically injure someone, “as well as actions indicating the intent to cause harm using the weapon or object.” This included faulty or toy weapons. A hooligan attacking someone with a dog or other dangerous animal also falls under point “a” of section one in Article 213 – as an armed attack.

Pussy Riot, the Biker in the Metro, and the ‘Skyscraper Stunt’
“The updated wording of Article 213 essentially creates a new tool for selective law enforcement,” the SOVA center wrote in 2007. Human rights activists believed that this version of the law would be a new instrument for persecuting the political opposition. As of now, if an individual engages in what the administrative code describes as trivial hooliganism and is motivated by ideological or religious hatred, he or she could earn up to five years in prison, or seven years behind bars when a group is concerned. “The ‘hooliganism’ law has been constantly transformed,” says lawyer Dmitry Dinze. At one point [lawmakers] wanted to leave it in the Code of Administrative Offenses, but when anti-extremist laws were intensified, Article 213 started being used to prosecute various extremist acts: for example, massive fights between nationalists and anti-fascists in public places. And in general, if someone is yelling loudly in a public area, behaving outside of social norms – he can be arrested under this law, because of his action’s intent: to disturb public order with some ideological motive. Authorities started using this article more and more for ambiguous situations.”

He gives the “loudest” example of such a situation – the criminal case against members of the group Pussy Riot, opened after their performance of a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior in February 2012. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and committed by an organized group. On 17 August 2012, the defendants were sentenced to two years of incarceration. Samutsevich received a conditional sentence after she appealed. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were amnestied and released in December 2012. In September 2013, Greenpeace activists aboard the ship Arctic Sunrise climbed up Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea to protest oil production in the Arctic.

Authorities arrested 30 people. At first, they were accused of piracy, then the case was reworked to fall under the scope of section two of Article 213 – hooliganism committed by an organized group. In December 2013, the accused protesters were amnestied. Amnesty has been given to yet another person arrested under Article 213 – motorcyclist Pavel Volkov, who was charged with hooliganism for a motorcycle ride in the Moscow metro’s Voykovskaya station. At first he was held under part “a” of section one – investigators said he was using the motorcycle as a weapon. That accusation was revised and placed under section two – conspiratorial hooliganism. Volkov’s friend Artem Lakhtionovy was charged with the same thing, for holding the door open for the rider.

Article 213 was also behind two criminal cases whose defendants were featured on “Memorial,” a website dedicated to tracking the justice proceedings of political prisoners. A Soviet star, perched at the top of a Stalin-era skyscraper on Moscow’s Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, had been painted over with the Ukrainian flag’s blue and yellow colors. And a German flag appeared on the garage of the Kaliningrad office of Russia’s Federal Security Service. The “skyscraper stunt” culminated in a surprise acquittal in September 2015 for four of the high-rise helpers: Alexander Pogrebov, Alexei Shyrokozhuhova, Evgeny Korotkovoy, and Anna Lepeshkina. Moscow’s Taganka District court delivered a guilty verdict for 20-year-old St. Petersburg recreational roof climber Vladimir Podrezov, along with a two-year prison sentence. However, Podrezov was acquitted for his hooliganism charge, and he was charged with vandalism in the end.

Those involved in the German flag operation – Kaliningrad-based activists Mikhail Feldman, Oleg Savin, and Muscovite Dmitry Fonarev – were found guilty in June 2015 of group hooliganism motivated by “political hatred or enmity” by Kaliningrad’s Central District court. They were sentenced to imprisonment, but released at the end of the trial, as they had already effectively served their terms in pre-trial detention. “The key players in cases like these are expert witnesses who establish the presence of an ideological motive, and answer affirmatively to questions raised during the investigation,” says Dinze. The German flag case had specialists from the Volgograd voluntary association “Southern Center of Expertise” determining the defendants’ motive. They concluded that placing the flag had been a political act, as bolstered by “the participants’ political activism, their preparedness and organization, and because their actions were oriented toward changing the political opinions of authorities and political institutions,” and confirmed by the fact that they filmed the whole thing.

Others charged under Article 213 include a client of Dinze’s – nationalist Danyl Konstantinov, who was amnestied after his initial murder charge was changed to hooliganism. There’s also anti-fascist Alexei Sutuga (currently serving a three-year term in the Irkutsk oblast) and an activist from The Other Russia party, Oleg Mironov, who used pepper spray at an Andrey Makarevich concert (sentenced to three years of incarceration). The law was invoked in a number of charges filed against former banker Matvei Urin. Those charged with group hooliganism – Article 213, section two – include soccer fans who got in a fight on Moscow’s Bolshaya Pirogovskaya street. The injured parties in the case are people who live nearby, and were offended by seeing the fight.

Shooting Passersby and the ‘White Carriage’
Every year approximately 1,000 people, sometimes more, are charged with crimes under Article 213: in 2015 – 998 cases, in 2014 – 991 people charged, in 2013 – 1,456 charges, in 2012 – 1,373 cases, and in 2011 – 1,504. An additional 200 people are tried each year in cases where “hooliganism” is a supplementary, not principle charge, according to statistics from the Russian Supreme Court Justice Department. In 2015, 796 people were tried for violating section one of Article 213, and 202 were tried under section two. The Justice Department does not have statistics for the additional parts of the law, such as the presence of weapons or motivation of hatred. That same year, 271 people were incarcerated under the article – the rest received suspended sentences, mandatory correctional labor, and fines. Courts amnestied 208 people who had been found guilty. There were even a few acquittals: two for section one charges, and eight for charges under section two.

People who open fire in a public place are usually charged with “hooliganism.” A 40-year-old resident of Moscow’s Strogino district who fired a pneumatic weapon at a yard worker was charged under Article 213, as well as a resident of Tyoply Stan who shot passersby with an airsoft rifle, and an Angarsk resident who shot at 10-year-old schoolchildren. This article was applied to an AK-47 and Makarov pistol shooting on Moscow’s Ring Road, and to the case of a United Russia deputy who shot up a village discotheque with a weapon designed to be non-lethal. A security guard in Yakutsk was charged with “hooliganism” for firing a shotgun in a school after arguing with the principal.

It’s also fairly common for Article 213 to be used in cases of neo-Nazi attacks, like those perpetrated by the so-called “white carriage,” whose members beat up people of “non-Slavic appearance” in metro trains and outer-city public transport. The most recent example happened this April in the Moscow metro station Bitsevsky Park: around 10 people attacked two visitors from Tajikistan, pepper-spraying one in the eyes. Earlier in January, similar attacks were perpetrated by 18 people in suburban Moscow stations Silikatnaya and Chekov – the attackers were tried under section two of Article 213. Section two also underpinned a criminal case this March, when journalists and human rights activists were attacked in Ingushetia. The attacks were originally billed as hooliganism and destruction of property; later, charges of theft and obstructing journalism were added.

Complaints and Increased Severity
“After the Pussy Riot verdict, which became the definitive example for the use of the ‘hooliganism’ law, a discussion began about what should be considered public order in an area populated by some kind of closed subcultures or societies – because the behavior of the guilty girls was, in effect, a disruption of normal behavior in a church,” says SOVA’s Verkhovsky. “Let’s say that in a night club, where everyone is dancing to techno music, someone starts dancing in a new way or doing something different from the rest – would that be called disruptive, dramatically divergent, or unacceptable?” It was this reasoning that brought the Pussy Riot defendants to the Constitutional Court of Russia. Article 213, in its current form, violates Russian citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of self-expression, violates the principle of equality before the law, and violates the government’s secularism, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote in her official complaint. Maria Alyokhina noted in her appeal that Article 213 practically recognizes that a disruption of public order in a secular state is a disruption of religious norms.

The Constitutional Court refused to consider either appeal, and ruled that Article 213 was constitutionally sound. The court also noted that Russian public order, and the corresponding signs that order is being disrupted, “are determined by taking into account the historic and cultural heritage of Russia’s peoples, in combination with society’s current stage of generally recognized behavioral norms.” At the end of 2014, Article 213 was expanded again – this time to intensify punishment for selling or buying illegal explosive devices. The amendment, called section three, was added for hooliganism “committed using explosive materials or devices.” The maximum punishment is eight years of incarceration. The first case filed under section three was that of 36-year-old Alexander Rul, a former employee of the Russian conglomerate Sistema, who dropped a hand grenade from his apartment onto the street below. According to the official investigation, Rul was crafting a handmade grenade late at night on 7 December 2015. Afraid that it would explode after he accidentally pulled out the safety pin, Rul could not think of a better solution than to throw it outside. The blast injured five people.

Hooligans Don’t Drive ‘G-Wagens’
Early morning on 22 May, Ruslan Shamsuarov, the son of Russian oil giant LUKoil’s vice president, and three of his friends (including Mara Bagdasaryan, infamous among Moscow’s so-called drag racers), orchestrated a street race with the police. The youth, driving a Mercedes-Benz ‘G-Wagen’ SUV, live broadcast the race on the video app Periscope. The police and Russia’s Investigative Commission tried in vain several times to open a case against the young people under Article 213, but the prosecutor’s office refused. For now, Shamsuarov and Co. are charged with violating Article 319 – insulting a government official or authority.

Commenting on the scandalous affair, Russia’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said that the “hooliganism” law was crafted by legislators in a way that makes it impossible to implement. “What do we have here today? We have a law that is difficult to apply in practice. Hooliganism – the crude disruption of public order, rooted in obvious disrespect for society, carried out with a weapon, and motivated by political, ideological, racial hatred, or by hatred toward a social group. But just try and apply Article 213,” Chaika complained. He was speaking in front of the Russian parliament, asking for new amendments to the law.

“Article 213 wasn’t applied in this case because Russia doesn’t have a unified way of dealing with cases of hatred against police as a social group,” the lawyer Dinze explains, “For example, in the Kursk region, police are considered a social group and in St. Petersburg, a case was closed citing this motive in regard to the hooliganism of a group known as ‘War (Voina).’” In Dinze’s opinion, the criminal charges against the G-Wagen’s drivers can only be filed under Article 319 – provided that the investigative committee finds and identifies the specific police officers who were involved in the arrest, and were disrespected by the drag racers.

“Attempts to use the ‘hooliganism’ law are useless here precisely because of the amendments to the law made after 2003 – about the use of a weapon,” says Dinze. “There is also no motivation of hatred, I agree on that point with human rights lawyer Verkhovsky. Here’s where the legislator has to decide either to categorize such crimes that are ‘counter to society,’ but without injury, in the criminal code, ideally without expanding their applicability ad infinitum. Or to accept the fact that we can’t treat this as a criminal act, and that an administrative punishment is enough.”

Elena Shmaraeva is a journalist with Mediazona. Begun with a focus on the Russian criminal justice system, Mediazona has grown to cover all areas where citizens meet the state. Two members of Pussy Riot were among the site’s dozen or so founders.
The translation and illustration are used with permission of Mediazona. Translated by Anna Bisikalo

© Transitions Online.

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Finland: University plagued by Islamophobic notes

The University of Eastern Finland is resuming its effort to find of source of anti-Islam notes that have been spread around its Joensuu campus and slipped between the pages of university library books. Police investigated the matter last spring, but did not determine who is responsible.

10/8/2016- So far ten variations of the notes have been found on campus, the first last spring and the most recent on Wednesday. They contain texts such as "Islam is a threat to Finnish culture". "We became increasingly concerned when one of the notes mentioned the name of a university researcher. When that happened, it became one degree more serious," the Joensuu campus head of security, Heikki Loikkanen, told Yle. The notes have been found in several university buildings, at information desks and brochure racks. Some have been slipped between the pages of books in the university library and some left beside a library printer. The researcher named in one note has been involved in activities in aid of immigrants.

No tolerance of racism
Last spring the university contacted police about the notes. Police did not identify who was responsible for writing and distributing them and closed their investigation. Chief Inspector Sami Joutjärvi of the Eastern Finland police says, however, that the case can be reopened. The Rector of the University of Eastern Finland, Jukka Mönkkönen, told Yle on Wednesday that the university is taking a very dim view of the matter and that it does not tolerate any political or racist propaganda on campus. Head of Security Heikki Loikkanen said that personnel have been instructed to keep a watch on the situation and to intervene if they see these kinds of notes being distributed or left in university facilities.
© YLE News.

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Swiss borders face increased migrant pressure

So far this year Swiss authorities have picked up 22,181 people who entered Switzerland illegally, a third of those in July alone. Guards on the Italian border have been particularly busy, turning away 4,149 people last month.

10/8/2016- In July alone, 3,560 people who had made it across the border into Ticino, the Italian-speaking southern canton, were immediately sent back to Italy – more than the number of people for the whole first seven months of 2015. The Swiss Border Guard said on Wednesday that since the beginning of this year, 8,298 people had been stopped at Swiss borders, up from 3,526 people for the same period in 2015. The number of illegal immigrants found in Switzerland – 22,181 – had also increased from 13,213 for the same period last year. Most of these people came from Eritrea. Many others, including those stopped at the border, had travelled from Gambia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia.

Guards could not determine the nationality for 1,284 people, who had either lost their identity papers in conflicts or the long and risky journey, or had thrown them away or hidden them. So far this year Ticino has been the main point of entry for 60% of illegal arrivals, whose final destination is thought to be Germany or Scandinavia – although the Swiss Border Guard didn’t provide figures for this. It is also striking that just under 85% of the 22,181 people picked up by border guards came by train. Some 13% came by road and only 2.25% by plane. Eighteen people tried to find a way into Switzerland aboard a boat.

African influx
On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned of a build-up of migrants on Italy’s border with Switzerland and demanded clarification from Swiss authorities over reports by children that they had been sent back when trying to join their parents there. Switzerland said the build-up was due to an influx of African migrants seeking passage to north European countries such as Germany. Any individual requesting asylum would be granted the opportunity. Martin Reichlin of the State Secretariat for Migration said he would expect any child arriving at the border and attempting to join relatives in Switzerland to be delivered to the care of his organisation. Several hundred migrants have been sleeping near the train station in Como, Italy, since July after a Swiss clampdown on crossings.
© Swiss Info

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Out of sight, out of mind? Europe's migrant crisis still simmers

10/8/2016- A year after hundreds of thousands of refugees snaked their way across southeastern Europe and onto global television screens, the roads through the Balkans are now clear, depriving an arguably worsening tragedy of poignant visibility. Europe's migrant crisis is at the very least numerically worse than it was last year. More people are arriving and more are dying. But the twist is that, compared with last year, a lot of it is out of sight. Take the border between Greece and Macedonia. Summer crops have replaced the city of tents at the border outpost of Idomeni, even if some locals are convinced there is an unseen population hiding in the surrounding forests, waiting for smugglers to assist them on their onward journey. The tiny Greek village was a focal point of the migrant flow north toward Germany and other wealthy countries, with thousands of refugees squatting for months waiting for sealed borders with Macedonia to open

Elsewhere in the Balkans, a Reuters photographer, revisiting the people-packed locations where he and his colleagues captured last year's diaspora, found empty roads, unencumbered railway tracks and bucolic countryside. The comparison is stark. To see the pictures, click More than one million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan made their way to Europe last year, with the majority of them crossing the precarious sea corridor separating Greece and Turkey, the temporary home for more than 2 million refugees displaced from Syria. They came carrying their worldly belongings in plastic bags and hauling babies on weary shoulders, a visual exodus of the kind not seen in Europe since the end of World War Two. Many have since reached their destination in northern Europe, but with the borders closed and the European Union now attempting to contain the numbers, thousands are stuck at holding centers in Greece and Italy. They are not so nearly visible there - nor are the ones still coming.

Visibility Down, Arrivals Up
According to data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), arrivals are up 17 percent on last year, stoked mainly by a spike at the start of the year through Greece. Deaths among those trying to get to Europe, mainly due to drowning, are up more than 15 percent. "This is not a blip," said David Miliband, a former British foreign minister who now heads the International Rescue Committee, an aid group set up by Albert Einstein - himself a refugee - to rescue Europeans before the outbreak of World War Two. "The forces that are driving more and more people from their homes - weak states, big tumults within the Islamic world, a divided international system .. None of these things are likely to abate soon." Some of the mantle of accepting huge migrant flows that was carried by Greece last year and the beginning of this one has been taken up by Italy. This follows a resurgence of migrant flows from northern Africa. More than 140,000 asylum seekers are now housed in Italian shelters, a seven-fold increase on 2013, with the migrant crisis in its third year.

In Greece, where arrivals plunged in the wake of an accord between Turkey and the EU to stem the flow in March, an estimated 57,000 migrants were still stuck in the country by Aug.8. Campaigners say the accord has lulled policymakers into a false sense of accomplishment by allowing them to believe that Europe's migration problem has been solved. "By outsourcing the responsibility to Turkey and to Greece, European governments are basically saying 'we have solved the crisis because we don’t see it, and we can't smell it and we can't hear it," said Gauri van Gulik, deputy Europe director at Amnesty International. "The crisis is as big as ever, and as yet unsolved by governments," she told Reuters. IOM data says that 258,186 people arrived in Europe by the end of July, compared with 219,854 over the same period in 2015. There were 3,176 fatalities by Aug. 7, outpacing the 2,754 who died in the first eight months of last year, a slightly longer period. "Its absolutely incredible because if you think about the panic this caused last year and the incentive there was to really get some policy changes in place, nothing has happened," Van Gulik said.
© Reuters

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Sweden: Death threats force band to hire bodyguards

A Swedish band says it has received anonymous threats after pulling out of a festival organized by nationalist party the Sweden Democrats (SD).

9/8/2016- Black Ingvars were originally booked to play the SD-backed Sommarfestivalen festival in southern Swedish town Sölvesborg on August 26th. They later cancelled the appearance however, saying they were unaware it was being organized by the far-right party. And after pulling out of the concert, a member of the group now claims he has received multiple anonymous threats in response. “I have received e-mails where people write that they hope I die in a car crash or that I get cancer,” singer Magnus Tengby told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. According to the musician, the threats have been so bad that the band now stays at secret locations while touring and has taken the measure of having bodyguards on stage while they perform.

The Sweden Democrats tell a different version of events however. They claim that the band is lying, and that the party had e-mail exchanges with them before the festival which made the details of the event clear. “Tengby said explicitly that he didn’t have any problem with it, which they also wrote in a Facebook post,” SD’s head of press Henrik Vinge told Aftonbladet. Singer Tengby has refuted that suggestion, insisting he was aware that Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson would speak at the festival, but not that the party was behind the entire event. The Local has contacted the Sweden Democrats and Black Ingvars for comment.
© The Local - Sweden

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Italy: Milan pushed to its limits as migrant numbers soar

The mayor of Milan said he had not ruled out the possibility of accommodating migrants in tents, as numbers in the northern Italian city reached a record high.

9/8/2016- Mayor Giuseppe Sala made his comments at a press conference after a further 200 migrants had arrived in the city over the weekend, bringing the total number to 3,300, La Stampa reported. As well as new arrivals transferred to Milan from reception centres across the country, the city is facing the task of accommodating those sent back from the country's borders with France, Austria and Switzerland.

More migrants than beds
This means there are now more migrants than there are beds at the reception centres. There has been huge pressure on Milan's centres, with 400 people staying at the reception hub at the central station which is only intended to accommodate 150. Several local charities have mobilized to accommodate refugees, including the Jewish community which has accommodated 70 refugees each night at the Holocaust Memorial, near the station. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the city's councillor for social services, Pierfrancesco Majorino, sent an urgent request to all reception centres in the area and was able to find space for 200 migrants to spend the night, but the challenge to find accommodation space is ongoing.

'No other spaces can be ready quickly'
Sala has suggested the use of former prisons, where there are large amounts of empty space, and adequate security, adding: "This is a possibility because objectively, there are no other spaces which can be ready quickly." He also said at a press conference that he had "not ruled out" the possibility of accommodating the migrants in tents, though he later issued a statement to confirm that no tent camp was planned for the city, as several Italian publications had reported, but rather that if necessary, some tents would be made available as a first port of call. Sala added that the situation "is being confronted and will be resolved with good sense and a lot of work". However, not all of the regional authorities have been as committed to resolving the lack of accommodation.

Sala expressed frustration at the resistence of Lombardy's regional president, Roberto Maroni, to the use of the former base camp for the Milan Expo as refugee accommodation. Maroni, a member of the Northern League party, has been vocal in his opposition, saying the refugees are "illegal immigrants" and should be deported. More and more migrants are arriving in Italy as a final destination rather than simply using it as a transit stop, and many of those in Milan have been turned back at Ventimiglia or Como. La Stampa recently reported that in 2014, just 0.4 percent of arrivals stayed in Italy, a number which swelled to 4.8 percent and this year has reached almost 50 percent of the total number of migrants who have landed in Italy since January. The average length of stay in reception centres has increased over the past year too, from six days to 20.

'Ventimiglia will not be our Calais'
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday that the Italy-France border town of Ventimiglia “will not be our Calais” following days of tensions over the migrant situation there. Over the weekend, 200 migrants, who had managed to swim across the border to France, were sent back to Italy. The weekend also saw clashes between police and activist group No Borders, with police turning tear gas on protesters and several members of the group being arrested for weapons possession. Tensions are also high at Italy's borders with Austria and Switzerland. Five hundred asylum seekers are camping at the train station in Como - best known as a holiday hotspot favoured by actor George Clooney - after having been turned away at the Swiss border, from where many had hoped to travel on to Germany, Caritas said on Monday.

A volunteer at the station said the sudden increase - just two weeks ago there had been 150 migrants - had led to a health emergency, including cases of scabies, according to Il Messaggero. In April, Austria threatened to build a fence at the Brenner crossing point unless Italy stemmed the flow of migrants across the border, prompting protests from activists. The situation there has been calmer in recent months after hundreds of Italian officers were dispatched to guard the crossing. Over 94,000 migrants have arrived at southern Italian ports so far this year, while 3,176 have died trying to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migrant (IOM) said on Tuesday.
© The Local - Italy

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Bulgaria Took 6 Migrants In under EU Relocation Scheme since 2015

9/8/2016- Bulgaria has only received six migrants under the EU relocation plan adopted in the autumn of last year, the State Agency for Refugees (DAB) has said. DAB has told news website Dnevnik.bg in a statement that Bulgaria extends inquiries to receive foreign nationals applying for protection in line with the September 2015 decision on relocation taken by the Council of the EU. As many as five inquiries were made to Greece and three to Italy between November 04, 2015 and July 2016. Greece sent six people to Bulgaria as a result, which the agency described as "nationals of Syria and Iraq". Greece and Italy were the countries most affected by the migrant crisis that peaked last year, with tens of thousands of migrants still within their territories.

Bulgaria was to received a total of 1600 migrants under a relocation mechanism last year, numbers which compare to other EU member states in Eastern Europe. Separately, as many as 357 have been sent back to Bulgaria since early 2016 under the Dublin II Regulation, most of these being nationals of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Syrian national who blew himself up in Ansbach, Germany last month was also to be deported to Bulgaria, the country that had granted him humanitarian status in 2013, but DAB turned down the request, saying it had held on to its commitments under the regulation. DAB has not published official statistics about migrant arrivals to the country since early in July, when it did so for the previous month. But Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova warned last week that an increased activity of people smugglers using Bulgaria as a transit destination was being observed lately.
© Novinite

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Ireland: 240 racist incidents reported last year, a fifth took place on public transport

Drivers 'spat at, punched and kicked' in racist incidents on public transport

9/8/2016- There was an 11% rise in reports of racist abuse to the Immigrant Council last year, compared to 2014. There were 240 racist incidents reported in total in 2015, up from 217 the year previously. Of these, 37 reports involved physical violence, 99 instances involved verbal harassment, 68 were incidents of discrimination, and 31 were of physical violence and intimidation. There were also 13 incidents of written harassment. A fifth of all racism reported was on public transport, while almost a third occurred while the victim was at work. There were 23 incidents of racism reported that took place in an educational institution, and 19 incidents that occurred on the street. Some 13% of all reports involved physical violence. Four out of 10 victims identified were from the Muslim community, while a third identified themselves as African.

White European
Other victims identified themselves as immigrants (23 incidents), central and eastern European (19 incidents), from the Indian subcontinent (3%) or white European (five incidents). The statistics come as the Immigrant Council of Ireland, National Transport Authority and nationwide public transport providers launch a #StopRacism campaign encouraging people to report racism when they witness it. There were 49 reported incidents of racism on public transport last year, mostly relating to passengers abusing staff. “Elements of physical violence were also quite often reported,” a spokeswoman for the Immigrant Council of Ireland told TheJournal.ie. The spokeswoman added that two incidents of racist abuse involving the victims suffering mistreatment from the staff of transport providers, and said passengers have also reported being victimised by fellow passengers.

Dublin Bus
Dublin Bus is the largest public transport provider in the country, and has an increasingly multi-ethnic workforce. Over one in every six employees at the transport provider are from outside Ireland – 16% of the total workforce, from 68 different countries of origin. “Dublin Bus does receive complaints periodically regarding incidents of racism from employees and customers and actively encourages such incidents to be reported,” a spokeswoman told TheJournal.ie. She said Dublin Bus takes such incidents very seriously, and has an “equality, diversity and non-discrimination” strategy, to ensure full equality and inclusion for employees and customers from minority groups. The Immigrant Council also detailed another incident of a young female of African descent who was subjected to racist abuse by a couple in their 20s, who were asked to leave a bus by the driver. “The driver intervened, and asked the couple to stop the abuse or leave the bus,” a spokeswoman said. The Immigrant Council also said that taxi drivers of African origin report being passed by four or five passengers in a taxi rank. They also reported a high level of damage to their vehicles.
© The Journal Ireland

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Turkey 'unsafe' for LGBT people after murder of Syrian refugee

Friends and relatives of Mohammed Sankari say they have little hope that police investigation will bring killers to justice

8/8/2016- Mohammed Wissam Sankari, a 25-year-old Syrian refugee and aspiring poet, was found beheaded, his body mutilated beyond recognition, two days after he disappeared in Istanbul on 23 July. Friends who went to identify him only recognised his body by his clothes. Amid the shock over the brutality of his murder, campaigners say the killing highlights the perilous situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, a country listed by the EU as "safe" for asylum seekers to return to. “Wissam was a good guy, very shy,” his friend Mohamed Masri told Middle East Eye. “He didn’t have much formal education, but he had a passion for poetry. That’s why he set up his Facebook page, Poetry Is My Goal. “Of course, he had problems with writing so every time he wrote a poem he would have to send it to a friend before he published it, to get the spelling checked.”

Sankari had been working at a factory producing cardboard boxes until just before he disappeared, but quit to join family members in Gaziantep, a major hub for Syrian refugees in Turkey and more affordable than Istanbul. “He was coming to join us in the first days of August,” his mother Khadija Sankari told Middle East Eye. “But before August came, he was murdered. And in such a monstrous way.” His family say they don’t know why he was killed, and fear he was singled out because he was a Syrian refugee – but friends and campaigners say that he was targeted for being an openly gay man. Sankari grew up in a poor family in Latakia, and then Damascus, before fleeing to Turkey three years ago.

Friends told Kaos GL, an LGBTI support organisation active in Turkey since 1994, that Sankari had faced threats and violence because of his sexuality before he was killed. “He was kidnapped and raped five months ago, and the police did nothing,” Yildiz Tar, a local co-ordinator for Kaos GL who has worked with Sankari’s friends, told Middle East Eye. “Police are now investigating his murder, but I don’t hold out much hope that it will be objective.”

'Turkey is not a safe country for LGBT people'
Since its founding as a republic in 1923, Turkey has never criminalised homosexuality. But, says Tar, LGBT victims of hate crime rarely find justice in an atmosphere of state-sanctioned homophobia. “There are large numbers of hate crimes in Turkey, but there is no official mechanism for recording them as such. In 2014, at least five murders of LGBT people were reported in the media and came to court. In the same year there were 32 other incidents reported in the media as anti-LGBT hate crimes. “But even when cases come to court, the accused often gets a reduced sentence – he can claim it was a crime of passion, and that the victim provoked him by being gay.”  Kaos GL says members of the LGBT community complain that homophobia is becoming “more institutionalised,” and that morality laws are being used to surreptitiously criminalise homosexuality.

Authorities in Istanbul cancelled this summer’s Pride celebration for the second year in a row, citing security fears. And since April, Kaos GL has been unable to use its own office since a leaked ministry document showed it was a target for IS bombings. The group says it asked for police protection after the plot was uncovered, but was refused. For LGBT Syrian refugees, though, the situation is far worse. “Firstly you are discriminated against because you are a refugee,” says Tar. “And secondly you’re LGBT. “Usually non-LGBT Syrians travel here with relatives – this creates a solidarity network. But LGBT people usually come alone, knowing nobody. “Turkey is not a safe country for LGBT people – the basic agenda for LGBT Syrians here is survival.”

Sankari’s relatives and friends told Middle East Eye that he had been trying for over two years to leave Turkey to claim asylum in Europe – but with illegal smuggling routes costing thousands of dollars, travel outside the country was out of reach. “He was under too much pressure in Turkey,” his mother said. She holds out little hope her son’s killers will be brought to justice, and instead is desperate to find a way out of the country. “I’m not hopeful about the outcome of the investigation. A victim of injustice has the world against him. “We fled death and destruction to be killed here. Now we are afraid. But we’re a poor family – we can’t pay to be smuggled across the Mediterranean.”

I buried my heart in a graveyard called The Cemetery of Forgetfulness.

And I hid my sorrows behind a smile, so that nobody would see them.

My bulwarks will stay high, lest my tears become a torrent,

My longing will burn out in its own flame, hotter than the flame of any volcano.

And my wounds will be healed, even if they overflow like a flood
.

Sankari's last known poem, published on April 1
© The Middle East Eye

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Czech Rep: Anti-migrant parties run in regional polls

8/8/2016- At least seven of the parties running in the Czech regional polls rely on an anti-immigration approach, present themselves as anti-Islamist, anti-refugee and nationalist and some have included anti-migrant slogans in their names, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Monday. Most of them are opposed to the Czech acceptance of any refugees, the paper writes. These parties include well-known groupings such as lawmaker Tomio Okamura and his Party of Direct Democracy (SPD), the Dawn movement, the far-right Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) and the Republicans, but also a completely new group named "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our People." "After migrants arrive, it will cost money. As members of the regional assemblies and possibly also regional governments, we would influence this by trying to prevent immigrants from being offered social housing. Besides, we would have programmes tailored for particular regions," the paper quotes Petr Hannig, from the new grouping, as saying.

Sociologist Daniel Prokop says these protest groups do have a certain chance to succeed in the 7-8 October elections to the assemblies of the country's 13 self-rule regions. "Nevertheless, I think they will be harmed by the fact that there are many of them," Prokop told MfD. "For us in the SPD, the number of [rival] anti-refugee parties is unimportant, as I was the first to start warning of the problem of Muslim migration," Okamura is quoted as saying with self-confidence. Experts say, however, that the parties that would primarily build their campaign on anti-immigration issues may fail, also because voters seems to be more interested in issues linked to their respective regions, the paper continues. At the same time, the success of such parties will depend on the approach that mainstream parties will take to migration, it writes, adding that big parties' election campaign masterminds have rejected migration as the main election topic.

Nevertheless, they know well that they cannot avoid the migration issue within the campaign completely, MfD writes. Already now, the acceptance of any refugees has been opposed by Andrej Babis, Finance Minister and head of the government ANO movement, and a tough approach in this respect has also been taken by the other big government party, the Social Democrats (CSSD), through its Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, the daily writes. Out of the mainstream opposition parties, the Civic Democrats (ODS) have included migration policy as one of the main issues in their election manifesto. As a result, the small anti-immigration parties cannot present themselves as sharply opposed neither to the government nor the parliamentary opposition, the paper writes.

In the north Bohemian Usti Region alone, four parties with names expressing their anti-immigration position are running in the elections, including two with almost identical names - "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our People" and "No Illegal Migrants - Let Money Go to Our Children," the daily continues. Jaroslav Foldyna, the CSSD's election leader in the Usti Region, however, said migration is an election "pseudo-topic." He personally prefers focusing on unemployment. "I have seen no refugees in Usti so far. All this is a pseudo-problem while social injustice persists here and the social policy has been wrong...These are problems that the protest parties do not address at all," Foldyna told MfD. "We want money from our welfare systems not to be misused against our people, which has been the case in France, for example, as the mass murder attacks there prove. However, we are basically no xenophobes," Hannig, a pop singer and music producer, said.

The number of the parties running in individual regions ranges from 17 to 25.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Germany: ew far-right group comes under gaze of state spies

The far-right Identitarian Movement is growing in popularity in Germany to the extent that the main federal intelligence agency has started watching them.

12/8/2016- Up until this point, the movement, which originated in France and has been present in Germany since 2012, had been observed by spy agencies at the state level. “We are seeing in the Identitarian Movement indications of efforts to undercut the democratic order,” said Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - Germany's domestic security agency. He added that the group seems to have become more radicalized in its anti-asylum efforts in the time since Germany started accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees last summer. “Immigrants with Muslim backgrounds or people from the Middle East are being slandered by them in the most extreme fashion. Therefore we are also surveilling this movement,” the spy chief stated. The Identitarian Movement is active against what it describes as “multicultural madness”, “uncontrolled mass migration” and “the loss of our own identity through foreign infiltration”.

State level spy agencies are already surveilling the organization in nine states including Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia. Recently there have also been media reports of contact between the Identitarian Movement and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party. But the spy chief said he had no evidence to support this, adding that, even if there was evidence of talks between the AfD and the far-right movement, this would not necessarily be relevant to the intelligence agencies. “It depends if the party in question - in this case the AfD - has its political orientation changed to an extremist one through certain people. We act when such people start to have an influence on the party.” He said there was no evidence this was the case with the AfD.
© The Local - Germany

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German proposals could see refugees' phones searched by police

Checking smartphones of those without passports among measures announced by the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière

11/8/2016- Refugees moving to Germany may in future have to give police permission to search their social media accounts for suspicious posts, the interior minister has announced. Presenting a raft of anti-terror measures at a press conference on Thursday, Thomas de Maizière announced that border police would pilot a scheme whereby refugees resettled in Germany under the deal between Turkey and the EU would have to hand over their smartphones for security checks if they did not have passports. “If you want to come to Germany, we have to make safety checks on you. And to make safety checks, we will ask you to show us your Facebook contacts from the last few months, which are public in principle anyway,” he said. However, De Maizière admitted that it remained to be seen whether the time and cost would justify the effort. The scheme points to a growing frustration with traditional means of establishing a person’s identity at border crossings. “We frequently encounter cases where refugees often don’t carry identity documents, but do nearly all carry their smartphones,” the minister said.

The system whereby refugees are fingerprinted upon registering in the EU has also proven fallible, De Maizière said. In the case of the 16-year-old who attacked a group of people on a train near Würzburg, a fingerprint had been taken, but it could not be matched with the Europe-wide Eurodac database. Smartphones, by contrast, are valuable tools for many refugees, allowing them to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and gather potentially lifesaving information. Earlier this week, German police arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of planning to carry out an attack at the start of the Bundesliga football season. According to Südwestrundfunk radio channel, photos showing fighting in Syria had been found on the suspect’s phone and computer, although it was unclear whether he had taken them himself. Authorities in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands routinely take and examine mobile phones to help establish a refugee’s identity if they have no formal documents with them when they enter the country.

Danish immigration law authorises officials to temporarily confiscate phones if the devices are “presumed to be of importance in establishing a foreigner’s identity”. The provision predates a raft of tougher immigration controls introduced in Denmark earlier this year, including one that allows police to seize migrants’ cash and some valuables to help pay for their accommodation. Speaking to Politiken newspaper, Richard Osterlund la Cour, a police spokesman, said: “If you come to the country and say you are from Syria, but have nothing but your face to prove it, your mobile phone is the best way to determine if you are telling the truth.” The Danish practice made headlines earlier this year when a Politiken investigation revealed that immigration officers had confiscated the mobile phones of 55 unaccompanied migrant children, with many having to wait up to a month for them to be returned.

The pilot scheme is one of a number of anti-terror measures that De Maizière proposed after a spate of violent attacks in southern Germany at the start of August, which have raised security fears in the country. Other measures include increasing the number of police and surveillance staff, speeding up the deportation of foreign criminals and revoking German citizenship from dual nationals if they have been found fighting for militant groups abroad. De Maizière said he would explore ways of using recognition software for surveillance in public spaces and discuss ways in which to make it easier for doctors to tip off authorities about potential terror risks. The minister crucially distanced himself from calls to ban the full face veil for women and abolish dual citizenship. The proposals are thought to be part of a 27-point Berlin declaration set to be presented to the public on 18 August by Christian Democrat state interior ministers, some of whom are holding regional elections next month.

De Maizière insisted the declaration, details of which were leaked to the press on Wednesday, had been merely a draft and he considered some of the more controversial measures to be problematic. “You cannot ban everything that you disapprove of. And I disapprove of the wearing of the burqa,” he said. A report produced by the Bundestag’s scientific service, and circulated among German MPs, points out than a move to ban the full-face veil would most likely be incompatible with the German constitution and likely to be rejected by the constitutional court.
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Politically Motivated Crimes; The Story Behind The Numbers

By Cas Mudde

10/8/2016- Yesterday I tweeted this graph of “politically motivated crimes” in Germany in the period 2006-2015. The graph comes from Rote Linie and is based on data provided by the Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA), the two state agencies responsible for politically motivated crimes. It is a powerful graph, but clearly also a very confusing one, based on the many interpretations and responses I saw in my Twitter feed. So, I decided to provide a quick and concise clarification and context.

What the graph does say
First and foremost, the graph shows that, at least since 1996, the far right has been consistently responsible for the vast majority of politically motivated crimes in Germany. While politically motivated crimes by foreigners and the (far) left hover between 0 and 20 percent of all politically motivated crimes in the period 2006-2015, that of the far right is never under 50 percent and regularly constitutes the majority of politically motivated crimes in Germany. Note: not all politically motivated crimes can be assigned to one of these three main groups!

Second, while there are some fluctuations, the pattern is extremely stable. Overall, politically motivated crimes by foreigners have decreased somewhat, while those by the far left and far right have increased somewhat. But the far right has been responsible for three to four times as many politically motivated crimes than either the far left or foreigners in each individual year! Third, contrary to some alarmist media reporting, politically motivated crime by foreigners has not spiked as a consequence of the “refugees crisis” — at least not in 2015, the last year that is covered by the data. This clearly has created significant cognitive dissonance among my (many) Islamophobic and xenophobic Twitter followers, who refer to all kind of imagined and real crimes by foreigners and asylum seekers, preferably the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

What the graph does not say
Leaving aside the fact that the Cologne assaults (and robberies) were mostly committed (and reported) in 2016, and not in 2015, they were not politically motivated — except when you operate on the (racist) premise that (non-white) foreigners sexually assault (white) German women to make a political point! In other words, this graph says little about the crime rates among citizens and foreigners in Germany — let alone among “natives” and “others” (Muslims) in Germany. However, we do have other studies that show that the crime levels are, in general,  among foreigners than among citizens in Germany, but that foreign workers are less criminal if socio-demographic factors like class and gender are taken into account. Similarly, recent data show that asylum seekers are overall not more criminal than Germans and that the recent spike in the number of asylum seekers has not led to a proportional spike in crimes by asylum seekers — leaving aside the specific “crime” of illegal entry.

Moreover, while certain groups of asylum seekers are overrepresented in crimes (mostly those from the Balkans and the Maghreb), asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are “clearly underrepresented.” The graph also does not say that the (far) right is more violent than the far left! The numbers refer to all “politically motivated crimes” and the vast majority of these crimes are non-violent. The main difference between the crimes of the (far) left and the far right is with regard to so-called account. “hate crimes“  (Hasskriminalität): in 2014 there were 4,983 far right and “just” 94 far left hate crimes in Germany. In 2015 far right hate crimes had exploded, to a staggering 9,426, whereas far left hate crimes had remained stable (96).

It is important to note, however, that this is at least in part a direct consequence of the specific legal context of Germany, which, as a so-called “militant democracy” (Wehrhafte Demokratie) is particularly repressive towards the far right and has strict anti-discrimination legislation that targets almost exclusively the right. For example, while it is illegal to deny Nazi crimes like the Holocaust, it is not illegal to deny communist crimes like the Cambodian or Ukrainian genocides. This explains, at least in part, the significantly higher number of so-called “propaganda crimes” (Propagandadelikte) of the far right in Germany. Somewhat surprisingly, the actual number of violent crimes is often higher for the far left than for the far right. In 2014 they were roughly equal (990 and 995, respectively), but in 2015 both exploded to 1,408 far right and 1,608 far left. They do differ strongly in their targets, however.

While the majority of far left violence is directed at the police and security authorities (1,032), the far right mainly targets “foreigners” (918). In addition, they target each other: there were 833 far left attacks on (real or supposed) right-wing extremists and 252 far right attacks on (real or supposed) left-wing extremists. Note: attacks can be counted to have multiple targets! Finally, the graph doesn’t say much about the deadliness of the different groups. With regard to the last two years, the number of attempted homicides has been very low among all groups. Again, the far left was highest, with seven in 2014 and eight in 2015. But where attempted homicides by foreigners decreased significantly, from six in 2014 to three in 2015, among the far right they exploded, from one to eight, equaling the number of the far left.

Conclusion
Germany is one of the few countries in the world that has a very effective and transparent registration of politically motivated crimes. Sadly, this often leads to the impression that such crimes are more common in Germany than in other countries, just because they are more conscientious in collecting and publishing these data. But however advanced the German state might be, there are still more than enough problems. Most importantly, crimes by foreigners, politically motivated or not, are more likely to be registered than those by citizens — and those by “immigrants” (a term also often used for second- and even third-generation) more than those by “natives” (often meant for white Germans). Similarly, as the disastrous case of the National Socialist Underground (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund, NSU) has recently showed again, far right crimes are most likely much more under-registered than other politically motivated crimes. All this being said, we can make at least the following observations:

1. There is no doubt that far right crimes are much more numerous than other politically motivated crimes.
2. The overrepresentation of the far right is almost exclusively in non-violent crimes.
3. This is to a large extent a consequence of the specific legal situation.
4. The “refugees crisis” has indeed led to a rise in crime, but more so by the German far right than by the (Syrian) asylum seekers. 
Cas Mudde is Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) at the University of Georgia and Researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo.
© The Huffington Post

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'Countries with strong public service media have less rightwing extremism'

EBU report finds countries that have popular public broadcasters also have better voter turnout and press freedom

8/8/2016- Countries that have popular, well-funded public service broadcasters encounter less rightwing extremism and corruption and have more press freedom, a report from the European Broadcasting Union has found. For the first time, an analysis has been done of the contribution of public service media, such as the BBC, to democracy and society. Following Brexit and the rise in rightwing extremism across Europe, the report shows the impact strong publicly funded television and radio has had on voter turnout, control of corruption and press freedom. The EBU, which founded Eurovision, carried out the study across 25 countries after noticing that the more well-funded a country’s public service outlets were, the less likely the nation was to endure extremism.

The report says that in “countries where public service media funding … is higher there tends to be more press freedom” and where they have a higher market share “there also tends to be a higher voter turnout”. It also says there is a strong correlation between how much of a country’s market its public service broadcaster has and the “demand for rightwing extremism” and “control of corruption”. “These correlations are especially interesting given the current public debates about low participation in elections, corruption and the rise of far right politics across Europe,” said EBU head of media intelligence service Roberto Suárez Candel, who conducted the research. “A strong and well funded public service media is not only about providing people with news, documentaries and entertainment – it’s also about contributing to democracy. While we can’t say that strong public TV and radio directly leads to greater democracy and less corruption, we have been able to show, for the first time, how these factors are connected.”

He told The Guardian: “One of the core functions of public service media is to deliver news, which is supposed to be independent. If they have appropriate resources they can invest in journalism and provide more quality news and the audience will trust them more.” Other research carried out by the EBU’s media intelligence service also revealed that radio is the most trusted medium in the UK and across most of Europe. Analysing data across 33 countries, 55% of European citizens trust radio the most, 48% trust TV, with the internet and social media less trusted in most countries, including Britain, than other sources. “It doesn’t surprise us that TV and radio are the most trusted media sources”, said Suárez Candel. “People maintain a strong relationship with radio and TV, which are still their primary sources of information and entertainment. It is also not surprising that in countries with a high level of funding for public service TV and radio there tends to be more trust in the media in general – they produce good quality content and provide valuable information for society.”

The EBU is an alliance of 73 European broadcasters whose members include the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Church accused of 'starving out' refugees in Regensburg

An ugly stand-off at a church in Regensburg has now ended, after the local diocese filed charges against four families of Roma refugees who took shelter inside. The refugees left after police turned up in force.

8/8/2016- A month of talks, several protests, and a hunger strike have finally ended at the Catholic St. Emmeram community center in Regensburg, Bavaria, where four Roma families from various Balkan countries had taken shelter since early July. In a final, and apparently successful, attempt to force the refugees out over the weekend, the church had pressed trespassing charges, stopped providing food and barred refugee helpers from bringing provisions themselves. Late on Monday, the refugees left the community center voluntarily with a police presence outside. The diocese confirmed that what it called a "protest action" had now ended. "The final 16 people have left the community center and are on their way to the authorities, who will clear up the remaining business," a statement released Monday read. "The community center is now once again available for church use. The necessary restoration work can begin."

On Friday, the local Catholic diocese issued a statement saying that it had been left with "no other choice than to increase the pressure" by pressing trespassing charges, though it added that "an emergency doctor is reachable." Some 16 people were still in the center at that point, including five children and a six-month-old baby, down from a peak of 50 sheltering inside in mid-July. The situation, which had become increasingly fraught over the past month, escalated last Thursday, when talks ended in a stalemate because the Roma made what the church described as "non-satisfiable conditions" - in other words, as Stephan Dünnwald of the Bavarian Refugee Council explained, the refugees had asked for some kind of guarantee that they could stay in the country.

No alternatives
But by Friday, the remaining families inside the church said they were willing to leave. According to a statement from Sunday by the Bavarian Refugee Council, three families said that, for "lack of alternatives," they would like to return to their home countries (Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo), while the fourth said they would like to go back to the state of Baden-Württemberg, where they have "residential tolerance status." In return, they asked the church to supply food until their voluntary return can be organized, as well as help from the Catholic Caritas charity and the foreigners' registration office. In its statement condemning the church's actions as "outrageous," the Refugee Council accused the church and the authorities of showing a lack of will in helping the refugees to leave. "The apparent claim of the central foreigners' authority of the Oberpfalz region that a voluntary departure could not be organized from Regensburg is factually wrong," the statement read.

"They could find a way if they wanted to guarantee the voluntary exit from the country," said Gotthold Streitberger of the Bavarian Refugee Council. Streitberger told DW that he had been prevented from entering the center at the weekend, and that the church had threatened the security guards with dismissal if they did not stop food being taken in. "Some people came with food, and the security guards said politely that it can't be taken in, so they tried to set it down outside, and the children wanted to come out and take it, but that was banned too," he said.

Tense situation
"The refugees are very tense and nervous at the moment," he said on Monday. "They don't understand why they are being starved out now that they've said they want to leave." The "Bayerische Rundfunk" broadcaster quoted an unnamed volunteer saying they had managed to smuggle food inside over the weekend, but Streitberger could not confirm this. For his part, the church's priest, Michael Fuchs, angrily accused the refugees of exploiting their own children: "While parents in need normally try to keep their children out of conflicts and publications, these children have been used from the beginning as banner holders, as photo objects on the protest front, and yes, in concrete threats even as potential orphans through the suicide of their parents," he said. "Just for the sake of the children, the parents' actions must now end quickly."

Streitberger said such angry exchanges were all the result of the tense month-long stand-off. "You have to remember there was a period of around eight or ten days when the area was completely kettled by police - a huge police presence, and there was no access possible at all," he told DW. "And in that time of course [the refugees] were in despair, and it came to some escalation, and someone did say that then they would only leave as a corpse and that their children would be orphans ... but that was about ten days ago and they took that back." Stephan Dünnwald admitted that the church had provided humanitarian care at first - food and shelter - but it had not made use of the legal privilege that allows churches in Germany to take people in its protection. "The church has let its role be dictated by the Interior Ministry," he told DW. "They haven't offered the refugees anything - one Caritas charity worker went there to look at their cases and see if it made sense to find a lawyer for them or something, but he was withdrawn and wasn't allowed to go back."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Most Germans want to end EU migrant deal with Turkey - poll

7/8/2016- Most Germans think the European Union should scrap a landmark migration deal with Turkey, also scuppering negotiations on its accession to the bloc, according to a poll published on Sunday. The deal, agreed by Ankara in exchange for the revival of financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the EU and accelerated membership talks, has sharply cut the number of refugees entering Europe via eastern routes. Last year Germany took in around 1.1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, far more than any other EU state, creating conditions that have led to a rise in social and political tensions in Europe's powerhouse economy. But the Emnid survey for mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag showed 52 percent were in favour of the migration deal being terminated, compared with 35 percent who wanted it to continue.

More than two thirds of the 502 people surveyed on Aug. 4 also wanted an immediate freeze of aid payments to Turkey and 66 percent wanted the EU accession talks broken off. Under the migration pact, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians who cross by sea to Greece illegally. The reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara's crackdown following a failed coup. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last weekend Ankara would back out of the refugee agreement with the EU if the bloc did not deliver visa-free travel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Chief of Staff, Peter Altmaier, said on Friday there was "no Plan B" for the migrant deal and told the Berliner Zeitung he was convinced it would remain in place. On Friday, Germany's foreign minister resisted a push by Austria to halt the EU accession talks with Turkey on joining the EU, saying the bloc needed to think more broadly with how to frame its relationship with Ankara in troubled times.
© Reuters UK.

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Germany: Small town celebrates as neo-Nazis abandon march

Far-right extremists have held marches in the small German town of Bad Nenndorf for years. But this time, persistent counterprotesters seem to have won the day with a cheerful display of resistance.

7/8/2016- The town of Bad Nenndorf in the German state of Lower Saxony is celebrating what would seem to be a victory over neo-Nazis after a far-right march was called off. Peaceful opponents of far-right extremism were the only protesters to be found on the town's streets on Saturday, as many years of resistance to neo-Nazis apparently bore fruit. A "funeral march" planned for the day by neo-Nazis was cancelled three weeks ago, with no reason being given. But organizers from the local alliance "Bad Nenndorf ist bunt" ("Bad Nenndorf is diverse") said the cancellation was largely due to years of creative protest by citizens against the event, which has been taking place in the town since 2006 - and is theoretically scheduled to occur until 2030. This year, Bad Nenndorfers held a church service, bicycle parade and street festival in the town, "more like a party with a summery, peaceful atmosphere than the protest event that was originally planned," said police chief Michael Panitz.

Imaginative protests
Previous years have seen the neo-Nazis being greeted by German folk music and confetti. On one occasion, they even became unwilling participants in a fundraiser, with 10 euros ($11.09) donated to "Exit," an organization that helps people break with far-right extremism, for every minute they spent in the town. Right-wing extremists from all over the country have formerly converged on the town for the march, which commemorates the reported abuse of Nazi prisoners by British occupying forces between 1945 and 1947. Critics of the neo-Nazis say that the poor treatment of some of the prisoners at the former Wincklerbad internment camp in the town is taken out of proportion by the far-right extremists, who regularly compare the abuse with mass murder carried out by the Nazi regime.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Britain First could be ‘finished’ if High Court bid to ban them from every mosque

Group leader Paul Golding claims they are facing a 'direct challenge to exist as a political party'

12/8/2016- Britain First could be “finished” as it faces a High Court attempt to ban it from entering any mosque in England or Wales for the next three years. The injunction, which has been requested by Bedfordshire Police, could also ban the group from entering Luton town centre or its predominately Asian neighbourhood, Bury Park, without permission. The terms of the order, seen by The Independent, means it would also be banned from directing its activists to the area or publishing images or films showing any member of the group inside the exclusion zone. The far-right group claims Luton is a “hotspot” for Islamic extremism. The injunction would mean they would not be allowed to enter a mosque in England or Wales "without written permission". The application comes after Britan First was widely criticised for its "mosque invasions".

Group members have filmed themselves going into mosques to confront imams or worshippers. They have also previously handed out Bibles outside mosques. But Britain First said the ruling, which is expected next month, could spell the end of the group as they cannot afford to continue to fight legal actions. In a video message last month the group’s leader, Paul Golding, said the group risked being “bled dry” by “endless court appearances and injunctions”. He condemned the injunction saying: “What we are dealing with here is a direct challenge to exist as a political party. Why do I say that? It’s simple. “If Luton police can achieve an injunction against a legally registered party then what’s to stop then what’s to stop every other town obtaining similar injunctions”.

Separately, Golding and his deputy, Jayda Fransen, have faced legal trouble of their own. Last week, Golding was fined £450 for “wearing a uniform with political objectives” after the Britain First fleece he wore during a rally in Luton in January was deemed “intimidating”. In a separate case Fransen is facing charges of alleged religiously aggravated harassment during the rally. The case is still ongoing. Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constable Mike Colbourne defended the order. He told the International Business Times: "The injunction is being sought due to concerns that their presence in these areas could increase the possibility of disorder and anti-social behaviour. "I would like to be clear that it is not our intention to ban any demonstration and we will always facilitate peaceful protest where possible." Britain First has claimed it is defending the country from creeping “Islamification” and has been widely criticised – and derided – for its “Christian patrols”.

A “hapless” protest organised outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel was caught on camera in March. Fransen and two others were the only people to show up while spectators quietly laughed at them. They have also been criticised for their attempts to align their cause to the armed forces. A photo taken with two young Sea Cadets in Nottingham was removed from Facebook in November last year after one of the girls’ mothers and the organisation complained. They have also been attacked by the family of Lee Rigby, the soldier killed by Islamist terrorists in Woolwich in 2013, for using their son’s image without their consent on multiple occasions.
© The Independent

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UK: The 'yellowface' Snapchat filter is nothing new

Several reputable studies have concluded that the ethnic group that suffers the highest rates of unreported racist hate crime in Britain is East Asians. When the butt of the joke is dehumanised in this way, it’s only a matter of time before that butt gets kicked
By Daniel York


12/8/2016- Snapchat is being defensive about its “anime” filter which is (rightly, in my opinion) being called out as an example of “yellowface”. Yellowface is of course nothing new and neither is the defensiveness around it. People tend to dig their heels in about yellowface a lot. Indeed, I’ve argued previously that yellowface is the last acceptable bastion of racist caricature and racial appropriation. Like blackface and brownface, there are two basic forms of yellowface. There is the type that enables actors (nearly always of Caucasian descent) to portray characters who are supposed to be East Asian. Some of these actors have even been nominated for awards for dressing up in exotic costumes and perfecting stilted hybrid accents. This type of “performance yellowface” completely perpetuates the notion that actors of Caucasian descent are inherently more talented, more intelligent, more nuanced and more skilful practitioners of the thespian arts – an utterly ludicrous premise which has had to be (and continues to be) fought very hard.

After all, let us not forget that once upon a time women were not allowed on the stage either and were portrayed by young men. If anyone seriously wants to try and posit the argument that men playing women is somehow preferable to watching the likes of Judi Dench, Halle Berry or Juliet Binoche in action then good luck with that one. The other type of yellowface – the Snapchat variety – is obviously meant to be fun but also points up and exaggerates certain perceived ethnic “traits” which enforce stereotypes and are used to ridicule and dehumanise. It encourages people to pull back their eyes into thin slants, pronounce their l’s as r’s and force their teeth to protrude in the guise of the “comedy oriental” a la Mickey Rooney in the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

It is of course entirely false. Many, many East Asians have very large eyes, there is no greater occurrence of buckteeth in certain racial groups and, as for the r’s and l’s, let’s face it, there are sounds in all “foreign” languages that the majority of English speakers will struggle with hopelessly. But the whole point of yellowface is it reinforces a certain perceived cultural superiority: you can’t speak our language perfectly so you’re obviously a bit strange (even though you probably speak our language with far more command and dexterity than most of us would ever have yours). Both types of yellowface render people of East Asian descent as invisible ciphers with no personality or individual characteristics. Like blackface or brownface, they reinforce White Western Caucasian as the supreme “norm”; the default setting to which every other type of ethnicity is at best a quirky exotic counterpoint and, at worst, some form of hateful deviation, to be scorned, dominated and kept in its place lest it claim some form of parity in the wider “Caucasian” world.

If anyone reading feels this in any way over-sensitive it might be worth googling some Nazi caricatures of Jews in the 1930s. I’m sure that was all good fun back in the day but we all know how that ended up. It’s also worth remembering that several reputable studies have concluded that the ethnic group that suffers the highest rates of unreported racist hate crime in Britain is East Asians. Traditionally the most unassertive and disparate racial group lacking any kind of media voice or presence, this is really no coincidence. When the butt of the joke is dehumanised in this way, it’s only a matter of time before that butt gets kicked. It’s sometimes argued that this kind of ridicule cuts both ways and is a basic component of humour that goes on in all cultures – but a recent Chinese detergent advert featuring a black man being “washed” Chinese rightly attracted mass social media disapproval. Interestingly, the one East Asian country where you can find regular racist caricatures of white people is...North Korea.

Any other ways we want to emulate the Democratic People’s Republic? Then start caring about racial caricatures in Snapchat filters.
© The Independent -Voices

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UK: Nigel Farage boasted about his National Front initials and chanted Nazi song

‘I knew you – I remember your interest in the National Front. I want the nation to see you as I do.' New claims of former Ukip leader’s ‘dark’ past

12/8/2016- Nigel Farage was proud at the height of Britain’s far right movement that his initials NF also stood for National Front, according to a close school friend who after years of silence says he now wants the public to understand more about the man. He also claims the teenage Mr Farage sang “gas ‘em all, gas ‘em all”, a neo-Nazi song about Jewish people. The former friend attended fee-paying Dulwich College in south London with the ex-Ukip leader in the late Seventies and early Eighties and says he has kept quiet about his memories until now, in part out of a sense of loyalty. For many years, he observed the rise of the politician’s career proud they had shared schooldays together. At times he even cheered Mr Farage’s trademark onslaughts in the European Parliament by saying “good on Nigel”.

But over the past several months the successful professional has become alarmed by divisions he believes are being created in Britain partly as a result of the rhetoric and imagery used by the MEP. When he saw him standing in front of a Leave.EU poster of refugees with the words “Breaking Point” during the latter stages of the Brexit campaign, he thought it was time to speak out. At that moment, he remembered the teenage Nigel who he says would provoke and “enchant” teachers and pupils alike and supported the British 1930s fascist Oswald Mosley. His former friend initially planned to identify himself, but after the killing of MP Jo Cox in June he claims he is fearful of potential repercussions from fanatics.

He has now written an open letter to Mr Farage in The Independent. In it, he says he does not believe his former classmate and confidant has any sympathy with fascist views today but he has been considering how much his views have evolved between his youth and middle age. He argues it was wrong of their former headteacher, the late David Emms, to brush off his extreme views as “naughtiness” and that there are lessons to be learned for how schools deal with extreme behaviour today. He said were a Muslim pupil were to express extreme Islamist views at school now, they would be dealt with immediately and referred to mentoring programmes. He said it is to be hoped the same applies to non-Muslim extremism. “Let’s hope schools are now taking action on the kind of comments you made at school,” he writes in his letter.

He says they were close friends in their teenage years. “I remember the way you enchanted people at school — senior teachers and fellow pupils alike,” he writes. “Your English project on fishing enthralled everyone. I remember mine being particularly boring. You were and are a great speaker, for sure. “But I also remember other, darker things about you. There was a time when I used to look back and dismiss much of them as the amusing naughtiness of teenagers as we were, much like our old headmaster David Emms did. “I haven’t chosen to write before, but I simply have to now. I now wonder if there is a connection between you at 16 and you at 52. There are things that tell me your views might not have changed that much despite the many years.”

It is not the first time Mr Farage has faced accusations of holding fascist views at school. In 2013, a letter emerged from a former Dulwich College teacher, Chloe Deakin, to then headteacher Mr Emms, who died earlier this year. According to the letter written in June 1981 – two months after the Brixton riots a couple of miles away – she pleaded unsuccessfully with Mr Emms to reverse his decision to make Nigel a prefect. She said colleagues had told her he held “publicly professed racist and fascist views” and that he had once marched through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs. When confronted by these accusations in 2013, Mr Farage said: “I don't know any Hitler youth songs, in English or German… . Any accusation I was ever involved in far right politics is utterly untrue. “Of course I said some ridiculous things, not necessarily racist things. It depends how you define it.”

Other former pupils of the school told Channel 4 in 2013 that Mr Farage’s views were “merely Thatcherite”. Another man who also knew him at school has told The Independent Mr Farage became a target for some Left-leaning teachers because he would embarrass them in pupils versus staff debates. However, Mr Farage’s former friend now suggests there may have been more to the story. He writes today: “But I do remember you singing the song starting with the words ‘gas them all, gas ‘em all, gas them all’. “I can’t forget the words. I can’t bring myself to write the rest of it for it is more vile than anything the teachers at Dulwich would ever have been aware of.” He said the lyrics were sung to the George Formby tune 'Bless ‘em all'. He adds: “We hear much of ‘due diligence’ in today's financial world, but had the teachers and headmaster of Dulwich investigated the concerns around your appointment as a prefect with your peers - as they would hopefully today in similar circumstances - they might have made a very different decision.

“They might not have brushed them under the carpet; they might have made you think a little more about your rhetoric; history might be a little different today. “For I vividly recall the keen interest you had in two initials of your name written together as a signature and the bigoted symbol that represents from the many doodles over your school books. Nigel Farage, NF, National Front. I remember watching you draw it. Just a laugh, eh, Nigel? “…In April 1981, we had the Brixton riots. They happened just up the road from our school. The images of rioting people, many of them from the racial minorities, made it easy to discriminate; many people did back then. “The National Front was hugely popular by comparison to today. So, turbulent times back then… but have you not moved on?”

The neo-Nazi National Front was at its peak during the years Mr Farage was at school in the mid-late Seventies when it had 14,000 paid-up members. They were frequently involved in violent clashes with the police and the organisation had developed sister groups in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Canada. It had also campaigned against Britain’s membership of the EEC. Mr Farage’s former friend told The Independent his decision to speak out was not motivated by any anger over June’s vote to leave the EU. He said although he voted Remain, he was a “reluctant Remainer” and that he sympathised with some of Mr Farage’s concerns on immigration. However, he writes: “From being a real fan, I found myself thinking more and more with every appearance of yours on television that we must be aware of false prophets. Notably, the image of a desperate line of refugees, photographed not even in England, showed me that Nigel Farage has perhaps not changed that much.

“These people were used as live currency to further your cause to represent Britain being at breaking point from European immigrants – although those people were from outside of Europe. The imagery of a loss of control, hopelessness, of our own politicians not caring for us is the stuff of two world wars. I can hear you say “useless” in the way you used to. “As I have said, the immigration issue surely needs fixing, but you have shamefully used this picture. “Seeing your gloating display post referendum at the European Parliament just rammed home the point: it seemed here we had a bit of the Nigel I knew at school. Yes, you’ve fought 20 years and no one took you seriously – but let us have some humility.” Mr Farage stepped down as Ukip leader days after the victorious Brexit campaign in June. He is due to start a tour of European countries next month when he will advise other Eurosceptic parties on how to follow Ukip’s lead.

His former friend writes today: “I’m sure the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn in Greece will cheer you loudly. The people of Greece, beware. “…I think you’re a troublemaker. You were at school, you are now. But we need to beware of what’s being whipped up.” Mr Farage did not directly respond to the claims made by his former friend. Instead, he said: “To say that this is going over old ground is an understatement. The period during which I was at Dulwich was highly politically charged with the rise of Thatcherism to the Brixton riots just down the road. “There were many people of that time who were attracted to extreme groups on both sides of the debate.” He added: “Whoever sent you this must be a little of touch to say that I supported Oswald Mosley as he believed in a United States of Europe. Some people need to get over Brexit.” Dulwich College did not respond to a request for comment.
© The Independent

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UK: Gay couple holding hands 'thrown out of Sainsbury's after holding hands'

A gay couple were shown out of a Hackney Sainsbury's after being spotted holding hands, it is claimed.

11/8/2016- Thomas Rees and his boyfriend Joshua Bradwell were allegedly told by a guard that a customer had made a complaint about them "touching inappropriately". Mr Reese said they were then escorted off the premises, leaving the couple shocked at their treatment. The 32-year-old design graduate told the BBC: “It’s really knocked me for six and I’ve spent the last day or so analysing how I’m perceived. “We weren’t celebrating good news, we weren’t all over each other, we weren’t in the throes of passion – it was essentially just holding my boyfriend’s hand as I do every day. “I’m very much in love and that’s how I express my love.” Mr Rees added that Sainsbury's offered the couple a £10 gift voucher to try and apologise for the incident. But he added that the company should have called him for an apology, rather than just send him a Twitter message. A Sainsbury’s spokesman said the company wanted to offer the couple their sincerest apologies. He added: “We are an inclusive retailer and employer and do not tolerate discrimination in our stores. a“We will take appropriate action once we’ve concluded our investigation with our security contractor.”
© The Evening Standard.

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UK: Prince Harry’s former regiment investigated for racism

Soldiers in Prince Harry’s former regiment are facing dismissal after pictures emerged of squaddies mocking black colleagues using the N-word.

10/8/2016- Military police have launched an investigation into members of The Blues and Royals over racist slurs, sparked by the selfie. Cavalryman Ashley Parker shared a selfie on Whatsapp with the caption: ‘What’s going on here then! Band of brothers.’ A friend ‘Neil’ answers with the N-word, and the others add comments about the black soldiers from The Life Guards. Within minutes, ‘Halstead’ replied about how he had apparently overheard the men taking about ‘how little money they get paid’. Neil then replied: ‘Better than being back home walking 20k for water’. It is understood appalled colleagues of the soldiers became aware of the photo, and reported it to a superior. A friend of one men in the background said he was furious but that he felt powerless to do anything about the racist remarks.

The black ex-military man said: ‘It has been reported and they guys are being dealt with, and the police are involved. It is exactly why I left the army. ‘I loved my job, and all of these guys do, but I could not stand the racist remarks. I think these messages are disgusting and something needs to be done.’ The photo was taken at Combermere Barracks near Windsor during a leaving do attended by the Household Cavalry – the two most senior regiments of the British Army – formed by the Blues and Royals and the Life Guards. The MOD Police are investigating, and Army bosses warned the men involved faced potential dismissal from the forces.

Brigadier John Donnelly, head of Army Personnel Services Group, said: ‘This is a very serious allegation which is subject to an on-going Service Police investigation, and it would be inappropriate to comment further. ‘However, I want to make it very clear that the Army will not tolerate this type of behaviour, and anyone who is found guilty of committing such an offence will be punished in accordance with our disciplinary processes, which can include dismissal.’
© Metro UK

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UK: Kent Police ordered to pay in race discrimination case

British Asian policeman Angus Bowler says he suffered a ‘nightmare’ as tribunal rules that the ‘loyal and successful’ constable was ‘worn down by the conduct of his senior officers’

9/8/2016- Kent Police have been ordered to pay aggravated damages after a tribunal found senior officers had subjected a British Asian constable to racial discrimination and police witnesses had “suffered a collective memory loss” while giving evidence about a key aspect of the case. Angus Bowler, 53, a “long-serving, loyal and successful officer, was worn down by the conduct of his senior officers,” the employment tribunal ruled. Because of the discrimination and victimisation, the father of three went from having hardly any sickness absences in 25 years to needing time off for stress, suffering dizzy spells and chest pains, and feeling sick on the way to work. Yet the panel ruled that after an earlier judgement produced findings of racial discrimination and victimisation, “there was a complete lack of action” from Kent Police. Mr Bowler, the tribunal found, was “fobbed off” by the force’s professional standards department when requesting an investigation into the findings.

The tribunal also said that an apparent letter of apology sent by Chief Constable Alan Pughsley five days before the tribunal’s compensation hearing was “half-hearted and late” and “smacked of an attempt to avoid aggravated damages.” The tribunal included the letter as one of the reasons for awarding £5,165 in aggravated damages. In a judgement entered on 5 August, the tribunal also ordered Kent Police to pay Mr Bowler’s £1,450 tribunal fees, plus £20,822 in compensation. Its damning ruling comes amid a series of Black Lives Matter protests in both UK and the US, in which demonstrators have complained of alleged police racism. Mr Bowler claimed race discrimination after failing to get promotion to sergeant in March 2014 while working for Kent’s special branch frontier operation near the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

The initial employment tribunal ruling, made in April this year after a hearing in Ashford, Kent, cleared Detective Inspector Nicholas Staddon of racially discriminating against Mr Bowler, partly because the evidence indicated that he had also been “rude and abrupt” to a white officer. The tribunal found, however, that once Mr Bowler lodged a grievance complaint over his lack of promotion, he was subjected to both victimisation and racial discrimination. The tribunal heard that Detective Chief Inspector Andy Somerville had found race relations legislation “convoluted”, so his investigation of the grievance consisted of him quoting the Oxford dictionary definition of racism to Mr Staddon, who assured him he wasn’t racist. Ruling that such “sheer incompetence” amounted to racial discrimination, the tribunal panel said: “The lackadaisical approach by Mr Somerville indicated he held a stereotypical view that the claimant [Mr Bowler] was being oversensitive about being treated badly because of his race.”

When Mr Bowler appealed, the tribunal added, Superintendent Martin Very “brushed aside” his arguments and “rubber stamped” the earlier report, failing to take the complaint seriously because he viewed the British Asian constable “stereotypically, as oversensitive.” The tribunal ruled that Mr Very had been “disingenuous” in claiming in evidence to the hearing that Mr Bowler’s representative Wendell Henry, of the National Black Police Association, had told him there was "no racial element" to the grievance. “It was so unlikely that he would have told Mr Very that the grievance was not about race as to be incredible,” the tribunal observed in its judgement. Although Mr Bowler arrested a suspected terrorist in October 2014 – the first such arrest by his unit in 11 years – neither Detective Sergeant Scott Wilson nor his successor Det Sgt John McClean mentioned it in their appraisal reports.

Mr Wilson said the arrest happened after he had written his hand-over report. Mr McClean said it took place before he became Mr Bowler’s line manager. In its judgement, the tribunal found: “It was indicative of their grudging attitude that neither of them mentioned it.” The tribunal also found that Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson victimised Mr Bowler by making written criticisms which unfairly questioned his honesty. The tribunal made the key legal point that both men did this after discovering he had initiated a grievance procedure against them, adding the pointed observation: “Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson were vague in their evidence about when they became aware of the grievance; it was one of the few things they were unable to remember.” The tribunal accepted as one of the grounds for awarding aggravated damages that “witnesses suffered ‘collective memory loss’ about the date they became aware of the grievance, despite being able to recall other matters well.”

The tribunal also found that Kent Police had been slow to disclose emails written by Mr Staddon and Mr Wilson about Mr Bowler, adding that as a result he “felt, with good reason, that [Kent Police] was not being forthcoming and was trying to hide the more damaging emails which would show what really happened.” The tribunal added that this led to Mr Bowler forming the “not unreasonable” impression that had he not been aware of the emails and asked for them, they would not have been disclosed. Ruling on the amount to award Mr Bowler, the tribunal noted that after its initial racial discrimination verdict was delivered in April, “There was a complete lack of action.” Mr Bowler, who is still serving with Kent’s special branch frontier operation in France, told the tribunal he had hoped there would be an immediate change of attitude and “the next day I would go into work, and we would have a meeting and return to a productive working relationship.”

Instead, with the force expected to seek leave to appeal against the race discrimination and victimisation verdicts, no-one at Kent Police mentioned the judgement to Mr Bowler. When he contacted Kent’s professional standards department to see whether an internal investigation would be launched in relation to the original judgement, he was, the tribunal ruled, “fobbed off by requests for reports or allegations to be put in writing.” Chief Constable Pughsley did send a letter to Mr Bowler in July, three months after initial judgement was issued in April, in which he promised Kent Police would learn from what happened, admitted that “processes were not handled as well as they should have been” and apologised “on behalf of the force, for what happened.”

The tribunal, however, agreed with Mr Bowler in dismissing the letter as something that “appears to be [an] apology, but it is not clear what the apology is for.” “The tribunal found,” the ruling added, “That the letter was a half-hearted and late attempt to reduce any compensation payable.” The tribunal recommended that Kent Police set up an independent review of the force’s grievance procedures and training, and consult with the Black Police Officers Association about any resulting recommendations. The tribunal also said that the five senior officers named in its judgements should receive formal equality training. Mr Bowler refused to discuss the case in detail because of the pending appeal. He would only say: “It’s been a nightmare.” Kent Police said the force was in the process of appealing against the findings of race discrimination and victimisation.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Whilst Kent Police accepts that there are points within the grievance and appeals procedures that could be improved, it does not accept that the officer was treated differently due to his race, and Kent Police has been granted an appeal against the tribunal’s decision. "Having submitted the appeal, Kent Police requested that the remedies hearing be adjourned pending the conclusion of the appeals process. However, this was rejected. "The Chief Constable did send a letter to Mr Bowler apologising for the way in which the matters were dealt with. There was concern that Mr Bowler might be staying at two different addresses therefore to ensure prompt receipt the letter was sent via his solicitor. Kent Police now awaits the result of the appeal. Recommendations submitted by Mr Bowler for improvement to procedures will be considered by the force."
© The Independent

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UK: Exploring the Controversy Around the Government's Inquiry Into Sharia Law

8/8/2016- Back in May, then-Home Secretary Theresa May announced what would be one of her ast significant steps on the job: an independent inquiry into the uses – and alleged abuses – of Islamic "Sharia courts" in the UK. In many ways, the news was a long time coming. Sharia courts have been legal in the UK as "mediation and arbitration bodies" since the Arbitration Act of 1996 and, along with the Orthodox Jewish Beth Din, have a mandate to oversee family disputes – particularly divorce. For a while, the growth of these types of bodies was accepted as an inevitability by many in the British establishment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to Justice Secretary Jack Straw. But in the last few years things have changed. Following a controversial undercover investigation by the BBC's Panorama, as well as a campaign by Baroness Cox and others against alleged violations of women's rights taking place in the country's Sharia councils, the tide seems to have turned.

The NGO One Law for All – run by, among others, the Iranian-born activist and leftist Maryam Namazie – has long alleged that they contravene women's rights, and that they represent an extension of the hard-right project of political Islam to undermine secular law and divide communities. "The greatest human rights violations against black and minority women are taking place in these courts," says Namazie over the phone. "From our perspective this is all part and parcel of the Islamist project, and you have many examples internationally to prove this. It's not just terrorism that is an issue for people in countries in the Middle East and North Africa, but also a sort of terrorism promoted by Sharia laws and violence against women."

Even proponents of the practice agree that reforms need to happen. Maulana Muhammad Shahid Raza, executive secretary of the Wembley-based Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK told VICE that he welcomes the decision to launch an inquiry, and that arbitration bodies should only refer to themselves as "councils" and not "courts", as they have no statutory legal authority. "There is a need for some sort of regulating the services of these Sharia councils in the country," he says. "Within the last five years or so, many, many Sharia councils have cropped up; a few of them are... doing things in a way which are not accepted. I know that some of the Sharia councils in this country are geographically in this country and ideologically in a different country, which we do not like, and which we would not accept or agree with at all."

While you'd assume that groups like One Law for All would welcome the news of an independent inquiry, many activists now plan to boycott it, arguing that, with its theological focus and emphasis on "best practice", it doesn't confront the root of the problem. "What we're saying is that this is not a theological debate; this is not about moderate versus extreme forms of Sharia law – it's about women's rights, minority women's rights and their right to access justice," argues Namazie. "It needs to be judge-led, it needs to look at the wide variety of human rights violations that are taking place, whether it's being condoned by these courts or even promoted by these courts." Getting a clear picture of the use of Sharia councils in the UK isn't always easy: for one thing, the debate has been dominated by the far-right. From the English Defence League and Britain First, to more mainstream groups like UKIP, the boogeyman of "Sharia law" has come to be used as proof by many on the right of some sinister Islamic conspiracy to ban bingo and real ale – and to set up a sinister parallel legal system that can contravene British law.

The right-wing connection has been such a problem that groups like One Law for All have had to officially distance themselves from organisations like the EDL with a report called "Enemies Not Allies", which called on activists to take greater care to avoid cooperation with Islamophobic groups. It doesn't help that groups such as One Law for All haven't always sidestepped the more inflammatory members of the right-wing commentariat. Namazie has shared a platform with Douglas Murray, a Spectator columnist with a history of flirting with inflammatory racial politics – though has criticised his anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past. On top of this, criticism of arbitration councils are often framed in a critique of "multiculturalism" and of the "cultural relativism" of the left – catnip to the far-right.

That said, evidence gathered by grassroots campaigners is impossible to ignore. It's hard to pin down specific accusations by women against specific councils (many are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution from their communities), but human rights organisations point to numerous cases where Sharia councils have made getting a religious divorce – often from abusive husbands – harder for women, causing unnecessary psychological trauma as a result. Proponents of these institutions argue that the opposite is true. Shahid Raza says that in immigrant communities, where marriages are not recognised by civil law in the UK, Sharia councils are the only recourse for women trying to escape troubled relationships. "If the government or the judiciary provided the provision for the dissolution of the Islamic side of the marriages, within the mainstream system, I think 99 percent of the work of Sharia councils would come to an end," he argues. "It is an additional burden on the shoulder of communities to run Sharia councils."

Far from being weighted in favour of men, he argues, the councils he has worked on will often find themselves attracting the ire of the some 70 percent of husbands who refuse to accept divorces. "They will react and respond very angrily," he says. "Some of them will be branding us agents of America and Jews; some will say to us that we are kafirs, that we are not Muslims." One organisation that disagrees with Raza is the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which has also heavily criticised the government's inquiry as a "farce" and has compiled numerous examples, gleaned from interviews with women, of abuses by courts. "Patriarchy is a massive issue with all of the women that we're working with," argues Sara Browne, a campaign officer for the group. "The courts represent a massive problem for us: it's an unbalanced, dangerous system."

A report for the IKWRO – and submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee – by clinical psychologist Dr Savin Bapir-Tardy, who interviewed dozens of women in their native languages about their experiences, details many cases where Sharia courts are alleged to have been enablers in the abuse of women. In evidence, she describes a "very religious" Kurdish patient of hers, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who had been a victim of female genital mutilation. "She explained that she did not feel anything positive during sexual intercourse. Her husband accused her of withholding sex," she writes. "The 'Sharia court' told her that her husband's physical and verbal abuse was the result of her not fulfilling her wifely duties sexually."

In another case, a woman subject to financial and psychological abuse by her husband, with whom she had a child, was told by an arbitration council that she would lose her dowry and would be left without financial help. "She was not informed by the religious arbitrator to seek advice on her financial rights under UK family law," writes Bapir-Tardy. "The religious arbitrators were effectively acting as a barrier to her understanding or accessing her rights under UK law. 'Sharia courts' use the power of women's faith to gain a psychological hold over them through guilt. This guilt is used to make any woman who challenges the orders of the religious arbitrators feel as if they are the perpetrator and are responsible for destroying the family's reputation."

With the inquiry set to release its findings by the end of next year, but with major activist groups set to the boycott the panel, it's hard to see what it will actually achieve. With a focus on the theological angle of these arbitration councils and not on the complex legal arguments made by both sides, what seems most likely to happen is that it will become what the government seemed to want it to be in the first place: a politically expedient non-solution to a complex issue. The ones who will really suffer, of course, will be the communities where Sharia councils are prevalent, whether they're the community leaders asking for civil recognition of Islamic marriages, or, much more distressingly, the vulnerable women stuck between several bad options.
© The Vice

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UK: Schools ban 20 pupils a day for racism

Twenty pupils are excluded each school day for racially abusing classmates, an analysis has found.

8/8/2016- The figures show a need for more cohesive schools to be set up in areas where there is a social need for greater diversity, according to the New Schools Network (NSN) which advises groups opening free schools. The number of incidents of racial abuse in schools rose by a fifth from 2009 to 2015. Since 2009 there have been more than 27,000 exclusions for racial abuse. Last year alone there were 4,000 cases serious enough to warrant a fixed or permanent exclusion. Racist abuse in schools is defined as derogatory racist statements, racist bullying, graffiti, taunting and harassment or swearing that can be attributed to racist characteristics. A tenth of the exclusions occurred in primary schools; the remainder in secondaries.

Many incidents were recorded in northern, midlands and coastal towns, although Richmond, in southwest London, was at the top of the table and Islington in north London came fourth. NSN has successfully argued for a new category of “social need” to be part of the free school application criteria. This means that free school proposals will be considered if there is a proven social need. The network hopes that proposals will be brought forward for more integrated schools in areas where schools are segregated on racial lines. In Oldham, for example, historically there have been schools at which 99 per cent of pupils are white and others at which 99 per cent have Asian heritage. Collective Spirit, in Oldham, is a multi-faith free school built around a faith-sensitive ethos which encourages the cohesion of diverse and often segregated communities. It attracts more applications than there are places.

Sarah Pearson, of NSN, said: “The addition of a ‘social need’ category in the criteria opens the door further for schools, charities and other community organisations to come forward with ideas to create schools designed to build community cohesion. We are in discussion with a number of groups who have particular interest in community integration, and we anticipate that more will now follow in their footsteps.”
© The Times

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UK: Rotherham Mosque Receives Neo-Nazi Bomb Threat

6/8/2016- As we have mentioned time and time again, the Rotherham grooming scandal has been seized by on by extremist and far right groups like Britain First and further whipped up to create racial and religiously based divisions, which assists no-one but extremist groups themselves. In fact, there have been a series of very disturbing incidents in Rotherham that we have highlighted here, here and here. Rotherham remains a flash point for tensions with South Yorkshire police, civil society groups and faith groups picking up the pieces of what has been a soul-searching time for the town and its statutory agencies. The current threat against a mosque in Rotherham, raises anti-Muslim hatred to another level and with the neo-nazi terminology of 1488 also listed on the threat. The text on the threat states: “Next time it will be a bomb, you Muslim scum, 1488.” We will be passing on this material to the police and urge members of the public in Rotherham to remain vigilant. Please report in any material, threats or intimidation that is targeted at mosques or other institutions and we are here to assist and to work with police forces.
© Tell Mama News

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Headlines 5 August, 2016

N-Ireland: Residents 'disgusted' as foreign nationals are targeted in hate crime

The home of foreign nationals was daubed with paint and their car smashed during a hate attack in Co Antrim.

5/8/2016- The words 'get out' were spraypainted on the front door of the house while the windows of the property were smashed and almost all of the windows of the Audi were also broken. Police say they are treating yesterday's early morning attack in the Herbert Avenue area of Larne as a hate crime. The two occupants of the house, who are understood to be Polish, moved into the area only weeks ago. A neighbour of the victims said she was "disgusted" by the attack. The resident, who did not want to be named, added that a number of foreign nationals live in the area but attacks of this kind are quite rare. "The two men only moved into the street four or five weeks ago and now this has happened to them," she said. "I was absolutely disgusted by this attack, they are probably so frightened. "I heard smashing in the morning and away these people went.

"There's quite a few foreign nationals living on this street so I don't understand it as nothing like this has happened here before. "I tried to knock their door as I had milk and stuff for them but they wouldn't answer. They are just two hard-working men." East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons condemned the hate crime describing it as an "appalling act". "This was a totally unprovoked attack against two Polish men who worked here and I would strongly condemn those who carried out this despicable attack. "Nobody should have racist graffiti daubed on the walls of their home and the windows of their car and home smashed. There can be no doubt that this attack had a sole purpose to intimidate innocent people in our community. However, this type of behaviour has no place here."
© The Belfast Telegraph

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Europe migrant crisis sees spike in deadly Mediterranean crossings

The flow of refugees through Turkey to Greece has dropped 90 percent, but North Africans are setting out in high numbers in increasingly unseaworthy boats.

5/8/2016- Europe’s deal with Turkey last March has stemmed the flood of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Asia, but overall the continent’s migrant crisis is far from over. Tens of thousands of desperate people are still attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya, and more and more of them are dying. In April and May this year, 1 in 17 migrants died trying to make it from the North African coast to Italy. That was more than twice the 2015 death rate, according to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM). Nearly 2,700 people are known to have died so far this year trying to make the crossing, well above the 1,970 fatalities on all Mediterranean routes in the first seven months of 2015. The “increasingly deadly” route across the central Mediterranean has become a “major humanitarian crisis,” the IOM warned in a recent report.

Migrants seeking a new life in the European Union “are being sent to their deaths” by callous people-smugglers, says Jens Pagotto, head of mission for the “Aquarius,” a search-and-rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Geneva-based humanitarian aid organization, off the Libyan coast. But these dramas are only now attracting renewed public attention in Europe. Until recently, the tragedies in the central Mediterranean were “overwhelmed by the number of arrivals in Greece,” suggests Joel Millman, an IOM spokesman in Geneva. At the same time, he points out, migrant boat disasters have been occurring sporadically off the Libyan coast for the past three years, and “it is hard to keep up the outrage.”

That is especially true when victims’ bodies cannot be photographed on easily accessible Turkish beaches – as was the case with 3-year-old Alan Kurdi last September – but wash up instead on inaccessible beaches in Libya. Since Turkey agreed last March to take back any asylum seekers who land in Greece, and the EU promised in return to give Ankara $6.6 billion to help Syrian refugees stuck on Turkish soil, refugee flows into Greece across the Aegean Sea have dropped by 90 percent. But the number of European arrivals from Libya, where the Central Mediterranean route starts, has held steady in recent years. By the end of July, 96,000 migrants, almost all of them from sub-Saharan Africa, had landed in Italy this year, almost the same number as came during the same period last year. The rising death rate, however, is a result of the use of increasingly unseaworthy boats and the catastrophic overloading of inflatables designed to hold 30 passengers but crammed with as many as 150, according to people involved in rescue efforts.

Immediate 'conditions of distress'
No longer do people-smugglers carry refugees to the Italian coast and then return home to Libya for another consignment. Instead they pack boats with passengers, load just enough fuel for them to reach international waters, give basic instructions on how the engine works and which direction to head in, and then cast the migrants loose. “It is not the intention that these boats make it to Europe,” a recent EU report found. “They are designed to reach … the high seas, to then trigger a search and rescue operation.” Sometimes the smugglers leave a satellite telephone with their clients, along with a number for the Italian maritime rescue center in Rome, so that the refugees can call to tell somebody that they exist. “The traffickers put people out to sea very cynically, in conditions of distress the moment they leave,” says the IOM’s Mr. Millman. “Just about everybody leaving Libya is counting the seconds till the rescue comes.”

An international flotilla of vessels is patrolling the waters between Libya and Italy in search of migrants in distress – Italian coast guard ships, units from a European naval force, and private ships operated by nongovernmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. They do not find everybody in need, and sometimes they are overwhelmed. Last weekend, between Friday and Monday, search-and-rescue vessels saved 7,923 people. On June 23 alone, the Italian coast guard reported, around 5,000 people were rescued from 43 different boats. “None of those craft could have made the crossing” to Italy, says MSF’s Mr. Pagotto.

Rising death toll
Despite the best efforts of search-and-rescue teams, the death toll in the central Mediterranean has risen to record highs. “Search and rescue is not the solution,” argues Pagotto. “You cannot solve this problem at sea.” Doctors Without Borders announced recently it would no longer accept EU funding, in protest against the deal with Turkey to send back refugees without any serious consideration of their asylum claims. The organization is calling on the EU to establish safe, legal routes for refugees that would deter them from taking potentially lethal risks. Pagotto acknowledges, however, that “the problem is so complex there is no single easy solution” that would prevent tens of thousands of Africans from trying to reach Europe every year.

The EU report found that “the majority of migrants rescued at sea on this route are sub-Saharan West Africans, who generally speaking are not eligible for relocation” under EU asylum rules. It pointed out that “less than half of those rescued and brought to Italy apply for asylum upon arrival, and a large majority of these are rejected, indicating that the majority of arrivals seem to be economic migrants,” rather than refugees fleeing war or political persecution. That is of no consequence to Pagotto, who refuses to distinguish between the desperate migrants he plucks from the sea. “At the end of the day,” he says, “they are all people.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

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Greece to Build Athens Mosque Amid Migrant Crisis

4/8/2016- Lawmakers in Greece on Thursday approved construction of a state-funded mosque near central Athens — a proposal that triggered dissent within the coalition government amid a heated public debate on how to manage the migrant crisis. The proposal, approved by 206-24 votes in parliament, follows several failed attempts to implement the project that had previously faced opposition from the country’s powerful Orthodox Church. The governing left-wing Syriza party backed the 950,000-euro ($1 million) project, but it was opposed by its nationalist coalition partner, the Independent Greeks. Tens of thousands of Muslim migrants live in greater Athens and use informal prayer rooms around the capital — many set up in basements and failed businesses in run-down neighborhoods.

Speaking at one prayer site, Syrian-born immigrant Ahmed Halez Hasan said he believed political opposition from previous governments had held up the venture for more than a decade. “This issue has come up before many times, repeatedly, and then it stops. It stops because of the government. But I think this government will help,” said Hasan, who has lived in Greece for more than 30 years. The number of Muslims in Greece has increased following the refugee crisis last year, when the country was on Europe’s busiest transit route for people fleeing to the continent. The proposed site of the new mosque is in a mainly industrial area on the outskirts of the city center, near a United Nations-run camp for refugees.

Speaking in support of the mosque, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Nikos Filis argued that Greece should avoid mistakes made by other European policymakers that left many migrant communities socially isolated and vulnerable to the influence of violent and extreme religious ideology. “It is truly the elephant in room: Europe has not accepted that Islam is a reality,” he told parliament. “The existence of makeshift mosques (in Athens) is a disgrace for our country.” Before Thursday’s vote, the extreme right Golden Dawn party said it would continue to oppose the mosque and back protests aimed at blocking its construction. “We will not allow this to happen. Golden Dawn will do everything in its power to stop it,” party lawmaker Yiannis Lagos said. A Twitter hashtag which means “No To Mosque” in English was trending in the top position in Greece Thursday afternoon.
© The Associated Press

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Greece: Gov't concerned over uptick in migrant arrivals, Ankara stance

3/8/2016- The Greek government is carefully monitoring a slight uptick in arrivals of refugees from neighboring Turkey and is alert to the possibility that any further strain on relations between Ankara and the European Union could have a detrimental impact on a deal to crack down on migration across the Aegean. Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Wednesday rebuffed a report in Germany’s Bild tabloid which quoted him as saying that Athens wants a “plan B” to implement in the event that Turkey reneges on the EU’s migrant deal with Ankara. “We have an influx of migrants which cannot be seen as a sign that the deal is not being honored,” Mouzalas said in a statement.

Noting that the number of migrants arriving on Greece’s Aegean islands has been oscillating between zero and around 100 a day, Mouzalas said the arrivals were down by nearly 100 percent compared to this time last year. “Of course we are monitoring, of course we are worried, but up until now I repeat that the number of people reaching our islands is not a sign that the deal is not being honored,” he said. The minister admitted, however, that Athens is concerned about the possible repercussions of a failed military coup in Turkey last month. “The government has duly briefed all European institutions about the possible risks that exist following the latest developments in Turkey,” Mouzalas said. He noted, however, that the refugee crisis is “a European problem and its solution is the responsibility of Europe,” indicating that Athens expects more support from other EU member-states both in terms of funding and in terms of accepting refugees as part of a slow-moving relocation program.

According to sources, Greek officials are using all diplomatic avenues, with both Brussels and Ankara, to avert any unpleasant surprises. Initially, the case of eight Turkish soldiers who applied for political asylum in Greece after fleeing Turkey following last month’s failed coup had stirred fears of a straining of ties between Athens and Ankara. However, it appears Turkey is not planning to link the affair to the management of the refugee crisis. What Ankara has explicitly linked to the handling of the refugee crisis is its European Union accession bid. Specifically, Turkish officials have said that they expect Brussels to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the EU by October, otherwise they will refuse to honor the migrant deal.

European officials have indicated publicly that the two matters are not connected but the issue has fueled concern about the fate of the agreement and whether Europe might see a new influx of refugees later this year akin to last year’s huge wave that put huge pressure on Greece and led other EU member-states to close their borders. The current situation is a far cry from last year’s crisis. On Wednesday, 119 migrants arrived from Turkey, 62 on Lesvos and 57 on Chios. The spokesman of Greece’s coordinating committee for refugees, Giorgos Kyritsis, said arrivals were very low compared to just a few months ago. “Before the deal with the EU, the arrivals were an average of 1,500 [a day],” he said.
© The Kathimerini.

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Netherlands: The lesbian twin police officers who set up the world's first LGBTI criminal justice summit

Now that's really making a difference

3/8/2016- Most police officers go into the job as a way of making a difference, and these two women are doing more than most. Meet Marja and Ellie Lust – two officers living and working in Amsterdam. Both of the Lusts entered into police work wanting to make changes to their city. In their years spent patrolling the streets, they learned what it means to be not only a guard but a guide to LGBTI people. Soon after joining up, they both entered into pivotal roles in the Pink In Blue group. By electing themselves as lesbian faces in the police team, they encourage LGBTI people – if they suffer a hate crime – to directly contact a LGBTI officer. This has been hugely successful, and has sent reporting of hate crime rocketing. This not only gives the police a better understanding of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the city, but also license to make sure those bigots are behind bars.

So it was only a matter of time before the Lusts came up with Proud To Be Your Friend – the first ever global summit for LGBTI criminal justice professionals. With police officers, prison guards, correctional facility workers and more invited from around the globe, including in countries like the US, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Pakistan and Thailand, the Lust twins are hoping to make a difference. The event will have officers from 36 countries attending. Travel and accommodation is free for participants providing 100% attendance. ‘We want people to leave inspired,’ Marja told Gay Star News. ‘We want people to go back and commit to do something in their respective organizations, and to do something that will make a change. ‘We want them to also connect with their local LGBTI communities.’

Taking place from today (3 August) until Saturday (6 August) at a secret conference venue in Amsterdam, criminal justice professionals will listen and debate as names like Human Rights Watch’s Boris Dittrich and Desmond Tutu’s former clergy daughter Mpho Andrea Tutu speak and and hold panel debates. The venue and hotel the participants are staying in is secret over safety concerns. While the Lusts are not expecting an attack, they also do not want the identity of professionals attending from homophobic countries to be compromised. One part of the conference will be where people can get up and share their stories. A Canadian man will talk about how he wanted to become a mountie but he thought he couldn’t because he was gay. After taking a picture, in Amsterdam, with two gay police officers 10 years ago, he will show another picture from 2016. This time, he will be shown with the same two gay Dutch officers but this time he will be in the mounted police officer’s famous red uniform.

Another officer, from Serbia, will speak about what it is like to not just be the only openly gay police officer in the precinct – but the entire country. The Lusts are hoping, if it is a success, a second summit for criminal justice professionals will be held in a new city three years from now. The conference will end with 26 countries being represented on the World Police Boat as part of Amsterdam Pride. As floats sail down the Amsterdam canals, officers will wave at the cheering crowds – knowing what it is finally like to be appreciated for your work and not be picked out because of your sexuality or gender identity. ‘I have been on the boat and I know how breathtaking inspiring it is to be under those 25 bridges,’ Marja said. ‘Police don’t really get much applause apart from at a Pride. ‘My wish for those people is for this week to be a lasting memory that they will take home and be inspired by. We want to present this city as a future image of how we want the world to be.’
© Gay Star News

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Serbia warns EU about resurgence of far right in Croatia

Relations between the two soured by disputes over conflict from collapse of Yugoslavia

2/8/2016- Serbia has complained to the European Union about Croatia’s alleged glorification of far-right figures and fanning of anti-Serb feeling, which Belgrade claims threatens peace and stability in the Balkans. The spat has triggered an angry diplomatic exchange between Serbia and Croatia, which waged war in the 1990s and are both now run by governments with strongly nationalist streaks. Relations between the neighbours are increasingly soured by disputes over the conflict that accompanied the collapse of Yugoslavia, and by attempts from both sides to rehabilitate controversial figures from the second World War. Ten days ago, a Zagreb court quashed a communist-era conviction of Alojzije Stepinac – an archbishop and cardinal who led Croatia’s Catholic Church during the second World War – for collaborating with the Nazis and their local fascist allies. The court ruled that Stepinac’s 1946 trial sought to “morally discredit him and the Catholic Church” and that the verdict “grossly violates basic principles of criminal law both then and now.
Saint
Many people in staunchly Catholic Croatia revere Stepinac, who died in 1960, as a symbol of the country’s fight for independence and for his resistance to communist rule. The Vatican beatified Stepinac in 1997, but Belgrade has denounced efforts to make him a saint. Critics accuse him of supporting Croatia’s wartime ultra-nationalist Ustashe movement, which butchered tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and political opponents when it ran the country as a Nazi puppet state from 1941 to 1945. “Stepinac was the vicar of the Ustashe movement. He blessed crimes and the Ustashe state,” said Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dacic. Belgrade’s anger was compounded days after the Stepinac ruling, when Croatia’s supreme court quashed the 2010 conviction of far-right ex-deputy Branimir Glavas over the abduction, torture and murder of Serb civilians in 1991.

“The message of this shameful act is that unpunished crimes against Serbs are normal and allowed,” said Mr Dacic, claiming that it “reflected Croatia’s clear politics”. Last weekend, a statue was unveiled in a town on Croatia’s Adriatic coast to Miro Baresic, an ultra-nationalist militant who was sentenced to life in prison in Sweden in 1971 for the murder of the Yugoslav ambassador to Stockholm. Baresic and accomplices were freed after Croatian radicals hijacked a Scandinavian Airlines plane in 1972, and he fled to Paraguay before being caught and sent back to Sweden.

‘Terrorists’
He returned to his homeland in 1991, and was killed fighting in Croatia’s war for independence from what was then a rump Yugoslavia run by Serb nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic. Serbia’s prime minister Aleksandar Vucic – a one-time Milosevic ally – said he had written to top EU officials about “monuments being erected in an EU country to prominent convicted terrorists [and] the rehabilitation and overturning of convictions of criminals from the second World War and recent wars.” “We expect a reaction from the EU. How is it possible that the terrorist Baresic, who was convicted by a democratic Swedish court, has turned into a hero?” Mr Vucic added. “What is happening seriously affects peace and stability in the region.”
© The Irish Times.

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Canada: Holocaust centre joins effort to recognize Roma genocide

3/8/2016- The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) has joined with Roma groups to urge the Canadian government to formally recognize the Nazis’ systematic murder of the Roma as a genocidevOn Aug. 2, for the first time, the MHMC hosted a commemoration of this mass atrocity, underlining the shared history of Jews and Roma (formerly known as Gypsies) as the victims of the Nazis’ racially based persecution.vThe commemoration was held in cooperation with Romanipe, a Montreal-based, not-for-profit organization that combats prejudice against the Roma, including in Canada. Its founder and executive director, Dafina Savic, says what happened to the Roma during the Nazi era is little known or largely forgotten, and even denied.vFor the past three years, Romanipe and the Canadian Romani Alliance have been lobbying Canada to recognize the genocide and declare Aug. 2 the official day of commemoration.vSavic said the previous Conservative government refused the request. Her organization is hoping its Liberal successor will take a different stance.

Participants in the commemoration were encouraged to write to Immigration Minister John McCallum and to their own member of Parliament to urge Canada’s recognition of the killing of an estimated 500,000 Roma by the Nazis and their collaborators, representing about half the community. A July 18 open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed by Roma community members and others, was circulated at the event. It expressed their disappointment that Roma survivors were not included in his visit to Auschwitz last month. Internationally, Aug. 2 is observed by the Roma for remembrance because on that day in 1944 at Auschwitz, 2,897 Roma men, women and children were put to death in the gas chambers. Several European countries already recognize this day, Savic said, but not Canada or the United States.

MHMC executive director Alice Herscovitch said this is regrettable. “It is essential to remember the genocide of the Roma,” she said. “We have a responsibility to work with the Roma to ensure that this genocide is not forgotten… Alongside the Jewish communities of Europe, they suffered and were decimated.” Herscovitch underscored the common history of the Jews and the Roma and the desire to combat hatred, which the Roma “very clearly” continue to face today. “We are disheartened at how little is said and done to prevent hatred against the Roma people,” she said. The event also drew attention to Romanipe’s campaign to overturn Bill C-31 passed by the Harper government in 2012, which made significant changes to the refugee determination system. Of most concern are the “designated countries of origin” where it was deemed that persecution is unlikely to take place, therefore making it more difficult for asylum claimants.

The list includes several central and eastern European countries, notably Hungary, from which many Roma have fled in recent years citing discrimination and violence. Present at the event were rejected refugee claimants Katalin Lakatos and her 17-year-old daughter, Gilda, who are scheduled to be deported back to Hungary on Aug. 11 after living for five years in Canada. They say they fear for their life in Hungary. Romanipe has been advocating on the family’s behalf. The father and brother were sent back in March, and the women were granted two-month resident permits by McCallum, which have expired. Romanipe wants the deportation order cancelled and the Lakatos given permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. Savic said this family’s plight illustrates that of many other Roma who have tried to settle in Canada as refugees. Herscovitch concurred that this part of the law “absolutely must be eliminated.”

An unscheduled speaker at the commemoration was NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who said he was “not surprised” by the Conservative government’s refugee policy but is “disappointed” by Trudeau’s response so far. Mulcair noted that, as his wife Catherine’s Jewish parents were Holocaust survivors, he is particularly sensitive to the “discrimination and hatred” to which the Roma are subject today. “I urge the government to acknowledge that they [the Roma], too, were victims of the Holocaust, singled out for who they were and murdered,” Mulcair said. The commemoration included a screening of the 2011 Canadian documentary A People Uncounted directed by Aaron Yeger, which brings to light that the Nazis began deporting the Roma to concentration camps as early as 1934 and that there was also a “final solution” for these people. There were also readings of horrific testimonies by three survivors, now living in France, Germany and Hungary.

Nicholas Batzali, a young member of the Montreal Roma community, sang In Auschwitz There is a Great House, about a man thinking of his wife during his ordeal in the death camp. It is thought by scholars that 21,000 Roma perished at Auschwitz. At the end of the film screening, 85-year-old Jewish Auschwitz survivor Sylvia Weiner broke into sobs as she recalled seeing Roma, including children, taken away to the gas chambers. “I thought to myself: where is God?… My heart bleeds when I see that film. I’m glad [the Roma genocide] was brought up tonight.” After the event, Shloime Perel, whose mother lost many relatives in the Holocaust, was motivated to plead with Ottawa to relent. “Gilda and Katalin are very good, serious people. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to stay in Canada… I hope this government will end the Harper government’s policy of deporting Roma,” he wrote to McCallum, Trudeau and MP Anthony Housefather.
© The Canadian Jewish News

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Czech Rep: Compensation deal agreed for Roma victims of holocaust

4/8/2016- The living survivors of the Czech Romany Holocaust will get 2500 euros each in compensation as a result of negotiations between the Czech and German foreign ministries, Michaela Lagronova, spokeswoman for the Czech ministry, told CTK yesterday. "The negotiations lasted several months and they ended several days ago," she said.
The compensation may be paid out to 10 to 15 people, Lagronova said. German authorities earmarked 50 million euros for the compensation by 2018. The same sum of 2500 euros will also be paid to Germans subjected to forced labour during World War Two, including Sudeten Germans who were forced to work in Czech territory. According to the HlidaciPes.org server, the compensation would be paid from a German fund for non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Cenek Ruzicka, head of the Czech Committee for Romany Holocaust Compensation, said it is not clear whether the compensation would be paid out because the German authorities have not decided on the applications yet.

Ruzicka told CTK that ten Romany survivors applied for the compensation. No deadline by which Germany would have to deal with the applications has been set, he added.
The latest notification sent by the German Finance Ministry does not grant the compensation to the applicants yet, Ruzicka said. He said all the survivors are old people because WW2 ended more than 70 years ago. "Given their old age, we agreed with the sum, which is nevertheless ridiculous," Ruzicka added. Originally, the goal was to get the same compensation that Germany granted to the Jewish victims from the former Eastern bloc who get a monthly contribution of 300 euros, he said. This contribution to the Jewish victims is of course justified, but it is unjust to Romanies, Ruzicka said.

The planned compensation for Romany Holocaust survivors was supported by Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek. Czech commissioner for Holocaust affairs, Jiri Sitler, took part in the recent Czech-German negotiations. Like Jews, "Gypsies" were subject to the ruthless racial policy of the Nazi Germany. In 1942, the police authorities in Bohemia and Moravia created a list of all Romanies living that included 6500 people. Part of them were sent to internment camps in Lety, south Bohemia, and Hodonin u Kunstatu, south Moravia. Nearly 5000 Czech Romanies ended up in the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) concentration camp and only 583 of them survived the war.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Cabinet close to buying site of WWII concentration camp for Roma at Lety

2/8/2016- The Czech government is close to an agreement on the purchase of a pig farm in Lety situated at the site of the former Nazi internment camp for Romanies, Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said at a commemorative meeting in Lety yesterday. He told reporters that he believes this government would tackle the problem by the end of its election term or by October 2017. "I am convinced that no other government has been so close to the solution of a commemorative arrangement of the whole complex [as the current one]," he said, adding that he cannot elaborate since the talks are underway. Jan Cech, general director of the Agpi company running the pig farm in Lety, has confirmed that the government is negotiating with the firm. The effort of the current government is more intensive than that of its predecessors, he added.

At present, the government and the firm are not discussing a particular sum, but the cabinet is prepared to deal with it soon, Herman said. Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO), who also attended the commemorative meeting in Lety, said more detailed information could threaten the talks. "We have been striving for a solution to the problem for many months. We want the site to be commemorated in harmony with its history. But we cannot release more about the negotiations," Slechtova said. The labour camp in Lety was opened in 1940. A similar facility existed in Hodonin u Kunstatu, south Moravia. In 1942, both facilities turned into internment camps and in August of the same year, Romany camps were established there. Until May 1943, 1308 Romany men women and children were interned there, 327 of whom perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) where most of them died. According to estimates, the Nazis murdered 90 percent of Czech Romanies.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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ERTF Commemorates the International Remembrance Day of the Roma Holocaust

2/8/2016- With a minute of silence at noon beside the Holocaust memorial stone in front of the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) remembered more than 3,000 Roma exterminated by the German Nazis during the night of 2-3 August 1944 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. "Today, it is time for every nation to stand up to say WE WILL REMEMBER so that it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. We will not allow any excuse of anti-Gypsyism in our countries. We will not allow any form of prejudice to disrupt the multi-faith democracy we are so proud to call our biggest value, said Miranda Vuolasranta, ERTF's President. Joined by the Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ambassador Katrin Kivi, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the Council of Europe and Nawel Rafik‑Elmrini, Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg, the ERTF President expressed concern over The Roma continued struggle for justice and for recognition of their place in the history books as victims of the Nazi regime.

Remembering the Holocaust is the key - to fighting modern day racism and intolerance. It means a commitment to valuing human beings, their dignity and their rights. Remembering is not enough; laws, which protect the dignity and rights of human beings, have to follow. That was the logic of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that is the logic of ensuring the principles of equality and non-discrimination within basic laws or constitutions. In the same way, law enforcement tools must be applied effectively to prevent or punish violent manifestations of racist and extremist ideologies. The Council of Europe, as the Human Rights Organisation is playing the key role in developing strategies and actively defending these values.

The ERTF organised “The Forgotten Voices Conference “conference in April this year in Romania. This two-day conference was dedicated to the Roma victims of the Holocaust and aimed to achieve both the official and international recognition of the Genocide of the Roma, as well as improve the knowledge and teaching of the Roma Genocide in schools and amongst the wider public. As a result of the conference Guidelines on the Steps towards Achieving Official Recognition of Anti-Gypsyism and on Promoting Remembrance and the Teaching of Roma History in Schools was produced. Ms Vuolasranta invited the International Organisations and in particular the member States of the CoE to make the most of it and put in practice the suggestions listed in that document. We must all work to close the empathy gap in our world today, where most of us ignore or dismiss the legitimate grievances of others.
© The European Roma and Travellers Forum

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Slovakia: Roma Holocaust commemorated at graves of murdered Roma

26 Roma were brutally killed here.

2/8/2016- A commemoration of injustices perpetrated against the Roma during WWII was held in Dubnica nad Váhom (Trenèín Region) on August 1 exactly at the site where 26 ill Roma were brutally murdered in the final stages of the war. The commemorative event was organised by the civic association In Minorita and was part of the Ma Bisteren! project linked to Tuesday’s Roma Holocaust Commemoration Day, August 2. Opening with the Roma anthem Gelem Gelem performed by violinist Barbora Botošová, the ceremony was attended by representatives of the state administration, municipalities, the Slovak Association of Anti-Fascist Fighters, Roma women with children as well as Richard Fitzmaurice from the US Embassy to Slovakia.

In Minorita project manager Zuzana Kumanová sees it as a necessary to mark places where persecution of Roma occurred. “It’s important to commemorate concrete people who were murdered and who were suffering,” said Kumanová as cited by the TASR newswire, adding that Europe is still confronted with racist and neo-Nazi views. “It’s necessary to speak about the major persecutions that occurred during WWII and which were based only on ethnicity – whether targeting Jews, Roma or other groups.” Fitzmaurice of the US Embassy to Slovakia is convinced that it is important to hold commemorations at places where people departed from the world in such inhumane conditions. He believes that public participation in such events is necessary in order to commemorate the Roma Holocaust, the knowledge of which is not so common among people. “For us, it’s a commitment to fight for rights and equal treatment of all people, regardless of nationality or ethnicity,” he said.

The internment camp in Dubnica nad Váhom was founded in November 1944 and held prisoners marked for deportation to concentration camps outside of Slovakia. “Around 700 persons were interned in the camp, which manifold exceeded its capacity,” said Kumanová. “They brought here entire Roma families, with women and children included.”  In late 1944-early 1945, a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp. Ill people were tricked with promises that they were being transported to a hospital in Trenèín. Instead, they transported them to a premise of the then ammunition factory close to Dubnica, made them dig a pit and then they were shot dead. Exhumations conducted after the war discovered that some victims were not killed by bullets, but were buried alive.

After the war the 26 bodies were exhumed and buried again in independent graves. Later, workers of the factory built a memorial from cannon shells and took care of the graves. In Minorita, thanks to state subsidies, built a memorial and fenced the cemetery.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Roma Holocaust Memorial Day: Statement by First VP Timmermans and Commissioner Jourová

1/8/2016- Statement of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Vìra Jourová on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, Sunday 2 August:

"On 2 August 1944, around 3000 Roma women, children and elderly people were murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were among hundreds of thousands of victims of the Roma genocide, and they suffered together with others who were persecuted under the Nazi regime. It is for these victims that today the European Commission marks Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. The genocide committed against the Roma by the Nazis must never be forgotten. Still today, too few Europeans know about this tragic episode of our past. And as events are fading in people's memory, we must be united in remembering those who fell victim to these heinous crimes. We owe this especially to our younger generations who are building the Europe of tomorrow – a Europe that is better and stronger.

As Europeans, we have a joint responsibility to ensure that the atrocities of the past are recognised and lessons are learnt. History can never be allowed to repeat itself. Tolerance and respect must be the basis of our societies today and in the future. The European Commission supports the European Parliament's resolution of 15 April 2015 to officially recognising Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. We hope that all Member States will recognise it soon. The Roma, who have been part of our European societies for centuries, continue to face discrimination on the basis of their ethnic origin. The Commission is dedicated to improving Roma integration, drawing on a better understanding of our history. We continue to work with the European Parliament, Member States, local and regional authorities and civil society to improve the daily lives of Roma communities in Europe.”
© The EUropean Commission

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Why Europe must remember the Roma who died in the Second World War

There is a feeling that their suffering has been airbrushed from history – and that amenesia makes them more vulnerable to discrimination and attack today.
By Katalin Barsony


2/8/2016- On 2 August, the Roma commemorate the Pharrajimos – the slaying of around a quarter of the entire population at the time – during the Second World War. In London, Roma from around the country will gather at the Holocaust Memorial Stone in Hyde Park and outside the Imperial War Museum to protest the silence of holocaust history on the suffering of the Roma people. There is a feeling among many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people that their suffering has been airbrushed from history – and that amenesia makes them more vulnerable to discrimination and attack today. This is not an abstract concern, but their experience of living in the UK in the last few weeks. In the spike in hate crime that accompanied the UK referendum result, Roma people have described being the victims of verbal abuse and worse.

The National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller & Roma Women (NAGTRW) routinely helps deal with a host of challenges faced by Roma in the UK, from housing, and accessing education, to navigating social services. NAGTRW campaigner Shay Clipson has grappled with the temptation to stay silent and hope the trouble goes away: “Most us feel quite reluctant to go to the police either because of bad experiences in the past or because we think that they will not take our complaint seriously. Very often that is exactly what happens, which results in us going away leaving the police to ignore the problem and then nothing improves.”’ But ignoring the problem will not make it go away. It is important for them and for the world to recall the specific events that took place on 2 August 1944 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Roma were herded into a special Zigeunerlager (“Gypsy camp”), where 20,000 were killed in gas chambers while children were subjected to horrifying experiments by camp physician Joseph Mengele.

On 16 May 1944, the remaining 6,000 were scheduled for extermination to make room for a newly arrived contingent. When guards arrived to lead them to be slaughtered, the Roma, all of whom were weakened by their incarceration, were ready to fight back with whatever tools they could find to use as weapons – rocks, pipes, pieces of wood. The camp commandant called off the guards to prevent the revolt from spreading beyond the Zigeunerlager. We remember this act of defiance as “Romani Resistance Day.” Over the next few months, the camp authorities diluted the Zigeunerlager, sending 1,000 of the younger prisoners to the Buchenwald camp and 1,000 women to Ravensbruck. When the SS guards finally re-entered on the night of 2 August, the 3,000 remaining Roma were overcome and killed immediately in the gas chambers. With every year that passes, the need to recognise these events becomes more urgent, and the means to do so gets harder. There is now almost no one who remembers them first-hand. We must not allow 2 August 1944 to be consigned to the dry dust of historical record.

The last known eyewitness was Erzsébet Szenesné Brodt, who was deported at the age of 17 from Kaposvár in Hungary to Auschwitz with her mother and 10-year-old sister. As soon as the family stepped off the train, the Nazis sent Brodt’s mother and sister to the gas chamber. Brodt’s barracks was close to the Zigeunerlager, and she vividly recalled how the SS guards moved in on the night of 2 August, using flame throwers and attack dogs to subdue the Roma. For the rest of her life, whenever she saw a large dog, Brodt felt a shiver of remembered fear. The commemoration of 2 August as Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day has gained some ground in recent years. It is recognised in Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. But progress is painfully slow. West Germany did not acknowledge the Roma Holocaust until 1982; reunified Germany only dedicated a memorial to Roma and Sinti victims of National Socialism in Berlin in 2012.

Sixty years on, the 12 million Roma people of Europe are the continent’s largest ethnic minority and the most discriminated against. By honouring the victims, the European public would acknowledge the right of the Roma to exist as full and free citizens of Europe, demonstrating to the new generation of European neo-fascists that the human rights of the Roma will be recognized and protected. When she saw Roma women and children being driven to the gas chambers, Erzsébet Brodt vowed that she would survive the camp. “My duty would be to tell everybody,” she said in 2012. “All those who survive have the responsibility to fight so that such things never happen again.”
Katalin Barsony is a Roma activist, filmmaker, and executive director of the Budapest based Romedia Foundation
© The New Statesman

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Nordic neo-nazis set their sights on Iceland

2/8/2016- A neo-nazi movement set up in Sweden is trying to recruit Icelandic supporters, wth flyers being put through people’s doors in parts of the capital Reykjavik. Nordfront was founded by Swedish neo-nazis in 1997 and has spread to Finland, Norway and Denmark, reports Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV (link in Icelandic). According to the flyer, the group’s main objectives are to “to put an immediate halt to mass immigration to Nordic countries, to reclaim power from the international Zionist elite, and to create a unified and sustainable Nordic State”.

Professor of Politics at Iceland’s Bifröst University Eirikur Bergmann told RÚV that while the movement may attract some Icelandic supporters, it is unlikely to be widely popular. “This organisation is completely different to anything we have heard from before in Icelandic politics, in that one of its objectives is literally to end the Icelandic State and bring Iceland into a Nordic superstate,” Bergmann explains. Undoing decades of struggle for independence and returning Iceland to the sovereignty of Copenhagen and Stockholm is not an idea which has caught on in recent times, Bergmann suggests. “While the small size of Icelandic society makes it difficult for neo-nazi organisations to get a foothold in politics,” says Bergmann, “their rhetoric can have an effect.” “This kind of talk feeds into debate and gives other types of culture-based racism greater credibility, simply in comparison to this kind of unpleasant radicalism.”
© The Iceland Monitor

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France sees more anti-Muslim acts after terror attacks

While the government and religious leaders are preaching unity between communities the country is still witnessing several acts of Islamophobia with mosques targeted.

5/8/2016- The most serious incident since the jihadist killing of a priest during mass was an attack on an elderly Muslim man near the city of Rouen in front of his family. The unprovoked beating occurred the day after the murder of the priest at Saint-Etienne-de-Rouvray. The French Muslim of Senegalese origin who was dressed in a traditional Djellaba was attacked outside his apartment early in the morning, after an apparent dispute over a parking place. His attacker allegedly called him a “dirty black” and threatened to cut his throat “like you did to us”, referring to how the priest was killed. He was hit on the head and left semi-conscious until he was later found by his family. Other incidents of Islamophobia have been less violent but have occurred on a regular basis.

This week racist graffiti was scrawled across the walls of a mosque in the town of Ghisonaccia in Corsica, where tensions have been high between immigrant and local communities. The words “Arabs out” were just some of the Islamophobic messages tagged on the mosque. According to BFM TV other mosques around the country have also been targeted by racist graffiti. A mosque in eastern France was hit by a different kind of anti-Muslim act. Last week a box of pork lardons was emptied into the letter box of the mosque near Nancy and on Thursday the same place of worship was sent an envelope containing white powder. Police set up a perimeter cordon but later confirmed that the powder did not contain any dangerous substances. Nevertheless the rector of the mosque was left highly concerned. “Given the serious context we are facing we call upon the Muslim community to have the utmost vigilance with to attacks and threats which it is subject,” he said in a statement.

Despite the incidents there has also been a more positive reaction to the spate of terror attacks and in particular to the slaying of the Father Jacques Hamel, which led to an outpouring of inter-faith solidarity. Last Sunday, Muslims attended Catholic mass in churches around France, responding to a call by the French Muslim council to show "solidarity and compassion" over the priest's murder. Many Muslims and Jews also attended Tuesday’s funeral of Father Hamel. Archbishop Lebrun said the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities have "decided to come together to say 'never again'."
© The Local - France

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France: Far-right anger as Paris church cleared for bulldozers

Fury from the far right National Front in France failed to stop riot police clearing a famous Paris church on Wednesday.

4/8/2016- A Paris church known for its annual tradition of blessing people's pets was the scene of high drama on Wednesday as police forcibly removed its priest and 30 followers ready for the building's demolition. The group had barricaded themselves inside Saint Rita's church in a last-ditch effort to ward off the wrecking ball after a marathon tug-of-war with the owners. Police said the evacuation was completed without incident, but politicians of the Republicans political party said they had witnessed rough treatment of the group. "Several were even dragged along the ground," they said in a statement. Republican deputy secretary general Eric Ciotti accused France's Socialist government of being "without a soul and without bearings" for allowing the eviction to go ahead. The far right National Front party were also furious. French MP Marion Le Pen, the niece of party leader Marine simply tweeted: "France 2016" with the hashtag "#SainteRita".

Saint Rita, built in 1900, had been the sanctuary of Gallicans, traditionalist Catholics who profess to practise the faith as it existed in medieval times, celebrating mass in Latin, but they are not recognised by the Vatican. The church's owner, the Association of Catholic and Apostolic Chapels, had decided to replace the structure with a housing development, and it was shut in April 2015. But Abbot Guillaume de Tanouarn, who used to bless cats, dogs, birds and even camels on the first Sunday in November according to the Gallican rite, led resistance to the demolition. After the evacuation, around 20 activists remained outside the church, while the entrance was patrolled by private security guards and workmen were boarding up the windows.

The association obtained a building permit in March 2012, and the demolition was to have begun in October 2015, but the bulldozers were called off because a group of squatters had occupied the church. The congregation of Saint Rita -- the patron saint of lost causes -- failed to raise the three million euros ($3.3 million) it would have needed to buy the church back. A court finally ruled on January 6 that the association could expel the occupants. Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday that the church was not part of France's historical heritage and stressed that the association had taken the decision to destroy it. Rules and laws apply "to everyone in the same way," he said.
© The Local - France

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France's Disappearing Mosques

1/8/2016- French authorities have shut down around 20 mosques and prayer halls considered to be preaching radical Islam since December, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday. "There is no place ... in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques, and who don't respect certain republican principles, notably equality between men and women," the minister said. "That is why I took the decision a few months ago to close mosques through the state of emergency, legal measures or administrative measures. About 20 mosques have been closed, and there will be others." Cazeneuve was speaking after a meeting with leaders of the French Council of the Muslim Religion. There are some 2,500 mosques and prayer halls in France, about 120 of which are considered to be preaching radical Salafism, a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam.

He said that since 2012, 80 people had been expelled from France, and dozens more expulsions were under way, without giving further details. The meeting comes as France struggles with an unprecedented jihadist threat that has seen a raft of terror attacks, most recently a truck massacre in Nice which killed 84, and the murder of a Catholic priest in the Normandy village of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. The repeat attacks have raised tough questions about security failures, but also about the foreign funding of many mosques. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week that he would consider a temporary ban on foreign financing of mosques, urging a "new model" for relations with Islam. Cazeneuve confirmed that authorities were working on a French foundation for Islam which would guarantee total transparency in financing of mosques "with rigorous respect for secular principles."
© AFP

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Malta: Wilful damage to Quran can be considered hate crime – EU expert

Framework Decision obliges EU states to ensure legal systems take racist motivation into account even in case of wilful damage to private or public property

2/8/2016- The desecration of places or worship such as mosques, synagogues or churches as well as – depending on the context – publicly displayed religious objects are both considered serious hate crimes in various EU member states. But although Malta has revoked a law against the vilification of religion, a European policy expert has suggested that the intentional damage to copies of the Quran at Mater Dei Hospital could be penalised as a racist hate crime under the Maltese Criminal Code provision on wilful damage to public property (Article 325) coupled with the apparent racist motivation which courts are obliged to take into account (Article 83B of the Maltese Criminal Code).

The European anti-racism law and policy expert who spoke to MaltaToday referred to the EU’s Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law whose implementation the EU Commission is currently monitoring in all Member States. “The Framework Decision obliges EU states to penalise ‘the intentional public incitement to hatred or violence’, commonly known as ‘hate speech’, on a number of grounds including race, ethnic origin, nationality and religion. But it also obliges member states to ensure that their legal systems take racist motivation into account in the case of all other crimes – for example homicide, bodily harm but also wilful damage to private or public property.”

In this case, the damage to the Quran can be read as willful damage of public property with a racist or xenophobic motivation given the means used and other circumstances of the case. “All serious data collection on hate crime takes desecration of religious buildings and objects into account,” the expert said, clarifying that these criminal offences must be clearly distinguished from the altogether different cases of religious satire or blasphemy which are very rarely prosecuted across Europe due to the overarching guarantees relating to freedom of expression. “It is thus perfectly possible for a state to punish the physical desecration of religious buildings or objects while simultaneously permitting religious satire,” the expert said.

Muslims who pray at Mater Dei’s multi-faith room were shocked to find slices of pork (bacon) placed among the pages of several Quran books. A printed A4 paper was also found, bearing a picture of Fr Jacques Hamel who was murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, France earlier this week. The message on the paper read: “RIP Fr Jacques Hamel, victim of Islam and its liberal/progressive apologists. A religion with blood on its hand cannot complain that its books are soiled.” Confirming the incident, the Islamic Community in Malta condemned the criminal act and reported the incident to the hospital’s CEO and the police. “We as Muslims living in Malta will not play their game. We could say, like all the haters and fools, that this was an act of Christian terrorism but we don’t generalize like those perpetrators who have the same agenda as other terrorist groups, encouraging hate in this beautiful country,” the ICM said on its Facebook page.
© Malta Today

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Sweden: Far-Right Group Interrupts Stockholm Pride Parade

A far-right group interrupted Stockholm's annual Pride Parade on Saturday.

1/8/2016- Several outlets reported that a fight broke out when 10-15 men interrupted the parade with a banner which read “Protect the nuclear family” next to an image of a crossed out rainbow flag. The far-right group Nordisk Ungdom, or Nordic Youth, claimed credit for the disruption. Nordisk Ungdom spokesperson Fredik Hagberg gave a statement to Swedish daily Göteborgs-Posten. “We were there to demonstrate against Pride,” he said. “We need a critical voice that demonstrates in the name of the traditional family values. We think that they are threatened. Pride encourages things that harm the traditional family values. It's not about love any longer. I think you can have sex with whoever you want. But Pride encourages a culture that is extremely bad.” The youth organization was formed by the National Socialist Workers' Party in the early 1930s. The AP reported that marching in this year's parade was Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who called the parade “two hours of happiness and love.” According to organizers, 45,000 people participated in the 18th annual march, making it the largest such event in the Nordic region.
© On Top Magazine

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Russia: Nazi followers accused of 36 crimes to go on trial in St. Petersburg

1/8/2016- The St. Petersburg City Court is set to examine a criminal case against a neo-Nazi gang standing charged with robbery, banditry, intended infliction of grievous bodily harm, murder on race, ethnical or religious hatred or enmity grounds, the court’s press-service informed RAPSI on Monday. The 19 persons, 14 of whom were underage when allegedly committing the aforesaid crimes, are charged on 36 counts, among which alongside murders are six counts of grievous bodily harm, three counts of banditry, three counts of robbery, and setting fire to a church. The materials of case under investigation for over two years make 91 volumes, according to the court’s press-service. At present, all the accused remain in custody. The gang’s leader, an ethnic Arab born in St. Petersburg, changed his name given at birth into a Russian one due to his racist and nationalist beliefs in 2002, and as investigators allege, in 2012 established a criminal gang ensnaring his acquaintances, including underage school and college students, who shared his beliefs, in order to commit crimes involving violence and violation of national and human dignity of people native to Caucasus and Asia.
© RAPSI - Russian Legal Information Agency

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Britain to keep key EU anti-racism laws after leaving bloc

5/8/2016- Britain says it will retain key parts of European Union anti-racism laws after leaving the bloc. Britons voted narrowly to quit the EU in June. Anti-EU campaigners frequently cited EU legislation on a wide variety of issues as a reason to leave. British officials sought Friday to reassure a Geneva-based United Nations anti-racism panel that EU law “is fully applicable” while the United Kingdom is still a member. Delegate Ian Naysmith told the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that “important elements of EU legislation have been transposed into U.K. law and will remain U.K. law even after departure from the European Union.” Britain will also remain a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, overseen by the Council of Europe, a body independent of the EU.
© The Associated Press

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UKIP ‘on brink of imploding’ after frontrunner blocked from leadership election

The UK Independence Party is in disarray amid claims of a “coup” – with a spate of resignations after the party’s leadership frontrunner was blocked from the election.

3/8/2016- Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader for a third time last month in the wake of the EU referendum, promising to walk away from the role for good. The planned leadership contest has already been marred by controversy, after a last-minute rule change by the executive that requires all leadership candidates to have been a UKIP member for several years – excluding many of the senior UKIP figures mooted for the position. Today the party’s executive also voted to expel leadership frontrunner Steven Woolfe from the race, as he submitted his nominations forms 17 minutes late. The decision has shaken the party, with supporters of Woolfe accusing execs led by MP Douglas Carswell and Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton of masterminding a “coup” in the party.

Six candidates have been approved for the leadership election: MEPs Jonathan Arnott, Bill Etheridge and Diane James, local councillor Lisa Duffy, and activists Elizabeth Jones and Phillip Broughton (who hold no elected office). At least three members of the party’s NEC have already resigned in protest. Arron Banks, the party’s largest donor, branded the move the “last straw”, hinting that he could pull his support from the party and warning it could be “finished”. He said: “We have been looking at whether a new party should start, which bits we might want to keep and what is the best way of doing things.” Michael McGough, one of the NEC members to resign, told the BBC: “If we don’t get this right, we don’t get a competent leader who’s comfortable with the media, the party could be finished. “It’s life or death now and that’s why I’ve taken such a strong decision to leave the NEC. “Because we need reform and we need it now so that we are ready to fight the next general election and the local elections next year where we’re supposed to do quite well.”

Raheem Kassam, Nigel Farage’s former chief of staff, said he would “declare full-scale war on UKIP, using all the assets and sources at my disposal to topple the Tory establishment that is trying to take over the party”. Leaked internal vetting documents earlier this year showed the party had knowingly let a number of people flagged as having homophobic views stand as UKIP candidates.
© The Pink News

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UK: What kind of school punishes a hungry child? (opinion)

Poverty and hunger go hand in hand. The head who puts pupils in ‘lunch isolation’ over unpaid bills is making a bad situation far, far worse
By Jack Monroe


2/8/2016- Michaela community school in Wembley was widely criticised last week for placing children in “isolation” because their parents were late with lunch payments. The lunches are compulsory, with parents being charged £75 upfront for each six-week period. Fall even a week behind, and you may be warned that your child faces “lunch isolation”, where “they will receive a sandwich and a piece of fruit only”. That’s not counting the side order of segregation and humiliation. The child will spend the whole 60 minutes away from their friends, and “only when the entire outstanding amount is paid in full will they be allowed into ‘family lunch’ with their classmates”. “A sandwich is fine – at least the child is being fed,” you might think. But a sandwich is not “fine”. The School Food Plan, by Leon founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, states that only 1% of packed lunches, which typically comprise a sandwich and snacks, meet the nutritional requirements for school meals. It is easier to get nutrients into a hot meal.

After the story broke, Michaela’s headteacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, insisted she was not punishing children for being poor: the sanction didn’t apply to pupils receiving free school meals (more than one in five of those at the school) or whose families had money problems. The problem was the small number of families who were “playing the system”, “trying to get other poor families to pay for their child’s food” and “betraying their children”. We have heard these accusations before. Back in 2013, Lord Freud claimed that food bank users were simply abusing a free facility, thus demonstrating his lack of understanding of the obstacles between a hungry mother and a food bank parcel. A willingness to seek help, for example. Swallowed pride. A referral from a doctor or social worker. Perhaps the bus fare to the nearest centre, with children in tow.

Conservative voices have repeated, again and again, the lie that children go hungry because of feckless parents. Even Jamie Oliver got in on the act in a misjudged claim that parents spent their money on “chips and cheese” and “massive fucking TVs” instead of feeding their children properly. Birbalsingh states that there are only “three families in the whole of the school” whose children are in lunch isolation. She may have meant this as mitigation, but what business does not have a few hundred pounds in reserve for anomalies and emergencies? What responsible institution prioritises £2.50 a day over the wellbeing of young people? Sod it, I’ll settle the outstanding £225 myself, if it means the children can rejoin their peers and have a decent meal, and go into their afternoon lessons nourished, confident and ready to learn. I’d want to do it face to face, so I can meet Birbalsingh and see what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It’s definitely not the case that every child living in poverty is eligible for free school lunches. The welfare safety net is so patchy that in dozens of boroughs across London and the south-east, almost two-thirds of poor families do not meet the criteria. Many families teeter on the edges, not qualifying for the little support on offer, unwilling to seek it for fear of drawing attention to a household barely holding the pieces together, or hit by unexpected bills. Imagine your freezer breaking down with no insurance to replace it. Imagine a larger-than-usual phone bill from calling the job centre or benefits agencies. Imagine being asked for £75 upfront when your weekly food shop is around a tenner, knowing your child will be humiliated if you do not comply. Around one-third of jobs in Wembley are low paid – either minimum wage or slightly above. The average rent is 75% of average earnings. Almost one in five households are overcrowded.

Children going hungry is not a new problem. One former primary school teacher got in touch with me last week to say they had found a 10-year-old boy stealing sweets from the classroom desk a few years beforehand. When asked why, he said that neither he nor his eight-year-old sister had eaten for three days. The teacher took them to the canteen and insisted they were given a free meal. Last year, nearly one-third of parents on a low income skipped at least one meal to feed their children. Food bank use is still rising, with an average of three opening every week up and down the country. Demand increases in the holidays, as parents who relied on school to provide hot, nutritious lunches for their child now need to provide another five meals a week. According to the Trussell Trust, more than one in three emergency food parcels go to children.

Schools don’t have to make things worse. A primary school teacher in Norfolk emailed me to say: “We would never see a child punished for not having lunch money. Some of our children are hungry when they turn up to school, so we find them some food, normally fruit and toast. We keep milk in stock for children who were receiving it free in key stage 1 [years one and two] and who have moved into key stage 2 [years three to six] without an improvement to their family circumstances.” Nikki, whose children go to Crookfur primary school in Scotland, said that in the case of missed or late payments for school meals: “Our school continues to feed the child as normal. They understand that it is not the fault of the child.”

St Helena School in Colchester, Essex, is an academy school for children aged 11 to 16. When I visited earlier this year, the headteacher, Zoe King, explained that all pupils, regardless of family circumstances, receive free school meals. These are paid for by renting out school facilities in the holidays. There is no “top table” for staff; instead teachers sit with pupils, and everyone eats together. Sounds a world away from being shut away to chew on a sandwich, doesn’t it? The contrast between the two schools is clearly summed by the front pages of their websites. Michaela’s proudly proclaims: “Boris Johnson Loves Michaela!” St Helena’s? “We want each child to be happy.”
© Comment is free - Guardian
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UK: Homophobic killer stabbed gay student to death

Lee Arnold admitted murdering William Lound in an attack which was also labelled transphobic but the judge and pleaded for a quick sentence to prevent his victim's family from suffering any more pain

1/8/2016- A man who murdered a student in a homophobic and transphobic knife attack and then scrawled a chilling message on his bedroom wall has been jailed for life. Lee Arnold wrote the message on the bedroom all of William Lound's halls of residence apartment after slashing and stabbing the 30-year-old just moments after the two had sex. Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard how Arnold had wanted to get William naked so he would be at his "most vulnerable" after becoming incensed by him. After admitting the horrific crime, Arnold, 37, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 23 years and four months. As the savage knifeman was caged his victim's distraught mother told the court how she did not blame him for the death of her son and instead claimed "the system" was the reason William, 30, was no longer alive. Maureen Lound told Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court: "I don't blame Arnold, I blame the system. He should not have been allowed to roam the streets unsupervised."

In a tragic twist, Mr Lound's younger sister Virginia "Gini", 28, took her own life as a consequence of her brother's murder a matter of months after his death. Judge Potter paid tribute to the "courage and bravery" Mrs Lound had shown, adding, "I admire her strength and fortitude with moving forward with her life despite what she has had to bear. "It takes a remarkable and especially courageous person who says that she bears no malice to the person who killed her son." Killer Arnold, who had sex with his victim before the killing, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had been released back into the community following a number of prison terms - but had made repeated warnings he was going to hurt someone. In passing sentence, Judge John Potter said: "This was a brutal, pre-meditated sustained attack with a weapon upon a vulnerable and defenseless man. "There is, in my judgement, evidence that your victim was murdered as a consequence of his sexual orientation."

The court was told that Mr Lound - who was gay and would occasionally wear women's clothing and make-up - had been killed at his halls of residence on Cannon Street in Salford, Greater Manchester, on February 7, 2016. Arnold then scrawled on the wall "your (sic) not reddy (sic) for me. I always win. Tick tock", with an arrow pointing at Mr Lound's body before admitting the crime to a PCSO and police officer the following day. Mr Lound had suffered 12 stab wounds to his head, neck and back. The court was told the knife had remained in situ after the final stabbing through his neck. His mother, reading a victim impact statement to the court, said: "I bear no malice towards Arnold. He appears to be a very sick man, for his safety and others he should be cared for in a secure unit." The court heard Mr Lound had come by Arnold whilst visiting the tented village in London Road in Manchester close to Piccadilly Station, where he had found the people to be "less judgemental of his lifestyle, habits and attitudes".

Arnold - who thought Mr Lound "was a weirdo" - had believed his victim had witnessed him attacking another man and had wanted to get him "alone and vulnerable", the court was told. Mr Lound, who had been awarded a Chancellor's Scholarship to read for a computer science degree at Salford University and described as "very trusting and would only see the best in people", had agreed for Arnold to use the shower at his accommodation. At the flat, Arnold threatened to kill Mr Lound and took a knife to his throat, telling him to stay away from the tented village after calling him "weird" and a "freak". The following day on February 6, and dressed in women's clothing, Mr Lound returned to the area, which "incensed" Arnold, who had been on police bail for stealing a mobile phone. Mr Hall added: "Lee Arnold thought that this was Mr Lound disrespecting him and his orders. "To make matters worse he was wearing women's clothing. Lee Arnold then decided he was going to murder William Lound."

He was to persuade his victim to take him back to his flat, where Arnold had sex with him, in order to "get him naked and at his most vulnerable" before telling him he was going for a shower. Instead, he took a seven-inch serrated knife and climbed on top of Mr Lound and stabbed him six times in his back as he repeatedly asked: "Why are you doing this, why me?", to which Arnold replied, "shut up you little freak". Detective Superintendent Simon Retford, from GMP's serious crime division, said: "This was a horrific murder of a young man whose only mistake was to trust and try to help the wrong person. "Lee Arnold used William's kind heart and good nature to gain his trust and then stabbed him to death. "I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the LGBT community that I do not believe this was a case of Arnold randomly attacking somebody from within that community. "Sadly, it appears that he and William had previously met, which ended up leading to his tragic death."
© The Mirror

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UK: Far right boss found guilty under old law

The leader of far right extremist group Britain First has vowed to hold more anti-Islamic protests after escaping jail for wearing a ‘political uniform’.

1/8/3016- Paul Golding, 34, was prosecuted for wearing a green fleece and black beanie hat which featured his group’s logo during a protest in a predominately Muslim area of Luton in January. He walked free from court in the town on Friday with a £450 fine and said: “Let the fun and games begin. You can expect more and more protests in Luton as a result.” Golding was arrested after a heated confrontation during a protest in the Bury Park area of the Bedfordshire town on January 23. Many of the area’s Muslim residents were upset and Golding was arrested and charged under Public Order Act 1936 for wearing a political uniform. The law forbids radical groups openly wearing clothes that blatantly identify with extremist politics.

Prosecutor Michael Gallacher said: “Residents recognised the uniform and found it quite intimidating and as a result there was various abuse towards the group, which got quite heated. “He is known as the leader of the group, which makes him more culpable.” Golding, of Luton, pleaded guilty to the offence but his lawyer Richard Hawgood told the court: “He saw it as engaging in normal political activity and not direct action. “His part in the protest is pretty benign. He had also made overtures to calm the situation and cooperated with the police when they arrived.” The Public Order Act 1936 was passed primarily to curb the activities of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. It has been rarely used recently and Golding is believed to be the first person convicted under it in decades.
© Luton Today

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UK: Far right targets Muslim women in Facebook hate campaigns

In hundreds of postings Islamophobes spread hate speech to foster violence against UK's Muslims.

28/7/2016- Islamophobes are targeting Muslim women in online hate campaigns, according to a new study. A Birmingham City University study examined hundreds of Facebook pages, posts and comments as part of an extensive survey of the spread of anti-Islam hate speech online, including those associated with far right groups Britain First and the English Defence league. They found 500 instances of Islamophobic abuse, in which Muslims were branded terrorists and rapists, alleged to be waging "war" on non-Muslims, and in which calls made for Muslims to be deported, as part of a campaign to "incite violence and prejudicial action." Women wearing Islamic dress are branded a "security threat." There is evidence of the hatred spilling into attacks and real life abuse, with a 326% surge in Islamophobic incidents recorded last year, and more than half of the victims women.

Researcher Imran Awan said that the recent murder of MP Jo Cox and the surge of racist attacks in the wake of the Brexit vote showed the urgency of tackling online hate speech. "What is has shown is that the far right and those with links and sympathies with the far right were using Facebook and social media to in effect portray Muslims in a very bad and negative fashion," Awan said. "After Brexit people have felt much more empowered and confident to come and target Muslims and others in racist hate attacks. This was all playing on social media but no one looked at it. If Facebook had been monitoring this racism, then I'm not saying they could have stopped the racist attacks, but it certainly could have given them an insight into the racist people using their platforms." Online abuse surged after events such as the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamic extremists in 2013, or the sex abuse cases in Rotherham, according to the study.

It found that 80% of the abuse was carried out by men, who singled out Muslim women for attacks, with 76 posts portraying women wearing the niqab or hijab as a "security threat." The next most frequent form of abuse called for Muslims to be deported, with 62 instances recorded. It identifies five kinds of online Islamophobe, from the 'producers' and 'distributers' seeking to create "a climate of fear, anti-Muslim hate and online hostility," to the 'opportunists' who will spread anti-Muslim hate speech in response to a specific incident, such as atrocities committed by terrorist group Isis. Also responsible are 'deceptives', who will concoct rumours and false stories to whip up Islamophobic hatred, such as the rumour Muslims wanted to ban cartoon character Peppa Pig, and 'fantasists', who fantasise about Islamophobic violence and make direct threats against Muslim communities.
On Tuesday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the launch of a campaign to combat hate crime in the UK, with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to review the way hate crimes are reported and investigated by police in England and Wales. It comes with more than 6,000 hate crimes recorded by police in the wake of the 23 June EU Referendum. The Muslim Council of Britain recorded 100 crimes in the weekend after the referendum. Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA found a 326 increase in Islamophobic incidents last year, with Muslim women "disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemongers." "We have known that visible Muslim women are the ones targeted at a street level, but what we also have seen in Tell MAMA, is the way that Muslim women who are using social media platforms, are targeted for misogynistic and anti-Muslim speech.

In particular, there is a mix of sexualisation and anti-Muslim abuse that is intertwined which also hints at perceptions and attitudes towards women in our society," said Tell MAMA director Fiyaz Mughal. "We are also aware from our work in Tell MAMA, that the perpetrators age range has dropped significantly from 15-35 to 13-18 showing that anti-Muslim hate in particular is drawing in and building a younger audience which is daunting for the future. We need to redouble our efforts if we are to have social cohesion in our society and we also need to ensure that women feel protected and confident enough to report in such hate incidents."

Facebook needs to do more to tackle race hatred
Facebook recently signed up to a new European Union code of conduct obliging it to remove hate speech from its European sites within 24 hours. Awan said that UK authorities and Facebook needed to do more to combat the problem. "I think police have a really tough job in the sense that in my understanding it is like finding a needle in a virtual haystack, and they are not clued up enough. I don't think they have enough training to look at social media posts, police need to be trained on what to look at," he said. A College of Policing spokesman said: ""We are working with the Crown Prosecution Service, partners and police forces to raise awareness and improve the policing response to hate crime. This will ensure offenders can be bought to justice and evidence of their hostility can be used to support enhanced sentencing. "The College has developed training for police forces to issue to officers and staff and published Authorised Professional Practice, which is national guidance, for those responding to hate crime.

"In addition, more than £500,000 has been awarded to the University of Sussex and the Metropolitan Police through the Police Knowledge Fund to pilot a study that will examine the relationship between discussions of hate crime on social media and data relating to hate crime that has been recorded by police. The fund allows officers to develop their skills, build their knowledge and expertise about what works in policing and crime reduction, and put it into practice." Facebook says that it will not tolerate content that directly attacks other directly based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition, and its policies try to strike the right balance between giving people the freedom to express themselves and maintaining a safe and trusted environment. It said it has rules and tools people can use to report content that they find offensive. IBTimes UK has contacted Facebook for comment.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Austria’s right-wing presidential candidate takes the lead

1/8/2016- A Gallup poll ahead of October’s repeat election for the Austrian presidency suggests that the anti-Islam and Eurosceptic Freedom Party (FPO) candidate, Norbert Hofer, could become the first far-right head of state in a European Union country. As reported by the Reuters news agency, Hofer lost by a whisker in May to former Greens party leader Alexander van der Bellen in an election that Austria’s constitutional court this month ordered re-run given vote count irregularities. But the poll, which was published by the Oesterreich newspaper on July 31 showed the midpoint of the wide range of support for Hofer at 52% – one point higher than a poll in early July found – versus 48% for van der Bellen. The poll also showed that more than half (57%) of the 600 respondents cited Hofer’s personality as the most important factor, followed by “protection from terror” at 56% and “more stringent asylum policy” at 55%. The FPO, with record-high 35% support, has taken the lead from the governing coalition partners: the Social Democrats (25%) and conservative People’s Party (19%), the poll showed.
© New Europe

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Turkey spars with Austria over racism claims

Turkey's top diplomat escalated on Friday a war of words with Austria, calling it the "capital of radical racism" after Vienna urged an end to Ankara's EU membership talks.

5/8/2016- "Racism is an enemy of human rights and humanitarian values and the Austrian chancellor should first look at his own country," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told TGRT news channel. "Austria is the capital of radical racism," he said. Cavusoglu was reacting to comments made by Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern who said Turkey was unfit to join the European Union in the aftermath of the July 15 attempted coup by a rogue faction within the military. "We have to face reality: the membership negotiations are currently no more than fiction," Kern told the Die Presse newspaper in comments published on Thursday. Cavusoglu blasted Kern's "ugly" comments.

Turkey has already faced much criticism and delay in its bid to join the EU which could face further issues after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's suggestion last month that he may reintroduce the death penalty following the failed putsch. Cavusoglu said he rejected all of Kern's criticisms of Turkey, which included the statement that Ankara's democratic standards were "far from sufficient to justify its accession". Reacting on Twitter soon after Cavusoglu made those comments, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz urged his counterpart to "exercise restraint". "I urge the foreign minister to exercise restraint and sharply reject his criticism. Turkey needs to moderate its choice of words and actions," he said in German.

On Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker rejected Vienna's call to end talks over Turkish accession, saying it would be a "serious foreign policy mistake". "I don't think it would be helpful if we were to unilaterally end negotiations with Turkey," Juncker told German public broadcaster ARD. Turkey's EU membership bid dates back to 1963, with its formal application made in 1987 and negotiations starting in 2005.
© The Local - Austria

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Turkey: Gay Syrian man beheaded and mutilated

Muhammed Wisam Sankari was a gay Syrian refugee. He had arrived in Istanbul a year ago. He was threatened, kidnapped, raped. Last week he was found dead in Yenikapi and was stabbed multiple times. Wisam’s friends identified him by his pants.

4/8/2016- Syrian gay refugee Muhammed Wisam Sankari left his house in Aksaray on the night of 23 July. He was found dead in Yenikapi on 25 July. He was beheaded and his body mutilated beyond identification. Wisam’s killers have not been caught. Wisam, who was previously threatened, kidnapped by a crowded group of men, and raped, was trying to go to another country as a refugee because his life was in danger. After the murder, we listened to Wisam’s housemates Rayan, Diya and Gorkem tell us about what Wisam went through, what it is like to be an LGBTI refugee in Turkey, and the problems refugees face. They spoke to KaosGL.org about the murder that was so clearly in the making, how the authorities did not take any preventive measures, and their anxieties about “who is next”.

“We complained to the Police HQ, they did not do anything”
Rayan, who has known Wisam for a year, says “He was feeling very insecure recently. When we asked him, he would not tell us much” and explains that Wisam had been threatened and kidnapped before. He said they had difficulties even walking on the streets of Aksaray where they lived and where crowded male groups wielding knives had threatened them several times, saying they wanted to rape them. According to Rayan, Wisam experienced the following: “We were staying in a different house before and we had to leave that house just because we are gay. People around would constantly stare at us. We did not do anything immoral? About five months ago, a group kidnapped Wisam in Fatih. They took him to a forest, beat him and raped him. They were going to kill him but Wisam saved himself by jumping at the road. We complained to the Police Headquarters but nothing happened.”

“We identified him from his pants”
Gorkem is also Wisam’s friend and he was among the people who went to identify the body after Wisam was killed. Gorkem tells the story of Wisam’s disappearance and the news of his death in tears: “That night Wisam left the house. We were already anxious because of the threats. We told him not to go but he said he was going out for 15-20 minutes. He didn’t come home all night. The next day, we panicked when we couldn’t reach him. We went to the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM). They directed us to Fatih Police Headquarters. We did not even know how to get there or what to say. “On Sunday police called us. We went to Yenikapi with Rayan. They had cut Wisam violently. So violent that two knives had broken inside him. They had beheaded him. His upped body was beyond recognition, his internal organ were out. We could identify our friend from his pants.”

“Who is next?”
Diya says they live in fear and with the thought of “who is next” following Wisam’s death and says they are afraid to go out on the street: “I am so scared. I feel like everyone is staring at me on the street. I was kidnapped twice before. They let me go in Cerkezkoy and I barely got home one time. I went to the UN for my identification but they did not even respond to that. No one cares about us. They just talk. I get threats over the phone. I speak calmly so something does not happen. It does not matter if you are Syrian or Turkish, if you are gay you are everyone’s target. They want sex from you and when you don’t they just tag along. I don’t have identification, who would protect me? Who is next?” Rayan criticizes ASAM and the United Nations. “What’s the use of them doing anything after Wisam is killed? Our friend is dead,” and adds: “ASAM and the UN don’t do anything for us. We can only protect ourselves. We stay together to protect ourselves. We cannot get any information or answers. Just talk… ASAM called us after Wisam’s death. After his death… What’s the point? A very pure and good person is gone from this world.”
© Kaos GL

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Turkey threatens to scrap migrant deal with EU, again

1/8/2016- Turkey has threatened to scrap a migrant swap deal with the EU unless it waives visas, amid a sudden upsurge of Aegean sea crossings into Greece. Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would no longer abide by the deal should the EU fail to lift short-term visa restrictions on Turks. "If visa liberalisation does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back [refugees] and the agreement of 18 March," he told Germany's daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung over the weekend. Cavusoglu said the waivers should ideally be introduced in October. Once granted, it would allow Turkish nationals to visit any of the passport-free Schengen states without a visa. The March agreement was designed to stop migrants, mostly from Syria, from crossing from Turkey into Greece. In exchange, Syrian refugees in Turkey are set to receive €3 billion in EU humanitarian aid. Both sides also agreed to speed up EU membership talks and allow Turks visa-free travel in Schengen countries. Thousands were arriving on the Greek islands on a daily basis at the height of the crisis last year. Those numbers dropped to double figures following the March deal.

'Constant and apparently increasing flow'
But reports are emerging of an increase in crossings since last month's failed attempt to overthrow Turkey's autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Greek authorities are raising the alarm over a “constant and apparently increasing flow” of people making the crossings. Over 1,000 have crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands since the military coup attempt on 15 July. The islands are now hosting some 9,400 men, women, and children who are seeking asylum - including eight Turkish soldiers. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is also worried. He told an Austrian daily Kurier on Friday that the "risk is great" the agreement with Turkey would fail. "The success of the pact so far is fragile. President Erdogan has several times hinted he wants to terminate the agreement,” he said. The EU commission had in the wake of the coup said it would abide by the visa waiver plan. Lifting the restriction would first require lawmakers in Ankara to rewrite an anti-terrorism law. The EU says the law's definition of terrorism is too broad and allows authorities to target journalists and opposition MPs. Turkey's prime minister Binali Yıldırım in June said Ankara would not budge on the legislation. "Amendments to the anti-terror law under these conditions are out of question for us, even if changes would lead to visa exemptions being granted,” he had said at the time.

Ankara continues purge
But the failed coup on 15 July has since seen tens of thousands people swept up in a government-led purge. Charities, teachers, university deans, and top military brass among others have been forced to resign or detained. Last week, Ankara announced it would shut down three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers and 15 magazines. It also issued arrest warrants for 47 journalists and media executives. Up to 35,000 people, mostly Turks, rallied in German city of Cologne on Saturday to demonstrate their support of Erdogan.
© The EUobserver

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Ukraine: Two myths about nationalism and anti-Semitism

By Taras Kuzio

1/8/2016- During the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, many observers have commented on strains of nationalism, xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in the country. But unfortunately, these comments have often missed the mark. How identity and prejudice shape Ukrainian politics is far more complicated than is commonly depicted. It is particularly important to understand these questions now. We are in the middle of a U.S. presidential election in which Donald Trump has praised Vladimir Putin and raised questions about whether he might reverse U.S. opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and recognize its annexation of the Crimea. I have conducted 15 research trips to eastern and southern Ukraine, including time visiting the front lines of the conflicts in the Donbas and Crimea regions. Based on this research, I can debunk two myths about nationalism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

Myth #1: Ukraine has extraordinarily high levels of anti-Semitism.
Jewish monitors of anti-Semitism in Ukraine find levels of physical and media attacks against Jews to be very low in Ukraine in comparison with Europe and Russia. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman is Jewish, as are many oligarchs. Moreover, one of the most nationalist forces in Ukrainian politics — the far-right Svoboda (Freedom) Party — has had little success. Like all far-right parties in Ukraine, Svoboda has been unpopular. Emerging from the neo-Nazi Social National Party in the 1990s, it was briefly in power in the Galician region of western Ukraine and gained seats in parliament only once — in 2012 — when it received protest votes against the authoritarian regime of Viktor Yanukovych. Svoboda has had much less success than many other populist nationalist and neo-Nazi parties throughout Europe. This is not to suggest that there is no anti-Semitism in Ukraine, as I discuss below. But Ukraine fares well in comparison to many other countries.

Myth #2: The anti-Semitism that does exist in Ukraine exists only among the right wing.
It’s a common mistake to focus only on Svoboda and the far right. Nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiments are present not only on the right wing, but on the left wing, too. For example, you see nationalism among “Sovietophile” forces like Communists, Russian nationalists, or the Party of Regions, who supported Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars in 1944. The Tatar annual commemoration of this act as “genocide” has been banned by Russian occupation authorities in the Crimea, who have closed down Tatar organizations and media outlets, deported or arrested leaders and murdered activists. Moreover, anti-Semitism in Ukraine appears to be most prevalent in the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, not the western regions where Svoboda has more influence. These two separatist republics, which declared their independence from Ukraine in May 2014, are kept afloat financially, economically and militarily by Russia through a shadow government. Russian anti-Semitism in these republics is a response to the support given by the country’s Jewish minority to the Euromaidan and Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

For example, Sergei Aksyonov, leader of the neo-Nazi Russian Unity party, was installed as prime minister by Russian occupation forces in the Crimea. His anti-Semitic and homophobic political forces believe the Crimea is part of Russia, Ukraine belongs in the Russian world, Ukrainians are “Little Russians” and the Ukrainian language is a dialect of Russian. In the Donbas conflict, “internationalist” volunteers from France, Italy, Serbia, Hungary and as far away as Brazil mingle with Russian neo-Nazis and Cossacks. But these volunteers also include those from the extreme left who have come to fight “NATO,” “U.S. imperialism” and “Ukrainian fascism.” In Europe the far left and far right are united in their anti-Americanism, antagonism toward the European Union and NATO and love of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

And some volunteers appear to be bringing anti-Semitism into the Ukrainian conflict. In Donetsk and Luhansk, separatist political leaders accuse the Ukrainian leadership of being Jews who have Slavicized their names. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is allegedly hiding his real Jewish name of “Valtsman,” for instance. Ukraine’s foremost expert on anti-Semitism, Vyacheslav Likhachev, has concluded there is a “high level of anti-Semitism in the public discourse” of the Donbas separatists. He added that “anti-Semitism has long become an important component of the official ideology of the puppet regimes declared on the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, occupied by Russia.” As a result, much of the Jewish population in these regions has fled to other parts of Ukraine, fearing official anti-Zionism (camouflaged anti-Semitism), an influx of Russian Cossacks and neo-Nazis to fight on the separatist side, and lawlessness and economic breakdown.

What does this mean for Ukraine?
Debunking these myths helps us better understand how nationalism and anti-Semitism actually operate in Ukraine. It’s not just a story about the far right, even though politicians and scholars often focus on far-right forces. Rather than focus on Svoboda and its kindred, politicians and scholars must also understand the pro-Soviet, Pan-Slavic and Russian nationalists who are especially prevalent in the Crimea, Odessa and Donbas. For example, although Anton Shekhovtsov keeps track of these disparate Russian nationalist, fascist and neo-Nazi groups fighting for the separatist cause, we know relatively little about how these groups impact Ukrainian politics. And these forces have been anti-Maidan, occasionally separatist and always Ukrainophobic. They strongly oppose European integration, believe Ukraine is a natural part of the Russian world and feel strongly that Ukrainians and Russians are, as Putin has repeatedly said, “odyn narod” (one people). These forces are clearly important not only to Ukrainian politics, but to how Western countries, and a newly elected American president, must approach the region.

Taras Kuzio is a senior research fellow at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, and author of “Ukraine. Democratization, Corruption and the New Russian Imperialism” (2015).
© The Washington Post.

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Germany: Rostock halts asylum home plans over far-right fears

Concerns about far-right violence have prompted the northern German city of Rostock to stop construction plans for a new asylum home meant for families.

5/8/2016- The city of Rostock said this week that plans to build a new asylum home for families have been cancelled after repeated protests against refugees and other conflicts in recent weeks. The decision was based on risk assessment by the local police considering racist violence. In July, a home for unaccompanied refugee children between the ages of seven and 17 had to be evacuated due to far-right protests, according to Spiegel. The children were then housed in other accommodation around the city. Some said the city gave into right-wing violence too easily. "It is incomprehensible why the city capitulated so quickly," Wolfgang Richter of the group GGP Rostock, which was working to support the cancelled refugee home, told Spiegel. Green politician Torsten Sohn said that bullying and racist violence seemed to have won.

More than two decades ago in 1992, the city saw violent xenophobic riots break out as people threw stones and petrol bombs at the homes of asylum seekers, who at that time came mainly from Romania. The riots resulted in hundreds of arrests. Since the influx of people coming mainly from war-torn Syria and Iraq to seek asylum from Germany, the country has seen a rise in extremist violence from the far-right, with attacks on asylum homes increasing by a factor of five between 2014 and 2015. Rostock social senator Steffen Bockhahn told Die Zeit that although the decision to stop the construction of the home "hurt" him, he felt first and foremost responsible for the safety of young people. "For me this was a matter of instructions," Bockhahn said. "The interior ministry is responsible for safety."
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Anti-Semitic NPD ex-mayor's acquittal slammed as 'scandalous'

Saxony-Anhalt's highest court is under fire for a precedent-setting lenient sentence on a former mayor convicted of Holocaust denial. The far-right politician from former East Germany remains unapologetic.

3/8/2016- Historians and a prominent Jewish council are protesting the "scandalous" acquittal announced by an appeals court, which threw out an already lenient financial judgment against a former mayor who wrote blogs questioning Nazi Germany's attempt to exterminate Europe's Jews. Hans Püschel was forced to resign in 2013 as mayor of Krauschwitz, a town of around 600 people, for statements he published on the internet that minimized or denied Nazi crimes. In his writings, he belittled historical accounts of the death toll at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland as "lies" and claimed that it resembled a sports ground equipped with a modern hospital and "60 doctors" for inmates. The German constitution forbids questioning the existence of the Holocaust or praising the Third Reich.

Püschel, 67, is a member of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), an ultranationalist fringe party that skirts the line between legal political discourse and prohibited speech. Previously a longtime member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), he changed his affiliation only in 2010, when he ran for mayoral office as an NPD candidate. Referring to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in central Berlin, Püschel also  suggested: "If we put a thousand hunks of concrete in the middle of Berlin for murdered Jews, then at least 3,000 belong there alongside them for murdered Germans." On the current role of Jews in German society, he wrote of "the dubious to virulent and devastating influence of Jews and Zionism on Germany."

Lead judge had previously overturned NPD convictions
In 2013, a criminal court imposed fines on Püschel totaling 3,000 euros for the offensive writings. The amount was calculated as equivalent to 100 "daily rated fines" of 30 euros ($33.70), in line with the German legal principle intended to levy fines according to earnings and without imposing economic hardship. In 2014, a higher regional court upheld the lower court's 2013 decision. The final decision by the state's highest court overturned the regional court's findings and nullified the penalties. The Saxony-Anhalt court wrote in its judgment that while Püschel had broken the law, it found no evidence that he had "trivialized" the Holocaust in general. In 2011, the lead judge of the court, Gerhard Henss, also overturned the convictions of two other NPD party officials who had made slanderous and defamatory statements. The court refused to answer any questions about the decision, citing judicial independence.

Shock among historians at verdict
The far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is usually described as neo-Nazi. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Die Welt newspaper that the case was alarming given the political climate in which rightist forces are on the rise in Germany and the rest of Europe. He said "attempts to rewrite German history and mock the victims of National Socialism are an unacceptable trivialization of the crimes of the Nazis." Historian Christoph Jahr of Humboldt University in Berlin told the newspaper he could not comprehend the court's sentencing or its "very benevolent tone" in its reasoning. The Holocaust expert said he could only describe the court decision as "scandalous."

Püschel laments his plight of holding unpopular views
In an interview with Die Welt, Püschel said he was not celebrating the verdict, and went on to make further defamatory statements about his displeasure at Jewish participation in German society today. He also lamented the unpleasant consequences of his convictions on his own life. "There is no pleasure when one gets into trouble everywhere - even within his own family - because of his beliefs," he said.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany's far-right AfD claws back some support after attacks

31/7/2016- The anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (Afd) gained support as Germany was hit by a spate of attacks this month, including by Islamist militants, but support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives held steady, a poll showed. Germany remains deeply unsettled after 15 people were killed and dozens wounded in five separate attacks between July 18-July 26. Two were claimed by Islamic State, and three of the attackers were asylum seekers. This has led to accusations that Merkel's open-door refugee policy is to blame, under which over a million migrants, many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, entered Germany in the past year. An Emnid poll for weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag showed support for the AfD rising by 2 percentage points from the prior week to 12 percent. The poll was conducted between July 21 and July 27.

Officials say two of the assailants, a Syrian asylum seeker who blew himself up in Ansbach and a refugee from either Pakistan or Afghanistan who attacked people on a train in southern Germany, had links to Islamist militancy. The death toll of 15 includes four assailants. France also suffered two attacks claimed by Islamic State in July, including one in which a gunman drove a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing at least 84 people. The AfD enjoyed 15 percent support earlier this year and voters turned in droves to the party in three regional elections in March, giving a thumbs down to Merkel's refugee policy. But earlier this month, the AfD, which was founded in 2013 on a eurosceptic platform and then shifted focus to an anti-immigration stance, lapsed into party infighting over what some regional lawmakers called the anti-Semitic views of a colleague.

However, the Emnid poll showed support for Merkel's conservatives and their coalition partners, the left-leaning Social Democrats, was unchanged at 35 percent and 23 percent respectively. The AfD's gains came at the expense of the Greens, support for whom dipped by 1 point to 11 percent, and the far-left Linke, who also suffered a 1 point fall, to 9 percent. Germany is set to hold a federal election in autumn next year. The resilient support for her conservatives is positive news for Merkel, who on Thursday defiantly repeated her "we can do this" mantra on handling the migrant influx into Germany, and vowed not to bend her refugee policy.
© Reuters

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