Newsnews archives
Do You appreciate this service? HELP US to keep it going and DONATE: https://www.pifworld.com/nl/nonprofits/JrlAke6VOTc/magenta/donate

This page is updated almost every day with items from regular news sources.

If you have an item for the news page please send it to us at news@icare.to .
Your news has to be in English. If you have any relevant URL's (webaddresses) where more info about the news you send us can be found, please send those too. Don't forget to add the country where the newsitem originates. For news about Hate Crime, please visit our ICARE HATE CRIME NEWS.

Headlines 9 December, 2016

Headlines 2 December, 2016

News Netherlands, Germany, Austria & UK- Week 48

Headlines 25 November, 2016

PRESIDENTIAL ELCTIONS AUSTRIA

Headlines 18 November, 2016

Headlines 9 December, 2016

EU must address widespread ethnic profiling by police

The European Network against Racism (ENAR), Open Society Justice Initiative and the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup are calling on the European Union to address the urgent challenge of ethnic profiling by police forces across Europe which leads to individuals being singled out for idenntity checks or searches purely because of their race, ethnicity or perceived religion.

6/12/2016- In the United Kingdom, Black people are stopped by police at six times the rate of White people and Asians at almost twice the rate of Whites. In Granada, Spain, Roma are 12 times more likely to be stopped than White people. In Belgium, there has been an increase in ethnic profiling by police of young males of African or north African background since the Brussels and Paris terrorist attacks. These organisations are urging the European Commission led High Level Group on combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance to establish a sub-group of experts on the issue, aimed at developing standards on combatting racial and ethnic bias in policing. These standards should include strong prohibitions against ethnic profiling, the collection of data on police stops, and the provision of appropriate training for police officers.

“Heightened concerns over both migration and the threat of terrorism are fueling discriminatory policing practices,” said Rebekah Delsol, who heads the Justice Initiative’s project on fair and effective policing. “Action at EU level would provide an impetus for change in many settings; changes that are already valued on the streets by those police forces that recognise the importance of this issue.” Amel Yacef, ENAR Chair, said: “Ethnic profiling cannot be an ‘acceptable’ price to pay for security. It damages and alienates innocent individuals, results in tensions between communities and is ultimately an ineffective security strategy. We need European standards to promote fair and effective policing.” “Ethnic profiling on the basis of ethnicity, race, nationality or religion is a discriminatory practice and is a breach of fundamental rights standards,” said Judith Sargentini MEP. “You cannot single out people and the practice must be stopped. Moreover singling people out based on their ethnicity, race, nationality or religion has a counter effect and often erodes trust in our society and trust in law enforcement agencies.”

Though increasingly active in the areas of justice and home affairs, the European Union has so far been reluctant to address the issue of ethnic profiling, claiming it is a national competence. However, national standards on the issue vary wildly: with the exception of police forces in England and Wales, and in some municipalities in Spain, most European member states do not keep records of police stops that do not lead to an arrest. This is also an issue for ethnic and religious minorities when they face intrusive stops, ID checks and searches when they cross internal EU borders. A number of existing EU norms already outlaw racial discrimination, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Framework Decision Against Racism and Xenophobia, and the Race Equality Directive. Developing EU-wide guidelines on ethnic profiling would ensure these norms are implemented in practice.

Background information:
Police, human rights officials and the European Commission will join civil society activists and members of the European Parliament in Brussels today, at 17.30, for discussions on developing EU-wide standards on combating ethnic profiling. The event is being hosted by Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL) Cécile Kyenge (S&D, IT), Afzal Khan (S&D, UK) and Sajjad Karim (ECR, UK). More information
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

Malta: Gay conversion therapy is now illegal

16-year-olds can now apply to change gender on official documents

5/12/2016- Gay conversion therapy has been outlawed, with parliament this evening passing a Bill that criminalises any practice which seeks to change or repress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Bill imposes fines and jail terms for anyone advertising, offering, performing or referring an individual to another person which performs any form of conversion practice. In addition, the Bill affirms that no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort. Earlier this year, a Church position paper had stirred up controversy after its authors had argued that a ban on gay conversion therapy would violate a person’s right to receive treatment from a health professional. Archbishop Charles Scicluna subsequently moved to quell protests against the Church position paper, making it clear that any therapy that went against people's wishes was "a no go".

Gender Identity Act amended
Non-Maltese prisoners and others kept in gender-segregated facilities can now live according to their gender identity, with parliament also passing a Bill recognising their right to self-identify their gender. Amendments to the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act will also allow 16-year-olds to independently request a change in gender on official documents. Previously, the age limit was 18, with minors forced to file an application in court with the approval of their parents or guardians.
© The Times of Malta

up  

Greece: PM slammed over Golden Dawn presence in minister’s island tour

6/12/2016- Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras needs to clarify his position towards a visit to three Aegean border islands by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos that was attended by officials from far-right Golden Dawn, lawmakers from socialist PASOK and centrist Potami told Parliament on Monday. Kammenos – who is also leader of the right-wing governing coalition partner Independent Greeks – toured military facilities on Monday at the southeastern Aegean islands of Kastelorizo, Rho and Strongyli accompanied by high-ranking defense officials and members of Parliament’s defense committee, in a gesture widely seen as expressing support in the wake of comments from Turkish officials questioning Greece’s borders. The visit, however, has raised concern among opposition parties, which see the defense minister’s tactics as grandstanding that could lead to an escalation of tension with Ankara.

PASOK House representative Thanasis Theoharopoulos described the visit to Kastelorizo as a “nationalist-populist gathering,” taking issue with the presence of Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris and other officials from the neo-Nazi party. “The defense minister’s stance on national issues is leading the country down a dangerous path, with the complicity of Alexis Tsipras,” Theoharopoulos said, referring to the leftist PM. “From the start we stressed that public relations stunts over national issues are extremely dangerous, a position that was justified by the shameful – to the country – images of government officials arm-in-arm with Golden Dawn.” “Minister Kammenos is no longer merely farcical, he is becoming dangerous as well,” said Potami chief Stavros Theodorakis. “Patriotic politics has no need of politicians dressed in fatigues and Golden Dawners in civilian clothes.”
© The Kathimerini.

up  

Russian MPs accuse Fifa 17 video game of 'gay propaganda'

Developer EA Sports backed a campaign in the UK to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football

5/12/2016- Russian MPs have asked the state communications oversight agency to take action against the Fifa 17 video game for violating the country’s law against gay propaganda. Communist MPs sent a letter to the communications oversight and state consumer protection agencies complaining that the popular EA Sports football game, which is rated all ages, “invites users to support the English football premier league’s Rainbow Laces action, a massive campaign in support of LGBT”, Izvestia newspaper reported. According to the 2013 law, such propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations can cause “harm to children’s health and development”, the letter said. The UK-based LGBT rights group Stonewall began the Rainbow Laces campaign last month to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football, noting that 72% of fans had heard anti-LGBT remarks at games over the past five years.

Premier League matches and social media platforms have featured materials from the campaign. EA Sports also backed the campaign by allowing Fifa 17 players to obtain free rainbow-coloured uniforms for their virtual footballers in the game’s ultimate team mode. This action expired on 28 November.Nonetheless, parliamentarians suggested Fifa 17 could be banned in Russia. United Russia MP Irina Rodnina, a former figure skater who won three Olympic gold medals for the Soviet Union, told Izvestia that the authorities needed to “verify the possibility of distributing this game on the territory of the Russian Federation”. “Every state has its internal laws and order; they need to be obeyed,” she said. Communist MP Valery Rashkin told Izvestia that, following the investigation, the authorities should order the game’s developer, EA Canada, to “introduce changes to the programming code or the age classification of this information product, and if it refuses, adopt corresponding restrictive measures”.

In October, the communications oversight agency blacklisted the website of Deti 404, a group that posts messages of support by and for LGBT teenagers. Communist MPs introduced legislation in 2015 to fine or jail anyone who comes out or speaks of their homosexuality in public.
© The Guardian.

up  

Croatia: Fascist Slogan Near Concentration Camp Sparks Anger

Serb politicians have condemned a memorial plaque with a fascist slogan which was installed by Croatian war veterans and right-wing politicians near the Jasenovac WWII concentration camp.

5/12/2016- Serb politicians in Croatia and Serbia on Sunday strongly criticised former members of the Croatian Defence Forces, HOS, and right-wing politicians for installing a memorial plaque with the Croatian World War II fascist Ustasa slogan ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) near the site of the former Ustasa concentration camp at Jasenovac. Croatian weekly newspaper Novosti reported on Friday that the politicians and an association of former HOS fighters installed the plaque with its legally registered coat of arms, which includes the ‘Za dom spremni’ slogan, in November in the Jasenovac municipality, near the former concentration camp. The plaque veterans commemorates 11 fighters from the HOS’s ‘Ante Paradzik’ company who died during the 1990s war.

Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin said the incident was part of a “process of awakening of fascism in Croatia which has lasted for years”. “It is clear that no Serb can see such news without deep sadness and without feeling disgusted, ashamed as a human being,” Vulin said on Sunday. “Will we allow the darkest, most terrible forces that have ever existed in this region to return?” he asked. Croatian MP Milorad Pupovac, a leader of the country’s Serb minority, said that that a month had passed since the plaque was installed and there had been no reaction from senior Croatian officials, the police or the state attorney’s office. “To date, none of the representatives of the relevant authorities responsible for the [state’s] constitutionality (Croatia is a successor to the State Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Croatia) and legality (the ban on showing and glorifying Nazi insignia, and insulting the victims of genocide) have reacted. No one,” Pupovac wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Pupovac asked sarcastically if “the tolerance of insults and the denial of the victims of death camps like Jasenovac” would become the focus of the annual commemoration at the Jasenovac site. Julija Kos, a retired librarian from the Jewish community in Zagreb, whose relatives were killed in the camp responded with a long letter in which she called on President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic to take action over the plaque. “You [Plenkovic] won the elections by attracting moderate voters of different orientations, and you consciously sacrificed some of the [right-wing] ‘hawks’ in your [party’s] ranks - was it just an election trick? Is that only an external gloss, but under that there is… still a rotten extreme right?” Kos wrote in the letter. However, controversial former culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic told regional TV network N1 that ‘Za dom spremni’ was engraved on the plaque as part of the legally-registered HOS coat of arms.

Hasanbegovic rejected suggestions that it was similar to engraving ‘Sieg Heil’ near the site of the Auschwitz death camp, and insisted that the plaque was not even near the former Jasenovac camp. “You can’t identify [the municipality] with the memorial area. Imagine the whole place being burdened by the crimes. Jasenovac is a town,” he said. The HOS was founded in 1991 at the beginning of the war in Croatia as a paramilitary unit and the military wing of the far-right Croatian Party of Rights, then integrated into the regular Croatian Army in 1992. Under the rule of the Nazi-aligned Independent State of Croatia between 1941 and 1945, Serbs, Jews and Roma were persecuted under racial laws modelled on those of Nazi Germany. According to research by the Jasenovac Memorial Site, 83,145 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists were identified on the name-by-name list of those who died at the concentration camp during the war, a figure which is not final.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Dutch prime minister says migrant boats should be sent back to Africa

5/12/2016- Prime minister Mark Rutte has called for migrant boats intercepted off the coast of Italy to be towed back to safe countries in northern Africa. Speaking at a conference of European Liberal parties in Warsaw on Saturday, Rutte said: ‘European ships currently pick up migrants and bring them to Italy. That is a ferry service. We have to pick them up and bring them back to Africa.’ In the question-and-answer session afterwards, the prime minister said he wants to make agreements with countries like Egypt and Morocco along the lines of the deal made with Turkey in March, the Volkskrant reported. The funding would come from existing European development aid funds, he said. Leiden university migration specialist Jorrit Rijpma told the paper the implementation of Rutte’s plan would be ‘very difficult’. ‘As soon as you pick up a boat with migrants, you are responsible for them,’ he said. In 2012, the European Court in Strasbourg banned the return of boats to northern Africa without an individual assessment of each migrant.

Elites
Rutte also told the conference that European politicians need to start listening to their citizens again. ‘Too often, the elites in Europe say “the people don’t understand”. But that is not the case,’ broadcaster NOS quotes him as saying. ‘You don’t understand.’ European politicians should stop striving for further European integration, he said. ‘more Europe’ is not the answer when major issues such as migration and the economic downturn have not been solved,’ he said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Dutch Secret Service Investigated Far-right Leader's Ties to Israel (report)

The reason for the probe, local daily says, was concern that Geert Wilders is 'influenced by Israeli factors.' Wilders’ anti-Muslim Party of Freedom is likely to be a leading member of the next government#.

5/12/2016- Geert Wilders, leader of Holland’s far-right anti-Muslim Party of Freedom, was investigated in the past by the country’s General Intelligence and Security Service (AVID) over his “ties to Israel and their possible influence on his loyalty.” Wilders, whose party is leading the polls ahead of the upcoming election in March, is likely to be a key figure in the next government. The undercover investigation was exposed over the weekend by the veteran daily De Volkskrant. According to the article, AVID agents conducted the investigation from 2009 to 2010, with its existence and results remaining unknown until now. The Dutch central intelligence organization is in charge of safeguarding internal national security, handling non-military dangers to the country and preventing espionage.

An investigation of this kind into an active politician is an exceptional occurrence in Holland, the newspaper noted. If conducted, it is only in cases in which there are very reasonable grounds for suspicion. Wilders was a member of parliament at the time, with his party supporting the right-center coalition government from the outside and enabling it to remain in power. The reason for the investigation, according to the newspaper, was concern in the Dutch security service about “the possibility that Geert Wilders is influenced by Israeli factors,” with whom he had close ties. He visited Israel at the end of 2008, meeting with “Gen. Amos Gilad in his office in the main military headquarters in Tel Aviv, and regularly attended meetings with Israel’s ambassador to Holland at the time,” according to De Volkskrant.

The reporters discovered the story during the course of a comprehensive investigation into the tight security protection that the country provided to the leader of the far right. For the purpose of that article they interviewed 37 civil servants, former secret agents, security guards etc. Both the security services and Wilders declined to comment on the report.
# Magenta edit: Although Wilders' party is leading in the polls, it's not so likely he's going to be a key figure in the next government. Most parties won't be in government with Wilders (to have a majority - 76 seats in parliament- in the Netherlands you always need a coalition government) Parties that possibly would be willing to join with Wilders won't bring enough seats to form a majority government. Apart from that Wilders prefers to scream from the side lines, rather than take responsibility for running the country.
© Haaretz

up  

Two Czech far-right groupings may face suspension of activities

4/12/2016- The Czech government will be deciding on the suspension of activities of 29 political parties and movements groupings at its meeting on Monday, including the far-right movements Alternative for the Czech Republic and National Democracy of Adam B. Bartos. It will also decide whether 13 political groupings whose activities have already been suspended should be dissolved. These groupings include the Independent Democrats of Vladimir Zelezny, former member of the European Parliament and former director of Nova television. However, the final decision on the possible suspension or dissolution of a party or movement will be made by the Supreme Administration Court.

In May, the Chamber of Deputies proposed to suspend activities of 81 political parties and movements because their annual financial reports were incomplete or because they did not even submit the report. The Interior Ministry concluded that in 53 of the cases the proposal was ungrounded. For example, the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) of Tomio Okamura was founded only in June 2015 and the small Romany Democratic Party corrected its annual report. If the party whose activities have been suspended does not correct the report within a year, the government or president may propose to the court its dissolution. The financial reports for 2015 were properly submitted to the Chamber of Deputies in time by 126 out of 244 political parties and movements registered in the country.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Austria’s Far-Right Freedom Party Blames Nigel Farage For Defeat

‘He hindered us’

5/12/2016- Austria’s far-Right Freedom Party has blamed Nigel Farage for its defeat in elections on Sunday. Anton Mahdalik, a senior member of the anti-immigration group, hit out at Farage for telling Fox News the Freedom Party would hold an EU referendum in Austria. “That didn’t help us, it hindered us”, Mahdalik said, adding that a majority of his countrymen support EU membership. Freedom Party leader Norbert Hofer had also criticised Farage as the country went to the polls, ruling out a referendum and saying: “I would ask Mr Farage not to interfere in Austria’s internal affairs”. “It is not something I want. We need to build a stronger union,” he said, although he added that he would oppose EU moves to knit members closer.

Farage said on Friday that Hofer “will be calling for Austria to have a referendum on their membership with the European Union,” following Britain’s example. “I see 2016 as the year of a political revolution. Two revolutions, one in the UK, one in the USA”, he said. “It’s about nation-state democracy, taking back control of our lives and our future direction.” “The president of Austria being the head of state — not with much executive power, but still very important — I would put my money on the Freedom Party’s Mr Hofer winning that election.” Hofer admitted defeat on Monday after exit polls indicated a win for his left-leaning rival, with 53.6% of the vote. “I am incredibly sad it didn’t work out,” Hofer wrote in a statement on Facebook. “I would have loved to look after Austria. I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen to his success and ask all Austrians to stick together,” he added. “We are all Austrians, no matter what we decided today. Long live our home Austria.”
© The Huffington Post - UK

up  

Austria: Van der Bellen likely has won presidential election

In a long and hard-fought election battle which dragged on months longer than normal, and which drew significant international interest, the far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, appears to have lost his bid to be president, according to exit polls.

4/12/2016- Polls closed at 17:00, but many postal votes remain to be counted. Election officials have announced that a provisional result will be published at 7:30 p.m. CET (Vienna time.) Austrian far-right candidate Norbert Hofer on Sunday congratulated his opponent in presidential elections after projections indicated that he had lost. "I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen on his success and call on all Austrians to stick together and work together," Hofer said on Facebook, adding that he was "incredibly sad", according to AFP. FPÖ leader HC Strache said "I would have liked a different result". He congratulated the supporters of Norbert Hofer and thanked his candidate for a great election campaign. He also wants to congratulate Van der Bellen and promises to respect the election result. "Of course this is disappointing for me now," he added.

The election revealed deep rifts in Austrian society, and may still have the result reversed as postal ballots are counted, meaning that a final decision is unlikely before Monday. Opinion polls from November showed the election was always too close to call, with the turnout on a cold December day likely being a deciding factor. The rough count as of 5:15 pm shows Van der Bellen a firm winner with 53.6% of the vote, and Hofer lagging on only 46.4%. According to FPÖ general secretary Herbert Kickl, in the FPÖ election center: "In the end, it didn't work out [as we hoped]." He congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen on his success. This marks the official concession by the FPÖ. Green CEO Eva Glawischnig is very pleased: "This is a historic day, an historical breakthrough," she told the APA. According to analysts, the primary motivation for supporting Van der Bellen was that he was the best representative of Austria abroad.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria: Far right has second chance in presidential election

4/12/2016- Austria will provide a new gauge of the populist wave sweeping Western democracies on Sunday, as the divided country holds a vote that could deliver the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two. The knife-edge presidential run-off is all the more dramatic for being a re-run of an election held six months ago - before Britain chose to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president - offering an indication of whether popular anger at the political establishment has grown. When Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) narrowly lost the original run-off in May with 49.65 percent of the vote, European governments breathed a sigh of relief. Far-right parties like France's National Front, however, cheered the record performance.

Opinion polls suggest the race remains too close to call and could again come down to postal ballots, meaning the final result might come as late as Tuesday. Polling stations opened on a cold, crisp Sunday morning. The first projections are due shortly after 5 p.m. (1600 GMT), once the last polls have closed. What influence Trump and Brexit have had on Austria is unclear, but the fault lines are similar - blue-collar workers have largely backed Hofer, the highly educated favor his opponent, former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen. Van der Bellen, 72, has put Brexit at the heart of his campaign, arguing that Hofer wants Austria to hold its own "Oexit" referendum, putting jobs at risk in the small, trade-dependent country. "Let us not play with this fire. Let us not play with Oexit," Van der Bellen said in their last televised debate, referring to the fact Hofer initially said Austria could hold its own referendum within a year before backing down.

A Hofer win would raise the prospect of two near-simultaneous blows to Europe's political establishment. Italy is holding a referendum on Sunday on constitutional reform that polls suggest Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will lose. Austria's president traditionally has a largely ceremonial role, but Hofer has made clear he wants to be an interventionist head of state, threatening to dismiss a government if it raises taxes and calling for referendums on a range of issues, even though referendums are beyond the job's remit. "You will be amazed at what will be possible," Hofer, 45, said earlier this year when asked about the president's powers. The president also plays an important part in forming coalitions. Van der Bellen has said he would try to prevent an FPO-led government even if it won an election. The FPO is running first in polls with support of roughly a third of voters, with parliamentary elections due in 2018.

Banana Republic
Austria has for decades been dominated by two centrist parties that are once again in coalition, and anger at that entrenched duopoly has fueled support for the far-right FPO, which says it wants to end the two parties' grip on power. The country, which stretches from Slovakia to Switzerland and borders Germany, was swept up in Europe's migration crisis last year, stoking unease among many voters already concerned about globalization and rising unemployment, playing into the FPO's hands. Whatever the outcome, weary Austrian voters hope it will at least bring to an end an election that has dragged on for almost a year after a comedy of errors that prompted some Austrian media to call the country a "banana republic".

The result of the May 22 run-off was overturned because of irregularities in the count of postal ballots, mostly due to election officials cutting corners as they raced to complete the count. The re-run was then postponed because the glue on the envelopes for some postal ballots did not stick. Officials are this time aiming to do everything by the book, in the hope that a small delay to the result prevents bigger problems down the line.
© Reuters

up  

Austria: Hipster or hatemonger?

The trendy young face of Austria's far-right

3/12/2016- At the stroke of midnight in Vienna city center, members of Austria's so-called Identity Movement slipped on high-visibility vests and boarded a crane to pull off an audacious political prank: Draping a huge black cloth resembling a giant niqab -- the Islamic face veil -- onto a 90-meter-tall statue of the Habsburg ruler, Empress Maria Theresa. In case their political motivations were in any doubt, they also tacked up a sign that read "Islamization. No thank you!" and signed it with the symbol of the Identity Movement. Vienna police were less than amused to wake up to the sight of a national monument draped in such a provocative political protest -- but no one has been arrested for the stunt. Martin Sellner, however, was pleased: "We try to teach patriots in Europe methods of non-violent action. That's our main principle. No violence. No real hate speech."

A clean-cut 27-year-old graphic designer, wearing black-framed glasses and brightly-colored shirts advertising Identity Movement slogans such as "Europa Nostra" -- "Our Europe" -- Sellner has been called the "hipster" of the far-right. "We see ourselves as patriots, not neo-Nazis," he says. "We don't hate immigrants. But we also don't want to see the country change and end up minorities in our countries. We wanted to express this opinion without anti-Semitism, without the racism of the old right." It is a carefully cultivated image: a sunny veneer masking a political ideology centered on a white Christian identity which rejects immigration and globalization.

Influx of refugees
"My generation was never asked if we want this mass immigration, this Islamization and population replacement in this country," he explains over several cups of Viennese coffee. "We were born into a society that believes we are racist for simply saying that we are becoming a minority in our own country." In a series of posts on YouTube, Sellner suggests white Christians are on the verge of "extinction," increasingly marginalized by growing numbers of migrants in what he calls the "Great Replacement." "My biggest fear is that at some point demographics could kill democracy," he says, "that our society by mass immigration becomes such an ethnically fragmented society that a real democracy is not possible anymore because there is no common ground of values, history and identity." But that fear isn't supported by the numbers.

While an estimated 15% of Austria's population are foreign citizens, approximately half of those come from within the EU. For Sellner, intra-European migration -- white and Christian -- is acceptable. Non-European residents in Austria are outnumbered 10 to one. Still, Sellner is not alone: Worries about migration reached fever pitch last year when more than a million asylum seekers crossed into Europe, at least 700,000 of them via Austria. Many were from Syria and Afghanistan, and while most were simply passing through on their way to Germany, Sweden and elsewhere, an estimated 90,000 opted to stay and claim asylum in Austria.

Surge in far-right support
The Austrian government responded by erecting border fences, decreeing that only 3,200 migrants would be allowed to enter the country each day, and capping resettlement claims to 80 a day until an annual limit of 37,500 was reached. Across Europe, the tide of new arrivals has prompted waves of anti-immigrant sentiment; far-right parties such as France's National Front and Austria's Freedom Party are seeing a surge in support. Sellner is a big fan of US President-elect Donald Trump, whom he calls "God Emperor." He hopes Trump's election victory -- on a platform that included plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and a ban on Muslim immigrants -- will further inspire the far-right across the continent.

The Identity Movement began in France, but has since spread to Austria, Denmark and Germany. It appeals to a younger generation seeking to distance itself from the openly racist, xenophobic far-right parties of the past. Sellner insists that the movement is not racist but "ethno-pluralist" -- it doesn't believe that white Christian culture is superior, he says, but that globalization is forcing countries to adopt a multiculturalism that destroys the ethnic and cultural values of individual states. "We are not fighting against diversity. We don't think that people need to be racially pure," he says, adding that the group rejects "anti-Semitism or (anything) that identifies the problem with a certain people."

'Crazy ideologies'
Yet the Identity Movement does single out one group: Muslims. Only an estimated 7% of Austrians are Muslim. But in Vienna and its suburbs -- where Sellner grew up -- Muslims make up more than 12% of the population, and some neighborhoods are majority Muslim. Sellner claims this is "Islamization" and that the Muslim religion is incompatible with Austrian values -- but even he admits Islam has a long history in Vienna. "After all," he says, gesturing to the mirrored salon of the Viennese cafe we are talking in. "We are drinking coffee brought by the Turks!" Given Europe's history, its 20th-century slide into fascism, the great wars that killed millions and singled out Jews and other minorities for genocide, isn't Sellner worried that the Identity Movement may be one step on a slippery slope to repeating that dark past? No, he says: "I feel a kind of fatherly responsibility for young Austrian patriots not to let them go into these extreme subcultures that are driven by hate and crazy ideologies." Instead he claims, perhaps counterintuitively, "I think the entire movement is the strongest force against far-right extremism in Austria."

It's difficult to know just how many support the Identity Movement, but Sellner hopes far-right anti-immigrant candidate Norbert Hofer will be voted into power in Sunday's presidential election. And while that may not change Austrian policy immediately -- the Austrian president's role is largely ceremonial -- it would be proof of what Sellner believes is a "silent majority" in the country who share his beliefs. "The main idea of equality and opportunity is great. No one would object to that. But the problem is egalitarianism. People are different. We look different. We have different cultures, languages and traditions. Politics and policies need to reflect that," he says. "I think every society has only a certain capacity for integration. I think we have gone far beyond that capacity in Europe."
© CNN

up  

UK: Court told "extremist" posted "racist" views on Facebook

Lawrence Burns, of Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, is charged with stirring up racial hatred towards Jewish people

5/12/2016- An alleged racist expressed “vile and offensive sentiments” towards people he thought of as “sub-human”, a court heard today (December 5). Lawrence Burns, of Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, appeared at the city’s Crown court. He denies two counts of stirring up racial hatred. One charge relates to writing 140 Facebook posts on an alias account in August and September 2014, while another charge relates to making a racist speech at a memorial demonstration for American white supremacist leader David Lane. Opening the trial to a jury yesterday, prosecutor Mark Weekes said: “This is a young man who is an extremist and has expressed racist views, particularly towards the Jewish and Afro-Caribbean community.

“On his public Facebook account, which has more than 90 friends, he expressed some of the vilest and most offensive sentiments possible. “Many of the posts are abusive and insulting towards Jews, who he refers to as ‘sub-human animals’ and contain offensive words.” Mr Weekes added that in a post on August 28 Burns accuses white women of “mating with race-mixing filth” and on September 1 compares Jews to “maggots in a decaying body” who are “hijacking the genes of a superior white race”. Burns, 26, was also seen to comment on a YouTube video that he wanted to “hang the black race”, while also sharing Adolf Hitler artwork, the court was told. Mr Weekes told jurors: “The defendant also posted a link to a webpage which claimed to be a ‘black person’s owner’s manual’ – the contents of which was breathtakingly offensive.”

Police discovered the online material and Burns was arrested before being released on bail. A search of his home revealed a number of anti-Semitic books, a scarf with a “neo-Nazi” logo and a phone, which contained a further 125 photos depicting racialist views. There were also three audio recordings made by Burns, where he is alleged to have said a “real holocaust” is the only solution to “ridding the Jews”. He is also alleged to have said he wanted to “rid the world of sub-human scum”. During his time on bail Burns attended a number of demonstrations, including in May last year a memorial to David Lane, who died in 2007. In his speech, which was later posted on YouTube, Burns was heard to refer to Jews as “parasites” who wanted to create a “mongrelised race”.

Burns was arrested again by police in June 2015 and a further search of his home revealed a Second World War Nazi flag, further books on Adolf Hitler and a notebook containing his thoughts. A second phone seized at his address revealed links to Nazi websites and a further 100 images, with one cartoon of a rollercoaster named the “holocauster”. He also spoke with two other individuals, and in one conversation discussed a second holocaust, the court was told. Burns was interviewed by police, where he admitted the Facebook account was his and said the comments posted online were “for entertainment” and were posted as part of a general discussion. He told police he did not intend to stir up racial hatred by his actions but admitted that he had acted “immaturely” against other races. Burns was charged with the two offences on January 22 this year. The trial continues.
© The Cambridge News

up  

UK: Yarl's Wood demonstration draws up to 2,000 campaigners

Hundreds march around detention centre perimeter to denounce rise in hate crime in wake of Brexit vote

3/12/2016- The largest protest staged against Britain’s most notorious detention centre has taken place, as up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside Yarl’s Wood to denounce “immigrant bashing” in the wake of the Brexit vote. Campaigners from across the UK protested at the Bedfordshire immigration removal centre on Saturday, demanding that the facility, which mainly houses women, is closed immediately. They said Yarl’s Wood had become an even more toxic symbol when viewed against the rising hate crime, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that had gathered momentum in the wake of the EU referendum. On Saturday afternoon hundreds marched around the centre’s perimeter, many waving placards demanding an end to immigration detention. One said “you are not forgotten” in reference to the estimated 400 women held inside.

Antonia Bright of campaign group Movement for Justice, which helped organise the demonstration, said: “In total there looks to be 2,000 here. We had 24 coaches fully booked from across the country and many came by train – a great turnout.” Yarl’s Wood has been embroiled in a series of scandals including allegations of sexual abuse, racism and mistreatment. Last year an unannounced inspection by the HM inspector of prisons said Yarl’s Wood “is rightly a place of national concern”. The Shaw report, published in January this year and commissioned by the then home secretary, Theresa May, made dozens of recommendations including the call for ministers to reduce “boldly and without delay” the 30,000 people detained each year.

The report by Stephen Shaw, the former prisons and probation ombudsman, called for a complete ban on the detention of pregnant women in immigration centres such as Yarl’s Wood. He said there should also be a “presumption against detention” of victims of rape and sexual violence, people with learning difficulties, and those with post-traumatic stress disorder. A statement released by Movement for Justice before Saturday’s demonstration said: “Since then we have witnessed the Brexit phenomenon that saw leave campaigners place immigration at the centre of their campaign, spewing anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric. The result has been massively increased racist and xenophobic physical assaults and verbal attacks.” Saturday’s demonstration, led by former detainees and asylum seekers, was the tenth at Yarl’s Wood organised by Movement for Justice and supported by many other organisations.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Mosques torched, vandalised and invaded by far right since Lee Rigby murder

There were 36 mosque attacks within three months

3/12/2016- Mosques in Wales have been subjected to vandalism, arson attempts and far right protests since the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013.  Following the soldier’s beheading in a Woolwich street by Islamic extremists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, there was a spike in attacks on Muslim places of worship, according to research by anti-hate group Tell Mama.  There is concern these attacks have created a “creeping fear” among Muslims. “In the immediate aftermath of Lee Rigby’s murder there were 36 mosques that were attacked within three months,” Tell Mama founder Fiyaz Mughal said. “The murder had a significant impact on community relations. “We have not seen that kind of intensive spike since.”

There have been 10 attacks in Wales
Since Fusilier Rigby’s death, there have been at least 100 religiously-motivated assaults on mosques in the UK. There have been other attacks as well, but it is unclear why these happened. In Wales there have been 10. These have been in places including Cardiff , Rhyl , Neath , Newport and Bangor. Mr Mughal said attacks had now plateaued in the UK at “about two a month.” In Wales the cluster points are where there are a high concentration of mosques,” Mr Mughal said. “In Cardiff there is a cluster and in the north there is a bit of a cluster as well.” Mr Mughal added: “We have seen three criminal damage incidents in Wales, one of verbal abuse against worshippers and some far right activity.”

More security needed?
Since Fusilier Rigby’s killing applications from mosques asking for funds to beef up security have risen. In Wales that has largely taken the form of people wanting CCTV. “We have heard that and seen that and will have more applications coming in,” Mr Mughal said. Elsewhere mosques have requested barbed wire and security fencing. “People are saying, ‘Shall we get security guards?’ So there is a creeping fear,” Mr Mughal said. “Reassurance is a message that is important. The police do a sterling job with limited resources and it is important for Muslim communities not to get into a cycle of fear. “We need to do a lot more in schools and push shared values. We need to stand together whether we are white, black, Christian, Muslim, or whatever.”

Social media is 'one of the biggest drivers'
Facebook and Twitter users were spurring bigotry. “Social media is one of the biggest drivers,” Mr Mughal said. “I suspect this is the cause in Scotland and Wales. “Social media does not have barriers. You put something out there and it can be everywhere in just a few seconds. “There are opportunities on the net and risks with the net, and it is those we’ve to watch out for.

And Brexit has not helped
Recent political events have not helped. “We saw a very large spike after Brexit in abuse which was not just anti-Muslim but racist,” Mr Mughal said. “For some people it legitimised what they were thinking anyway.” He described comments made by US President Elect Donald Trump – such as his promise to ban Muslims from the US – as “deeply troubling.” “It doesn’t help,” he said.  Tell MAMA director Iman Abou Atta said mosques needed to “remain vigilant.” They had to ensure agencies like Tell MAMA and the police were told “at the earliest opportunity”, she said. “It is essential that we also send messages of re-assurance as we do in Tell MAMA and interfaith organisations need to step up their game in doing so,” she said.

'People were misled over Brexit'
Saleem Kidwai, from the Muslim Council for Wales, said bricks had been thrown at his office windows “two or three times over the last few years.” It was unclear what the motivation for these attacks was. He was concerned about the effect of the EU referendum result. “People were misled or whatever you want to call it,” Mr Kidwai said. “People seemed to be of the understanding that if there was a Brexit vote then all foreigners would just go the next day.”

Police taking it seriously
Gwent Police said hate crime was taken “seriously” and there was “zero tolerance” for perpetrators. They said officers were hate crime trained and “specialist support” was available. Wales Hate Crime and Criminal Justice Board chairman, Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Warrender, is in charge of hate crime at Gwent Police. “We have built a strong rapport up with mosques across Gwent to ensure victims of such crimes feel confident to come forward and feel supported,” DCS Warrender said. Dyfed-Powys Police declined to comment. South and North Wales’ forces were contacted but did not respond.

The attacks on Wales' mosques
May 23, 2013 - Bacon was left on the steps of Cardiff’s Shah Jalal Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre hours after Lee Rigby’s murder.
May 25, 2013 - English Defence League member John Parkin was jailed and banned from every mosque in England and Wales after attempting to burn down Rhyl mosque on hearing of Lee Rigby’s murder.
September 13, 2013 – Steven Davies, 22, was jailed for 22 months after vandalising Neath’s St Anne’s Islamic Centre and attacking a couple who challenged him.
November 11, 2015 – Keith Edward Hall, 38, was given a suspended prison sentence in January 2016 after pushing lit fireworks through Rhyl Islamic Cultural Centre’s letterbox just after Guy Fawkes Night.
November 24, 2015 – Newport’s Islamic Society of Wales Mosque was daubed with the words “Islam is demonic”.
December 31, 2015Bangor Islamic Centre had “Isis dirty Muslim scum whites rule”, scrawled on it in marker pen.
September 5, 2016 – Members of far right group Britain First posted footage online of them carrying out a “mosque invasion” on Cardiff’s Al-Manar Islamic Centre.
© Wales Online

up  

Italy: A far-right leader wants to take a Trump upset on Sunday (interview)

By Michael Birnbaum

3/12/2016- The Washington Post spoke this week with Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s right-wing Northern League party, which has been one of the biggest forces in opposing proposed constitutional changes that will go to a referendum Sunday. The Northern League and another populist party, the Five Star Movement, have surged in the polls as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi struggles. This interview has been edited for clarity.

The Washington Post: Why do you oppose the proposed reforms? Renzi says that a “no” vote is a vote for the status quo.
Matteo Salvini: In Italy we say: Tell me whom you go with and I’ll tell you who you are. Who supports “yes”? [German Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schäuble and the German government, [Jean-Claude] Juncker and the European Commission, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, banks and finance, [Sergio] Marchionne, Confindustria — the powers-that-be back the yes and Renzi, no doubt about that. That’s where the establishment is.

Q: If “no” wins Sunday, what’s your plan for Monday?
A: First of all, I’ll sleep for six hours. And then I’ll ask for elections as soon as possible, whatever electoral law is in place.

Q: Why are you against the changes? Technical issues? Or the politics?
A: Both. … First of all, I don’t understand why Italians should be bound to Brussels’s choices without being able to express themselves through a referendum. For example, if tomorrow morning Brussels should decide to let Turkey in, Italians wouldn’t be free to oppose it, neither in Parliament nor through a referendum. And we are a force fighting for autonomy, federalism. Italy has 8,000 municipalities. In this reform … everything gets centralized, and Rome, the central state, will have the last word on everything, including health care, ports, transports, energy, schools. If Rome gets to decide everything for the north and for the south, it’s not a good and just thing.

Q: Would you ever vote with the Five Star Movement?
A: On some issues [our] voters can have similar ideas. [But] on one particular issue we have very different positions: the question of migration and security — relations with Islam and civil rights. On this issue the Five Stars are more to the left than the [ruling] Democratic Party and there’s no chance for us to work together.

Q: How did Donald Trump’s victory affect the discussion in Italy?
A: Aside from my personal joy, that went to show that one can win against everyone, against the media, the economic system, the artists, the intellectuals, the singers and even against the lobbies within one’s own party. It’s a sign that the people can decide, that it can choose. This from a political perspective. Then there are concrete choices. Good relations with Russia are great news. Putting a stop to the [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] is great news. Defending American industry against the invasion of Chinese products. Renegotiating the role of NATO. And a similar approach on the issue of immigration. This is all great news.

Q: What kind of connections are you making with other right-wing parties elsewhere in Europe?
A: In Brussels we belong to a group that includes the [French anti-immigrant] National Front, [Austrian nationalist right-wing leader Heinz-Christian] Strache’s Freedom Party, [Dutch Euroskeptic Geert] Wilders’s Party for Freedom, the Romanians, the Poles, and we’re trying to form an alliance in order to change Europe. For instance, should Norbert Hofer win in Austria on Sunday, it would be more great news.

Q: What would be the message if you won?
A: In Italy there are two emergencies. This is what I hear, and this is what all the stats say. Employment and security.

Q: You’ve criticized Muslim immigration to Italy. Is there a place for Muslims in Italy?
A: In Italy there are 5 million legal migrants. They’re integrated, and they’re welcome. The problem of the Muslim presence is increasingly worrying. There are more and more clashes, more and more demands. And I doubt the compatibility of Italian law with Muslim law, because it’s not just a religion but a law. And problems can be seen in Great Britain as well as in Germany, so reassessing our coexistence is fundamental.

Q: What about the people already here? Would you remove them? Deport them?
A: No, that’s not what it’s all about. Statistics tell us that of the 500,000 people who arrived, those who are granted political asylum are more or less 10 percent. I mean those who are fleeing from war, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Nigeria. Welcoming them, in all of these cases, is our duty. For illegals, though, expulsion is needed.

Q: So would Italian ships be sending them to Libya? What does that actually mean?
A: If I were the defense minister … I would say that they should save everyone, rescue everyone, treat everyone and then send them back. We need to push our border across the Mediterranean — hoping that Libya can find a new balance as soon as possible.

Q: That would be against international law.
A: Yes, it’s hard. We were doing that in the past when the interior minister came from the Northern League. So much so that Europe reprimanded us because of those expulsions. But one needs to set a limit.

Q: So would that mean Italian boats actually sailing to Libyan shores?
A: Well, recently our ships have come within 12 miles of the coast of Libya. We’re basically picking them up at home.

Q: Does Italy need a strongman as leader? You’ve given speeches wearing Benito Mussolini’s black shirt in the past.
A: [Laughs] History made that outdated. On the contrary, I’m a federalist. I believe in the Italy of municipalities, of the Renaissance, not in Mussolini’s centralization. We don’t need a strongman. But we need a strong country that is not subordinate to Europe. With its own currency, for example. … I don’t believe that either fascism or communism is the solution or that they may come back on this earth.

Q: If you were the prime minister, what would be your plan on membership in the euro and the European Union?
A: First of all we need to move past the euro. The euro is … a failed currency, a wrong currency, a failed experiment. So those who form an alliance with the league commit themselves to move past the euro, and to go back to a fairer currency. Regarding the European Union, our constitution unfortunately forbids us to hold a referendum. Italians cannot vote on international treaties. … But if we headed the government we would go to Brussels and we would ask to reread and rewrite all of the treaties: Maastricht, Schengen, Dublin, Lisbon. If that’s possible, we can start anew. Otherwise we get out.

Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Brussels bureau chief. He previously served as the bureau chief in Moscow and in Berlin, and was an education reporter.
© The Washington Post.

up  

Trump, Brexit and the Rise of Europe’s Far-Right Stoke Fear in Brussels

The ascendance of authoritarian and racist parties in Europe are a visceral threat to those whose families survived the pogroms of the past.
By Jeff Stein


3/12/2016- When I first met Katrine Steinfeld over dinner in Brussels a few weeks ago, she seemed to epitomize the thousands of bright young people drawn to Europe’s capital. For more than 70 years, such people, backed by American support and dollars, have been dedicated to the idea that Europe’s success could only be achieved if its nations shed their ages-old hatreds and grievances and work together. Steinfeld, 29, specializes in gender equality issues for a Brussels-based international organization. Her friends at the table that night included social policy experts at the European Commission and a professor at the Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies at the University of Liège. Typical for Bruxellois, all are fluent in several languages. 

At first, everybody winced and joked about Donald Trump’s victory the week before. The future leader of the free world had famously disparaged NATO, which is more than a military acronym to Europeans anxious over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and continuing provocations in the Baltics and Scandinavia. But the laughter grew thinner when the discussion turned to Trump’s ascendance in concert with the rise of authoritarian and racist parties across the continent, all cheered on by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The foundation of the European Union, nations bound by shared values of liberal democracy, seemed to be falling apart.

Threats to the EU
The crackup started in June when anti-immigrant forces in Britain engineered a vote to leave the European Union. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, stirring up anti-Muslim prejudice and bankrolled by Russia, was poised to win second place in France’s presidential primary. On Sunday in Italy, the Trump-style anti-immigrant, anti-E.U. 5 Star Movement may bring down the government if its campaign against a constitutional referendum succeeds. In Germany, a party opposed to allowing any Muslims into the country won a quarter of the vote in state elections. In the Netherlands, the anti-E.U., anti-Islam Party for Freedom was leading in polls ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. Hungary was being whipped into a xenophobic froth by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Slovak parliament passed a bill banning Islam. In Vienna, the Austria Freedom Party, founded in part by former Nazis, was favored to win national elections on December 4. Even in Sweden, an anti-immigrant party was surging in the polls.

The week before I met Steinfeld and her friends for dinner, 75,000 torch-bearing, far-right nationalists marched through the streets of Warsaw, already under the reactionary rule of the Law and Justice Party, carrying banners that read, “God, Honor, Fatherland,” and, “To be a Pole, to be a Catholic is a privilege and honor.” To Steinfeld, such developments were a visceral threat. She told me how her Jewish great-grandparents escaped the pogroms in Russian-occupied Latvia at the end of the 19th century. They fled to Norway, where, 40-years-later, the Nazis landed and began rounding up Jews. “My great grandmother and her children were taken by the collaborating police, and ultimately saved by a neighbor who was a policeman and ushered them quietly out through a back door while the crowd was moving into the station, ” she recounted. Their son, who was 17, “was himself arrested and tortured, hung outside in a cage in winter.”

Amazingly, they survived. Her grandmother ended up marrying a Hungarian exile from a viciously anti-Semitic family, something that once seemed impossible. “It gives me faith,” Steinfeld says, “that my parents found each other and that this family history had no negative impact on their relationship.” That was the promise of postwar Europe, an idea that has governed the continent for seven decades. Steinfeld’s Hungarian-Norwegian father grew up to become a foreign correspondent with Norwegian TV. In 1999, he moved the family to Budapest while he covered the wars in Serbia and Kosovo. Enrolled in a Hungarian middle school, she faced “bullying and a generally non-inclusive atmosphere,” she said, so transferred to the American International School in Budapest. After going away for college and graduate school in England, she returned to Budapest for a job with the embassy of Cyprus, and later Norway.

Then Hungary’s far right prime minister, Orban, the champion of what he calls “illiberal democracy,” started demolishing the pillars of civil society, packing the courts, putting cronies in charge of the central bank and hounding democracy-promoting non-governmental groups. In 2011, his police stormed into the offices of two such groups, seizing their files and computers. “I remember the day of the raids,” Steinfeld says. “I was terrified...It was so unreal, I could not believe this was happening.” In 2015, with Orban closing his borders to Syrian refugees and exhorting Europe to remember its “Christian roots,” Steinfeld moved to Brussels. “I’m a big fan of Hungary,” Trump said during a telephone call in which he invited Orban to visit the White House, according to the Hungarian foreign ministry. In an interview with local media, Orban said the two men celebrated the fact that the Hungarian autocrat would no longer be treated as a “black sheep” in Washington. “He laughed,” Orban recounted, “and he said they treated him the same way.” A Trump adviser was quoted saying Orban was going to “make Hungary great again.”

'I Am Afraid'
Scanning all these developments, Steinfeld asks, plaintively, “Where do I go now?” It was just a rhetorical question, but to Steinfeld and other alarmed Europeans, the whiff of 1933 is in the air. The last time around, the Nazis started picking on “gypsies,” the mentally deficient, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics and, of course, Jews. Today’s targets are chiefly refugees, Muslims, and in some parts of Europe, Poles. Others will soon make the list, if racially polarized trends continue. At NATO headquarters, the diplomats and generals have no illusions about Russia’s aim of fracturing the Western alliance by stirring up ethnic tensions.

“I see the language of hate coming from both East and West, and I am afraid,” Steinfeld told me by email days after our dinner. “I am afraid of the new normal, and I am afraid of what that will lead to. “We know that people always pick on the weaker side,” she adds. “I am afraid it will be no different this time–It’s the women, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the communities that are already discriminated against that will bear the brunt of what is to come. Who’s going to stop it?” Not the tattered European Union, she thinks. Orban’s crackdown sent “shock waves through Europe, and everyone expected Brussels to react,” she says. “Five years later, many of us have stopped waiting.”
© Newsweek Europe

up  

Germany should deport sick refugees: Merkel party mate

A top member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party on Monday defended his proposal for Germany to deport sick refugees after receiving harsh criticism.

5/12/2016- “Whoever is not fit to travel can also not be deported,” the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician and interior minister of Baden-Württemberg Thomas Strobl told Die Welt in an interview published on Monday. “But we must be honest: If someone still manages to make the arduous journey over the Mediterranean or through the Balkan route, despite an illness, and then we must determine that they have no chance to be able to stay, one must at least consider if it is also possible that they could brought back on an airplane within a few hours.” “One cannot give hundreds of thousands of people departure orders, but then not consistently implement them. That undermines the sustainability and substance of trust in the state.”

Strobl had presented a position paper about a week ago in which he also called for a tougher asylum policy, including cutting social benefits and building a repatriation centre in Egypt. The plan stated that those who are ill before they come to Germany could also be deported if their asylum applications are rejected. He argued in the interview on Monday that his plan still fell in line with Merkel’s policies of having “open borders and hearts”. “We have an open heart for those who need protection… We are in solidarity with anyone who is suffering. But it cannot be that immigrants can creep through the back door and massively abuse our asylum system. “I can understand if people want to stay with us because they see better economic prospects. But asylum laws are definitely not the solution.”

Strobl’s plan was criticized last week after it was presented. “The CDU is also now using populist slogans,” said Social Democrat (SPD) general secretary Katarina Barley to the Passauer Neue Presse. And Strobl’s fellow CDU party mate Klaus Bouillon said the plan would “by no means” be on the official agenda of a conference of German interior ministers last week. Bouillon added that there are “clear legal guidelines” for handling sick asylum seekers. A report in September by Bild showed that more than 500,000 rejected asylum seekers were still living in Germany. Many had received other permits to stay aside from asylum status, or were considered “tolerated” if they, for example, lacked travel documents. 

International consulting firm McKinsey said in a report to the German government, seen by Die Welt on Sunday, that the country needed a coordinated deportation system with states. “For this purpose, appropriate deportation and custody centres should be established,” the report notes. McKinsey also recommends stricter regulations for tolerated immigrants. Those who are sick or have no travel documents and thus cannot be deported should only receive food and clothing instead of money, the report recommends.
© DPA

up  

German theater director Thomas Ostermeier takes on the far-right

The director's revival of Schnitzler's "Professor Bernhardi" shows anti-Semitism as a "political power game."

4/12/2016- On a rainy day in November, German theater director Thomas Ostermeier is sitting in the center of his loft in Berlin, wearing jeans, drinking a very good Chablis and staring at me. He has an extremely intense gaze. Though we have met professionally several times—I regularly write online previews for the theater where he is the artistic director—I still feel he is studying every detail about me. During a previous interview, he told me he can entertain himself for an entire day just by sitting on a park bench observing people’s behavior, looking for “the moments when people are off guard, when their character shines through, when the mask falls.” Ostermeier, 48, has headed the Schaubühne theater in Berlin for the past 16 years; he is Germany’s best-known stage director and, at least according to the leading European theater scholar Peter Boenisch, its most important.

Though they’ve not been seen on Broadway, his plays are regulars at the Barbican in London and other major theaters across the world, where audiences appreciate his mastery of the small gesture, how fine a calibrator he is of chamber dramas. The results reverberate on a grand scale. Last year, his production of Shakespeare’s Richard III created a sensation at Festival d’Avignon in France—quite an achievement at an event that regularly pushes at the boundaries of contemporary theater—and even made the front page of French newspaper Le Monde. Much of the fuss was about the magnetic performance of Lars Eidinger, the well-known German film actor. Eidinger played Richard as part DJ, part depraved rock star, stripping naked to woo Lady Anne and threatening to impale himself on his sword.

The production even made it as far as China—potentially a tricky venue for a drama about the temptations of absolute power. Richard III sets off on its travels again shortly, landing in Hong Kong in December. In the meantime, Ostermeier is about to open a new production of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 play, Professor Bernhardi, a dark portrayal of human behavior and anti-Semitism in Austria in 1900. In it, a Jewish doctor is subjected to a witch hunt after, for medical reasons, refusing to allow a Catholic priest to perform the last rites on a dying patient; other doctors and politicians use his downfall as an opportunity to advance their own careers. Both Schnitzler’s experiences as a Jewish doctor in Vienna and those of his father, a famed laryngologist, informed the piece. Some of Ostermeier’s recent experiences informed his decision to produce it.

“I first thought of the play as a project for Avignon,” he says, “as a response to the National Front’s recent victories in France. Anti-Semitism struck me as a bigger issue in France than in Germany. But over the past two years, the rise of the xenophobic, homophobic, anti-refugee party Alternative for Germany [AfD] and events such as the [arrival of the] first wave of refugees have made this play more important every day.”

Events at his theater have also played their part. In the past year, the Schaubühne has been very critical of Germany’s far right; so critical, in fact, that it was sued by Beatrix von Storch, an AfD member of the European Parliament and the granddaughter of a minister in Adolf Hitler’s government. In October 2015, the Schaubühne had staged FEAR, a new play written and directed by one of its regular collaborators, Falk Richter. FEAR had Storch as a central character, and it lampooned her career, showing her tormented by Nazi vampires, ghosts of Germany’s past returning for revenge. After Storch and a co-plaintiff, Christian Democratic Party activist Hedwig von Beverfoerde, sued, the court ruled in favor of the theater and lifted an earlier injunction that had banned the production from using images of either woman. Replying to the accusation that the play infringed on Storch’s constitutional rights to human dignity, the judge said, “Any audience member can recognize that this is just a play.”

For Ostermeier, the trial was a further encouragement to direct Professor Bernhardi. “ FEAR is an overtly political piece. I wanted to see what could be said in Schnitzler’s complex world, where the characters are not convinced anti-Semites. Instead, they use anti-Semitism as part of a political power game. It is a twisted situation. That’s how this [new] political movement works in a nutshell. Just 10 percent of a population might be racist, but it gets dangerous when [the rest of us] start to be infiltrated by these ideas.” Will his production refer directly to contemporary German politics? “Well, we have worked into it some lines from Angela Merkel’s speeches regarding the sentencing of Böhmermann.”

Ostermeier is referring to the trial of the German comedian Jan Böhmermann, who in March this year criticized the Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan, in a satirical poem laced with profanities. A month later, Merkel agreed to Erdogan’s request that Böhmermann be prosecuted in the German courts, under a little-used and antiquated German law that prohibits insulting foreign leaders—a kind of lèse-majesté once removed. “I was appalled that Merkel did not stand up for what was right,” Ostermeier says, “but instead sent this man to court. She did it for the wrong reasons: because she cared more about keeping up her good relationship with Turkey”—which currently allows the EU to ship refugees back there if they land in a European port—“than protecting fundamental principles.”

I suggest to Ostermeier that Professor Bernhardi has much in common with his 2014 production of Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen, which has toured globally. When it played in Hungary, it was met with angry responses by right-wing bloggers who, Ostermeier tells me, attacked him, saying that their country has a right-wing government precisely to protect people from what they called “this kind of garbage.” In Enemy of the People, the protagonist, Stockmann, is ganged up on by his colleagues—much like professor Bernhardi — because he finds himself an outsider. In the end, Stockmann is willing to risk everything for what is right. Why does Ostermeier keep returning to this kind of persecution?

Because, he says, he’s “interested in truth. Both plays are about who possesses truth. Part of the catastrophe of recent history is the tendency of the bourgeois class to overlook truth, be it the truth of climate change, or of inequality, or racism. But what’s interesting about Professor Bernhardi is that the play is complex. In the end, the doctor capitulates and does not stand up for the truth he represents. The play presents not an idealized version of a hero standing up against authority, like in Enemy of the People, but rather a more familiar story of those who are brought down by greater powers.”

Perhaps Ostermeier sees himself as a man, like Bernhardi or Stockmann, who stands up against authority; or perhaps his choice of plays is simply that of a creative mind responding to the world around it. Either way, Ostermeier hasn’t yet been brought down by the greater powers, and for that we should be grateful. We need people like him to keep watch, looking for the moments when all our masks fall.

IF YOU GO: Professor Bernhardi: Schaubühne, Berlin, in rep from December 17; Théâtre National de Bretagne, Rennes, January 5–7; Richard III, Grand Theater, Hong Kong, December 29–31, then touring the U.K., Australia, Italy and France through 2017; for more information visit Schaubuehne.de.
© Newsweek Europe

up  

Germany: Muslims ‘send away from Christmas market after setting up Islam information stand’

It’s a popular tourist destination and hundreds flock to it at this time of year for its famed Christmas market.

3/12/2016- But locals in the town of Rüdesheim on the Rhine in Germany have been criticised after they allegedly ordered Muslims to leave the market because their booth was ‘offensive’.  Members of the Ahmadiyya Islamic community had set up an information booth on Islam at the Rüdesheim town hall simply to make people better understand the religion. But residents confronted them and complained that the stand was not fitting with the spirit of Christmas. One furious resident said: ‘This does not belong at a Christmas market!’ Others argued that the stand ‘which is obviously a question of the Koran design’ did not belong at a Christmas market. They then allegedly ordered them to leave the market after telling them that it was because of the ‘danger potential due to the violent public reaction’. But mayor of Rüdesheim, Volker Mosler, has hit out at the complaints and said: ‘I am absolutely amazed there is so much intolerance.’ While resident Eric Rehwald said a ‘Christmas market of the nations’ should be willing to accept representatives of other religions.
© Metro UK

up  

Headlines 2 December, 2016

France: Far-right candidate sticks to patriotic strategy

2/12/2016- French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says the spring election will pit nationalists and patriots like herself against those in favor of globalization, the European Union and immigration. Speaking on Friday at an annual horse fair outside Paris — where she donned a cowboy hat and mounted a horse — Le Pen said Socialist President Francois Hollande's decision, announced the previous evening, not to seek a second term won't change her strategy. She predicted that Prime Minister Manuel Valls will run instead as the Socialist presidential candidate, facing her and conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who won the right's primary. She says "You know I don't believe in this left-right fracture. On the one side are nationalists, patriots. On the other, globalizationists, Europeanists and so, by definition, immigrationists."
© The Associated Press

up  

Italy: Countdown to Italy's future

2/12/2016- Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) is planning street celebrations if prime minister Matteo Renzi is defeated in Sunday’s (4 December) constitutional referendum, paving the way for his resignation. But an unusually high number of postal votes cast by Italian expats may spoil the opposition’s party plans and even trigger a legal fight about the vote's outcome. Some 50 million people have been called to approve or reject changes that would effectively concentrate powers in the hands of the national government, in a bid to give steadier governance to Italy, famed for its revolving door governments. Critics reject the reforms as anti-democratic, designed to lock-in Renzi’s hold on power.

“If the No wins, Italians will have a big party, perhaps a collective one outside Palazzo Chigi,” M5S lawmaker Roberto Fico said Thursday, referring to the 16th-century residence of heads of government. “Renzi had promised to leave the prime ministerial office and retire from politics, maybe he won’t keep all of his promises, but at least the first one,” he added. Italians last held a street party for a prime ministerial departure in 2011, when Silvio Berlusconi quit at the height of a financial crisis that threatened to bankrupt the country and bring down the entire Eurozone. Renzi’s departure is unlikely to happen under equally dramatic circumstances, despite concerns about political paralysis and a looming banking crisis.

Economy teeters
Shares in Italy’s most troubled lender, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), fell 13.8 percent on Monday, on the back of a Financial Times report that it and seven smaller Italian banks were at risk of going under, because a government crisis would scare off foreign investors and endanger vital recapitalization plans for MPS and others. Financial indexes have since bounced back, but market jitters may return once the results are in. “Are there economic risks? It’s no use beating around the bush. If the Yes wins, Italy will be stronger. If the No wins, the risk of a leap in the dark is clear to everybody,” Renzi told Friday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, starting a final day of campaigning due to culminate with a rally in his hometown Florence.

M5S leader Beppe Grillo was due to wrap up his campaign in Turin, the north-western home of the Fiat automotive giant where the M5S scored a surprising victory in June mayoral elections. On his blog, he told people “not to use their brains to vote,” because they are exposed to Renzi’s propaganda, and follow their gut instinct to reject the reforms. “It’s a fraud, don’t fall for it,” he wrote. Voting procedures open to some 4 million Italians living abroad ended on Thursday (1 December), and the Repubblica newspaper reported about a record turnout of 40 percent, fueling speculation about how they could affect the final result. "If the yes [camp] manages to win the approval of two-thirds of Italians abroad, then we can do it," Renzi said Thursday, according to La Repubblica. Renzi has mailed Yes campaign material to all Italian expats, and both sides in the campaign have made trips to European capitals and beyond to canvas expat support.

Legal challenge
But the No camp has repeatedly suggested that ballot papers, sent by post to consulates and due to be flown to Rome over the weekend, could easily be tampered with. The leader of the hard-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini, another prominent No campaigner, said he suspected “all sorts of” foul play. “I count on the fact that Italians, the ones from Rome, Milan, Turin or Naples, will vote for a ‘no’ and that will make up for the Yes votes Renzi may have invented or bought around the world,” he told reporters. The issue could end up in court, after the chairman of the Comitato per il No [comittee for the No] threatened a legal challenge last week. "In voting for Italians abroad, the requirement for secrecy is not fulfilled, and if votes by Italians abroad were to be decisive [...] and lead to a Yes victory [...] we could decide to appeal," Alessandro Pace said.

Polls are banned in the last two weeks of campaigning, but bookmakers’ odds continue to favour a No victory. Nevertheless, recent developments may work in Renzi’s favour, including a Wednesday deal with trade unions to raise salaries for 3.3 million public sector workers, ending a seven-year labour dispute, and mildly encouraging GDP and unemployment data on Thursday.

Yes winning online
Online monitor Predata said Yes material has become far more popular in the closing weeks of the campaign, giving it a “digital campaign score” of 90 percent, versus 76.6 percent for No. The company explains that its scores “are not, on their own, predictions of political outcomes; rather, they give a sense for which side is dominating, from day to day, the online conversation.” A surprise Renzi victory would strengthen his hand at home and Brussels and set Italy on course for 2018 general elections in which both him and Grillo would have a fair chance of winning.

But a No vote would boost eurosceptic forces, although is unlikely to trigger the euro exit referendum that Grillo and Salvini want and that the rest of Europe is afraid of. But eurosceptic forces look set to be shut out of power via a grand coalition of mainstream parties if it comes to that. Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni warned against any panic. Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he said “Renzi and the government will be stronger” if the referendum battle is won, but if it is lost “I don’t think that we should expect a catastrophe for Europe or for Italy.”
© The EUobserver

up  

Finland: Police upgrade charges over neo-Nazi protest death

2/12/2016- A founding member of Finland's leading neo-Nazi organisation is now suspected of aggravated assault and aggravated involuntary manslaughter over the death of a man, following an assault he allegedly perpetrated at a protest in September. Jesse Torniainen, a neo-Nazi who helped found Finland's prominent far-right organisation, the Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM), is now suspected of aggravated assault and aggravated involuntary manslaughter over the death of a bystander after an FRM demonstration in September. The passer-by in question had spat on the ground near the organisation's demonstration before walking away. Police suspect that Torniainen ran after him to kick him in the chest. The victim fell to the ground, unconscious, and later died of his injuries. Torniainen has denied the charges.
© YLE News.

up  

Czech Rep: Report - Sterilisation and its Consequences for Romani Women (1966-2016)

2/12/2016- This report examines the practice of coercive sterilisations in the Czech Republic as experienced by Romani women against their will or without free and informed consent. Along with a review of the institutional, legal and policy context within which these sterilisations took place, the main focus of the report is on the personal experiences of sterilised Romani women.

It presents accounts of Romani women of their treatment by medical personnel and social workers. The report reveals how Romani women were subjected to sterilisation without prior information that such an operation would be performed on them; in some instances the women claim that their consent forms and other medical documentation were manipulated and their signatures forged. The procedure was often performed at the same time as caesarean sections or women were presented with consent forms when in great pain or distress during labour or delivery. In other instances Romani women were coerced into accepting sterilisation by misinformation about the nature of this procedure as well as through threats of the institutionalisation of their children and withdrawal of their social benefits. For some Romani women, sterilisation was falsely justified by their doctors as a life-saving intervention.
The reports are available in English and Czech
© The European Roma Rights Centre

up  

These six elections are set to change EUrope forever

Inspired by Donald Trump, the right, in all its varieties, is on the march. Here are the key election results to look out for in 2017

1/12/2016- As far-right groups across Europe become normalised and more popular than at any time since the end of the Second World War, a series of votes set to be held across the continent could spell doom for the European Union by this time next year. They could even make Brexit irrelevant if far-right parties succeed in restricting freedom of movement of people in the EU, holding back migration to Europe and hastening the break-up of the Eurozone. Inspired by Donald Trump, the right, in all its varieties, is on the march. The left is being routed. Here are the key election results to look out for.

4 December 2016: Italian referendum and the rerun of the Austrian presidential election
Most attention this weekend will be focused on the Italian referendum, which seeks to make Italy easier to govern and focused on the Italian referendum, which seeks to make Italy easier to govern and reform. But the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has made the cardinal error of threatening to resign if his proposed changes are rejected. Meanwhile, the far-right Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, or M5S), led by a former comedian, has campaigned vigorously against the proposed changes. Before a ban on publishing opinion polls a few weeks ago, the “No” camp was ahead. If that turns out to be the result, and Italy is plunged into a fresh political crisis, then her fragile banks could suffer yet another crisis of confidence. If that continues then it would be beyond the means of the Italian state to save them; indeed the Italian Treasury would be unlikely to be able to sell its bonds to the domestic banks and be forced to go to the EU and the European Central Bank for a Greek-style rescue package.

Trouble is, the eurozone’s solvent members – Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – are running out of the financial means and the political willpower to subsidise their southern neighbours. With a €4 trillion banking system, and with a GDP not far off the UK’s, Italy is a nation that is both too big to save and too big to fail – and big enough to wreck the euro. The Austrian presidental election is a rerun occasioned by some technical failings in the first poll in May. The result then was extremely tight between the Green candiate Alexander Van der Bellen, just ahead on 50.3 per cent, and the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party, Norbert Hofer, on 49.7 per cent. Though only a ceremonial post, a Hofer victory would represent an even more significant result for the anti-migrant Eurosceptic right in a eurozone and EU member state – the first time a representative of the far right had been elected head of state or government since the Second World War. By contrast, the once dominant Social Democrats trailed on 11 per cent in the May election. Hofer is the favorite to prevail next week.

15 March 2017: Dutch general election
Once merely a noisy and unpleasant fringe grouping, the “Party for Freedom” (Partij voor de Vrijheid, or PVV), led by Geert Wilders, is just about leading the polls in the Netherlands. Because the Dutch party system is so fragmented, the PVV can do this with just 28 per cent support, a point or two ahead of the conservative governing party, the VVD. The elections will be contested on the grounds of the economy, migration and the healthcare system. Always a mildly Eurosceptic nation, the Netherlands looks set to tilt further in that direction. Expect less support for the Eurozone’s weaker members, more pressure to restrict migration and more pressure on minorities.

4 May 2017: British local elections
These are unlikely to make much of a cross-continental impact and, ironically, might see a little recovery by the now leading pro-European mainstream party, the Liberal Democrats. Still, the Conservatives and Ukip seem likely to have a good showing, and will take the results as a confirmation of the Brexit referendum vote. A poor showing by Labour would also add to the chances of a Tory win at an early general election, again which would in effect endorse Brexit.

7 May: French presidential election
Polls suggest the conservative Francois Fillon will “trump” the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, but after recent upsets many are nervous. Even if Le Pen doesn’t win, if one in three French voters decided to back her it would be an extraordinary result, and one unthinkable not so long ago. Again, it will add to the anti-European, anti-euro, anti-migrant mood sweeping the West.

22 October 2017: German elections
This is the last date for the contests, which could be held as early as 27 August. Either way, Angela Merkel looks likely to embark on another term in office. But the far right Alternativ fur Deutschland (AfD) is polling at 13 per cent – easily sufficient to secure seats in the Bundestag and be a constant source of agitation against the EU on issues such as subsidies to Greece and Italy and, of course, migration. Even Chancellor Merkel would have to bow to changing popular opinion, both in her own political grouping – the Bavarian wing of the Christian Democrats are more hostile to migration, for example – and in the nation as a whole.
© The Independent

up  

OSCE member states failing to report hate crimes, ADL finds

1/12/2016- The “overwhelming majority” of participating countries in the world’s largest regional security group, the Organization for Society and Cooperation in Europe, are not adequately reporting hate crimes, according to a new report. Of the 57 countries in the OSCE — its participating states are located in North America, Europe and Asia — 41 submitted official information and 34 provided data to the organization about hate crimes, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League and Human Rights First released Wednesday. Hate crime data is supposed to be submitted for an annual crime report by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. “ODIHR’s annual report is an important tool in understanding the nature and frequency of hate crimes across the OSCE region,” the report reads. “However, its utility is minimized when participating States do not collect or report data, provide insufficient data, or fail to submit data by the ODIHR deadline.”

The report added that the lack of reporting of hate crimes for the 2015 ODHIR report showed that member states “fail, or barely pass, in upholding their commitments to prevent and combat hate crime.” The Anti-Defamation League and Human Rights First noted a recent rise in hate crimes in Europe and the United States, citing Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union and the presidential election this month in the U.S. — both OSCE members — as two events leading to an increase in hate incidents. “In the current environment, with the refugee crisis, the rise of far-right parties and movements espousing hatred, and a rise in bias-motivated incidents throughout the region, there is an urgent need for prevention, data collection, and reporting to receive higher priority,” the report said.
© JTA News

up  

Slovakia toughens church registration rules to bar Islam

30/11/2016- Slovakia passed legislation on Wednesday to effectively block Islam from gaining official status as a religion in the near future in the latest sign of growing anti-Muslim sentiment across the European Union. The former communist state has fiercely resisted EU efforts to cope with a big influx of mainly Muslim migrants into Europe since 2015, in part by opposing quotas to share out asylum seekers among EU members. Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has said Islam has no place in Slovakia. Parliament adopted a bill sponsored by the Slovak National Party (SNS), junior member in Fico's coalition, that requires a religion to have at least 50,000 members, up from 20,000, to qualify for state subsidies and to run its own schools. The change will make it much harder to register Islam, which has just 2,000 adherents in Slovakia according to the last census and no recognised mosques. The Islamic Foundation in Slovakia estimates the number at around 5,000.

The SNS said the new law was meant to prevent speculative registrations of churches, such as the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which has amassed followers worldwide. "Islamisation starts with a kebab and it's already under way in Bratislava, let's realise what we can face in five to 10 years ... We must do everything we can so that no mosque is built in the future," SNS chairman Andrej Danko said earlier. There was no immediate comment from the Islamic Foundation. The law was approved by a two-thirds majority in parliament comprising both ruling and opposition parties. Lawmakers turned down a proposal by the opposition far-right People's Party-Our Slovakia to raise the religion membership bar to 250,000. The small central European country's population is 5.4 million; 62 percent of it is declared Roman Catholic. Danko had called for steps to prevent the registration of Islam and ban the wearing of burqas in public and the construction of mosques and minarets.

EU difficulties in absorbing over 1.36 million new migrants since the start of 2015, and a series of Islamist attacks, have stoked anti-Muslim feeling across the EU and boosted the appeal of far-right, anti-immigrant parties, prompting a rightward shift of governing centrists ahead of key elections next year.
© Reuters

up  

Survey: EU's Roma face lack of tap water, indoor toilets

29/11/2016- Eighty per cent of Europe‘s Roma are at risk of poverty as EU member states fail in their efforts to integrate the minority group, a rights agency survey showed Tuesday. Nearly one-third of some 8,000 Roma surveyed in 2016 live with no tap water, and 46 per cent of respondents have no indoor toilet, shower or bathroom, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said. "The levels of deprivation, marginalisation and discrimination of Europe‘s largest minority is a grave failure of law and policy in the EU and it‘s member states," FRA Director Michael O‘Flaherty said in a statement. The Roma people, also known as Gypsies or Travellers, are an ethnic minority in Europe that often face prejudice and social exclusion.

The European Union has repeatedly called on its 28 member states to better integrate the bloc‘s estimated 6 million Roma, but the study shows that national integration policies are falling short. According to the survey, Roma children attend early education less frequently than their peers in a country‘s general population, and more than 40 per cent of respondents say they have felt discriminated against while looking for work or during situation related to housing, health and education. The report is based on interviews with nearly 8,000 self-identifying Roma in nine EU member states. The FRA, which engages local communities in an ongoing Roma inclusion project, also surveyed Roma in 2008 and 2011.
© DPA

up  

Swiss town's U-turn on accepting refugees

A Swiss village is rethinking its decision to reject 10 refugees under the country's government quota.

29/11/2016- Oberwil-Lieli -- one of Europe's wealthiest villages -- is home to 2,200 residents, 300 of whom are reported to be millionaires. But citizens of the quaint picturesque commune voted to refuse resettlement of asylum seekers in a contentious referendum earlier this year, opting to fork out the fine of 290,000 Swiss francs ($285,643) instead.
The village faced fierce criticism -- at home and abroad -- after the "no" vote won by 52% to 48% back in May. Earlier that month, the government had proposed a new quota system to be rolled out across its 26 regions, in order to rehome the 50,000 refugees Switzerland has pledged to take in. Oberwil-Lieli's refusal to accept its quota of just 10 refugees was perceived to be at odds with Switzerland's longstanding humanitarian efforts. The country accepts more refugees per capita than most European countries -- only Sweden, Malta and Luxembourg take in more, according to data from the UNHCR. Now it appears the community has had change of heart: The village council announced Friday that it will welcome a family of five refugees from Syria in January.

Hard line response
The majority of refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland have traditionally hailed from Eritrea, citing economic hardship, according to the Swiss Department of Migration. And it was these migrants who Andreas Glarner, a Swiss People's Party member and mayor of Oberwil-Lieli, says he was taking a hard line against in the May referendum. "We still don't want to accept any refugees in our village but we thought it would be good to accommodate the 48% of our residents who voted to accept refugees -- that's why we changed our mind on this," he told CNN. Council representatives have appealed to the community to find an apartment to host the family -- but no accommodation has so far been located. The remaining five refugees that the village was allocated according to the government quota will reside in a neighboring town, Glarner said.

Offering an alternative
Oberwil-Lieli's mayor insists the referendum decision was never fueled by any kind of xenophobic sentiment, but because residents believe there are better ways to offer assistance. "I went to visit refugee camps in Greece and Turkey this summer and realized that it makes much more sense to help people there instead of supporting our nonsense refugee policy here in Switzerland," he said. "We thought it is smarter to help people on the ground. The Swiss franc is worth much more in those countries ... We don't want people to get into a boat and pay migrant smugglers. We should stop this business." Upon his return, Glarner appealed to his constituents for further donations to help the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. He says residents have so far raised 370,000 Swiss francs ($365,233), thanks in part to a private donor who pledged 250,000 francs ($246,779). "The money is going to Schwizerchruez," he said. "The charity supports refugees stranded in Greece. They make sure [refugees] can live in humane conditions."
© CNN

up  

Polish PM angers human rights campaigners with plans to shake up NGOs

Beata Szyd³o’s proposals for new civil society department could let ministers put pressure on NGOs critical of government

28/11/2016- The Polish prime minister, Beata Szyd³o, has angered human rights campaigners by announcing plans for a new department of civil society to centralise state funding and “bring order to the whole sphere of NGOs”. Too many non-governmental organisations were still “subordinate to the policies of the previous ruling system”, Szyd³o told reporters last week. She and other senior Polish ministers from the rightwing Law and Justice party were due in London on Monday for talks with the British government. The move could allow the Polish government to put pressure on NGOs who have criticised ministers over human rights issues. Activists accused ministers of grandstanding over attacks on Poles in Britain after the 23 June referendum to leave the European Union, while sabotaging efforts to respond to rising levels of hate crime at home.

“Public money is the main source of money for many NGOs, so it is easy for the government to realise its aims by putting financial pressure on them,” said Dorota Pudzianowska, of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Krzysztof Œmiszek, of the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law, said: “The previous government neglected us, but this one is openly hostile to the human rights agenda.” Law and Justice has been accused of turning accepted notions of human rights upside down by portraying advocates of minority rights and anti-discrimination legislation as a threat to the rights and freedoms of Poland’s Catholic majority. “Christianity is our culture, our civilisation, our basic values,” said the interior minister, Mariusz B³aszczak, after the terrorist attack in Nice in July, describing the atrocity as the “consequence of multicultural politics and political correctness”.

Wojciech Kaczmarczyk, appointed in January as government plenipotentiary for civil society and equal rights, has argued that the government has “had enough of militant atheists and enthusiasts of sexual revolution appropriating the principle of equality”. Earlier this month, Poland’s interior ministry merged its human rights protection team, which worked with NGOs on hate crime and human rights issues, into a larger department dealing with European migration and anti-trafficking efforts. In a statement, the interior ministry insisted the team’s staff would carry on with the same work as before, but a source close to the ministry told the Guardian it was “a clear attempt to weaken its role by removing its autonomy”.

In May, the Polish government abolished the state council for combating racism despite a steep rise in the number of investigations launched by prosecutors into allegations of discrimination and hate crime; up from 60 in 2009 to 1,500 in 2015. Law and Justice argued that the council had been ineffective, but did not propose any alternative arrangements. At the same time the government stopped funding Poland’s women’s rights centre, which provides support for victims of domestic abuse, arguing that it “offered help only to women”. Kaczmarczyk, who has defended the right of business owners not to serve black customers if doing so would be “contrary to their conscience”, was recently transferred to the prime ministerial chancellery, where he is overseeing Szyd³o’s plans for the department of civil society.

Conservative activists welcomed the proposals. “In the current model, certain social activities are overfunded and other types are neglected or ignored,” said Tymoteusz Zych, of Ordo Iuris, a hardline conservative advocacy group that drew up proposals for a blanket ban on abortion which sparked protests across Poland last month. Human rights advocates accused pro-government media of an orchestrated campaign to portray NGOs as acting against Polish interests. “NGOs are being framed as enemies of Poland because we take foreign money and criticise the government,” said Piotr Godzisz of Lambda, an NGO that monitors and records hate crimes against Poland’s LGBT community. Earlier this year, a brick was thrown through a window at Lambda’s Warsaw headquarters; a neo-Nazi symbol and a ”Ban the gays” slogan have also been carved into the front door of its offices.

Campaigners fear the prime minister’s announcement could be a precursor to even more restrictive measures. “We are worried that Poland is going the way of Hungary or Russia, with NGOs having to register with the government as ‘foreign agents’,” Œmiszek said. “They are testing the water, and the more silent we remain, the braver they will be.”
© The Guardian.

up  

Hungary gives 10-year sentence to Syrian man for border riot

A Syrian man was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Hungarian court on Wednesday (30 November) for his part in a riot on the border with Serbia last year.

1/12/2016- Ahmed Hamed, 40, was handed down the longest sentence by a Hungarian court in connection with the migration crisis, and was also sentenced to be expelled from the country. He was sentenced for throwing rocks at police in an attempt to push through the border gate, which was an "act of terror," according to Hungarian law. The man was part of a group that crossed illegally into Hungary in September 2015 at the Roszke point. He spoke to the crowd standing at the Serbian side of the border before hundreds of migrants pushed through the border gate, while Hungarian police used water cannon and teargas to stop them. Hamed pleaded not guilty to a charge of terrorism, and he cried as he was given his sentence. He had lived in Cyprus for 10 years, and had an EU residency permit. He joined the more than 1 million migrants coming into Europe last year to help his parents and other relatives make their way through the Balkans into Europe from war-torn Syria.

According to Amnesty International, news footage taken at the time of the riot in September shows Hamed using a megaphone to call on both the refugees and the police to remain calm. Ahmed admitted in court that he was involved in hurling stones as clashes intensified. Ahmed's father and mother were also arrested, and, along with eight others, were charged with illegally entering Hungary and participating in a mass riot. They spent eight months in prison in Hungary. According to the court, Hamed was a leading figure in the riots. Among the 11 people who were detained at Roszke, only Hamed was charged with terrorism. Hamed and his family arrived to the Hungarian border just as the country erected a fence on its Serbian border to stop the mass flow of people.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban has been a staunch opponent of migration, being the first EU leader to erect a border fence last year, and has refused to participate in the EU's refugee relocation scheme. On Wednesday, a small group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Szeged, in southern Hungary, to demand the release of Hamed and the "Roszke 11". "The Roszke trials are show trials," the group said in a leaflet they handed out, according to Reuters. "Throwing stones and entering a country irregularly does not constitute terrorism and cannot justify this draconian ruling," Gauri van Gulik, of Amnesty International, said in statement. Hungary during the summer passed a constitutional amendment that grants broad powers to the government to declare a state of "terror threat emergency".
© The EUobserver

up  

Hungarian Muslim group criticises town's 'xenophobic' decrees

Hungarian Islamic Community attacks ban on mosques, muezzins and clothes such as niqab and burkini by mayor of Ásotthalom

28/11/2016- One of Hungary’s main Muslim organisations has decried what it said are “xenophobic” steps taken by an ultra-nationalist local mayor. The town of Ásotthalom on the Serbian border last week banned mosque construction, the use of a muezzin at prayer times and the wearing of clothes such as the niqab and the burkini. In a statement, the Hungarian Islamic Community (MIK) said it was “shocked by the increasing xenophobia and serious Islamophobia in Hungary, which has now peaked with the decree”. The town’s mayor, László Toroczkai, said the steps were taken to “protect the community and its traditions from any mass settlement from outside”. Toroczkai, who is also a vice-president of the far right Jobbik party, came to prominence in 2015 when he filmed an action movie-style video at a fence on the Serbian border warning migrants not to enter Hungary. Ásotthalom has few refugees.

MIK, set up in 1990, is the oldest group representing Hungary’s Muslim community and is estimated to have 40,000 members. “We have requested in writing that the constitutional court examine this decree,” its statement said. “Although we are a religious minority, our constitutional rights must be protected as we are Hungarian citizens just the same as the non-Muslim majority. We cannot ‘go home’ anywhere as this is our homeland.” A letter asking the prime minister, Viktor Orbán – an anti-immigration politician who has emerged as a standard bearer for those opposed to the “open door” policy of Germany’s Angela Merkel – for help had gone unanswered, MIK said. The group said Muslims were being subjected to increasing verbal and physical attacks before the government-led referendum last month, which rejected the EU’s migrant quota plan. “The coded message [of the campaign] was that migrants are Muslims who are either terrorists or criminals,” MIK’s chairman, Zoltán Bolek, said.
© AFP

up  

Hungary: Shootout raises fears over Russian ties to Hungary’s far right

Evidence emerges of Moscow’s efforts to cultivate extremists

27/11/2016- When plain-clothes police officers came to Istvan Gyorkos’s house early one morning in late October in search of illegal guns, the increasingly paranoid 76-year-old neo-Nazi barricaded himself in. A bloody shootout ensued and a police officer was shot dead. Mr Gyorkos has been taken into custody and faces possible charges. With previous arrests and convictions for gun violations and hate crimes, the mustachioed founder of Hungary’s neo-Nazi National Front movement (MNA) was often pictured in military uniform. He was known nationally for his fascist political views and, in his home town of Bony, the MNA staged regular paramilitary drills in the muddy hills behind his house and even invited townspeople to watch. What was less well known was the far-right militia’s multiple ties to Russian secret services. “We don’t believe this attack was a plot orchestrated by the Russian government,” said Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest think-tank. “But there are strong suspicions Mr Gyorkos was supported by Moscow.”

In the wake of the October shootout, the police last week raided nine properties, uncovering MNA weapons stockpiles far larger and more sophisticated than expected, although their provenance is unknown. While Russian support for far-right groups in Europe has been widely rumoured, the recent events in Hungary have brought to light new evidence of Moscow’s long-running attempts to cultivate far-right extremists. Most significantly, Hungary’s national security committee has since confirmed that the MNA’s members openly trained with Russian diplomats and men dressed in Russian military intelligence uniforms. Emails exchanged between MNA leaders and obtained by Hungarian media reveal a strategy to secure funding from Moscow. Mr Gyorkos also founded Russian-domain website Hidfo.ru, a forum for pro-Russian disinformation on Ukraine’s war. A person familiar with the links between Russia and the far right said the MNA — founded in 1989 and one of about a dozen extremist far-right groups in Hungary — was attracted to Russian intelligence by Moscow’s anti-western, anti-globalisation ideology and the uncertain prospect of financial support.

For Russia’s part, its interest in cultivating groups like the MNA fits into a wider pattern of courting extremist elements as long-term assets, said Andras Dezso, a journalist who has investigated Hungary’s far-right movements. “It’s not about classical espionage, but rather manipulation of the press, the public and the political system,” he said, arguing that groups like the MNA can be used to destabilise politics. “The Russians are using totally different weapons to create an alternative reality. They want to disorient people, to make them feel unsafe.” Analysts question why Hungary’s government allowed Russian agents and Hungarian militants to openly co-operate on Nato territory over several years without intervening. Almost uniquely among countries in its neighbourhood, Budapest has not expelled any Russians individuals suspected of espionage in the past six years.

Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany claims hundreds of Russian spies are operating unchallenged in Hungary, turning Budapest into a “Little Moscow”. “Are we to believe there are simply no Russian spies operating in Hungary?” asked Mr Kreko. “It’s simply not credible.” The frustration is shared by some in the Hungarian security services. Two people familiar with internal tensions said Russian support to militants had been known for years but the government’s strong political links with Moscow and fears of an economic backlash had prevented any response. Those links include Hungary’s heavy reliance on Russian gas and the €10bn in Kremlin funding to build two Russian-designed nuclear reactors in Paks, by far the largest investment in Hungary in years. Prime minister Viktor Orban, who enjoys cordial relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin, has been among the vocal opponents of EU sanctions on Russia and says co-operation with Moscow is imperative for Hungarian national interests.

Zsolt Molnar, an opposition lawmaker and chairman of Hungary’s national security committee, said the killing was a “wake-up call” for Hungarian intelligence services who underestimated the lethal dangers posed by the MNA. But he played down the international significance. “The killing wasn’t ideologically motivated,” he said. “It’s not necessarily appropriate to make this into a diplomatic issue.” Hungary’s government agrees, at least for now. Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said he would await a full report from authorities before making any formal diplomatic complaint. “When you want to express concerns to Russians you have to base that on strong information and strong wisdom,” Mr Szijjarto said. “It’s not a strong position otherwise.”
© The Financial Times*

up  

Sweden: Swastikas & anti Muslim graffiti daubed on mosque

27/11/2016- Police in Stockholm are investigating a Saturday attack on a mosque in which neo-Nazi and anti-Muslim slogans were daubed near the place of worship.  Swastikas and the text “kill Muslims” had been scribbled near the entrance of the mosque in the southwestern Stockholm suburb of Bredang, not far from the center of the Swedish capital. A loud bang was also reported before 8 a.m. local time (0700GMT) from an adjacent gym during morning prayers. Firework residue was found at the building but no injuries were reported. Police spokesperson Sven-Erik Olsson told Anadolu Agency there were no suspects yet. “We’ve been to the mosque to take photos and we’ve reported this as a case of destruction of property and incitement to hatred,” he added. “It [the mosque] is located on the second floor and someone had scribbled swastikas and ‘kill Muslims’ on all three walls at the entrance,” Olsson said.

“This is not something one would expect… It’s hard to understand what is going on in society, both internationally and in our own country. I don’t recognise Sweden anymore,” Mustafa Tumturk, a representative of Stockholm’s Muslim community and one of the founders of the mosque in 1985, told Swedish news agency, TT. In October police suspected arson was behind a fire which damaged a Muslim prayer room in Malmo, southern Sweden. An investigation by the Islamic Cooperation Council in Sweden last year revealed seven out of 10 mosques in the country had been attacked. Radio Sweden put together a list in 2014 describing 13 incidents of mosque attacks across the nation that year. There are between 350,000 to 500,000 Muslims in Sweden.
© The Muslim News

up  

Bulgaria: Are Politicians Mainstreaming Anti-Migrant Sentiment?

2/12/2016- In October and November, protests were held in the village of Boyanovo and the nearby town of Yambol, with locals venting their anger over the construction of a migrant camp for three thousand people. In reality, the accommodation facility was supposed to fit in just a few hundred people on a temporary basis. Rumours, however, remained rife among the local population, no matter how much authorities sought to communicate the truth - something they should have done before rumours were spread, knowing how sensitive the "migrant issue" is anywhere out of the big cities. First because of the ageing or low-education population among which it is easy to spread falsehoods and whose opinions can easily be swayed in one or another direction. Secondly, inhabitants of small cities and towns, let alone rural border areas, have more legitimate reasons to mistrust anything coming out of their small communities, and this mistrust includes institutions and.

The riot in the Harmanli migrant reception center last week, when hundreds - out of the 3000 inhabitants - took part in unrest may have made headlines in Bulgaria and abroad, but was no more than a sign of how deep-rooted the abusive, and somewhat frivolous, state attitude toward migrants can be in the country. Authorities decided to lock up three thousand migrants who inhabited the camp for the very same reason that had fuelled the Boyanovo protests: rumours. The word had gone about among locals in Harmanli that some of the migrants had dangerous diseases; panic reigned in as migrants would normally go out in the town to get food, have a beer or just take a walk. Even though state institutions fended off the claims, they took the step to dispel concerns until medical examinations could take place. Some media outlets covering the problems of migrants then reported the center's residents had not been informed about the reasons and had suddenly felt imprisoned.

The website Marginalia.bg, which focuses on minorities issues, reported of yet another rumour that had circulated within the confines of the center after it had been closed to movement - apparently, some migrants were told that 8000 Afghans (the biggest group of arrivals at the moment) would be deported from Bulgaria soon. As many as 350 migrants were left injured while some 400 were arrested in the clashes that erupted. Human rights activists blamed police for excessive force applied while quelling the riot. The "anti-migrant" segment of the population, but also nationalist parties, commended authorities for the timely response and congratulated the law enforcement bodies for doing their job. A figure that - one again- stood out was that of outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who postponed a visit to Hungary to rush to the scene and intervene, assigning tasks to all institutions and ensuring detentions and deportations of the "dangerous" migrants.

What happened had not been difficult to foresee at all. Locking up 3000 people with poor quality food and in bad hygienic conditions could not have yielded other results. Indeed, a certain number of the migrants were found to be sick with scabies and other skin diseases after examinations. The lingering question is: why weren't these examinations conducted earlier? Given the recent account of a local photographer who made it into Harmanli (despite restrictions for journalists) and saw appalling hygienic conditions, why weren't the root causes for scabies removed from the center in the first place? All of this would have been far less concerning had it not been part of an unofficial election campaign. For Borisov, the constant reference to a “migrant threat”, be it justified or not, was a natural “evolution” of his mantra of stability:

his government considered itself a crucial player to preserve political, economic, financial and all other kids of stability, and this has been the case ever since he took over as Prime Minister for the second time since 2014. It is easy for a political establishment to grasp at a issue such as the inflow of migrants when the latter is self-evident, when one has to seize the topic away from nationalist parties already spreading fear among the population, or when one is a neighbour of Turkey. Ankara's statements, albeit largely produced for domestic consumption, can justify any wrongdoing across the Turkish border, including the notorious expulsion in August and subsequent cases.

Migrants and refugees (the latter term, strangely enough, increasingly used by the media in a way that gives it a certain negative connotation) were also the core issue of the presidential election campaign alongside ties with Russia, with all candidates competing over who would send out more apocalyptic messages about Bulgaria's “bleak” future in case of an imaginary swarm of arrivals. They also helped a nationalist candidate, Krasimir Karakachanov, get 15% of the vote, a huge leap compared to his previous run. Now that the government has stepped down, both the outgoing administration and the opposition parties are again using the newcomers as a bargaining chip in the dialogue with future voters (even though an early election won't come before March), linking stability to how the inflow is being handled.

The problem is not that they have embarked on a race for the hearts and minds of the electorate, but that they risk instilling hatred and normalizing the culture of anti-migrant violence. There are already local referendum petitions seeking a ban on accepting migrants in some municipalities. Back in April, it was institutional weakness and approval among part of locals that made authorities tolerate vigilante migrant hunters along the border. Six months earlier, it may have been self-defense and a ricochet that resulted in the death of an Afghan migrant at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Now, a new election cycle has loomed, and conspiracy theory lovers immediately started to ask: Why was it now, amidst the deep political crisis, and not earlier, that the riot happened? But nothing saddens a conspiracy skeptic more than hearing mainstream, moderate political scientist repeat, on air, that they “hope the riot was not intentionally caused”; as if they were seeking to persuade themselves and not the public.
© Novinite

up  

Bulgaria Moves Refugees to Closed Camps

26/11/2016- Bulgaria will move migrants who clashed with police at an accommodation camp to closed-type facilities and hopes to start extraditing some to their native Afghanistan next month, outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on Saturday. They will be divided into groups of 50-100 people and isolated in the old barracks, daily newspaper 24 Chasa quotes him as saying. The camp in the city will become a family one- only for refugees from Syria. Many of the migrants at the Harmanli camp have asked for free passage to Serbia - on the route from Bulgaria to western Europe - but the outgoing Interior Minister Rumiana Bachvarova said such a move would be politically impossible and has deployed more police officers to Harmanli.
© Novinite

up  

Estonia to spend 110,000 euros to prevent xenophobia in education

26/11/2016- The Estonian government is set to earmark 110,000 euros from its contingency reserve for the prevention of xenophobia in schools and kindergartens. Under a draft regulation filed by the Finance Ministry, the government would grant 227,804 euros to the Ministry of Education and Research to cover the costs related to the European Union action plan on migration. Nearly half of that money, 110,000 euros, will be spent on the prevention of xenophobia by means of arranging mobile counseling groups in educational establishments, publishing two methodology guides for teachers, and launching a campaign entitled "No hate speech."

17,700 euros are to be spent on student-based support in the second half of this year, including 10,200 euros as startup aid for pupils who have arrived to Estonia under the EU migrant plan; 4,000 euros as a one-off language teaching subsidy to Descartes School in Tartu, Laagna and Kuristiku high schools of Tallinn, and the Haapsalu Basic School; and 3,500 euros as payouts toward the costs of teaching the Estonian language to seven children attending a kindergarten. The draft order also lists 50,052 euros for teaching the Estonian language to illiterate adults, preparing related methodology guides and study materials, and another 50,052 euros for increasing competencies at educational institutions for the evaluation of readiness for study.
© The Baltic Times

up  

Erdogan, EU escalate angry rhetoric over refugees, EU membership

26/11/2016- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan escalated a brewing war of words with the European Union on Saturday amid fresh warnings from a leading European official not to renege on a deal to house more than 3 million Syrian immigrants. The two sides have clashed of late over the fate of negotiations for Turkey to enter the European Union. In the months since a coup attempt in July failed to topple Erdogan, the conservative Muslim leader has moved to crack down on perceived military and civilian government workers loyal to the coup's alleged leader Fetullah Gulen. After arresting thousands of alleged conspirators in the military and the government in the coup's aftermath, European leaders warned the authoritarian tactics could cost Turkey its bid for EU membership, a potential major economic windfall. On Thursday, the EU Parliament voted to freeze accession talks, though the vote was mostly symbolic and major EU nations such as Germany and France favor continuing the process.

On Friday, Erdogan threatened to throw open the Turkish border with Bulgaria -- and thus the rest of Europe -- to the 3 million-plus Syrian refugees being housed in camps in Turkey if the EU halted the accession process. On Saturday, Erdogan unleashed another angry tirade on television, suggesting his government could extend a state of emergency that has been in place since the coup failed. "Maybe the state of emergency will be extended by three months and then maybe another three months," he said, according to Al Jazeera. "This is a decision for the government and the [Turkish] parliament." "What's it to you?" he said, addressing the European Parliament. "Know your place." European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered a mixed response, telling Euronews on Friday that EU member-states should "refrain from giving lessons" to Turkey on the refugee crisis because the Turks are bearing a much more significant part of the burden than Europe.

"Turkey does much more than Europe, as do Jordan and Lebanon. So, we need to be humble when we speak on those issues," Juncker said. However, Juncker also cautioned in a Belgian newspaper Saturday that Turkey must abide by the terms of the migrant deal with Europe and stop the authoritarian treatment of its citizens, or own the potential consequence -- including failure to gain EU membership. "We made an agreement, it must be respected and it will be," Juncker said. "I believe that Erdogan and his government are in the process of 'pre-blaming' Europe for the failure of its accession negotiations."
© UPI

up  

News Netherlands, Germany, Austria & UK- Week 48

Netherlands: Sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents recorded

1/12/2016- Dutch police registered three times the number of incidents involving discrimination against Muslims last year than they did in 2014, according to a new report for the Anne Frank foundation. In total, they recorded 446 incidents involving verbal or physical attacks on Muslims, compared with 142 in the previous year. ‘The increase… is probably due to the rise in tension following terrorist attacks in western Europe and the arrival of Islamic asylum seekers,’ the foundation said. In particular, the presence of more extreme right-wing groups at anti-refugee demonstrations is worth noting, the foundation said. It estimates the number of members of various far right groups rose from around 100 to 245 in 2015. The total number of reports of racism, anti-semitism and extreme right-wing violence rose slightly to 4,165 last year. There were fewer reports of anti-semitic incidents, dropping from 76 to 57. This many be due to the reduction in violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the foundation said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherland: Be-wildering Dutch politics – Deutsche Bank

1/12/2016- Robin Winkler, Strategist at Deutsche Bank, notes that beyond France and Italy, many investors also worry about a negative outcome from the Dutch election next spring, as the far-right and pro-‘Nexit’ Party for Freedom under Geert Wilders is currently projected to become the largest party.

Key Quotes
“Yet in our view the risks should not be exaggerated.”

First, Wilders won’t govern. Polls suggest his party will win the largest share of 30-35 parliamentary seats out of 150. Yet in the Netherlands’ highly fragmented party landscape, Wilders is extremely unlikely to find enough willing coalition partners to form a majority. All other parties have ruled out a coalition with Wilders’ PVV. Hence, although an electoral triumph for Wilders would be worrying for Europe, there is an even lower risk of a far-right party governing the Netherlands than of a far-right president governing France.”

Second, more EU referendums are possible irrespective of Wilders and the election. Unlike in France, the far-right is not the only euro-skeptic force in the Netherlands. The more moderate euro-skeptic movement has coalesced around a demand for more sovereignty, rather than a concern over immigration. It was this movement that pushed for the new referendum law enacted last year and successfully piloted it over the ratification of the EU-Ukraine deal. Given that public initiatives only require 300,000 signatures to call a referendum, more antiEuropean referendums are possible in the coming years under any government.”

Yet third, and crucially, Dutch referendums cannot jeopardize EU or Eurozone membership. The new referendum law severely limits the scope. First, consultative referendums can only delay but not abrogate legislation. This is easily forgotten because the Dutch government has (so far) opted to abide by the public vote against the EU-Ukraine Treaty. Yet it may not see itself bound by public opinion on matters that fundamentally affect European stability. Second, referendums can only be held concerning new legislation, such as the ratification of Ukraine deal. Existing legislation at the core of the Dutch EU membership is out of scope. In other words, there cannot be an “in or our” vote. Lastly, if a new coalition included parties such as the Christian Democrats—traditionally sceptical of direct democracy—the referendum law could be amended to exclude international treaties. We see this as more likely than the opposite campaign to make referendums binding.”

“The bottom line is that the Dutch election is not nearly as important a risk event as the Italian referendum or the French presidential election next spring. This is not to deny that the ongoing success of both Wilders’ PVV and other euro-skeptic movements bodes badly for the European Union in the long term. Yet it should be seen as a symptom of Europe’s wider legitimacy crisis, rather than as a localized risk that could make the entire edifice collapse.”
© FX Street

up  

Netherlands: Wilders’ PVV back on top in latest poll of polls

30/11/2016- After weeks of declining support, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam party PVV is once again leading the polls in the run up to the March 15 general election. The new poll of polls, a amalgam of five different opinion polls, gives the PVV between 27 and 31 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament or 18% to 21% of the vote, broadcaster NOS reported. The rise of four seats in PVV support has partly been at the expense of the ruling VVD, which is now down two at 24 to 28 seats, or 16% to 19% of the vote. Research by I&O Research and published last week showed that Wilders’ ‘fewer Moroccans’ court case has boosted support for the PVV. The discussion around Sinterklaas’ controversial helper Zwarte Piet and the impasse over the Ukraine referendum result have also increased the backing for the anti-immigration populists, I&O Research said. The PVV and VVD lead the political party pack by a considerable margin. In third place are the Liberal democrats D66 with 15 to 17 seats, followed by the Christian Democrats and Socialists.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: A'dam looks to ban hissing, rude gestures and wolf-whistles on the street

29/11/2016- Amsterdam city council is considering amending its bylaws to make it an offence to harass or hiss at people in the street as part of a package of measures to reduce intimidation in public places, the Parool said on Tuesday. The city’s executive board has backed a plan by the right-wing liberal party VVD and the Christian Democrats to make it clear that Amsterdam ‘does not tolerate any form of intimidation’, the paper said. The proposal, which also includes an educational programme for schools, still needs to be approved by the entire council. If the plan is voted through perpetrators could be fined up to €4,100 or jailed for three months. City council research involving 1,000 women found 59% had experienced some form of harassment on the street in the previous year. This included whistling, hissing, aggressive demands for sex, being followed and sexually assaulted. Over eight in 10 women aged 15 to 34 reported having problems. The problem is most acute near the main railway station, in the red light district and in areas where nightlife is concentrated. Because it is difficult to prove that intimidation has taken place, the city wants to use plain-clothes ‘monitors’ to intervene if necessary.
© The Dutch News

up  

Germany: New anti-extremism project launched in schools

Bringing de-radicalization projects into schools is a major new challenge for European governments. Now the international media platform "Extreme Dialogue" is offering a new approach in Germany.

2/12/2016- Extremism is about much more than simple ideological indoctrination - it's rooted in all the many complex factors that make up people's lives. That's why understanding and countering radicalization among young people needs to take a much more personalized, localized approach. This is the central insight behind "Extreme Dialogue," a major new anti-radicalization initiative that launched its German arm this week at an event in the small northwestern town of Vechta. "The academic studies of hate crimes often tend to conclude that this is an ideological issue, or a religious issue - something on the level of philosophical thinking - which you then counter, discuss and debate," said Harald Weilnböck, de-radicalization director at Cultures Interactive, the German partner in the project. "If you talk to practitioners, you know that this just does not work," he said. "We've all met extremist people. Whenever you discuss with them, you realize you just don't get anywhere. We have to think of a different approach in our methodology."

The methodology developed by this project is based on stories, emotional intelligence, real-life experience, and trust - brought into classrooms and workshops with the help of different kinds of media. This is all supported by Extreme Dialogue's internet platform - co-funded by the European Union - that offers free educational resources in various languages and various formats. Central to it are a series of short films about people whose lives have been affected by extremism of all stripes. These films tell the stories of people like Billy McCurrie, who joined a Northern Irish paramilitary group after his son was murdered by the IRA, or Daniel Gallant, a former Canadian neo-Nazi responsible for countless acts of violence, and who tells of how he even co-opted Islamist material as part of his recruitment among young people.

Critical thinking
One of the most moving videos is about Christianne Boudreau, whose son Damian Clairmont left their home in Canada and was killed fighting for "Islamic State" in Syria in January 2014. She has since begun working with families facing radicalization around the world as part of a network called "Mothers for Life." Boudreau says the crucial part of the Extreme Dialogue project is the critical thinking it brings into the classroom. "The kids are set free on the internet - you can try to block whatever information you want, but they're still going to be curious," she told DW. "So by introducing the topic in a safe environment and giving them the critical thinking skills, it allows them to experience the types of feelings they would encounter if they were approached by someone from an extremist group trying to recruit them. Then they can recognize the thought processes that are involved in recruitment."

Boudreau's experience with young people has shown that they often already know a lot about it. "People often don't realize how much thought they've already put into [extremism], because it's so prominent in the media," she said. Because the Extreme Dialogue films are so emotionally engaging, she added, "it often opens them up with an awful lot of questions which they just haven't found an appropriate place to ask before. But this is a safe environment where they won't be judged, there won't be stigmatization, and it allows them to ask difficult questions that most people shy away from."

New dimension
To back up these films, the website offers a whole raft of educational material, including a series of lesson plans for teachers to draw on - which is what, according to Weilnböck, sets Extreme Dialogue apart from the work of other German de-radicalization organizations, notably the Berlin-based Violence Prevention Network (VPN). "[VPN] are strictly focused on face-to-face work," he said. "Germany has been doing it since the 90s, really, and since 2001, when Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder put it into law that 20 million euros [$21 million] a year would be put into fighting extremism - but that was mostly put into preventing neo-Nazism, especially in the east." Personal counseling, he added, was the focus of most de-radicalization projects in Germany, but Extreme Dialogue's videos and materials added a new dimension: "They do not do any media work of the kind that Extreme Dialogue does. These are designed to be used in classrooms as triggers of real-life discussions." But the work has only just started: "It's one thing to have a good method on the shelf, but you need a pool of trainers and facilitators to teach it."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Germany: Six arrested following raids on suspected Dresden neo-Nazi group

Police in Saxony have raided 19 locations associated with the far-right "Freie Kameradschaft Dresden" group. The group is suspected of committing a number of attacks targeting refugees and political opponents.

1/12/2016- Saxony's public prosecutor's office said that six members of the neo-Nazi group were arrested following Wednesday's raids. The "Freie Kameradschaft Dresden," which translates as the "Free Comradeship of Dresden," is suspected of involvement in 14 criminal acts, including an explosive attack, attempted arson, damage to property and several instances of causing bodily arm. The detained members were also charged for attacking asylum seekers and political opponents. The prosecutor's office said the group had targeted refugee lodgings in Freital, Heidenau and Dresden. The six arrested members were expected to be presented in front a magistrate on Wednesday, the day of their arrest.

Extremism in Saxony
Authorities said they had been investigating the "Freie Kameradschaft Dresden" since June 2015. The group is reportedly made up of 15 men and two women, ranging from ages 16 to 30. Several extremist attacks on asylum seekers and politically-motivated clashes have taken place in the eastern state of Saxony in recent months. In September, xenophobic attackers set off explosives outside a Dresden mosque and convention center. Also in September, the town Bautzen was rocked after a series of violent clashes between refugees and right-wing extremists. Dresden has also seen a number of anti-migrant marches organized by Germany's self-styled "anti-Islamization" movement, Pegida. The state parliament, meanwhile, has the highest share of ALternative for Germany (AfD) parliamentarians of any in Germany, after the euroskeptic, anti-immigration party claimed more than 20 percent of the vote in state elections this March. Saxony's police unit responsible for tackling extremism led Wednesday's raids. It was assisted by local forces from Leipzig and Dresden, as well as the state's investigative police force, the LKA Sachsen.
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Germany: Here's why so many vote for the far-right AfD

A new pan-European study analyzes why right-wing populists are on the march across Europe. One factor above all was most relevant.

30/11/2016- After interviewing around 11,000 people in 28 European countries in August 2016, the Bertelsmann Stiftung on Tuesday released its report “Globalization or a value clash? Which Europeans vote for populist parties and why.” “The results of our study show that above all, fears about globalization are what drive some people to turn away from mainstream politics and vote for a populist party. Values only play a secondary role,” the report concludes. “The lower the level of education, the lower the income and the older the person is, the more likely they are to feel threatened by globalization.” In Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have scored several shock successes in state elections in Germany in 2016, winning over 20 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. According to polling, they could become the third largest party in the Bundestag (German parliament) after national elections in 2017. The Bertelsmann report finds that their supporters are particularly wary of the effects of globalization. Not only are they the Europeans most anxious about globalization's impact, they are more than twice as likely to express this concern as voters for Germany's mainstream parties.

Germans in comparison with Europe
Of respondents who said they vote AfD, 78 percent felt anxiety about globalization, as opposed to 45 percent of Germans overall. In France the score was similarly high, with 76 percent of voters for the National Front (FN) saying they fear globalization. But in other countries, the proportion of populist voters who fear globalization was generally lower. Sixty-nine percent of voters for the FPÖ in Austria, 66 percent of Lega Nord voters in Italy, and 50 percent of UKIP voters in the UK felt the same way. Nevertheless in six of the nine larger EU countries studied in detail by the report, fear of globalization was more prevalent among populist voters than both a feeling of economic insecurity and attachment to traditional values. AfD voters were comparatively unattached to traditional values in comparison to other European populist voters. While 46 percent of AfD voters said traditional values were important to them, 67 percent of FN voters in France said so, as did 63 percent of voters for the populist PVV in the Netherlands. In fact, fewer AfD voters expressed an attachment to traditional values than voters for any of Britain’s main parties, including the Liberal Democrats.

How do German voters think?
The results also showed clear divisions between AfD voters and those for Germany's other political parties. Voters for the far-left Die Linke are also more concerned about globalization than the national average, with 55 percent seeing it as a threat. But the mood among mainstream party voters is very different. Among those who vote for the Social Democrats (SPD) and the conservative Union (CDU/CSU), which currently govern the country in a grand coalition, 33 percent and 32 percent respectively said they feared the effects of a more integrated world. The study’s authors claim that Angela Merkel’s conservative Union have lost voters to the AfD in large numbers because they have recently moved away from their traditional stance that “Germany is not a country of immigration.” A lack of calmness and authority on the part of the government on the refugee crisis has exacerbated fears about rapid change to German society, the report argues. “A concerted action to communicate the message 'we have things under control' would be extremely damaging to the AfD.”
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Police may have solved Peggy Knobloch case after finding DNA of dead neo-Nazi

Peggy Knobloch was just nine in 2001 when she vanished while walking home from school.

29/11/2016- German police believe they have cracked the case of the 2001 disappearance of a nine-year-old girl after finding the DNA of a notorious neo-Nazi near her body. In July this year, mushroom hunters discovered the body of Peggy Knobloch nine miles from where she lived in Lichtenberg, in central Germany. Peggy had disappeared in broad daylight 15 years ago while walking home from school. German police say that the DNA of Uwe Boehnhardt, who belonged to a three-member neo-Nazi cell believed to be responsible for 10 murders, was on a piece of material near to her remains. Boehnhardt committed suicide in 2011 alongside fellow National Socialist Underground (NSU) member Uwe Mundlos after police stumbled on the group. The NSU were implicated in the murders of eight Greeks, one Turk and a German policewoman.

The sole surviving member of the neo-Nazi gang, Beate Zschaepe, is standing trial for her role in the killings. Zschaepe, dubbed "The Nazi Bride" by German media, claims to have renounced the group's ideology and says she wants to testify about the death of a girl, according to The Mirror. Nazi propaganda and pornography were found on computers the trio left behind, according to local media. Detectives also found children's toys in the wreckage of a caravan hideout that Zschaepe burned down after Mundlos and Boehnhardt killed themselves. The far-right activists were discovered to have played a twisted board game they named "Pogromoly" based on rounding up Jews and sending them to gas chambers. Zschaepe, 41, who is on trial, will give evidence on Knobloch in the week beginning 5 December.

Peggy disappeared on 7 May 2001, sparking a massive search. A man with learning disabilities, Ulvi Kulac, was found guilty of Knobloch's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004. However, the conviction was overturned nine years later and he was freed in 2014. No one has since been arrested in connection with the murder.
© The International Business Times - UK

up  

German Justice Minister Maas pushes gun control in light of Reichsbürger

The anti-government Reichsbürger movement is growing in Germany. After the fatal shooting of a police officer in October, the justice minister is calling for stricter laws to stop extremists from acquiring weapons.

28/11/2016- Speaking on ARD's Sunday night broadcast "Bericht aus Berlin," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for tighter weapons laws to prevent guns from falling in to the wrong hands. As opposed to the current checks carried out by police and Germany's arms associations, the Social Democrat proposed that findings from the country's domestic intelligence agency regarding applicants from the "extremist area" should be reviewed before licenses are granted. In the interview, the minister made specific reference to the anti-government Reichsbürger movement. About 100 of its members reportedly possess gun permits. For years, the debate on tightening weapons laws has been repeatedly discussed, particularly after the spate of terrorist attacks across Europe. The topic has gained momentum in recent months, however, following the emergence of the increasingly active Reichsbürger movement.

The group does not recognize the Federal Republic of Germany, denies the legitimacy of the authorities and courts, and asserts that the German Reich continues to this day. In October, one member near Nuremberg wounded three police officers and killed another in a shootout. A week later, police discovered a weapons stockpile believed to belong to the same extremist group. The movement has since been put under surveillance by German intelligence agencies. In general, observations should be reserved, Maas said. "There are many groups, also right-wing groups, which consider it to be almost a success when they're observed by intelligence agencies." "It has become clear among Reichsbürger that it's also about the practice of violence - that's to say criminal activities - and it's therefore logical to decide now that the intelligence agency will survey them from observing this," Maas said.

'Little sense'
Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany's police union, supported the call for tighter laws. "Inquiring with intelligence agencies whether information is available about these people must be obligatory," Wendt said. Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), is also keen to push for an early review by Germany's intelligence services at the upcoming interior ministers conference in Saarbrücken. "Everything must be done to ensure that extremists cannot possess weapons," Jäger told the daily "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung." "It makes little sense to first grant legal permission to own a weapon, only to then discover information from intelligence services about the applicant, and then withdraw a granted license," Jäger said.

Concerns for sport
Despite the growing presence of extremist groups, Stephan Mayer, the Christian Social Union's domestic policy spokesman, rejected the proposal. The conservative politician warned against tightening weapons laws at the expense of shooting sports. "Of course we want to ensure that weapons do not fall into the wrong hands," Mayer said. "But we cannot put hundreds of thousands of shooters and hunters under general suspicion." Germany's VDB arms dealers' association also rejected what it described as an "ideological control before the granting of civil rights." "As a representation of the arms dealers and gunsmiths, we are convinced that the current legal situation and the regulatory authorities are expedient and viable in controlling the access to and the possession of legal weapons," VDB chief executive Ingo Meinhard told DW. "We see a habitual inquiry into sports guards and hunters by intelligence services, as an administratively legitimate general suspicion against respectable citizens," Meinhard said.

Hindsight too late?
Frank Göpper, a lawyer and the director of Forum Waffenrecht, a German weapon laws association, told DW that he is in favor of tighter laws targeting extremists. The measures, however, should not affect Germany's estimated 1 million sports shooters and hunters, Göpper said. "Members of the Reichsbürger are a heterogeneous group of people, of whom around 100 are thought to own a weapon," Göpper added. "Anyone who is not 'reliable' isn't granted a gun," he said. "This includes anyone who acts against the German constitution." In his interview on Sunday, however, the justice minister insisted that carrying out checks with intelligence services in hindsight are of little use. "If the [extremists] have weapons, it's already practically too late," Maas said. "We have to take measures so that such people on the extremist side of our society cannot possess weapons at all."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Austria: Identitarian group veils Maria Theresa statue

The far-right Identitarian youth movement has placed a veil on one of Vienna’s most famous statues as a protest against what they call “the Islamisation of Austria”.

1/12/2016- The black veil was placed on a statue of former Archduchess of Austria Maria Theresa - which lies between the Kunsthistorisches and the Naturhistorisches museums. Maria Theresa was well known during her reign for her devout Catholic faith, her anti-Semitism, and her intolerance of other religions. In a press release, the group said they carried out the protest early on Tuesday morning and had to use a cherry picker to be able to reach the 65 foot high statue’s head. They also placed a sign at the bottom of the statue reading, “Islamisation? No thanks!”. Tuesday marked the anniversary of Maria Theresa’s death. In a post on their Facebook page the group said that it demands “a remigration of all illegal migrants and those Muslims who reject our social order,” and went on to say, “furthermore, the political persecution of those people who are concerned about the future of Austria and the fact of the Islamization of our country must cease.” People who post hate speech on social media in Austria are increasingly being prosecuted. Police confirmed that they are investigating the veil protest. "The identities of the activists are well-known, and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is also investigating the incident,” police spokesman Paul Eidenberger said.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria: Hitler house to be confiscated after law change

A parliamentary committee has approved a special law to allow the confiscation of the house where Adolf Hitler was born from its current owner.

1/12/2016- The building has been empty since 2011, although the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, earns rent from the government to keep it unused. The building has been in her family for more than a century. Hitler was born there on 20th April 1889 and her family were prominent supporters of the Nazis, yet they still managed to get the property returned to them after World War II. The Austrian government has spent years trying to negotiate with Pommer for a solution that would ensure it does not end up as a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists. But after all their attempts failed, the government started looking at alternative possibilities - and discovered that the house had been returned to the woman's family under questionable circumstances. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka then announced that the government planned to confiscate the property, and to push through a law to make it possible.

The law was supported by both the coalition government partners, as well as the opposition NEOS and the Greens. Only the far-right Freedom Party and Team Stronach, the party of Austro Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, voted against - saying it was an overreaction. A competition is now to be launched asking for suggestions from architects on how the house might be developed, with most people favouring a redesign of the exterior. However the Interior Minister has also said he would favour a demolition. The house, located in the small town of Braunau am Inn, near the German border, was very nearly blown up after World War II, but in the end it was left as is, before eventually being given back to its former owners. Despite the fact that the family were Nazi sympathisers, they managed to persuade the court that they had been victims of the Nazis and that the property, which they had sold, should never have been taken away from them.

The latest round of legal problems began five years ago, when Pommer refused to allow renovations to the building, in a dispute over its use. She also turned down offers by the government to buy the house. Prior to the dispute, the house had been used for many years as a centre for people with mental disabilities. The Interior Ministry has been the main tenant of the building since 1972, subletting it to various charitable organisations. The approximately 800-square-metre property currently costs the state €4,800 a month. The tenancy agreement states that it may not be used as a museum or in any historical context.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria election: Holocaust survivor's appeal goes viral

An emotional appeal from a Holocaust survivor has gone viral ahead of Austria's presidential election.

28/11/2016- Gertrude, 89, said Norbert Hofer's right-wing Freedom Party "brings out the basest in people", as she urged people to vote for his competitor. "I have seen this once before... and it hurts and scares me", she said, referencing anti-Semitism in the 1930s. She was deported to the Auschwitz death camp with her family aged 16. She was the only one to survive. Gertrude, known only by her first name, shared the video through Mr Hofer's rival, Alexander Van der Bellen. It has been viewed almost three million times. Austria's presidential vote re-run is on 4 December and the polls indicate the result is too close to call. If Mr Hofer wins, he will become the EU's first far-right head of state.

His party was founded in 1955 by a former general in the Nazi SS and it is also distinctly anti-immigration. "That's what bothers me the most ... no respect for others, they bring out the basest of people - not the decent, but the indecent," Gertrude said in her video. "And it's not the first time something like this has happened." She compared the rhetoric surrounding immigration to her memories of Jewish people being mocked and laughed at as they cleaned the streets of Vienna in her youth. "That hurts. I am afraid of that," she said. Gertrude also said she was particularly worried by comments from the Freedom Party's leader.

Heinz-Christian Strache in October spoke of an "uncontrolled influx of migrants alien to our culture who seep into our social welfare system", adding that "civil war in the medium-term [is] not unlikely". Gertrude said she remembered a civil war from when she was seven years old and saw a dead body for the first time - something she said she could never forget. It is not clear which war she was referring to, but Austria's February uprising of 1934 was a four-day armed conflict which left several hundred dead. "A shiver ran down my spine and I thought to myself: this should not even be mentioned, or even thought of," she said. "This is probably going to be my last election. I don't have much time left. But the young ones still have their whole life ahead of them. "And they have to look after themselves and for a bright future."
© BBC News

up  

UK: Racist posters removed from two locations in Newbury

Offensive white zone flyers reported to police

1/12/2016- Racist posters advocating 'white zones' have been discovered in Newbury. Thames Valley Police said that the offensive flyers were discovered in Chestnut Crescent and the A4 underpass leading to Almond Avenue on Monday, November 28. Sergeant Holly Nicholls, of Newbury Police Station, said: "Thames Valley Police has received a complaint from a member of the public. "The offensive nature of the 'white zone' posters, in addition to the fact that they were fly-posted, led to the removal of the posters." The posters are linked to National Action, a neo-Nazi British nationalist youth movement, and were posted in Glasgow shorty after the Brexit vote in June. Officers are asking for people to come forward with any information as to who may have placed these stickers. Residents should also call Thames Valley Police on 101 to report sightings of the posters and stickers.

"If you witnessed anyone hanging these posters, see any posters of concern or have information that will help our investigation, please call Thames Valley Police on 101 citing reference number 43160334514." Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
© Newbury Today

up  

UK: Boy, 15, charged with killing of Polish man in Harlow

Teenager charged with Arkadiusz JóŸwik’s manslaughter, with CPS understood not to be prosecuting case as a hate crime

1/12/2016- A 15-year-old boy has been charged with the manslaughter of a Polish man killed in Harlow in August. Arkadiusz JóŸwik, 40, died after a late-night clash with a group of youths in the Essex town. The Crown Prosecution Service announced the charging decision and said five other youths arrested over the incident would face no criminal charges. Essex police said JóŸwik, 40, was attacked at about 11.35pm on Saturday 27 August. He was taken to the Princess Alexandra hospital, and was later transferred to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, where he died two days later. The senior investigating officer DI Danny Stoten, of the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has now authorised Essex police to charge a teenager with manslaughter in connection with the death of Mr JóŸwik. He is due to appear at Chelmsford youth court on 6 January 2017.”

It is understood that the CPS has decided it will not prosecute the case as a hate crime. There were concerns at the time of the death that the incident may have been a hate crime because it occurred at a time of heightened community tension in the aftermath of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on 23 June. The factory worker, who had been living in England for four years, was knocked unconscious outside a row of takeaway shops. Shortly after the incident his brother, Radek, linked the death with a surge in hatred towards eastern Europeans after the Brexit vote. Such was the concern that Polish police officers were allowed to patrol Harlow alongside British officers. Paul Scothern, crown advocate in the complex casework unit for CPS East of England, said:“Following early investigative advice from the reviewing lawyer, the police decided to take no further action in relation to five other youths who were at the scene. “May I remind all concerned that this youth has a right to a fair trial. It is very important that there should be no reporting, commentary, or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings. For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Far-right fanatics use Facebook to help fund ‘migrant hunters’

A new British far-right movement is raising funds via Facebook and equipping extremist vigilantes to capture immigrants in eastern Europe.

26/11/2016- The shadowy organisation styling itself the Knights Templar International (KTI) has been promoted by prominent far-right figures including Nick Griffin, the former leader of the British National Party (BNP), and Paul Golding, head of Britain First. An investigation by The Times has established that social media marketing tricks are being used to raise money and support from unsuspecting Facebook users. KTI has used its funds to deliver bulletproof vests, drones and night-vision goggles to a Bulgarian group devoted to catching immigrants crossing the European Union’s frontier. The news will raise fears of a resurgence in far-right activism days after the white supremacist Thomas Mair was jailed for life for the murder of the MP Jo Cox. Several of those associated with the group were previously bitter enemies, suggesting a rapprochement on the extremist fringe.

Since Monday, more than two million Facebook users have watched an innocent-looking viral video which lures them to donate to the movement. Last night Facebook said it was investigating, after being alerted by The Times. The KTI delivery to the Bulgarian vigilantes in September was announced on a visit by Jim Dowson, a far-right marketing expert and militant Christian campaigner with convictions for violence and unlawful protest. Mr Griffin, who publicly called for more kit to be provided for the vigilantes, was photographed with the gifts laid out in a forest. The vigilantes set out to capture some of the 50 immigrants a day who cross into the country from Turkey en route to western Europe.

The Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borissov, has thanked them but one migrant-hunter, from a different group, was arrested after posting a video showing three terrified Afghans being forced to the ground and tied up. Support for KTI has been built through sophisticated online marketing. A video posted on the new Facebook Live service this week asked: “Should St George’s Day be a public holiday?” Viewers were invited to vote Yes or No. A message was “pinned” to the top of the stream of comments, stating “Join the Templars today”, with a link to the KTI website. Each trick maximised the audience. Facebook promotes Live content by moving it towards the top of users’ feeds. Viewers who voted either way were deemed to have interacted with the item which was then sent to their friends. By yesterday it had received more than 230,000 “Likes” sharing it across the social network.

Dowson, a Scottish Protestant pastor, ran a highly successful telephone campaign for the BNP which helped it to win more than 900,000 votes in the European elections of 2009, an unparallelled result that handed Mr Griffin a seat in Europe’s parliament. He moved to Britain First but left, blaming police harassment. That party’s leader, Mr Golding, has emailed supporters encouraging them to join KTI, saying it is the ideal home for “those with sensitive careers” who want “to stay under the radar but still contribute to the cause”. KTI said it has no connection to any political party and insisted it had no prior knowledge of Mr Golding’s email. It has “no current relationship in any way with Paul Golding”. Mr Golding said he had no relationship with KTI. Mr Griffin and Dowson both appeared at the inaugural International Russian Conservative Forum, a gathering of right-wing extremists in St Petersburg in 2015.

Asked about KTI and the Bulgarian kit, Mr Griffin said: “I really have nothing to say to a warmongering rag that supports Islamo-fascists in Aleppo, Nazi fascists in Ukraine and the Zionist-fascist occupation of a part of Syria where Rupert Murdoch has been granted oil exploration rights.” Fiyaz Mughal, of the anti-extremist group Faith Matters, urged Facebook to remove what he described as aggressive online marketing by a group with disturbing connections to hardcore east European extremist networks.
© The Times

up  

UK: Police urged to crack down on neo-Nazi group after Jo Cox murder

Police are being urged to crack down on a neo-Nazi group that is using the murder of Jo Cox to spearhead a recruitment drive.

27/11/2016- freedom for Britain” as he killed the popular Labour MP have been adopted as a rallying cry by National Action. The popular mother of two 41, was shot and stabbed to death by the 53-year-old loner last June in Birstall, West Yorkshire. It is just an hour’s drive away from Darlington, County Durham, where 50 NA members – some wearing paramilitary uniforms and making Nazi salutes – marched earlier this month. One ranted: “We will not be shamed and we will not be cowed. We will take back what is rightfully ours. “We are coming together. We are preparing for the fight of our lives.” After the death of Jo Cox, the NA’s North-east branch tweeted a picture of Mair titled: “Don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain.”

Last night a spokesman for Hope not Hate, which monitors fascist groups, said counter terrorism police should step up their investigations into National Action whose members idolise Hitler and campaign for Nazi-style national socialism. Chief Executive Nick Lowles said: “The Mair case highlights the ever present threat of far-right terrorism in this country, a threat Hope not Hate still believes the authorities are not taking seriously enough. “Far-right activists and groups regularly get away with threats of violence and racist incitement which we believe would not be accepted if they were Muslim extremists. There is a danger extreme race hate, left unchallenged, will continue to inspire other Thomas Mairs.”

Detective Superintendent Clive Wain, who heads the North East Counter Terrorism unit, said it was “committed to tackling violent extremism in all its forms and would act on any intelligence where there is a potential threat to local communities. He added: “This includes any risk posed by right wing extremists.” Detectives on the Mair case checked to see if the loner had any links to NA members, but there was nothing on his computer to show that he had. West Yorkshire police are still trying to discover who sold or gave him the gun he used to kill Miss Cox. Mair, who admitted his , was given a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey in London last week.
© The Express

up  

Headlines 25 November, 2016

What Europe Can Teach Us About Trump – Analysis

By John Feffer

25/11/2016- Donald Trump might seem like a uniquely American phenomenon. The shape-shifting billionaire huckster reinvented himself first as a TV personality and then as a maverick populist politician. He rode to power on patriotic slogans – Make America Great Again – and tailored his policy prescriptions to specific American constituencies like West Virginia coal miners and Michigan factory workers. He spoke to very particular American anxieties about immigration, crime, and guns. You can find traces of Trump in American history (Andrew Jackson, Huey Long) and American literature (Elmer Gantry, Lonesome Rhodes). Donald Trump practically screams America. And yet, Trump is nothing new. Europeans have been dealing with their own mini-Trumps for decades. Silvio Berlusconi also began his career in real estate before becoming a billionaire media mogul.

A womanizer and right-wing populist who promised to create a million jobs, Berlusconi led his Forza Italia party to victory more than 20 years ago in 1994. He would eventually serve as prime minister in four governments. He didn’t follow through on his promise to create a million jobs. In fact, the Italian economy sank deeper into debt and corruption, and Berlusconi became mired in a succession of scandals. Silvio Berlusconi was, as The Economist put it indelicately, “the man who screwed an entire country.” Those are big shoes for Trump to fill. Further east in Europe, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have all produced their own mini-Trumps over the years. As America braces itself for the landfall of Hurricane Trump, it’s instructive to look at the trajectory of these populist leaders for they hold clues to our future.

Hungary: Political Swingers
Viktor Orban started out his political life as a liberal. He helped found the Alliance of Young Democrats – Fidesz – in Budapest in 1988. As Communism began to crumble in Hungary in 1989, the new movement promised to be “radical, liberal, and alternative.” Fidesz introduced a playful note into the 1990 election. One particularly striking, if heteronorma-tive, campaign poster from that year showed two pictures of a kiss: between two Communist dinosaurs, Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, and between two young, attractive Hungarians. “Make your choice,” read the inscription. Fidesz captured nearly 9 percent of the vote that year. Today, Fidesz is no longer liberal or alternative. It’s no longer the party of young people. And it is far from irreverent. After a steady march to the Right, led by current Prime Minister Viktor Orban, it has become the party of orthodoxy.

“It was completely unexpected what happened in Hungary, where an already consolidated liberal democracy went backwards toward an autocratic or hybrid regime,” says Hungarian sociologist Andras Bozoki. “It never before happened in the EU that a country suddenly made a U-turn back from democracy toward some kind of half-democracy. When Austrians elected the Haider party, there was a huge protest in the EU. There was also a marginalization of Berlusconi. But none of these people had a two-thirds majority in the parliament, so they couldn’t change the constitution After winning more than 50 percent of the vote in both 2010 and 2014, Fidesz can pass any legislation it wants. When the country’s constitutional court has overturned key Fidesz laws, the party simply achieved its goal by changing the constitution, which it has done four times — recalling the apocryphal story of the Paris bookseller who, when asked for a copy of the French constitution after World War II, answered that he didn’t traffic in periodical literature.⁠

Orban moved to the right less because of ideological conviction than because of political opportunity. In Hungary, the main liberal party (the Alliance of Free Democrats) and the former Communists (the Socialist Party) teamed up to form a coalition government on two occasions. Orban was furious at what he perceived as a betrayal by his liberal brethren. The liberal-socialist coalition, meanwhile, implemented harsh economic reforms and became notorious for its corruption. The discrediting of the liberal-left on economic grounds presented Orban with the means to regain power in 2010. Fidesz hammered on its populist themes – average people were not benefitting from economic reforms, the elite had partnered with foreign interests against the nation, minorities (Roma, immigrants) were dragging the country down into lawlessness. Sound familiar?

Like Trump, the Fidesz take on the economy is all over the map. It has railed against international banks even as it imposes various neoliberal reforms. Orban is primarily interested in what economists call “state capture.” The ruling party is using the state apparatus to direct benefits – jobs, contracts, payments – to its supporters. If the Hungarian government renationalizes utilities or banks, it’s not because of some fundamental belief that the state benefits from controlling the “commanding heights” of the economy. Rather, Fidesz simply wants more power in its hands and more spoils to distribute. The Hungarian public is not oblivious to this corruption. Indeed, according to a poll in July, two-thirds of Hungarians believe that Fidesz is “very corrupt.” Even a third of Fidesz supporters feel that way.

In October, the government closed down a major opposition newspaper and sponsored an anti-immigrant referendum that failed to attract enough voters to pass. Despite all this – or perhaps because of all this – Fidesz remains very popular. Indeed, its favorability went up in October to 49 percent. The entire opposition – Socialists, Greens, liberals – musters only a little over 30 percent. Fidesz has faced more competition from the far-right party Jobbik. But by moving steadily toward the far right itself, the ruling party has stolen the thunder of Jobbik. Lesson for the United States: don’t underestimate corrupt opportunists who have no hesitation about courting extremists to stay in power. The liberal-left in Hungary fragmented in the wake of the Fidesz victory, allowing the ruling party to focus on appealing to voters further to the right. Successful resistance requires unity and the broadest possible message.

Poland: Christian Crusade
Last year, the Law and Justice party  (PiS) took control of the presidency and the parliament, delivering a decisive blow against both the center-right liberal party and the former Communists. It has moved quickly to implement its pro-Christian, anti-EU policies. The consolidation of power by PiS through the media, the public prosecutor, and the Constitutional Court has challenged democratic norms and even elicited a rebuke from the EU. Last spring, Brussels demanded that the Polish government walk back its authoritarian steps. Warsaw said no. The EU, it seems, doesn’t seem to have any bite to back up its bark. One senior Polish diplomat said that the recent U.S. elections only strengthen the Polish government’s resolve: “I’m confident President Trump will not want to be involved in this whole discussion. We understand that Trump shares our concept of sovereignty. He doesn’t care about others’ internal issues.”

That leaves the task of resistance to Poles themselves. Women have mobilized against the government’s plans to ban all abortions. Teachers have demonstrated against the government’s efforts to change school curricula to reflect “patriotic values.” A new civic movement, KOD, is attempting to build the broadest possible front against the government. But PiS remains far more popular than the opposition. Tying together all of the new right-wing populist movements is their trumpeting of Christian values. One of the first changes that Fidesz made to the Hungarian constitution was to insert a phrase that recognizes “the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood.” The Catholic Church is a major backer of PiS in Poland. And the religious community proved a key supporter of Trump.

In a talk that he gave via Skype at a conference at the Vatican in 2014, alt-right guru Steve Bannon identified three civilizational challenges: crony capitalism, creeping secularism, and “jihadist Islamic fascism.” He was hard-pressed to decide which was worse – Islam or secularism – but he was very clear about the stakes:
We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

Bannon and his co-religionists are imagining nothing short of a new crusade against Muslims and secularists. I described the outlines of this effort in my book Crusade 2.0, but that was when these forces were still on the fringes. They have now moved front and center. One other key element of the Polish example is the economic populism of PiS. It has targeted its economic programs at those who have not benefited from the country’s accession to the EU or globalization more generally. Writes Remi Adekoya in The Guardian:
While PiS is strongly rightwing on social issues, its economic approach can be described as leftist. It emphasises the need to tackle inequality and propagates strong welfare policies. It introduced unconditional monthly cash payments equivalent to £100 for all parents who have more than one child towards the upkeep of each subsequent child until he or she is 18. So if you have three children, you get £200 per month and so forth. For parents with one child, the payment is conditional on low income. No previous government ever embarked on such a generous social programme. PiS’s approach puts many Polish leftists in a bind.

Lessons for the United States: Beware the Trump administration’s appeals to “Judeo-Christian values” and think twice about working with the administration on economic programs. Trump will likely try to peel off Democratic Party support for some domestic programs, which will blunt the overall effort to resist the administration’s appeal. It is one thing not to oppose sensible economic programs. It’s quite another to collaborate with the administration on their implementation (are you listening, Tulsi Gabbard?).

Slovakia: Populism Is Dead?
In the 1990s, after splitting with the Czech Republic, Slovakia took a turn away from democracy. Its new leader, Vladimir Meciar was the quintessential populist. He would insert grammatical mistakes into his campaign posters to demonstrate his proximity to “the people.”⁠ He openly discriminated against the ethnic Hungarian population,⁠ at one point in 1997 even proposing a mass population transfer with Hungary to “solve” the minority issue.⁠ He pushed through a campaign to “Slovakicize” culture — for instance, by mandating that 30 percent of all music on the radio be from Slovak composers —and appointed his own people to regulate the media to make sure it echoed his party’s line.⁠ He was also incorrigibly corrupt, arranging for his cronies to acquire cheap properties through the privatization process.

“The first years of Meciar’s government were almost worse than under Communism,” writer Martin Simecka recalled. “The regime was not so strong as under Communism, but it was more ugly with these fascistic tendencies and this nationalism. For me, personally, those were pretty bad years. Psychologically, it was very difficult to see the gap get bigger between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the Czechs going West and we Slovaks going East or going nowhere at all.”⁠ By 1998, Slovaks had had enough with their illiberal detour. “In the first years of the Meciar government, it really became clear to everyone, not only to the inner circle, that this guy is thinking about a different type of democracy,” activist Rasto Kuzel told me. “It was good for Slovak NGOs and for the Slovak civil society that we had to again unite and fight for these principles. We had to very actively demonstrate that we didn’t want this type of democracy and that we wanted Slovakia to be back on the right track.”⁠

“Thousands of small organizations, initiatives, clubs and volunteer groups have made unique achievements,” Martin Butora, former Slovak ambassador to the United States, recounts. “Despite a complicated heritage of undemocratic conditions, backwardness and discontinuity, civic actors and volunteers managed to engage and motivate a broader public because they offered understandable, acceptable concepts of freedom, solidarity and activism, which were in line with democratic modernization and which broke down the prevailing ethos of civic helplessness, as well as the tendency toward preferring the promotion of individual interests instead of the public good.”⁠ Foreign organizations, including foundations and political parties, provided substantial assistance to Slovak civil society.⁠ The anti-Meciar mobilization also relied on the leverage of Europe. Meciar’s undemocratic leanings cost Slovakia its spot in the first round of accession in the European Union that included the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Liberal activists used the widespread fear of losing out on EU benefits to strengthen their case for Meciar’s ouster.

In 1998, Slovaks used the ballot box to pry Meciar from power. The electoral strategy motivated young people and energized the previously apathetic. The remarkable victory put Slovakia back on course to join the EU in 2004. The problem, however, is that the anti-Meciar movement focused almost exclusively on politics and didn’t address the underlying economic anxiety that many Slovaks felt about the impact of austerity capitalism and globalization more generally. As a result, another populist came along, Robert Fico, who successfully reached out to the “left behind” constituency by denouncing austerity, scrapping a regressive flat tax, and criticizing privatization. He also won successive elections by embracing a Trumpian social policy. Fico decried the influx of immigrants, calling the more liberal EU policy “ritual suicide.” He has called critics of his party “anti-Slovak,” reviving a Meciar-era tactic. On Roma, he has said that “the best solution would be to take away all their children and put them into boarding schools.”⁠

Lessons for the United States: By all means rouse the anti-Trump base by focusing on his treatment of minorities, immigrants, and women. But make sure to put together an economic program that meets the expectations of America B while skewering Trump for his handouts to the rich, the lobbyists (of the military-industrial complex, for instance), and the biggest businesses.

The Long Haul
As these European examples demonstrate, America faces a long, difficult period. It takes a while before a populace can see through a populist. Berlusconi was in and out of power for two decades. Orban, too, first became prime minister nearly 20 years ago. Trump doesn’t have that kind of political career ahead of him. He is 70 years old. He is the oldest president in history to take office. Still, he can do a lot of damage while he’s president. And make no mistake: in many ways Mike Pence is worse (on abortion, LGBT rights, and most foreign policy issues). The Trump administration might have a shaky mandate – it did, after all, lose the popular vote. But Trump’s favorability rating has already gone up. Many former anti-Trumpers are ready to work with him. Most importantly, he is operating in a favorable international context (Brexit, Putin, Duterte, Le Pen). Trump might seem like a peculiarly American problem. But he isn’t. To deal with him, we’ll have to act locally. But we’ll have to think and act globally as well.

*John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus. His latest book is the dystopian novel, Splinterlands.
© The Eurasia Review

up  

Austria: Hate speech cases soar

Incidents of hate speech, particularly on the internet, have reached a record high in Austria.

25/11/2016- As of November 1st 2016, prosecutors were investigating 540 cases of hate speech or incitement. Last year there were a total of 513 cases. Experts predict around 640 cases by the end of the year. The increase is partly due to the fact that Austria’s justice system is trying to establish a uniform standard across all nine states for prosecuting such cases. Previously, Vienna had the lowest number of cases of hate speech and Neo-Nazi crimes that were brought to court, whilst Innsbruck, Klagenfurt and Graz had much higher rates. However, this year the number of cases shot up in Vienna, after the state prosecutor demanded that more reported incidents of hate speech be brought to justice. Cases against people who have committed hate speech or Neo-Nazi crimes are now heard on an almost weekly case in the capital. So far this year, 16 people in Vienna have received prison sentences for such crimes.

However, judges sometimes have difficulty deciding when a crime is hate speech, or a violation of Austria’s Prohibition Law (which forbids any revival of Nazism). If a crime is deemed to be the latter, the case must be heard before a jury. One such case involved a man who posted images of naked women on Facebook, with swastikas superimposed on them, along with violent criticism of Islam and the text “at home in the Empire”. A judge in Graz said he couldn’t rule on the case as it was not incitement, but that it did break the Prohibition Law.

'Seeking a scapegoat'
Communications expert Fritz Hausjell told the Kurier newspaper that a prison sentence for hate speech offenders is not always the most effective approach. “This does little to develop the accused’s empathy for his victims”. He said that many people who post hate speech online are “those who are disappointed with life and seek a scapegoat for their misery. They don’t necessarily have a political overview for their prejudices - and they are letting off steam without realising the impact of their words”. Hausjell recommends that offenders should be made to meet people who have suffered because of incitement - such as refugees. “Maybe then he will realise that these are human beings, they are not all rapists,” he said. He also recommends that offenders are given community service, such as helping out in a refugee camp. “Maybe that could be a task such as helping social workers teach refugees German”.

He said that it’s also possible to engage with hate posters in online forums. “You don’t have to friend them, but you can tell them that what they are saying is not right, and ask if they would have the courage to say that to someone’s face. Often people will admit that they were out of order and take back what they said.” Hausjell sees this as a matter of educating people, and says that techniques on how to deal with trolls and hate posters could be taught in schools. “We’re taught how to deal with verbal insults, but not with digital ones,” he said. According to Hausjell Facebook and the right-wing internet forum unzensuriert.at are the main digital platforms in Austria where people go to post hate messages. He says hate posts have increased dramatically since political parties started using social media as a way to communicate with voters, and that online comments and reactions should be well-managed, and if necessary temporarily switched off.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Czech Rep: Ministry sues man for wearing SS uniform at public event

24/11/2016- The Czech Defence Ministry has filed a criminal complaint against a man who wore a Nazi uniform at a public war veterans remembrance event earlier this month, Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) announced on Twitter on Thursday. The man's offence was previously criticised by the media and people on social networks. "The Defence Ministry has filed a criminal complaint in connection with the commemorative event on the War Veterans Day in Rakovnik. SS symbols have no place at the War Veterans Day celebrations," Stropnicky wrote. According to the Denik.cz website, the meeting took place in the town of Rakovnik, central Bohemia, on November 11, at a plaque commemorating local residents who served in the British Royal Air Force during WWII.

Denik.cz has published photos with Jiri Svoboda, head of the Rakovnik Club of Military History, giving a speech at the plaque. The photos also show that several men in historical uniforms stood nearby. One of them wore a historical German military uniform with Nazi symbols and symbols of the infamous SS special units. Observers criticised not only the man in the uniform but also Svoboda, the speaker, for his promotion of President Milos Zeman. If Zeman's opponents dislike his being president, based on the direct election result, they may either move abroad or hang themselves, Svoboda said in the speech on the War Veterans Day. Some steps of Zeman, former Social Democrat prime minister, have repeatedly provoked waves of public and media criticism, but still his popularity keeps above 50 percent now, some 15 months before the end of his mandate, according to public opinion polls.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Majority of European Parliament votes to freeze EU membership talks with Turkey

In a non-binding vote, a majority of European Parliament lawmakers were in favor of ending EU accession talks with Turkey. Whether membership negotiations actually end remains to be seen.​

24/11/2016- The majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament on Thursday voted to halt membership talks with Turkey after Ankara's post-coup crackdown on the opposition, academics, intellectuals and those with potential ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. MEPs voting in Strasbourg said the parliament "strongly condemns the disproportionate repressive measures taken in Turkey since the failed military coup attempt." About 37,000 people have been arrested since the coup, which alongside thousands of job dismissals and measures against Turkish media have pushed many MEPs to send a clear message to Ankara. The non-binding motion approved by European lawmakers said parliament "calls... on the Commission and on the Member States to initiate a temporary freeze of the on-going accession negotiations with Turkey." The vote was how the European Parliament could make its opinion known in an official - and public - way to the European Commission, which is responsible for the negotiations, and the governments of the bloc's 28 member states.

'Null and void'
The Turkish EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, reacted promptly to the vote, calling it "null and void" and saying it "breached basic European values." He claimed that the European Parliament "loses perspective when it comes to Turkey." His comments echo those of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the vote. Erdogan on Wednesday branded the vote "worthless" as it is non-binding, noting that most EU member states - with the exception of Austria - want to keep the Turkey talks on track. "I want to say in advance from here and address the whole world watching on their TV screens - this vote has no value at all, no matter what result emerges," he said. But the motion, approved by a large majority - 479 votes to 37, with 107 abstentions - is a blow to Ankara-Brussels ties, which have frayed since the July 15 failed coup, threatening a key migration deal between the EU and Turkey. Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005. Ankara's aspirations to become part of the bloc date back to the 1960s. Earlier this year Brussels agreed to give visa-free travel to Turks once Ankara had carried out reforms and also pledged more aid to Turkey in exchange for Ankara cutting the number of refugees attempting to reach Greek islands from Turkey.
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

LGBTI people face ‘vortex of violence and discrimination,’ UN expert warns

22/11/2016- People from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities around the world are experiencing a proliferation in hate speech, including “rampant” social media attacks, as well as violence and discrimination, a newly appointed United Nations human rights expert warned today. “Instances of murder, killings, rape, mutilation and other cruel treatment are well documented in various parts of the world and by many sources,” Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first-ever UN Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, told a meeting on LGBTI equality, organized by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Mr. Muntarbhorn said people who “simply wish to be what they are” are continuing to face challenges and human rights abuses around the world. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are particularly affected by laws criminalizing same-sex relations, which still exist in some 70 countries, he said.

Transgender people are often prevented from changing their official documents, as well as being laughed at, bullied and “violated in multiple forms.” The plight of intersex people had been invisible until recently, Mr. Muntarbhorn said, noting that many people born with atypical sex characteristics, such as people with both male and female organs, are subjected to coerced medical surgery or treatment from a young age, and suffer “interminable damage and trauma.” “The vortex of violence and discrimination, in their multiple forms, often starts in the home, at school, in the community and in the surrounding environment, with violations breeding violations,” he stressed. “We are currently witnessing a proliferation of hate speech, often rampant in the media and on social media networks, which fuels antagonism steeped in homophobia, and transphobia,” he noted. Mr. Muntarbhorn vowed to use his new mandate to press for action for the whole LGBTI community under the principle of non-discrimination enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He named five key areas which would drive change: decriminalizing same-sex relationships; no longer treating LGBTI people as if they had a “problem” or “disorder;” recognizing people’s status; clarifying misconstructions and misinterpretations; and integrating gender-and-sexual diversity and teaching empathy from childhood onwards. But he warned the problem could not be solved without addressing both political and cultural issues. Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
© UN News Centre

up  

Denmark suspends quota refugee programme

The Danish government said on Tuesday that it had suspended a programme to receive around 500 refugees per year through the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) indefinitely.

22/11/2016- "It will give the municipalities a little breathing space and room to better take care of those who have already come here," Integration Minister Inger Støjberg told a meeting in the Danish parliament. Støjberg, an immigration hardliner, said in August that the reception of 491 refugees through the programme this year had been postponed. The decision to suspend the programme indefinitely had been taken so that Denmark could cope "economically, socially and culturally," she said. The centre-right minority government's move was backed by the anti-immigration Danish People's Party as well as the biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats. Denmark, which has a population of around 5.7 million, has received around 5,700 asylum seekers so far this year, and expects the annual number to be less than half of the 21,000 applications it received last year.

In 2015 an influx of migrants led to chaotic scenes with hundreds of people marching on Danish motorways -- most trying to reach neighbouring Sweden, which has more generous asylum rules. Copenhagen enacted a host of measures to deter migrants from coming to the country earlier this year, including a controversial rule allowing police to confiscate their valuables to help pay for their accommodation. It has also introduced legislation to allow it to turn back asylum seekers at its borders if the number of migrants spikes, and has made it harder for migrants to obtain permanent residency.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

Polish Parliament Member Threatens Non-Catholics with Deportation

Public response to her comments included both sarcasm and concern as Poles weigh the implications for religious minorities.

22/11/2016- An article on a new film about the World War II Volyn massacre got Beata Mateusiak-Pielucha, a Polish parliamentary member, up on her soapbox about the hot topic of non-Catholic minority groups in Poland, the BBC reports "We should demand that atheists, Orthodox believers, or Muslims clearly state that they know and undertake to fully respect the Polish constitution and values ​​recognized in Poland as important," she wrote on the wPolityce.pl website (in Polish). “Failure to meet these requirements should serve as a solid reason for deportation." Beata Mateusiak-Pielucha represents the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has alarmed some Poles with attempts to push its conservative, nationalist approaches into many walks of life, including education and abortion rights. PiS backtracked on pledges by the previous government to accept thousands of migrants.

Mateusiak-Pielucha’s outlandish statements have sparked many mocking responses, says the BBC. More than 45,000 Polish Facebook users have decided to make light of her suggestions by joining a Facebook event page called “List of Passengers for the First Deportation by Beata Mateusiak.” The page’s purpose: to compile information on where potential deportees would prefer to be moved to “help the government solve the issue of logistics.” Many have suggested Mateusiak-Pielucha should resign, while a fellow parliamentarian from the Kukiz’15 opposition party said he wanted to refer her to the ethics committee for such comments. Mateusiak-Pielucha claims that she meant to stress "the threat posed by the increasing number of migrants working and living in Poland," the BBC reports.

# In related news, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary announced yesterday at a Warsaw conference of the Visegrad group their plans to coordinate a migration crisis management center to aid Lebanese and Jordanian refugees, writes Radio Poland. 

# Hungarian prisoners have completed the first part of a second anti-migrant fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border to combat the flow of migrants and strengthen its border defenses, EurActiv reports 

# Last fall, Hungary completed a fence along its border with Croatia intended to stop migrants crossing through.
Compiled by Christiana Freitag
© Transitions Online.

up  

Current migration situation in the EU: hate crime - November 2016

Asylum seekers and migrants face various forms of violence and harassment across the European Union (EU). As this month’s report on the migration situation underscores, such acts are both perpetrated and condoned by state authorities, private individuals, as well as vigilante groups. They increasingly also target activists and politicians perceived as ‘pro-refugee’.

21/11/2016- Meanwhile, a lack of relevant data is hampering efforts to develop effective measures to prevent these incidents. Outlining recent attacks in 14 Member States, this focus of the November report also examines the diverse factors that undermine the reporting of such incidents and highlights promising practices seeking to counter them.  FRA data – as of November 2016 – indicate that violence, harassment, threats and xenophobic speech targeting asylum seekers and migrants remain pervasive and grave across the European Union, whether committed by state authorities, private companies or individuals, or vigilante groups.

Main findings
# Violent acts targeting asylum seekers, migrants and persons with ethnic minority backgrounds – including killings, threats and intimidation – are committed in a number of Member States.
# Evidence indicates that racist and xenophobic violence is committed by a variety of offenders, including people stemming from the general population and members of vigilante groups.
# State authorities’ responses to hate crime against asylum seekers and migrants are perceived as weak by civil society in many Member States. In some cases, political actors welcomed the activities of vigilante groups.
# Most Member States do not collect or publish statistical data on incidents and hate crimes against asylum seekers and migrants.
# Where such data do exist – for example, collected by civil society – they indicate that such incidents are pervasive and grave.
# In addition to asylum seekers and migrants, other groups – including Muslims, especially women and persons with ethnic backgrounds – are specifically targeted, as are human rights advocates, ‘pro-refugee’ politicians and journalists reporting on the issue.
# A number of factors impede the reporting of hate crimes against asylum seekers and migrants to authorities or other organisations. Low reporting renders the issue invisible.
# There is evidence of growing hate speech targeting asylum seekers and migrants on the internet, with investigation remaining difficult.
# Victim support services tailored to the needs of asylum seekers and migrants are limited in the Member States. There is a perception among practitioners that asylum seekers and migrants have limited access to victim support.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

up  

Dutch MPs debate ban on burkas in government buildings

23/11/2016- MPs on Wednesday afternoon discussed draft legislation to bring in a limited ban on the burka and other ‘clothing which covers the face’. The ban would apply to public transport, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and government buildings. A majority of MPs support the legislation, which was drawn up by home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk. The previous cabinet had wanted to introduce a total ban on the Islamic form of dress, but the plan fell apart when the cabinet collapsed. The new proposal states that clothing which covers the face may not be worn in certain places because of safety concerns. People who defy the ban, which also applies to balaclavas and motorbike helmets, can be fined up to €450. A group of women wearing a niqab attended Wednesday afternoon’s debate. They were originally denied entrance to the parliamentary complex but were allowed in after showing their ID.

MP Joram van Klaveren spoke directly to the women during the debate. ‘I am glad we are making an end to this madness,’ he said. The MP was rebuked by parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib for addressing the public gallery, which is against protocol. The Council of State, which is the government’s most senior advisory body, has recommended against introducing a ban, arguing that there are already sufficient provisions in law to require people to show their faces. Amsterdam university professor Annelies Moors told Radio 1 news on Wednesday morning that there are no burka wearers in the Netherlands and only very few women who wear a veil. ‘There are about 150 women on a daily basis and between 400 and 500 who occasionally do so,’ she said. The effect of a ban will make it impossible for these women to go about their daily lives and enforcing the ban will be a waste of money, she said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: ‘I will never be silenced’, Wilders tells court on final day of trial

23/11/2016- Geert Wilders has told judges at his trial for inciting hatred and discrimination that freedom of expression is the only freedom left to him. Wilders, who boycotted the rest of the proceedings on the grounds they are politically motivated, decided to attend on the last day of the trial at the high security court at Schiphol airport. ‘I refuse to believe that we will give freedom up like that, we are Dutch,’ he told the panel of judges. ‘That is why we speak out… I will never be silenced by anyone.’ Wilders said he had mentioned the problem with Moroccans in the Netherlands as a politician. ‘And I will continue to do so,’ he said. ‘People who want to stop me will have to kill me first.’ Wilders described the trial as both absurd and politically motivated. ‘This trial stinks all round,’ he said. ‘It is the sort of thing that happens in Turkey or Iran… it makes a mockery of the rule of law.’

Chant
The proceedings were triggered by a speech Wilders gave in a cafe in The Hague following the local elections in 2014. He asked a room full of supporters if they wanted to see ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the Netherlands, prompting a chant of ‘fewer, fewer.’ Wilders replied: ‘OK, we’ll take care of that.’ The prosecution has asked the court to fine Wilders €5000 for his comments, arguing that the politician had been ‘unnecessarily offensive’ and attacked an entire population group.The court is due to issue its judgment on December 9.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: Wilders to address ‘fewer Moroccans’ trial later this week

21/11/2016- Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has said he will attend court for the first time later this week to defend himself against charges of inciting hatred against Moroccans. Wilders has so far boycotted the hearings at Schiphol’s high-security courthouse and dismissed the trial as politically motivated. But on Monday afternoon he announced via Twitter that he would address the court ‘later this week… to give my last word in the trial against freedom of expression’. The proceedings were triggered by a speech Wilders gave in a cafe in The Hague following the local elections in 2014. He asked a room full of supporters if they wanted to see ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the Netherlands, prompting a chant of ‘fewer, fewer.’ Wilders replied: ‘OK, we’ll take care of that.’

The prosecution has asked the court to fine Wilders €5,000 for his comments, arguing that the politician had been ‘unnecessarily offensive’ and attacked an entire population group. Wilders’s lawyer Gert-Jan Knoops, presenting the defence case on Monday, said the remarks were unsurprising. ‘Wilders is a well-known politician whose views will be known to almost everybody,’ he said. Knoops argued that the comments could not be seen as racist because Wilders was referring to Moroccan nationals, not people of Moroccan origin. He also said Wilders had later clarified his remarks by saying he was referring specifically to people ‘who turn up repeatedly on certain lists’ and commit higher levels of crime. The court is due to issue its judgment on December 9.
© The Dutch News

up  

Sweden: Why did these Swedish ads appear on far-right site?

The appearance of adverts promoting a number of Swedish companies and a government agency on far-right site Breitbart has caused a stir in liberal Sweden.

24/11/2016- Swedish magazine Resumé reported on Wednesday that a number of adverts promoting Swedish firms were showing up on far-right news website Breitbart, whose former executive Steve Bannon has recently been named chief strategist to Donald Trump's forthcoming presidency. The magazine claimed that Sweden's public health agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten, was running ads for one of its campaigns on the site, alongside supermarket giant Willys, energy provider Fortum, online marketplace Blocket and global giants like Hotels.com. If true, that would mean that major Swedish brands and a government agency were being promoted on a website which, among other things, once claimed that there was “rampant” lawlessness and a “now-constant state of violence, terror and fear” in Stockholm due to tensions over migration.

A source at the advertising agency that works with Sweden's public health agency said that even with Google's help they had been unable to find any instances of their ads appearing on Breitbart however. Google told The Local that they do not comment on specific sites or advertisers. Anna Hellström, a project leader at Swedish advertising agency Matador, explained that the Swedish ads showing up on the site would not have been sold to Breitbart directly, but instead ended up there through Google's GDN ad network – a service which pools the millions of companies registered to it then distributes their adverts to sites based on demographic analysis. “Ad buyers in Sweden often use large ad networks, which can include millions of sites. The ad is shown to target groups based on a user's profile, like interests, age, and sex, rather than based on which site they happen to be visiting,” she explained.

She also warned that companies looking to advertise online need to actively learn how such pools work, and make sure to use opt-out features if they do not want to risk their ads appearing on unintended platforms. “It is important for those who buy advertising space to make a conscious and active choice, and have the knowledge required. For customers to be safe the ad network's review function also has to work: pages the advertiser does not want to be seen on should not be connected, or should be easily removed,” Hellström said. Google Sweden's Communications and Public Affairs Manager Farshad Shadloo confirmed that advertisers using the GDN system can exclude certain sites if they don't want their ads appearing on them.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Sweden: The far right is on the rise – this time we can't just blame inequality

The truth many liberals need to face up to is that core Brexit, Trump and Sweden Democrats supporters care far more about immigration than they do about economics
By Sebastian Leape


23/11/2016- “It was inequality wot won it” has become the widely accepted reason for why Trump and the Brexiteers won their respective battles. And yet this is argument is incomplete. For all its merits, focusing exclusively on economics makes the left vulnerable to the emotive cultural appeal of its new adversaries. The sad truth for many liberals is that core of Brexit and Trump support cares far more about immigration and terrorism than it does about inequality. Most seem concerned not with absolute levels of diversity, but rather the rate of change. Votes for both Trump and Brexit were strongly linked to percentage change in the minority population, while the most diverse parts of the country voted the other way.

This is good news for those on the left looking to win back support without sacrificing core values: the problem is pace, not the goal. But this is bad news for those hoping that economic solutions will be enough: cultural aspects cannot be ignored. Want proof? Take Sweden. In many ways, it represents the antithesis of Trumpism. A progressive paradise where healthcare and university tuition are free, and workers get a world-beating 480 days of paid parental leave. Tax rates are among the highest in the OECD, and inequality is very low, ranking 142 out of 145 globally. And yet despite this, Sweden is experiencing the same rise in anti-establishment nationalism as the rest of Europe and the US. Latest polling suggests support for the Sweden Democrats has risen to 21.5 per cent, putting them just behind the ruling Social Democrats, with 25.7 per cent of support.

The narrative of the Sweden Democrats is much of the same ethno-nationalism we have seen elsewhere: tough on law and order and big on national identity. Though they have now disavowed their roots in the white-supremacist movement, their main platform remains a goal of zero for asylum-based immigration. Many explain the appeal of the far right in cultural terms. Sweden’s admirable decision to accept 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone falls against a backdrop of an increase in economic immigration, triggering a backlash against multiculturalism. While these fears may in part be a proxy for economic concerns, it does not mean they can be ignored.

The left needs to listen and learn from its former supporters and come up with convincing answers to its cultural concerns, fast. Ethno-nationalism is not an inevitable answer to these problems. It is time the left empathised with concerns about the speed of cultural change, and had answers to questions of community and belonging without bowing down to racism and xenophobia. Figuring out these answers is the hard part.
© The Independent

up  

France: Storm over local ban on gay safe-sex posters

French judges are considering a controversial decision by several conservative mayors to take down HIV-awareness posters featuring gay love.

24/11/2016- The campaign, launched by the socialist government, shows men embracing, with safe-sex slogans underneath. At least 10 mayors have decided to remove the posters, questioning the campaign's morality but denying homophobic motives. Health minister Marisol Touraine said she would fight back via the judiciary. The posters, sent to 130 towns and featuring a range of men of different ages and races, have captions such as "With a lover, with a friend, with an unknown. Situations vary. And so do modes of protection". Ms Touraine said the local bans were unacceptable. On Twitter she urged people to share the images, which, she said, was the best response against critics who wanted to censor them. Critics have called the posters "provocative" and "against good values and morality".

Bruno Beschizza, the conservative mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois near Paris, was among those seeking to block the images, but denied homophobia, saying he would have responded the same way if the posters had featured heterosexual couples. The mayor of the western city of Angers, Christophe Bechsaid, said he had asked for the posters to be taken down but "only in the vicinity of schools and the route of school buses". He said residents had complained, particularly parents. Conservatism is said to be on the rise in France, with right-wing politicians outperforming the left. Ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a Catholic known for his traditional values, is the frontrunner to be the centre-right's presidential candidate. He goes head to head with Alain Juppe in a run-off vote on Sunday.

When asked about the posters on Tuesday, Mr Fillon said did not consider the campaign to be very skilful and he understood why people might be shocked. However, he added that the fight against Aids was more important. On Wednesday, Mr Juppe told a French radio station he would not have banned the posters.
© BBC News

up  

France: Far right gatecrash the party to choose next best thing to Le Pen

21/11/2016- Far-right voters joined in yesterday’s first round of voting to choose which conservative will run for the French presidency. Marine Le Pen, their candidate, was not running but some of her supporters used the open-to-all primary as insurance for the two-round election next spring. Their idea was to boost the best alternative to Ms Le Pen should their champion fail to win. In the most unusual French election for decades, the race has boiled down to choosing the candidate who will face Ms Le Pen, 48, in the two-person runoff in May. It is assumed that the challenger will be from the centre-right Republicans — President Hollande is so unpopular that he has little chance of reaching the runoff if he enters the race and no other candidate from his discredited Socialist party is likely to make the grade either.

Polls have suggested for the past two years that Ms Le Pen will reach the runoff with about 30 per cent of the first-round vote. The populist tide that has been sweeping the West, illustrated by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, is raising hopes among National Front supporters that after previous defeats this time she will break through the alliance of mainstream voters that traditionally blocks the Front in the two-round system. This so-called “republican front” has stopped Ms Le Pen’s party winning control of more than a handful of town councils and parliamentary seats for decades. Now the country is at last ready, she believes, to embrace an anti-immigrant, France-first leader who is promising to leave the euro and protect the economy.

Yet many supporters and party activists confide that they believe the system is still loaded against them and that Ms Le Pen is again likely to lose. Opinion polls — for what they are worth after the populist upsets — have consistently shown Ms Le Pen being defeated by all potential opponents in the runoff, despite the Front’s standing as the party with the biggest electoral following. In an attempt to ensure their least unpalatable alternative to Ms Le Pen, many National Front voters yesterday appeared to be opting not for Nicolas Sarkozy, the tough-talking former president who has populist themes, but for François Fillon, the Catholic traditionalist who takes a hard line on Islamism, likes Russia and wants to cut half a million civil servant jobs. Alain Juppé, the most moderate of the conservative frontrunners, is least favoured by the far right because he is seen as soft.

All three had a big handicap in Le Pen supporters’ eyes — they have spent decades wielding power in the heart of the establishment. Some of the far-right voters, however, said they were casting ballots in the Republican contest to improve the chance of Ms Le Pen winning next year. They were backing anyone but Mr Sarkozy in the hope of eliminating the former president. “That way, potential Front supporters won’t be tempted to go with the watered-down version of Marine Le Pen,” said one.

It's all a matter of perspective: French leftists in plot to stop far-right Le Pen by voting in conservative primaries
© The Times

up  

French leftists in plot to stop far-right Le Pen by voting in conservative primaries

Voters who brought President Hollande to power in 2012 launch last-ditch attempt to counter Front National in wake of populist Brexit vote and Donald Trump's shock US election win

20/11/2016- French leftist voters have reportedly engaged in a plot to derail far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s election bid by infiltrating the conservative primaries. According to surveys, as many as 15 per cent of an electorate who brought socialist President François Hollande to power in 2012, will today sign a charter stating they share “Republican values of the Right and the Centre”, in an attempt to stop former president Nicolas Sarkozy from being nominated. Many believe Mr Sarkozy could lose against Ms Le Pen in May’s presidential elections, and against the backdrop of the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s US election win, some fear France could be next in line to confront the rise of global populism.

Left-voting business owner Violette Lacloche said she was not prepared to see that happen and would be voting for former prime minister Alain Juppé, who she believes would be a better contender against Ms Le Pen. “In 2002, we left-wingers voted for Jacques Chirac to stop Jean-Marie Le Pen from becoming president,” Ms Lacloche told Politico. “It’s the same thing this time around, just much sooner. We all know that the presidential election is being played out now.” One 32-year-old Parisien, who wished only to be known as Amaury, said he would also be backing Mr Juppé. “Polls are becoming less and less reliable and aren’t able to grasp people’s deepest convictions. I prefer to stay on the safe side and vote for Juppé,” he told Liberation

Seven candidates are competing for position in Sunday’s primaries, and a second vote will be held next week to decide between the two frontrunners. The three leading candidates are Mr Sarkozy and former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Mr Juppé. Mr Sarkozy was said to be outraged by the leftist "coup", telling his supporters at a rally last week: "I will not let the Left steal this election from you!” For many left-wing voters, Mr Trump’s shock election win was enough to motivate them to act early against the Front National. “At one time, I was thinking voting for Juppé in the second round would be enough. But the election of Trump remotivated me. We need to protect our interests,” one voter told Liberation

However, some believe that even Mr Juppé, recognised as a moderate conservative, won’t be able to stop the “wave of populism”. “The wave of populism could carry us into 2017. So can an old career politician like Juppé be the solution to this wave? Or will he be fated to be knocked out like Hillary Clinton, who became a figurehead for nothing other than the establishment?” Amaury said. Many leftist voters who responded to a Politico survey admitted they would not want to be “outed” for voting in the conservative primaries, and many allegedly asked for anonymity. In particular, prominent socialists and media personalities were said to be concerned about being branded "hypocrites" if they were caught entering a polling station.

However, left-wingers were not the only group rallying to hijack Sunday's Conservative vote. Far-right supporters of Ms Le Pen’s party were also planning to turn out in high numbers, according to Politico. Many believe Ms Le Pen could be edging ever closer to victory next spring, with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warning of the dangers of electing a far-right president The far-right leader currently holds 29 per cent of the national vote when pitted against Les Républicains’ Nicolas Sarkozy, who is eight points behind, and holds a 15-point lead over the Left party’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in the latest poll released by Ipsos.  Second round opinion polls have consistenly given Mr Juppe a significant lead over Ms Le Pen.

It's all a matter of perspective: Far right gatecrash the party to choose next best thing to Le Pen
© The Independent

up  

France: Child refugees forced to work for nothing after leaving Calais

Lawyers voice concern over unaccompanied minors sent to ‘welcome centres’ after demolition of French camp

19/11/2016- Child refugees sent from the demolished Calais “jungle” to supposedly safe welcome centres across France claim they have been pressed into forced labour. Legal interviews with unaccompanied minors dispersed from the refugee camp to France’s official reception centres have uncovered allegations that children have been forced into unpaid work and ordered on to farms to pick apples for French supermarkets. Youngsters said they were too scared to refuse the work because they feared it would harm their chances of claiming asylum to the UK. Of 33 teenage boys interviewed by the charity Safe Passage UK, a quarter also said they had not been given clean clothes since they arrived at the centres after the demolition of the notorious Calais camp nearly four weeks ago.

Offering a glimpse of the conditions inside some of the 60 or so refugee accommodation blocks set up by French authorities, 39% of the minors interviewed said they felt better off in the Calais camp, a site routinely described as a slum unfit for human habitation. One of the teenage boys, based in a camp in northern France, said: “It is horrible. We worked all day picking apples and were left to eat the rotten ones. The rest went to be sold in France. We just want to be with our family in the UK.” Another said they were each forced to pick 4kg of fruit every weekday afternoon, while staying at a French reception centre, and worked under the fear that refusing to do so would impair the chances of making it to the UK. He said: “We are scared not to do it in case it affects our asylum claims. What if they don’t let me live here and kick me out?”

In July, Theresa May vowed to make it a priority to rid the world of the “barbaric evil” of modern slavery, and said the forced labour of minors was one of its ugliest manifestations. On WednesdayHome Office minister Robert Goodwill told MPs that children in the welcome centres were “in a place of safety and being well looked after” and he had “not received any concerns about the facilities”. Rabbi Janet Darley, a spokeswoman for grassroots community group Citizens UK, which includes Safe Passage UK, said: “We are hugely concerned about the safeguarding of children in France. Our team have had reports of forced labour, and unaccompanied children being required to live with adults.”

Safe Passage UK interviewed each child for 45 minutes in their own language last week: five children revealed they did not feel safe; of the 33, only five said Home Office officials had spoken to them, with three saying they had not yet been interviewed by any official, from either France or the UK; and three said adults were living with them in their accommodation, raising child protection issues. One said: “It looks like a prison. We don’t have any things to play, and all the time we are staying in our room and it is not safe for us. We live in the middle of adults, their ages are over 20 years.” Another added: “I am not happy staying in this accommodation, please, please take us out of here to the UK. We have no proper food, clothes and I am bored here. If the situation continues like this, I may go somewhere else.”

The UK charity said two boys it had been in contact with had absconded and another two were considering running away, if their situation did not improve. “If others run away I am not going to stay,” said one child. Bishop Paul Butler, another spokesman for Citizens UK, said: “Children in France are getting increasingly desperate as they hear little from officials, and fill the void with rumours and speculation.” So far, about 350 children have been transferred to the UK, with the Home Office expecting several hundred more to be transferred from France under both the Dubs amendment and the Dublin regulations. However, charities say around 2,000 unaccompanied minors were registered in Calais before the demolition and they are campaigning for 1,000 to be brought over before Christmas, after home secretary Amber Rudd said the UK would take “half” last month.

The Home Office said it “remains absolutely committed to bringing all eligible children to the UK as soon as possible” and that children in the welcome centres are being assessed to see if they are eligible under the Dubs amendment. The Home Office’s new guidelines last week stipulate that only unaccompanied teenagers from Syria and Sudan are eligible to enter Britain from France, a decision condemned by charities.
© The Guardian.

up  

German neo-Nazi attack mourned 24 years on

25/11/2016- The arson attack in Germany's Mölln, which targeted two Turkish families, was remembered for the 24th time on Wednesday evening. Three people were killed and nine were seriously injured during the neo-Nazi attack in 1992. Twenty-four years later, Christians and Muslims have commemorated the dead and injured with an inter-religious service to mark the anniversary at a mosque in Mölln. On the night of Nov. 23, 1992, two neo-Nazis set fire to two houses in the city center of Mölln. The houses were occupied by two Turkish families, Arslan and Yýlmaz. Two girls, Yeliz Arslan, 10, Ayþe Yýlmaz, 14, and their grandmother Bahide Arslan, 51, died and nine others were seriously injured during the attack. The murderers, Lars Chistiansen and Michael Peters, called the police immediately after the attack and screamed "Heil Hitler."

Becoming a tradition over the years, another event under the motto "Reclaim and Remember" was also held as part of the remembrance activities. The "Circle of Friends in Memory of the Racist Arson Attack of Mölln in 1992," consisting of the family members and friends of the victims as well as individuals of various anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, invited people to commemorate the victims in front of their house in Mühlenstraße 9. The small town gathered and mourned their loss. "The increasing racist and far right violence in Germany is alarming. According to official figures, racist crimes increased by 35 percent in the last few years. Over 13,000 crimes with a racist motive were committed only in 2015. We need to strike an attitude against racism in order to make sure that what happened in Mölln never happens again anywhere," said Mölln Mayor Jan Wiegels.
© The Daily Sabah

up  

Germany: Christmas market trader targeted by neo-Nazis for sheltering refugees

Right-wing vandals targeted German beekeeper Klaus Maresch after he provided accommodation to two gay refugees from Iraq. "We've had such times in Germany," Klaus Maresch told DW. "And they're times we don't want again."

24/11/2016- With Advent just around the corner, Bonn, like most other German cities, is in full swing for the countdown to Christmas. The market is open, the shoppers are out and the mulled wine is on to warm. Selling his honey-based products among the city's 180 stalls is Klaus Maresch. When he's not tending to business on the Christmas market, the 49-year-old is a writer of fantasy novels. In recent months, however, vampires and werewolves have been the least of his worries. Instead, the beekeeper-come-novelist has had neo-Nazis to contend with. After seven break-ins within a year, Maresch has had enough. After 35 years in the business, he has closed his honey farm for good. "It was pure vandalism," he told DW. "Swastikas on the walls." Two of the incidents were particularly bad, Maresch recalled. The roof was destroyed and he shut up shop. "Would I do it again and offer to help?" he asked, "Of course, I would." But it was after reaching out to those in need that Maresch was targeted by right-wing extremists.

Iraqi asylum seekers
In the flat next to the office of Maresch's book group - ironically labeled "The Federal Office for Magical Beings," complete with mock government insignia - live Achmet and Messut who fled from Iraq in June 2015. As homosexuals, however, the two young men - both in their early 20s - weren't only escaping the so.called "Islamic State" (IS), they were also fleeing the hostility and hatred of their own compatriots. Neither of them have told their family about their sexuality. On arriving in Germany, however, the persecution wasn't over. In the refugee homes, the men continued to be threatened, humiliated and harassed. "I knew my partner and I had to help," Maresch said. By October last year, Achmet had moved into Maresch's empty flat and was joined eight months later by Messut. "We informed our customers and called on them to think about if them could also offer accommodation to refugees," Maresch said.

In doing so, however, Maresch's good deed was targeted by some with a backlash of vandalism and verbal abuse. "One man - who told us he was from Saxony [in eastern Germany] - said what we were doing was part of the "Umvolkung," created Angela Merkel to replace the German population with asylum seekers," Maresch said. The term "Umvolkung," which translates as "ethnicity inversion," was a term used in Nazi ideology to describe a process of assimilation of members of the German people. "He told us that if the right party was in power, we'd see what would happen to people like us," Maresch recalled. "The fact that we're living in a time, once again, where there is hate against refugees and minorities is completely unacceptable," he said. "We've had such times in Germany. And they're times we don't want again."

Call for clear stance from Berlin
As support for nationalism and right-wing populism continues to grow across Europe, Maresch is calling on Berlin to launch a "steadfast confrontation against this right-wing hate." "It's disgusting to see how this climate which generates politicians like Frauke Petry," he added, referring to the leader of right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The controversial party currently holds seats in nine of Germany's 16 state parliaments. Much of the AfD's campaign has been spun off the back of Merkel's immigration policy which enabled 890,000 asylum seekers to cross Germany's borders last year - a gesture praised by Maresch. "I'm no huge fan of Angela Merkel and the Christian Democrats - particularly as a gay man. But on the matter of refugees, she has my full support," Maresch told DW. "I never thought she was capable of that."

Human values
In the hope of continuing their respective university studies in culture and dentistry, the two young Iraqis taken in by Maresch are now working towards their German language exams. The break-ins, however, proved to be yet another setback in the long process of beginning their new lives in Germany. "Of course they were worried," Maresch said. "We all were." As a result of the break-ins, Maresch began suffering from panic attacks, but he remains resolute in his decision to help. "They may have ruined by business, but this hate has not ruined my determination to stand up and do the right thing," Maresch said. "This has nothing to do with religion. This is about universal human values to help someone as much as possible."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Germany: Right-wing populism poses new problem for German intel

German authorities are unsure how to deal with the new rise of the populist right, according to a leaked paper. The boundaries between extremist margins and the "decent, middle" of society are dissolving.

22/11/2016- A report leaked from a meeting of Germany's domestic intelligence agencies has revealed some uncertainty about how to deal with the rise of the populist far-right in the country. All 17 agencies of the domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, representing Germany's 16 states plus the federal government), met in Cologne late last week to discuss the threat presented by the new populist movement in the country - embodied on a political level by the Alternative for Germany (AfD). But it soon became clear that the officials were unsure about the best strategy.

According to a report in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," the federal agency's 12-page guide to the state agencies was withdrawn at the last minute by BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen on the grounds that it was not yet ready. Instead, the meeting went on to discuss just one particular strand of the far-right threat - the so-called "Reichsbürger" movement, one of whose members killed a police officer in October. Not only that, the contents of the unready paper - leaked to the SZ - showed just how muddy the waters had become at the right end of Germany's political spectrum, and how difficult this made the BfV's job. Distinguishing between an extremist threat and democratic opposition has become harder than ever.

New plan necessary
The document proposed that the intel agencies should loosen their own criteria and begin to conduct surveillance beyond the "hardcore" neo-Nazi groups. Data should also be gathered on individual members of movements like PEGIDA and political parties like the AfD, the paper argued, describing these as a "bridge spectrum" between extremism and democracy. "But the existence of this bridge spectrum also proves that though the theory of a sharp 'extremist - democratic' distinction is right for the Verfassungsschutz authorities, it is not always apparent in reality," the BfV wrote in the paper. Though PEGIDA and AfD members might indeed believe in the principles of the German constitution, they could still be described as "radical," the paper said, as quoted in the SZ.

"What this news reflects is that the borders are getting blurry," said Hans Vorländer, a Dresden-based political scientist and authority on Germany's far-right. "That makes things very difficult. In the case of PEGIDA, they were not officially under surveillance, but I can't imagine that was always the case because some far-right organizations joined those marches." But watching individuals rather than groups raises its own problems. "You'd have to have information about these individuals," said Vorländer. "And to do that you need to watch the groups and find anti-constitutional actions among them. Or you'd need concrete evidence against those individuals."

The fact that extremism is becoming more difficult to isolate does not mean that Germans have suddenly become more right-wing, said Matthias Quent, director of the Thuringia-based Institute for Democracy and Civil Society. It's the fact that the AfD has legitimized these views. "It's not a new problem," Quent told DW. "We have studies from decades ago that show that 13 percent of Germans have an extremist far-right view of the world. What is new is that it is possible to organize this into protest parties. It's actually worth welcoming that this reality has reached the Verfassungsschutz." "This problem shows a fundamental flaw in the Verfassungsschutz as an instrument, and the not-always-transparent way things are judged there," he added.

Watching the AfD
Some prominent German politicians - notably Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel - have called for the AfD to be put on the BfV's watch list, though so far intelligence agencies have resisted it. (It would not be unprecedented - the Left party, the successor to the East German communists, was under BfV watch from its foundation in 2007 to 2014). Quent said it would be futile anyway, since it wasn't the job of intelligence agencies to police these societal boundaries, but rather to prevent violence. Not that this task is much easier - police data shows that around half of the people suspected of attacking refugee homes, for example, have no connections to hardcore neo-Nazi groups. "The idea that there is an extremist margin and a clean, mainstream middle doesn't work anymore," said Quent. "But the solution to that can't be to place a quarter of the population under surveillance." That's why, he says, it makes no sense to put the AfD as an organization under the BfV's watch. "It's legitimate, and it's part of the freedom of speech to articulate a fundamental position against the state," he said. "But you have to oppose it politically, and not with intelligence services. Even if the AfD were put under surveillance, the potential in society that they can mobilize wouldn't disappear."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Germany: Study: Stable racism stats, but 'new right' ideas permeate

A new study suggests a strong base for "new right" ideas in Germany. It found that more than a quarter of Germans believe they no longer really enjoy free speech, and that "establishment" parties cheat the public.

22/11/2016- The research by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) found a stable or even slightly reduced proportion of "classical" racist, xenophobic or homophobic views in its two-yearly attempt to gauge the public pulse on a range of issues. Less than 10 percent of respondents classified themselves as racist, only 6 percent as anti-Semitic, 9 percent as sexist, 10 percent as homophobic, and 39 percent as skeptical of newcomers to Germany from abroad. On the issue of receiving refugees, even, more than two-thirds of participants "strongly agreed" with the statement, "Germany should let people in who are fleeing wars." Just 2.8 percent strongly disagreed, according to the study, released on Monday evening. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed strongly supported the idea of putting an upper limit on the number of asylum requests approved, however, while almost one quarter believed that Germans' quality of life might suffer as a result of the new arrivals in 2015.

New focus on 'new right' ideas
The political foundation - which is independent but has close ties to Germany's center-left Social Democrats - investigated what it called "new right" ideologies for the first time - apparently a response to developments like the so-called refugee crisis and the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Almost 40 percent of the people surveyed were of the opinion that Islam was undermining German culture. Meanwhile, 28 percent agreed with the statement: "You cannot freely voice your opinion in Germany without getting into trouble." A similar quota agreed that: "The ruling [political] parties are betraying the people." Again, just under 30 percent agreed either generally or very strongly with the statement: "It is time to show greater resistance to modern-day politics." The foundation described such ideas as a more "subtle form and intellectual guise" with which to propagate nationalist positions.

The FES report found that voters were more likely to agree with these "new right" ways of thinking if they also supported more right-wing political parties, saying that 84 percent of the professed AfD voters they surveyed supported such positions. Take this same sub-group and look towards the more "traditional" racist values, and further correlations emerge - with 68 percent supporting xenophobic positions, 64 percent opposing Islam, 59 percent opposing Roma, 88 percent opposing asylum-seekers and 68 percent voicing disdain for Germany's long-term unemployed. As a national percentage, such views echo only with a small minority.

Reversing Reagan - the vocal minority
Presenting this rather divided portrayal of the public pulse, FES even saw fit to highlight one segment's of the report's summary, beginning: "The population's fundamentally positive attitude, its calmness and its willingness to engage on refugees' behalf is underestimated. It stands against a small, tough minority, which does not just reject refugees, but rather recoils from other social groups as well and tends towards extreme-right ideologies." According to the researchers' conclusions, the refugee issue had become an "exemplary" one for a country with a tolerant but silent majority and a vocal, dissatisfied minority. The telephone study, researched at the University of Bielefeld on the FES' behalf, called on just under 1,900 participants with an average age of 50.3 years, with a slight majority of the participants women. People are asked to respond to a series of statements on a scale of 1-5, 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Germans are Europeans most immune to populism

According to new research by polling firm YouGov, of the larger European countries, Germany is by far the least prone to populism.

21/11/2016- The survey, seen exclusively by Die Welt, shows that around 18 percent of Germans are receptive to populist forms of politics. This is considerably lower than in the UK and Italy, where just under half the population were seen to have a weakness for populist politics, and far below France at 63 percent. Romania had the highest level of sympathy for populist politics at 82 percent, followed by Poland at 78 percent. The survey revealed that older Germans are more likely to sympathize with populist parties like the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) than younger voters. The survey also showed that those with a middling level of education were much more likely to have populist leanings than those with high or low levels of education. While 57 percent of moderately educated respondents gave answers showing populist leanings, only around 20 percent of those with either limited or high levels of education did.

German men are also much more likely to be receptive to populism than women at 65 percent compared to 35 percent. The study defines populist sympathy by assessing certain basic convictions, including a rejection of the EU, general reservations about immigration, a critical view on current interpretations of human rights, and a preference for foreign policy which is strongly based on national interests. According to Die Welt, the survey was designed to reveal populist leanings on the right and left of the political spectrum. Whereas populist sympathies on both the right and left of the political spectrum were revealed in other European countries, they were almost exclusively on the right in Germany. “While in other European countries, above all in France, we are seeing a strong leaning towards an authoritarian populism, Germany is the country most capable of resisting this,” Joe Twyman, research director at YouGov told Die Welt. “Spain also has a low level of populist feeling which indicated that the recent history of both countries could explain this.”
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Will the families of Syrian refugees be denied the right to reunification?

In a case that will have widespread ramifications for the rights of refugees in Germany, a court in Schleswig will decide whether refugees from war zones will only be granted 'subsidiary protection'.

20/11/2016- On 23 November the Higher Administrative Court in the northern German region of Schleswig will be the first to decide whether it is possible to limit the rights of refugees from war zones. Recently, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) granted only so-called "subsidiary protection" to asylum seekers, primarily from Syria. Thousands of those affected were successful in appealing the decision. Now the BAMF has taken the judgment to the next level of authority, the Higher Administrative Court. It continues to insist on granting only limited protection to Syrian refugees. Full refugee protection according to the Geneva Convention normally includes permission to remain for three years, and this is usually followed by an unlimited residence permit. Refugees also have the right to family reunification. If, however, the BAMF were to grant them only so-called "subsidiary," or limited, protection, they would initially get a residency permit for just one year, perhaps with the possibility of extending this for another two. But this extension would have to be applied for separately. Families would not be permitted to join them until 2018. This is a source of great insecurity and an additional emotional burden for those affected.

Complicated legal situation
The Osnabrück lawyer Henning Bahr is well versed in asylum law. He defends refugees who wish to appeal against their assessments. They can get legal aid to cover the cost of the appeal. Bahr is currently dealing with between 50 and 55 cases – an increase of 100 percent on 2015, he says. He is well aware of the personal suffering of his clients whose relatives were unable to flee. "Two years is a long time in Syria," he says. "For family reunification to be suspended for 'only' two years – it's not 'only,' it's horrifying that it's been suspended at all." He has to keep explaining why limitations can be imposed. Put simply, "subsidiary protection" is usually granted to all those who are not covered by either the Geneva Convention on Refugees or the German basic right to asylum. For example, the German constitution only grants right of asylum to people who are politically persecuted. It doesn't apply to people fleeing general situations like civil war or a natural disaster. "Again and again, assessments focus on the fact that the people concerned weren't able to demonstrate why they were individually persecuted," Bahr explains.

Hearings should be better prepared
Henning Bahr and his colleagues are urging that offers by institutions such as the Red Cross, faith-based charities Caritas International and Diakonie, or the Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration to act in an advisory capacity should be accepted, and that lawyers should prepare very carefully for the hearings that form part of the asylum procedure. For example, many applicants will have been called up for military service prior to fleeing. If they return to Syria, they will be prosecuted for desertion. "The federal office usually skips over this fairly quickly in its assessments," says Henning Bahr. He hopes that this will provide a point of leverage for refugees' rights to be fully recognized. "Unfortunately, it often also happens that people are put under time pressure during a hearing," he says. It may be pointed out that, as an asylum seeker, they surely want the process to be a swift one. "It's often implied that the applicant doesn't need to go into so much detail, when in fact it's important that the people concerned leave out nothing of what's happened to them during the war," Bahr advises. According to reports by Pro Asyl, refugees don't always give all the relevant reasons for their asylum claim in their statement to the BAMF.

Decree "from on high"
For a long time it was predominantly people from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq who received "subsidiary protection." Syrians were given full protection rights almost automatically on the grounds of their country of origin. But since March 2016 and the "second asylum package," the flow of refugees from this region is to be limited, and the rules for recognizing Syrian refugees are to be made stricter. Both Henning Bahr and his colleague Marcel Keienborg in Düsseldorf assume that very clear guidelines have been issued by the interior ministry: "Of course, we can only assume that there has been a directive, but it's certainly highly probable." Naturally, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees defends its decrees about "subsidiary protection," and has appealed many cases in which the plaintiffs were granted full rights.

Numerous decisions by the administrative Courts of First Instance, whether in Trier, Regensburg or Frankfurt an der Oder, have supported refugees and decided appeals in their favor. Now it's the turn of the next level of the justice system – such as the Higher Administrative Court in Schleswig. If it confirms the lower court's decision, it will be a signal that cannot easily be ignored. Henning Bahr is convinced: "The BAMF will be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of judgments. For financial reasons, the Federal Office will then have to consider whether it intends to appeal every one of these decisions."
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

Belgium: Greek outing has grave consequences for far-right politician

The Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang has taken measures after a controversial visit of some of its members to the Greek far-right party Golden Dawn. Anke Van dermeersch will scrapped from the party board and will be replaced as Senator. Filip Dewinter will be reprimanded.

20/11/2016- Van dermeersch, Dewinter and Jan Penris travelled to Greece last week, to see the refugee crisis with their own eyes. However, they combined this trip with a visit to Golden Dawn, a controversial party considered by many as neo-Nazi. The visit was shared on various social media. For Vlaams Belang President Tom Van Grieken this is a bridge too far. He does not want Vlaams Belang to be associated with neo-Nazi movements. "The three have seriously damaged our party's image", he said. Vlaams Belang held an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to decide on a punishment. Van dermeersch was the only one of the 3 with a seat in the party board. She will lose this seat, and her position as community Senator. However, she remains a Flemish MP, while Penris and Dewinter keep their seat in the federal Chamber. Dewinter, a long-time member of Vlaams Belang, will be reprimanded. The party did not have the authority to take their MP seats away from them anyway.
© Flanders News

up  

Greece: Police worried by reports of far-right attacks on island migrant centers

20/11/2016- The Greek Police (ELAS) is keeping a close eye on the situation at Aegean islands hosting migrant camps amid reports that members of far-right groups have been involved in at least two assaults against facilities, Kathimerini understands. Attacks on the Souda camp on Chios over the past few days involved assailants lobbing Molotov cocktails and stones, and coincided with a trip to the island by MPs of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang. Local residents on Chios, as well as Samos and other islands where reception centers are overcrowded and tense, are pressing for migrants to be moved to the mainland.

However, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said last week that migrants cannot be moved en masse to the mainland as that would encourage more to come over from Turkey and potentially test an agreement between Ankara and the European Union for the return of migrants arriving in Greece. “It would mean the collapse of the EU-Turkey pact,” he told reporters last week. “The next day the islands would be engulfed by a new wave of migrants.” Tensions are particularly high on Chios following upheaval at the camp there amid reports of provocation by far-right protesters. Islanders who work at the facility are reluctant to return to their jobs, according to local reports. Mouzalas, meanwhile, has proposed the creation of a larger camp before the current one can close.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

UK: Sikhs are 'invisible to government' despite hate crime increase

Sikh Federation says public bodies ignore community as survey finds 20% of Sikhs faced public discrimination last year

25/11/2016- British Sikhs have been “invisible to the government since 9/11” despite increased levels of discrimination and hate crimes, the Sikh Federation has said as a comprehensive survey of the UK’s fourth largest faith group was published. According to the UK Sikh Survey 2016, almost one in five Sikhs has encountered discrimination in a public place over the past year and one in seven has directly experienced workplace discrimination. The report found that Sikhs who wear religious iconography or clothing are most likely to experience abuse, with men more vulnerable than women. The most common places where discrimination is experienced are airports and public transport. Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation, said the survey contained critical messages for the government and policy makers “on how the political elite is failing to properly represent British Sikhs and the issues that concern them”.

British Sikhs, he said, “have remained ‘invisible’ to the government since 9/11 despite increased levels of discrimination and hate crimes targeting Sikhs”. The report says the government and public bodies have “systematically failed the minority Sikh community by not adequately responding to the disproportionate impact of racism and hate crime targeting Sikhs since 9/11”. Hate crimes against Sikhs are wrongly recorded as Islamophobic incidents by police suggesting religious illiteracy and throwing doubt on the accuracy of recorded data, it adds. The survey also records 17% of Sikh women between the ages of 16 and 30 saying they or a relative or friend had been targeted by grooming gangs. Among all Sikhs, 90% feel not enough is being done to tackle sexual grooming.

The poll of 4,500 Sikhs in the UK, conducted online, in written questionnaires and in face-to-face interviews, was managed by the Sikh Network. It provides a comprehensive picture of the community, say the authors. According to the 2011 census, there were 432,000 Sikhs in the UK, or 0.7% of the population. The biggest faith group was Christians (59.5%), followed by Muslims (4.4%) and Hindus (1.3%). Jews and Buddhists each form 0.4% of the population. The survey found that more than two-thirds of Sikhs were born in Britain and nine out of 10 describe their nationality as British. The overwhelming majority reject being described as Indian or Asian. A majority (58%) do not wear a turban, yet almost all (94%) would welcome a statutory code of practice for those who do and those who adhere to the 5Ks - kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kachha (special underclothing) and kirpan (ceremonial sword).

Sikhs form one of the most highly educated groups, with 58% having a degree or equivalent. Unemployment among Sikhs is almost half the general UK jobless rate, with more than one in five self-employed. They have the highest rate of owner-occupation for any group in the UK, at 92%. In the last general election, 82% of Sikhs voted compared with the national average of 66%. They are five times more likely to be members of a political party than the general population. Yet there are no Sikhs sitting as MPs in the current parliament, although there are three Sikhs in the House of Lords. Only one in nine feels parliament effectively represents them.
© The Guardian.

up  

Britain's far right in 2016: fractured, unpredictable, dispirited … and violent

In the wake of Thomas Mair’s conviction for the murder of Jo Cox, Ian Cobain examines rightwing extremism in the UK

24/11/2016- After years of austerity, and at a time of rising concern about immigration and uncertainty about the future direction of the UK, the political and economic conditions appear to be ideal for the far right. Across Europe – particularly in France, Denmark and the Netherlands – it is animated and resurgent, scenting electoral success just over the horizon. In the UK, however, the extreme right is fractured, leaderless, confused and dispirited. It is also highly unpredictable and, on occasion, violent. Rather than one party or group – such as the British National party (BNP) or the English Defence League (EDL) – dominating the stage, a couple of dozen smaller groups vie for attention.

Some continue to contest local elections, but the growing popularity of Ukip in recent years has presented former supporters of the BNP and other far-right parties with an opportunity to vote for an anti-immigration party that is not considered disreputable. Other groups favour so-called direct action, such as picketing mosques, invading halal abattoirs and harassing staff at Muslim-owned restaurants. Others still prefer to stage rallies and marches, bringing them into conflict with anti-fascist campaigners and, frequently, the police. Each confrontation ensures that future events attract more people seeking violence. A handful of groups have started organising martial arts training and survivalist boot camps, and recent months have seen an increase in hate crimes. There has, in the words of the Met police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, been a “horrible spike” in such crime.

In many respects, racial nationalism in Britain in 2016 resembles that of the late 1990s, before the BNP was reorganised by its then leader, Nick Griffin. After taking control of the party in 1999, Griffin rid it of what he called “the three Hs: hobbyism, hard talk and Hitler”. Members focused more on a new enemy – Muslims and Islam. Activists swapped their boots for suits, grew their hair a little and began winning council elections. In 2009 the party won two European parliament seats. Now the far right is back where it was almost 20 years ago, a series of micro-groups struggling to be seen and heard. Many of these groups have members in West Yorkshire, where Jo Cox’s killer, Thomas Mair, lived, although it appears he was not a member of any of them. Paul Meszaros, the county’s coordinator for the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, says: “The far-right scene in West Yorkshire is no different to the rest of the country at the moment, which is unusual, because it used to be the BNP’s capital.”

Many veterans of the right are unsurprised by the waning of their fortunes, saying success has always been cyclical. At some point in the future, they predict, they will again be something of an electoral force. Jim Lewthwaite, a former member of the National Front and a former BNP councillor in Bradford, says: “We’re going back to the same cyclical position as we were before 2001. The right is totally fragmented and on its back, waiting for something to happen. “But remember how fast it went when it did take off? If things did happen, if Ukip were to fold, or if significant fragments of Ukip were to say we want a tougher line, and there were somebody leading it in our direction, or someone on our side that they trusted … we wouldn’t have to rebuild the organisation a second time. “There are experienced people out there who are simply taking a back seat. They haven’t ceased to be nationalists, they don’t need to be reconvinced. They have concluded that nothing is happening right now, so there’s no point in doing anything. But if something caught on, and it started snowballing, they would get involved.” The “things” that could happen, and which Lewthwaite and others believe could lead to the far right becoming an energised and coherent force in British politics, include, of course, serious Islamist terrorist attacks.

In the meantime, this is the shape of the far right in Britain today:
The electioneers
Lewthwaite is now a member of the British Democratic party, a BNP offshoot led by Andrew Brons, a former member of the National Socialist Movement in the UK, a now-defunct neo-Nazi group, and a former leading light in the National Front. In 2009 Brons was elected to the European parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber for the BNP. The party says it has about 30 members. The BNP is in turmoil. Its electoral high point can now be seen to have been the 2009 European parliament elections when it won two seats. At the general election the following year, the party won 564,000 votes, but failed to win any seats and was virtually bankrupted in the process. After a series of increasingly bitter internal feuds, Griffin was expelled in 2014. He had been accused of trying to destabilise the party and harassing its members, which he disputes. The BNP claims to still have 3,000 members, but this might be an exaggeration.

On Thursday it was reported that the BNP’s last remaining local councillor had quit the party, and told Pendle council in Lancashire that he planned to sit as an independent. Ukip went out of its way to win votes from BNP supporters who – like Ukip’s core support – tended to be not only white, but older, perhaps poorer and male. The party’s interim leader, Nigel Farage, says he is proud to have inflicted so much damage on the BNP. He says Ukip achieved this “by going out and saying to the BNP voters: ‘If you are voting BNP because you are frustrated, upset with the change in your community but you are holding your nose because you don’t agree with their racist agenda, then come and vote for us.’”

Liberty GB, an Islamophobic and anti-immigration party founded in 2013, fielded three candidates in the 2014 European elections, winning a little more than 0.1% of the vote in the South East England constituency. It also contested the Batley and Spen byelection, which was triggered by the death of Cox, winning 1% of the vote. The National Front, which was formed in the 1960s and won almost 200,000 votes in the 1979 general election, is seen by many on the right as a spent force, riven by factional infighting and occasional fist fights. It still fields a handful of candidates at elections.

The Islamophobes
Britain First was set up five years ago by former BNP members, and is led by Paul Golding, a former BNP councillor. Its membership is thought to amount to a few hundred, but it has a sizeable digital presence. Its Facebook page has received almost 1.5m likes. The party’s website was registered by Britain First Merchandise Ltd, the company that Golding and his deputy, Jayda Fransen, established two years ago to sell hoodies, hats and polo shirts emblazoned with the party’s logo. The pair appear not to have been aware that the wearing of political uniforms can be an offence in Britain under the Public Order Act 1936, which was introduced to inhibit the blackshirts of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

Golding and Fransen were arrested under the act earlier this year while leading what they described as a “Christian patrol” through the Bury Park area of Luton in Bedfordshire, a neighbourhood with a large Muslim population. Golding admitted the offence and was fined £460. Fransen was also charged with a religiously aggravated public order offence. She denied the charges, insisting she had done nothing wrong, but was convicted and fined a total of £1,200 with £720 costs. Bedfordshire police also obtained an injunction that prohibits the pair from returning to Bury Park and bans them from entering any mosque or Islamic cultural centre in England and Wales. Britain First’s policies include the introduction of a complete ban on Islam, prohibiting the media from using the word “racism” and paying people “of foreign descent” to leave the country permanently.

It engages in what it terms direct action. Since being banned from entering mosques, its members have invaded a number of restaurants that use halal meat, and posted films of the incidents on the party’s website. It issued a statement condemning Cox’s murder and saying that Mair was “categorically not a member” after witnesses described him shouting “Britain first” as he carried out the killing. Golding declined to be interviewed for this article. Pegida UK was launched by the former EDL founder Stephen Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, and Paul Weston, the chairman of Liberty GB. It is modelled on the German street protest organisation Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. Its first rally, at an industrial estate in Birmingham last February, attracted about 200 people.

The EDL still has a few hundred supporters, but the days when it could attract 2,000 people to its rallies are long over. It largely collapsed as a street protest movement after Lennon left to forge a relationship with Quilliam, the counter-radicalisation thinktank. He was later jailed for mortgage fraud and helped form Pegida UK on his release.

The sieg heilers
The newcomer to the out-and-out Nazi end of the spectrum is National Action, established about three years ago by a handful of university undergraduates. It is estimated to have about 100 members. Over the last 18 months, members have filmed themselves defacing Jewish monuments and have staged a series of events that they describe as “white man marches” in towns and cities in the north of England. One such event ended in farce last year, when members attempted to march through Liverpool, which they had condemned as “the heart and home of the reds”. They were unable to move beyond the city’s main railway station, after being outnumbered and surrounded by protesters who pelted them with fruit while chanting: “Master race, you’re having a laugh.” Other events in Liverpool and elsewhere have ended in violence and arrests, however, and one member, Zack Davies, is serving a life sentence for attempted murder after launching a machete attack on a young dentist, later saying he chose his victim because he looked Asian.

Since Cox’s death, National Action has adopted the words “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” as its slogan. This is what Mair declared to be his name when asked to identify himself during his first court appearance. Other newcomers include the Infidels, a network of regional groups Hope Not Hate says is linked to the National Front and is “the most obnoxious and criminal group on Britain’s far right”. The Infidels probably have no more than 100 members, many of them in Lancashire. Combat 18, the neo-Nazi group that takes its name from the first and eighth letters of the alphabet – A and H for Adolf Hitler – still exists, 25 years after it was founded, although Hope Not Hate estimates its membership at only 20 to 30. Others on the far right are suspicious of the group. “Combat 18 was set up as flypaper for special branch” is a typical jibe. Other micro-groups at this end of the spectrum include the Racial Volunteer Force, the British Movement, the neo-Nazi music promotion organisation Blood and Honour, and a group that calls itself the Misanthropic Division.

The dining club, the thinktanks, the Poles and the publisher
One of the most curious groups on the far right is the Friends of Oswald Mosley, a dining society for former blackshirts from the British Union of Fascists and its successor, the Union Movement. A spokesperson helpfully explained: “We are pro-Islam, pro-EU, against US global supremacy, anti-capitalist, anti-state socialism, pro-syndicalism.” He declined to invite the Guardian to one of the group’s dinners, however, on the grounds that “we would rather chew broken bottles than help you in your latest hatchet job”. The IONA London Forum is one of a small number of far-right thinktanks, which meets regularly in London pubs and hotels, and invites speakers from overseas, many of them Holocaust deniers. The London Forum is organised by Jeremy Bedford-Turner, a former British army officer.

Other such groups have been established in Yorkshire and South Wales. Lewthwaite says: “The idea that serious nationalists spend a lot of time out on the streets, picking fights with policemen, we see as a bit of a joke. The National Front has a wing which is rather like that, but they’re not all like that. Some of them have more going on in their heads. Serious nationalists at the moment you’ll find at fora.” The Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski, or National Rebirth of Poland, also has a number of members in the UK. Its Polish skinhead members have appeared at a number of National Action’s “white man marches” and it has recently established an English-language website for UK-based members and supporters. Finally, the League of Saint George – “small, relatively inactive and irrelevant” in the view of Hope Not Hate – does little but publish and distribute fascist books. Its current list includes such titles as Hitler’s Olympics – The Facts, We Marched With Mosley and the unforgettable That Bastard Churchill.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Far-right terrorism threat growing, says top police officer

National coordinator for counter-terrorism policing says forces take threat of neo-Nazis as seriously at that of Islamic extremists

24/11/2016- A top counter-terrorism officer has said police fear the threat of far-right violence is growing and poses a similar danger to communities as other forms of extremism. The senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, said: “Over the past 12 months, there have been indications that the threat from [the] extreme right wing could be increasing and we are alive to this.” Basu made his comments following the sentencing of the neo-Nazi Thomas Mair to a whole-life term at the Old Bailey on Wednesday for the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox. Mair shot and stabbed the 41-year-old mother of two as she arrived for a constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, in a politically motivated assassination. Basu said referrals to the anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent linked to the far right had increased over the last year. “Currently just under 10% of all Prevent referrals relate to the extreme right wing, and we have put programmes in place to support those at risk of being radicalised,” he said.

Amid criticism of police for not taking the terrorism threat from neo-Nazis as seriously as that from Islamic extremists, Basu said: “We recognise that lives can be destroyed and community cohesion undermined in exactly the same way it can from other forms of extremism.” Police figures show concerns over potential extreme rightwing radicalisation led to a 73.5% increase in referrals to Prevent last year, compared with the previous 12 months. There were 323 cases referred in 2014-15, increasing to 561 in 2015-16. Police say one reason for the increase was the introduction of a duty on those working in public services such as health and education to report concerns. Basu said: “UK policing is committed to tackling extremism in all forms and this includes the threat from the extreme right wing. Cases are pursued by our officers with exactly the same level of resource and vigour as other forms of ideology.

“The vast majority of investigations are led by officers working in the national counter-terrorism network. There have been a number of successful prosecutions over recent years and this is testament to the work of police teams up and down the country.” Referring to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym, Basu said: “The overriding threat remains from Daesh-inspired groups, but our operations reflect a broader range of dangerous ideologies and we will work tirelessly with our partners to confront them. “Within counter-terrorism policing headquarters, there is a national unit that receives intelligence from forces around the country relating to domestic extremist groups. This is assessed daily and the unit works with forces to mitigate the risk. “We work with all our communities to inform them about the threats and the role they can play in helping police. Anyone with any concerns is urged to contact their local force.”
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Holocaust denier cashes in on Hollywood drama

Far-right historian David Irving goes on the road to spread his vile message

20/11/2016- Far-right historian David Irving is to embark on a secretive tour of Britain – just as a new Hollywood film thrusts his most ignominious moment back into the spotlight. The author’s reputation was left in tatters in 2000, when he lost a £2 million libel case in which a judge ruled that he was a racist, anti-Semitic Holocaust denier who twisted facts to fit his pro-Nazi agenda. Now the story of his humiliation is being told in a new film starring Timothy Spall as Irving and Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt, the US academic he unsuccessfully sued. But in the weeks before its release, Irving is embarking on a month-long lecture tour, airing his pernicious views.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Irving conceded the roadshow may profit from the publicity surrounding the film, Denial, which is released in the UK in January. But he insists the movie, written by playwright David Hare and co-financed by BBC Films, is ‘inaccurate’. His tour starts on November 23 and will visit 21 venues – but their exact location will be revealed only to vetted ticket-buyers, to evade anti-fascist protesters. The 78-year-old is billing the lectures as ‘David Irving looks back: My 50 years defending real history against its enemies’. He has denied being anti-Semitic, but his publicity material describes Jews as ‘the traditional enemies of free speech’ and refers to how ‘mobs of Jews’ have confronted him throughout his career. Speaking to this newspaper, Irving also said he had been following the US elections and praised Donald Trump as a ‘good man who has his heart in the right place’.

The news of the tour was yesterday derided by critics, who branded Irving a ‘has-been’. Rabbi Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, said: ‘It is extraordinary that Irving has not learned from the academic trouncing he received, demolishing his spurious views and biased research. ‘Banning him would be treating him seriously, rather than as a discredited historian. But he should be shunned and his roadshow ignored.’ The former Government anti-terror adviser Lord Carlile said: ‘The best way to react to this tour would be for nobody to attend. He is a has-been of no credibility whatever. His views are laughable.’ Anti-Semitism campaigner Jonathan Sacerdoti said: ‘This tour is a pathetic last bid for attention from a man who has been rejected as a mainstream historian.’

Five years after his High Court defeat, Irving was sentenced to three years in an Austrian prison over ‘trivialising, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust’. He has been banned from Austria, Canada, Italy and Germany. Last year, The Mail on Sunday revealed he addressed more than 100 fascist sympathisers and neo-Nazis at a secret meeting in a London hotel. He has also led controversial tours around concentration camps. Irving has disputed being a Holocaust-denier but insists that the number of Jews killed is lower than the widely accepted figure of six million.
© The Daily Mail.

up  

PRESIDENTIAL ELCTIONS AUSTRIA

Victory for Austria’s far right will send ripples across Europe

Election re-run is a battle between liberal internationalism and insurgent populism

23/11/2016- The late Thomas Bernhard, a mordant Austrian author, once likened the mentality of his compatriots to punch cake, a rum-soaked national dessert. On the outside it is red, like the left; inside it is brown, like Nazism; and it is always a bit drunk. Austria’s December 4 presidential election re-run pits Alexander Van der Bellen, a Greens-backed independent, against Norbert Hofer, the far-right Freedom party’s candidate. Thankfully, the campaign is not some murderous 1930s-style bloodbath between red and brown. Nonetheless, as Bernhard would have been the first to recognise, much is at stake for Austria, its central European neighbours, the EU and western democracies in general. Mr Hofer has a narrow lead in opinion polls. For the first time since the second world war, voters in a European democracy are poised to elect a far-right head of state.

The re-run, made necessary by vote-counting irregularities when the election was held in May, is shaping up as the latest battle between liberal internationalism and insurgent anti-establishment populism, often with a nationalistic, extreme rightwing tinge. Austria accounts for only 8.5m of the EU’s 508m population. Should Mr Hofer win, however, many will see his victory as the thin end of the wedge. If Austria elects Mr Hofer, what is to stop France electing Marine Le Pen as president next May? What is to stop the advance of anti-establishment forces in Italy and the Netherlands? The politics of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are already polluted with illiberalism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nationalism. Against the backdrop of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, and doubts over America’s commitment to European security after Donald Trump’s victory, it is tempting to paint the outlook for Europe in grim colours.

Naturally, a Hofer victory is not assured. Thanks to strong support in Vienna and other cities, especially among young women and well-educated Austrians, Mr Van der Bellen beat Mr Hofer in May by an admittedly slim 50.3 to 49.7 per cent margin. The re-run will probably also be close. Rather than turning a political shade of brown, Austria is a society whose electorate is split by the Van der Bellen-Hofer contest into two broadly matched camps. It may turn out over time that the election’s most important lesson came in its first round in April. That was when voters, for the first time in postwar Austrian history, rejected the candidates of the Social Democrat and centre-right elites who have alternated in power since 1945.

If disillusion with an out-of-touch establishment explains part of Mr Hofer’s appeal, so do his artful efforts to portray himself as a “centre-right politician with a big social conscience”. To the extent that Austrians buy into his reassuring slogans, the chances increase that the Freedom party will win the next parliamentary elections, due by 2018, and become the senior partner in a new coalition government. This, too, would be a first for the far right in Europe. Yet there are excellent reasons to question whether the telegenic Mr Hofer’s soft-spoken serenity is the true face of the Freedom party. In a fiery speech last month, Heinz-Christian Strache, the party’s leader, labelled German chancellor Angela Merkel not only the most powerful but “unfortunately also the most dangerous woman in Europe” on account of her “criminal” refugee policies.

For good measure, Mr Strache denounced the “uncontrolled influx of migrants, alien to our culture, who seep into our social welfare system … making civil war in the medium term not unlikely”. As for Mr Hofer, he has by his own account sometimes carried a semi-automatic Glock pistol in public. Nowadays the party plays down the anti-Semitism for which it was notorious under Jörg Haider, its former leader, who died in 2008. However, the party is saturated with pan-Germanic cultural nostalgia, a cause long dear to the far right. Its European Parliament website states it is “a social and patriotic movement and an ideological representative of the political camp of German national and national-liberal voters”. Some commentators suggest that a Hofer victory would be no cause for alarm because the president’s powers under Austria’s constitution are limited. But this is not quite accurate. The president can refuse to swear in government ministers and can dissolve parliament. Mr Hofer has remarked cryptically that, should he win, people “will be surprised about all the things that are possible” under his presidency. Austria and the rest of Europe cannot say they have not been warned.
© The Financial Times

up  

Austria: FPÖ compares Van der Bellen with Hitler

Austria's far-right Freedom Party has turned the tables on left-wing critics who compare them with the Nazis by comparing their left-wing rival in the presidential election with Adolf Hitler.

21/11/2016- The Freedom Party (FPÖ) in the Styrian city of Kapfenberg said they were fed up with their own candidate Norbert Hofer, 45, being branded a Nazi with many election posters being vandalised with swastikas. On social media, they contrasted a poster of former Green party leader and rival candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, with famous images of Hitler. On the poster, Van der Bellen is seen leaning against a fence against an Alpine background. He looks down at his dog, whose tail is wagging back and forth. They contrast it with famous pictures of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who also frequently posed with his German shepherd Blondi at his mountainside retreat of Obersalzberg - known in English as the Eagle’s Nest. The FPÖ wrote text below the images, saying that "in contrast to the political opposition we do not want to assume anything here. But the setting is at least unfortunately chosen."

They wrote that they wanted to keep the comparison as a "memorial for when the next left-wing outrage over a Nazi connection was made." Meanwhile, the Kapfenberg FPÖ chapter has deleted the post. However the image continued to circulate on social media. Martin Glier, the spokesman for Hofer, was among those who shared it with the words "ouch". Lothar Lockl, Alexander Van der Bellen's election campaign manager, did not find the comparison funny at all. "The comparison with Adolf Hitler breaks all the dimensions we have experienced from the Freedom Party. How low will the election campaign get?" Local media reported the team around Van der Bellen is considering legal action.

Over the last months, Van der Bellen's parents were accused of being Nazi supporters, an allegation rejected by the Green party candidate. On the other hand, Hofer, who was partially paralysed after a paragliding accident, has been insulted online because of his disability. Hofer and Van der Bellen are facing off in a second-round vote after a court ordered a rerun after irregularities in postal voting. A renewed vote was originally scheduled on 2nd October, but was postponed again to 4th December after adhesive seals on postal votes were found to have come unstuck. Van der Bellen beat Hofer in the second round by just 31,000 votes, but those elections were annulled by the court after Hofer complained about said anomalies in the counting of postal votes.
© Central European News

up  

Austria: Conservatives shun far-right Hofer

Several top Austrian conservatives on Saturday urged voters to shun far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in next month's presidential election, highlighting fears he could take the country out of the EU.

19/11/2016- In a manifesto published on Saturday, senior conservatives including former EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler and ex-vice chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, both from the People's Party (ÖVP), said the next president must be "dependable". To protect its economic vitality, "Austria must remain a trustworthy European and international partner," they wrote. The manifesto offered support for Hofer's liberal rival, the independent ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen. Hofer, who heads the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), has not ruled out a referendum on Austria's future in the European Union following Britain's shock vote in June to quit the EU. "We do not want to be faced with speculation about Austria leaving the European Union nor with attempts to hide the cornflower behind a crucifix," the declaration said, referring to a recent controversy.

The 45-year-old has been accused by Christian groups of manipulation after he added the phrase "So help me God" to his campaign posters. He has also been criticised for wearing a cornflower, a blue flower with a controversial past which was used by banned Austrian Nazis in the 1930s to identity each other. Hofer has insisted he only wore it for the blue -- the colour of the FPÖ. Like populist parties elsewhere in Europe, the FPÖ is currently leading national polls. Hofer, hoping to become the EU's first far-right head of state in the December 4 poll, has been stoking public fears about record immigration and rising unemployment. Austria's president must be a guarantor of co-existence and "that is incompatible with speeches about fear, hate and the constant search for scapegoats," the manifesto said.

The ÖVP has not given its followers official voting recommendations but many of its senior members have already said they would back Van der Bellen. The independent ecologist ran against Hofer in May, winning by a narrow margin although the result was later dramatically overturned by Austria's highest court which upheld claims of procedural irregularities brought by the narrowly-defeated far-right. Opinon polls suggest the outcome of the re-run is too close to call.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria's far-right stokes fears in wealthy countryside

Prosperous, pretty and almost migrant-free -- rural Austria paradoxically offers a happy hunting ground for far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer and his populist Freedom Party.

18/11/2016- Ask the people of Pinkafeld what makes them proud of their pastel-coloured town set amid pine-strewn hills and many will reply "Our flowers", followed by "...and our Norbert". Like elsewhere in the countryside, the 45-year-old swept most of the votes in Pinkafeld in the first runoff in May, which was annulled over procedural irregularities. Back then, he lost by a paper-thin margin to the Greens-backed Alexander Van der Bellen. Now many Pinkafelders hope "Norbert", as he's affectionately known, will finally emerge victorious on December 4 -- and not just because he's a local resident. "Hofer's a nice guy who walks his dog around town but I think people here would support him even if he wasn't from Pinkafeld," local newsagent Hannes Stecker told AFP.

"There's a lurch to the right in Austria and Van der Bellen is too left-leaning. That scares people off. I'm not keen on either but because some of my opinions are more on the right side, I vote for Hofer," the 21-year-old said. Other locals say they are also frustrated with the ruling centrist coalition, in power since 2008. "I'm so tired of the main parties always lining their pockets and forgetting about us normal folk," said a butcher in her forties who refused to be named. This fatigue of the establishment stretches far beyond Austria's borders all the way to the other side of the Atlantic where Donald Trump won the US election in a shock upset. While Trump appears "too excessive" for rural Austrians, the FPÖ strikes just the right note.

Life is good
Yet, life in Pinkafeld is a far cry from the doomed vision pushed by the party, which has been firing up public anger over refugees and spiraling joblessness. Thanks to several large manufacturing companies , unemployment is low and the infrastructure excellent. Of the 130,000 migrants who have arrived in Austria since 2015, only around 100 have been moved to Pinkafeld -- hardly a visible number compared to the 5,500 residents. Several schools and a university campus mean cafes are thronging with noisy students on any given day of the week. The town also draws young families from nearby cities because of the affordable housing, good quality of life and easy transport links to Vienna, an hour's drive north. "The ambience makes this a lovely town to live in," mayor Kurt Maczek told AFP. In summer, hordes of tourists arrive armed with cameras to capture the town's elaborate floral arrangements, which won a prestigious international prize in 2002.

'Tangible fear'
But all this hasn't stopped a growing sense of unease from bubbling up to Pinkafeld's prim and proper surface. Last month, unknown perpetrators spray-painted an "SS" symbol and racist slogan on the door of a doctor who is part of a local refugee volunteer group. The attack prompted a couple of hundred people to organise a flash mob in support of Rainer Oblak outside his surgery. "I think this was just a stupid action by some idiots. I don't want to excuse or justify it but I think it's a one-off. I don't see this as a sign of people's radicalisation... We're not overburdened with refugees," local FPÖ MP Peter Jauschowetz told AFP. For the doctor, however, the incident cannot be brushed aside so easily. "There's been a lot of tangible insecurity and even fear because of the populist side stoking jealousy and hatred," Oblak told AFP.

Mayor Maczek also warned that public concerns over refugees were real. Ignoring these concerns is what has cost his party, the Social Democrats, and their ruling coalition partner voters across the country, he said. "Migrants are definitely the big issue," said Christian Akanatovic, a German who moved to Pinkafeld five years ago. "If I was allowed to vote here, I would vote Hofer. I understand that we need to help people from war-torn countries... But to accept one million refugees (in Europe) without checking their identity is just too extreme," the hotel receptionist, 44, told AFP. For observers, the FPÖ's rural success is not just down to Hofer -- seen as the far-right's "friendly face" -- but also to what his 72-year-old rival Van der Bellen stands for.  The ex-Green Party leader and university professor "is simply a no-go for the countryside. He doesn't represent their lifestyle or values," analyst Peter Hajek said. There are nonetheless some dissenting voices in Pinkafeld, including elderly handyman Karl Janitsch. "I will always vote Van der Bellen. If we allow the FPÖ in, it's the end of democracy as we know it."
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria: Kurz calls to ban Koran distribution

Austria’s foreign minister Sebastian Kurz has called for an immediate ban on Islamic fundamentalists who distribute copies of the Koran, saying that the law needs to be changed to crack down on “Salafist campaigns - an expression of political Islam which we can no longer tolerate”.

18/11/2016- Earlier this week the German authorities launched massive coordinated raids by anti-terror cops on over 200 apartments belonging to members of a German Salafist group calling itself 'The True Religion'. After years trying to find a solution to disband the project amidst legal and practical difficulties, the German government finally announced that the group was banned for good. A recent campaign by the group involved dozens of stalls handing out German copies of a strict traditionalist version of the Koran under a banner with the word ‘Lies!’. Pictures of the campaign went viral because of the word 'Lies', which means 'Read This' in German - but something else in English. The radical Muslims were however apparently unaware that the word ‘lies’, which comes from the verb ‘lesen’ meaning to read, has an entirely different meaning in English. It is believed the organisation has already reinvented itself by launching a new club called 'We Love Muhammad', referring to the prophet who is the central figure of Islam.

The group is also active in Austria and sets up stands in pedestrian areas with a white tablecloth with books on top. Behind each table mostly young men are seen, usually in traditional Islamic garments and sporting long beards, under the ‘Lies’ banner. Another controversial campaign to distribute copies of the Koran in Vienna came under fire after it was revealed a jailed terrorist was one of the original organisers. Mirsad Omerovic, 35, was involved in the recruitment of teenage schoolgirls Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, who was 15 when they left to join Isis in Syria in April 2014. According to Austrian media he was one of the original organisers of the Koran distribution project in Vienna, and although it stopped while he was on trial, it is now being carried out again without permission from council officials who say there is little they can do to stop it.

There are also groups in Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck involved in distributing the Koran. Austria has already banned foreign funding for Muslim groups, mosques and imams in Austria. Cities in Switzerland are now also considering a ban on the radical Salafist groups distributing the Koran. German intelligence services say that the Koran distribution campaign is one of the reasons behind the growth of the Islamist scene in the country. They say that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone has around 2,700 Salafists, of whom 620 are considered violent. Intelligence chiefs suspect wealthy donors from the Middle East are behind the distribution campaign. According to local media in Germany some of the people behind the campaign have ended up fighting for Isis in Syria. One of Germany’s most famous Islamic converts, Sven Lau, is also connected to the campaign.

The Catholic turned Islamic hate preacher is currently on trial for aiding terrorists. 35-year-old Lau is perhaps best known as the initiator of the "Sharia police" in the city of Wuppertal in the industrial Ruhr region, which sought to enforce a strict interpretation of Islam. Wearing orange vests emblazoned with the words 'Sharia Police', the group allegedly demanded people at nightclubs stop drinking alcohol and listening to music.
© Central European News

up  

Austria's far-right presidential hopeful inspired by Trump victory

17/11/2016- Austria's far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer sees Donald Trump's U.S. victory as proof that he is on the right track with his populist Austria-first election campaign that includes calls to stop immigration. "Wherever the elites distance themselves from voters, those elites will be voted out of office," the Freedom Party's presidential hopeful said in an interview with Reuters. Like the U.S. president-elect, 45-year-old Hofer sees himself as a nationalist who recognizes the concerns of ordinary people who have been ignored by a political establishment. "One comparison could be that Trump also had strong (political) headwinds in the U.S. and he won the election anyway," Hofer said. Trump's triumph and Britons' vote in June to quit the European Union have unleashed a populist tsunami that could transform Europe's political landscape.

Austria's presidential run-off on Dec. 4, expected to be a close call, could make Hofer the European Union's first far-right head of state. More elections with far-fight candidates in the frame are set for the Netherlands, France and Germany next year. Hofer lost a run-off in May by a mere 31,000 votes against former Greens Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen but got a new chance when the constitutional court annulled the result due to counting irregularities. Hofer, a well-dressed and softly spoken engineer, has focused on the refugee crisis, rallying for a ban on what the Freedom Party calls "economic migrants". "Of course this is a human issue, but I cannot completely ignore the budgetary burden," Hofer said. Hofer supports the idea of creating what he called "safety areas" outside Europe where asylum requests should be processed.

Austria - a nation of 8.7 million - has taken in more than 120,000 migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since last year, bearing much of the burden of the influx together with Germany and Sweden. This left many Austrians angry about the EU's failure to find joint solutions. Hofer, who voted against Austria's joining the EU in 1994, has backed off from previous calls for an "Oexit" - an Austrian exit from the EU - after the British decision in June to leave the bloc led to increased fears and uncertainty. "The European Union – that is us, the member countries - made the big mistake of not complying with our own agreements, of not taking ourselves seriously any more," he said. "I hope that there will be something like a wake-up call, that people say, we realized that we made big mistakes."

Export-dependent Austria has long been closely committed to the EU: two-thirds voted to join in 1994. Around 70 percent would vote for 'remain' after the Brexit decision, according to a survey by polling institute SORA in July.

Early Parliamentary Elections?
Asked about European sanctions against Russia, Hofer said he was "very much in favor" of them being lifted, echoing calls from Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz from the conservative Peoples' Party (OVP). The OVP has been struggling to find joint positions with their Social Democrats coalition partners on numerous issues including new rules on minimum social benefits. Political analysts say that if Hofer wins the presidency, this could lead to early parliamentary elections and an end to the centrist, pro-European coalition that has dominated Austrian politics for decades. "I am hearing from many sides that fresh election dates are apparently already on the agenda," Hofer said. The Freedom Party has led opinion polls for months, reaching scores of up to 35 percent and leaving the centrists far behind. Asked whether the Freedom Party might challenge the result of the Dec. 4 vote, as it successfully did with the previous presidential run-off in May, Hofer said: "(This) will not happen. I cannot imagine that there will be irregularities as was the case last time. I think Austrians can relax."
© Reuters

up  

Austria: Small OSCE team will observe election rerun

The Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) is sending a small team of election observers to the rerun of Austria's presidential election.

17/11/2016- The four person team will arrive in Austria on November 28th, a week ahead of the rerun on December 4th. They will be from Denmark, the UK, Ukraine and Belarus. Austria’s Constitutional Court ruled that a repeat of the May 22nd presidential election should be held after complaints were lodged about procedural irregularities by the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) whose candidate for the presidency, Norbert Hofer, lost to former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen by 31,000 votes. In a further embarrassing twist, the government was forced to postpone October's planned re-run after it emerged that the postal vote envelopes were not sticky enough, meaning they could easily be reopened. Latest polls show the rivals neck-and-neck. Like populist parties elsewhere in Europe, the FPÖ has gained support after stoking public fears about record immigration and rising unemployment.

In a report, the OSCE noted that it still has great confidence in Austria’s electoral process and that it trusts that Austrian officials will carry out the election correctly, but that the Austrian interior ministry had said it would welcome external monitoring. The observers will be charged with “assessing the legal framework for the election and procedures during the election day". Previously, there have been two OSCE election missions in Austria - during the 2013 national election and the 2010 presidential election. Election observers are allowed access to all ballots, may participate in all meetings of the electoral authorities, as well as the counting of votes, including postal ballots.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Headlines 18 November, 2016

Slovakia comes to grips with proudly neo-Nazi party

18/11/2016- The wave of far-right parties across Europe has been gathering steam from Greece to France and Germany. While most of the continent's extreme forces have taken pains to steer clear of Nazi imagery, Slovakia's answer to the trend celebrates it. Kotleba — The People's Party Our Slovakia — won almost 10 percent of the seats in Parliament in March. It openly admires the Nazi puppet state which the country was during the World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in deprived areas, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union. The party takes its name from its leader, Marian Kotleba, previously chairman of the banned neo-Nazi Slovak Togetherness-National Party, which organized anti-Roma rallies and admired Nazi rule in Slovakia. Thousands have signed a petition demanding that the party be banned. Analysts say the party's popularity could grow even further.

Its simple slogan — "With courage against the system!" — attracts young people fed up with corruption and the inability of mainstream parties to deal effectively with the post-communist country's problems. In contrast to most of Europe's far-right groups, "it's truly neo-Nazi, it advocates the legacy of the Nazi war state," says Eduard Chmelar, a Slovak political analyst. Miroslav Mares, an expert on extremism from the Masaryk University in the Czech city of Brno, said the party belongs to the "hard core of right-wing extremism" in Europe. He said it has only some features similar to Greece's Golden Dawn party and to Hungary's Jobbik at its beginning. What they have in common is targeting the mainstream politics.

"The parties like that are not looking for solutions, it's all about protests," Chmelar said. "You can see it globally. It's the same with Donald Trump, it's the same with (Marine) Le Pen in France. What's important is to be against the system. They're all riding on a wave of public dissatisfaction that has been growing." These parties "communicate and cooperate with each other, and that dramatically changes the situation in Europe, and that's dangerous," Chmelar said. "So far, there's no recipe to stop them." Kotleba's new party made news by launching patrols on trains in April in a reaction to a robbery blamed on a member of the Roma minority. Parliament banned such activities in October. The party has proposed legislation to label non-governmental organizations that receive funding from abroad as foreign agents, and is trying to get the 350,000 signatures needed to force nationwide referendums on the country's membership in NATO and the European Union.

"Among our major goals is above all a creation of an independent and self-sufficient Slovakia, that is Slovakia which has an autonomous foreign policy that is not dictated by any foreign structure, such as the European Union," Milan Uhrik, a deputy chairman of the party, told The Associated Press in a rare interview. Kotleba refuses to talk to foreign media, The AP was told. Speaking in the Parliament building, Uhrik said the EU has been turning into a super state with Brussels in power. "What's the worst is that EU legislation is above Slovak law," he said. NATO is another target. "It's important for Slovakia to leave NATO because we consider NATO a terrorist organization. It doesn't bring peace to the world, quite the contrary," Uhrik said. "NATO is in fact a military organization of the United States and we are militarily subordinated to the United States."

A celebration of wartime Slovakia remains particularly controversial, but Uhrik says it is not about fascism. "As nationalists, we cannot reject the first independent Slovak state," he argued. "We recognize the Slovak (war) state because it was the first Slovak state, not because it was a fascist state." On Oct. 13, party members celebrated the 129th anniversary of the birth of Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest and politician who was Slovakia's war president. During his rule, some 60,000 Slovak Jews were transported to Nazi death camps. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 1947. Rights activists have submitted a petition with 20,000 signatures calling for the party to be banned. Prosecutors are reviewing that request. "Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denials and other such things have no place in democracy," said Peter Weisenbacher from Bratislava's Human Rights Institute.

Kotleba is not a newcomer on Slovakia's political scene. In 2013, he was elected the head of a regional government, campaigning on a strong anti-Roma ticket. He promised to have a recipe to solve problems with the embattled minority, calling its members "Gypsy parasites." He defeated a candidate of the ruling leftist Smer-Social Democracy party in a runoff vote despite that party's chairman, Prime Minister Robert Fico, claiming that "a bag of potatoes" would beat Kotleba. "It was a shock for me when (Kotleba) won the regional election," said Ingrid Kosova, a Roma activist. "I remember people were calling me every day saying that they were ridiculed on the streets, they were not allowed to board buses, they were really afraid. Later on the situation calmed down but until now they live with worries and fears." In a region hit by unemployment around 15 percent, and over 25 percent in one county, Kosova said Kotleba succeeded in poor areas where the problems with the Roma minority are felt, and "which he misused to get to power."

When the party won seats in Parliament, "I was abroad in the Czech Republic and I was considering staying there for good," Kosova said. During the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazi rule in 2014, with foreign presidents and other dignitaries in the central city of Banska Bystrica, the seat of Kotleba's region, Kotleba was flying a black flag from his office and unveiled banners saying "Yankees go home!" and "Stop NATO!" The Uprising is considered a defining moment of the Slovak history, and for most Slovaks a source of national pride because they stood against the Nazi rule. Peter Gogola was mayor there at the time. "I can't forgive him that," Gogola said. "My grandpa was forced to fight in the Hungarian fascist army and died at Stalingrad. I can't stand fascism."

Martin Slosiarik, the head of Bratislava-based pollster Focus, said 70 percent of those who voted for Kotleba are under 40. He said most of them voted for him not because they would share his extremist views but because he promised "to deal with the Roma and get rid of corruption." "They've learned how to work with the public opinion to create a picture that they're the only force ready to challenge the current corrupt system," Chmelar said. He predicted the party could reach more than 10 percent of the popular vote at the next election.
© The Associated Press

up  

Greece: Police must protect refugees from ongoing far-right attacks

18/11/2016- As attacks by suspected far-right extremists against refugees in Souda camp on the Greek island of Chios continue for a third day Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director, said: “These shocking attacks against refugees cannot be permitted to continue with impunity. For the last two nights, suspected right-wing extremists have thrown petrol bombs, stones and rocks down on the camp from castle walls, causing injuries and panic. At least one refugee was injured by a stone just this afternoon.” “Police and judicial authorities must not only take urgent measures to investigate these hate crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice but as a third night approaches, they must act to ensure the safety of the refugees on the island.” At a meeting on Chios 13 November, Parliamentarians from the far-right Golden Dawn party called for deportations. As of Friday morning, no one attacking the camp, which is in a downtown area close to Chios port, has been arrested. An eyewitness told Amnesty International: “I do not know what will happen tonight. If another attack happens and the police is not present. We are very scared.”
© Amnesty International..

up  

Greece: Far-right group attacks refugee camp on island of Chios

Dozens of people flee Souda camp with at least two wounded after molotov cocktails and rocks thrown at tents and occupants

18/11/2016- Dozens of people have been driven out of a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios after two successive nights of attacks by a far-right group. At least two people were wounded after attackers threw Molotov cocktails and rocks as big as boulders from elevated areas surrounding the Souda camp, activists said. Three tents were burned down and three others were hit by rocks. A 42-year-old Syrian man was assaulted, while a Nigerian boy was hit by a rock. Fearing a third attack on Friday night, about 100 former occupants refused to re-enter the camp, instead taking shelter in a nearby car park. “We do not have any kind of protection,” Mostafa al-Khatib, a Syrian refugee, told the Guardian. “No one cares about us.”

Gabrielle Tan, an aid worker with Action From Switzerland, a grassroots organisation working on Chios, said those sheltering in the car park included families with babies and toddlers. “They’d rather sleep outside in the cold than go back inside,” said Tan. The mayor of Chios said the attackers were thought to be affiliated with Greece’s main far-right party, Golden Dawn. “Of course Golden Dawn supporters are suspected to have participated,” Manolis Vournous told the Guardian. Activists and camp occupants said the rocks appeared to have been thrown with the intention of killing people. Tan said: “These rocks were probably the size of a shoebox, weighing approximately 15kg. Some of them I can’t even lift.”  There were conflicting reports about who started the clashes on Wednesday. According to Vournous, the unrest began after Algerians and Moroccans stole alcohol and fireworks from a shop, frightening local residents. But some activists claimed the events escalated after a planned assault by Golden Dawn.

The attacks followed a two-day visit this week to Chios and Lesbos, the adjoining Aegean island, by a team of MPs from the neo-fascist Golden Dawn and far-right parliamentarians from Belgium. Tensions are high on the Greek islands, which have borne the brunt of Europe’s increasingly isolationist refugee policies. Until March, refugees arriving from Turkey were moved quickly on to the mainland, and then bussed along a de facto humanitarian corridor, through the Balkans and towards northern Europe, where they claimed asylum. But that corridor shut in March, and the EU finalised a deal with Ankara that was meant to see most new arrivals deported back to Turkey. About 16,000 have since become stranded on the Greek islands, pending deportation – including at least 2,000 on Chios, according to Vournous. This has created friction with local residents, some of whom have lost their livelihoods due to the collapse of tourism in the face of the refugee crisis.

Relations worsened after the deportation scheme faltered, leaving most refugees stuck on the islands for far longer than expected. The Greek government refuses to move most of them to the mainland for fear of encouraging more people to follow their route. But in the wake of this week’s events, the government announced it would send its migration minister, Yiannis Mouzalas, to Chios over the weekend. Several foreign experts stationed on Chios were taken off the island this week amid security concerns due to the rising tensions.
© The Guardian

up  

November a deadly month for migrants crossing Mediterranean: IOM

18/11/2016- At least 365 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this week in six sinkings, bringing the death toll so far this year to 4,636, already 1,000 more than in all of 2015, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday.vMigrants, mainly from West Africa, are taking to the sea from Libya in flimsy rubber boats, trying to reach Italian islands and Europe, where they have little hope of being granted asylum, IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said.v“This is really a calamity in plain sight,” Doyle told a news briefing. “We are seeing really tragic scenes of rubber rafts going under the seas in the middle of winter in the Mediterranean.” The president of the Italian unit of aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday that six migrants died and up to 100 more were missing and feared dead after their rubber boat sank. Aid groups had already put the death toll at 240 for the three days ending on Wednesday.

“Overall we’re counting 1,000 more migrant deaths in the Mediterranean compared to the same period last year,” Doyle said.v“This of course is due to appalling weather, migrants assuming and paying in the hope and expectation that they will get a decent passage across the Mediterranean, coming down to the beach (in Libya) and being confronted with a rubber raft, and not having any option, sometimes physical restraints on them even going back.”vThe latest drowning victims were mostly West Africans, presumed to be from Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, he said.v“The migrants who are passing are primarily, sadly for them, going to end up as rejected asylum seekers, the vast majority of them have their claims rejected. So they would possibly fall into the category of economic migrants,” he said.v“They are destined to be deported or they live underground.”

The route between Turkey and Greece has been “effectively sealed off” since a deal between the European Union and Turkey last March, Doyle said. Several ships have carried out rescue operations in recent days, he said. “The EU policy has undoubtedly led to the savings of hundreds of thousands of lives.” “But an unintended consequence is that as they rescue migrants and destroy the smugglers’ boats, they go to ever flimsier vessels. And the migrants seem to be increasingly desperate to get to Europe and are taking ever greater chances to do so.” There have been some 343,589 sea arrivals in Europe so far this year against 728,926 last year at this point, according to IOM figures.
© Reuters

up  

Ireland: Far-right party’s ‘opportunistic’ launch in Merrion Hotel called off

The planned launch of a far-right party has been cancelled after Dublin’s Merrion Hotel pulled the plug on the event timed by organisers to capitalise on the election of Donald Trump.

17/11/2016- The National Party has an anti-immigrant, anti-Europe and anti-abortion agenda. Its president Justin Barrett, a far-right campaigner, has previously spoken at neo-Nazi events. Merrion Hotel manager Garrett Power said the event was not taking place today. A spokeswoman for the hotel confirmed the event was cancelled but would not say why. The cancellation came after a backlash online from the public, politicians, and business figures. James Reynolds, the party’s deputy president, told the Irish Examiner Mr Barrett would instead give interviews today. The party was registered in August, he said, adding “we had meetings around the country, which were well attended”. He did not disagree the event was happening on the back of Mr Trump’s election as president of the US. “We chose at the opportunistic time to have a press conference.”

Mr Reynolds is current national treasurer of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association. He said his role with the party was separate. The ICSFA’s spokeswoman said it would have a board meeting tomorrow at which Mr Reynolds association with the farming group would be discussed. Mr Reynolds said he would be “surprised” if the board arranged this without his knowledge. Mr Reynolds, former IFA chairman in Longford, said he met Mr Barrett years ago. “I have similar views as him, including opposition to abortion, to a federalist Europe, and to unrestrained immigration.” Mr Reynolds formerly campaigned for a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty while Mr Barrett was previously involved in the No to Nice campaign, with Youth Defence and with the Mother and Child campaign.

The National Party’s media invite had said Ireland “should have one political party to represent the true spirit of the Republic proclaimed so gallantly” during the 1916 Rising. The group highlighted concerns it said included a “dictatorial Federal European Union”, an “unrestricted policy of immigration”, and the desire by some to “remove the equal right to life of the unborn child”. The party would “speak for the great silent majority who have seen the beginnings of ‘multi-culturalism’ with growing dismay.”

Barrett profile
By Juno McEnroe

Justin Barrett’s involvement with extremist or right-wing groups has been well flagged. He came to prominence with his involvement with pro-life group Youth Defence. Born in Cork, he was adopted at a young age and moved with his family to North Tipperary. He studied at Athlone RTC, where he first got involved in politics. He got involved in a group called Youth Defence, which was set up by pro-life campaigners in protest at the X case in the early 1990s. When the Nice Treaty referendum came before Irish voters, Mr Barrett decided to run a no campaign in 2001. He later was involved in the Mother and Child campaign, which opposed a government amendment on abortion. A video of Mr Barrett attending a neo-Nazi rally in Germany emerged before he was invited as a guest of honour to the extreme right wing National Democratic Party event in May 2000, which had skinheads, brown shirts, and elderly Nazi heroes.
© The Irish Examiner

up  

Spain court probes far-right 'torture' claim in Gibraltar

Spain's top criminal court said on Wednesday it was probing claims members of far-right party Vox were subjected to "torture" when they were arrested in Gibraltar after one of them unfurled a Spanish flag on the Rock.

17/11/2016- Nacho Minguez, head of Vox in Madrid, staged the event in June - which was not the first time a giant Spanish flag was displayed in the overseas British territory, which Spain's government and nationalists want back from Britain. The tiny territory on Spain's southern tip, governed by Britain since the 18th century, is the subject of frequent squabbles between the two nations. According to court papers unveiled Wednesday, Minguez and Pedro Fernandez - a lawyer in charge of legal matters at the group founded in 2013 by ex-members of Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party - filed an official complaint for "alleged torture and crimes against moral integrity." Minguez, who was arrested in Gibraltar on June 20th, alleges police kept him for more than seven hours, frisked him "in a disproportionate manner," stopped him from telling anyone where he was, denied him a lawyer and food, the court papers say.

Fernandez, meanwhile, says that when Minguez was brought to trial several days later, "he had not been able to talk alone with his assigned lawyer." "This forced the suspension of the trial for several minutes in order for him (Minguez) to know what he was accused of," the court papers say, quoting the complaint. Fernandez, who had gone to court to help Minguez, was also detained after he took photos of the courtroom, was frisked twice and held incommunicado for nine hours. The complaint alleged that the police holding him "recognised that the treatment he and Mr. Minguez were being subjected to was due to political reasons and by direct order of the chief minister (head of Gibraltar)." The National Court said it had accepted the complaint, which triggers an official investigation into the case. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo blasted the legal proceedings as "frivolous and vexatious." "I fully respect the Spanish courts and legal system and will therefore not lose a moment's sleep over this case," he said in a statement. "Lawyers will be instructed to deal with this clear abuse of process."
© The Local - Spain

up  

Hungary: Xenophobia skyrocketing, surveys reveal

Since it has been assessed, xenophobia in Hungary has never been as high as it is today, Hungarian online news portal index.hu reported today based on two separate surveys. This comes after a massive campaign by the Hungarian government against “migrants” prior to the October referendum on the EU’s planned refugee quotas, which ended as invalid.

17/11/2016- According to data collected by the Tárki Social Research Institute in October, some 58% of Hungarians currently appear to be xenophobic. Tárki has measured xenophobia in Hungary for the past 25 years. A separate survey by Závecz Research, commissioned by index.hu, found that the Roma (Gypsy) minority is no longer the most rejected in the country, but Arabs - this despite the fact that, since the Hungarian government raised a fence along the countryʼs southern border, refugees have bypassed Hungary for more than a year now. According to Tárki data, before 2012 some 30% of Hungarians were seen to be xenophobic, a figure which grew to around 40% by 2015. In a single year, the ratio of Hungarians believed to be xenophobic based on research data has soared to a record 58%.

Tárki places respondents into three major groups: xenophobic, xenophile (attracted to foreign cultures), and undecided. When Tárki first assessed Hungarians on the issue in 1992, some 73% of respondents said they were undecided, 15% claimed to be xenophobic, and 12% xenophile. By today, according to the latest Tárki data, the ratio of undecided has dropped to 43% (from last year’s 53%) and the number of xenophiles has dropped to just 1% (from last year’s 6%), while the number of xenophobes has risen to 58% (from last year’s 41%). Interestingly, when Hungary made international headlines a year ago as refugees were trapped in and around Budapest’s Keleti Railway Station, the number of undecided grew, and not the two extreme responses. Endre Sík of Tárki said back then that “the ratio of those holding extreme opinions on either side dropped due to a ‘realpolitik’ way of thinking,” index.hu noted.

According to index.hu, xenophobia saw a hike in Hungary when the refugees had disappeared and the campaign against “migrants” by the Hungarian government accelerated. The Hungarian portal observes that this tendency is a well-known one, as “faceless aliens” are rejected and feared more easily than real people seen suffering. Almost at the same time Tárki assessed the publicʼs mood, index.hu commissioned Závecz Research to ask Hungarians, by the end of the quota referendum, whether they would accept minorities as neighbors. The findings of Závecz showed that Arabs were the most strongly rejected. Only 21% of respondents said they would accept Arabs as their neighbors, while 32% would accept Roma, 35% Christian refugees from Syria, 45% homosexuals, 47% Chinese, 50% Americans, 51% African university students, 57% Jews, 60% rock musicians, and 76% ethnic Hungarian immigrants from Transylvania in Romania, index.hu reported.
© The Budapest Business Journal

up  

Hungary: Explosives seized in raids on neo-Nazi group

In crackdown follows killing of police officer, 12 arrested from group noted for intimidating Jewish and gay groups

16/11/2016- Hungarian special police forces detained 12 people and seized arms and explosives late Tuesday in raids targeting a neo-Nazi group implicated in the killing of a police officer, officials said. The operation comes three weeks after the killing, in which the officer was shot in the head while searching the home of the head of the Magyar Arcvonal movement. “Special police forces and anti-terrorist units conducted targeted raids” in about eight locations in Budapest and the northwest of the country, said a police statement. Twelve people were detained in the raids, “during which explosive materials and various firearms, including pistols and submachine guns, were seized,” it said. All those detained were linked to branches of the Magyar Arcvonal movement, it said. Formed in 1989, the paramilitary group is notorious notably for operations to intimidate Jewish and homosexual communities. Its leader, 76, was arrested immediately after shooting dead the police officer on October 26 in Bony, a village in northwestern Hungary.
© AFP

up  

Bulgarian 'Migrant Hunter Icon' under Investigation

16/11/2016- Bulgaria's "most famous" migrant hunter, Dinko Valev, is being investigated over alleged incitement of discrimination, violence and hatred along ethnic lines, the prosecution says. Gospodin Valev, known by his first name's shorter form Dinko, rose to notoriety by becoming the most prominent vigilante hunter performing citizen's arrests of migrants in southern Bulgaria. Human rights activists have been trying to trigger an investigation for months, referring his actions to the prosecuting authority. Late into the winter, Valev was seen bragging about his actions on national TV. A number of migrant hunters appeared later along the borders to "protect" the country from the inflow of irregular migrants.

A prosecutor in the town of Sredets earlier this year found that he should be charged, but - See more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/177449/Bulgarian+'Migrant+Hunter+Icon'+under+Investigation#sthash.RmMahTj2.dpuf


A prosecutor in the town of Sredets earlier this year found that he should be charged, but handed over the case to the Sofia prosecution, arguing the crime he allegedly committed took place in Sofia, since his statements were aired from Sofia, where private broadcaster bTV is based. However, the Sofia Regional Prosecutor's Office returned the case to Sredets, which subsequently tried once again to delegate it to the capital.
© Novinite
up  

Germany: Shop owner convicted for 'no refugees, no dogs' sign

A shop owner in Bavaria has been convicted for incitement of hatred after he posted a sign in his store window that compared refugees to dogs.

17/11/2016- The sign was posted by a 54-year-old man in his shop in Selb, Bavaria, stating "Asylanten müssen draussen bleiben" (refugees must stay outside) along with a picture of a muzzled dog. A court in Wunsiedel on Thursday sentenced the man to pay €1,800 to two kindergartens. He was also given warning. If the 54-year-old does not pay the fine, he faces an even steeper one of €4,950. The prosecution had advocated for a higher fine against the store owner from Selb, amounting to €6,600. The crime of incitement of hatred can also be punishable by up to five years in prison. The judge said that the image of the dog with the sign was important in determining the man’s conviction. The prosecution had argued that the shop owner had used the dog picture to equate refugees to the canine animals, which are often deemed too dirty to be allowed inside supermarkets.

“The crux of the matter was the dog,” said judge Roland Kastner. The judge went on to explain that "if the man had simply written on his door: 'there's nothing for refugees here' without the dog," that would have been within the man's rights to free speech. It was the picture of the dog that made the difference for the court. The lawyer of the small business owner had argued that his client had a right to freedom of speech and should not be convicted, claiming that the defendant had not maliciously intended to disparage anyone. The defence lawyer further argued that the man could not be considered a racist: he had been in a relationship with a Russian woman for ten years and had friends who were foreigners. Broadcaster N24 noted that the word that the man used for refugees, Asylanten, is considered a derogatory term by many.

The man also told police that he had had negative experiences with people he identified as "refugees": two men had once smoked a joint inside his shop near flammable materials and he said he therefore "did not need such people", according to police. After German media had first reported on the sign in August, the man took it down. His lawyer told the court that in reaction to the sign, someone had smeared feces on his shop window and loosened the lug nuts on his car. “The sign I had in my shop had no racist or right-wing background,” the man had written in a statement to the town mayor, adding that he greatly regretted the sign. “I did not imagine the negative consequences that it would have for the city of Selb and for the business world.” The judge on Thursday spoke of the man's "stupidity", saying he thought the man had not "expected that the sign would make so many waves."
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Refugees more democratic than Germans, survey shows

A new survey of refugees shows that new arrivals are sometimes more democratic in their beliefs than Germans.

16/11/2016- The study released on Tuesday was conducted by government agencies and research institutes, and surveyed more than 2,300 adult refugees who arrived in Germany between 2013 and early 2016. The report noted that refugees showed a “high degree of agreement with fundamental democratic values”, and in some cases showed that asylum seekers were slightly more democratic than Germans: 96 percent of refugees said that a democracy was the best form of state government, compared to 95 percent of German citizens who agreed in a separate World Values Survey. And while 21 percent of refugees agreed that “people should have a strong leader who does not have to deal with parliament and elections”, 22 percent of Germans agreed with this statement. Nearly 60 percent of Germans agreed that “experts and not the government should decide what is best for the country” while 55 percent of refugees agreed with this statement.

When asked about what the most important aspects of a democracy should be, 96 percent of refugees said that free elections were important, compared to 92 percent of Germans. An equal portion of refugees and Germans believed democracies should also entail equal rights for men and women: 92 percent. There was a noticeable difference though when it came to the question of the role of the government: 93 percent of refugees compared to 83 percent of Germans said that democracies should create citizens’ rights to protect people from “government oppression”. And 81 percent of refugees compared to 71 percent of Germans said that the government should “tax the rich and support the poor”. In other words, refugees were more supportive of governments protecting citizens’ rights and helping the poor than Germans. There was also a difference when it came to the role of religious leaders in democracies. A minority of refugees, 13 percent, said religious leaders should “ultimately interpret the laws”, compared to 8 percent of Germans.

Ideas about gender roles similar
In terms of gender roles, the report noted that there were “small differences between refugees and Germans”: 86 percent of refugees compared to 72 percent of Germans agreed that “having a job is the best opportunity for a woman to be independent”. The difference was even more stark when looking at only male respondents: 85 percent of refugee men said having a job was the best way for a woman to be independent, compared to 62 percent of German men. When asked whether parents should prioritize their sons’ education over their daughters’, 18 percent of refugees and 14 percent of Germans said yes. German and refugee men were even closer in their answers: 18 percent and 19 percent respectively agreed. But when asked about whether women earning more than men causes problems, there was a bigger difference: 29 percent of refugees and 18 percent of Germans said this would inevitably cause problems.

'Fear of war' biggest driver of seeking asylum
The survey also asked the refugees what had driven them to flee their homelands. Respondents could pick more than one option from a list. Most (70 percent) said that fear of violent war or conflict had brought them to the Bundesrepublik. Another 44 percent said persecution was a factor, followed by "horrible living conditions" (39 percent), discrimination (38 percent) and fear of forced recruitment (36 percent). About one third said that the "general economic situation" of their country was one factor which caused them to leave. Refugees were also asked to describe which factors led them to choose Germany as a place to seek refuge. Seventy-three percent said it was because of the country's attention to human rights, 43 percent said it was the educational system, 42 percent said it was because they thought they'd feel welcome and 26 percent said it was because of the welfare and social benefits. About one-fourth said Germany's economic situation was also attractive, and about one in ten said it was happenstance that they ended up in the country.

Refugees are highly 'education-oriented'
Another observation of the report was that the refugees had "high educational ambitions". Most refugees (58 percent) had spent at least ten years studying or doing vocational training in their homelands, compared to 88 percent of Germans. But nearly half (46 percent) want to pursue the equivalent of a high school diploma in Germany, while 66 percent said they are aiming for a professional degree. "This result indicates that the educational structure of refugees will strongly change," the report states. "However it would be rash to conclude from this to what extent refugees will actually go to educational institutions or acquire degrees. The timeline is also open: many refugees want to initially work and then later invest in education and training." The report also notes that there are certain obstacles in the way of ambitious asylum seekers, including still having to go through the asylum application process and learning German.

The overwhelming majority - 90 percent - of refugees had no knowledge of German when they arrived in the country, but their level of comprehension rose quickly once they had settled in, according to the report. About one in five (18 percent) refugees had “good” or “very good” language levels within less than two years, according to their own self assessments. Another 35 percent reached intermediate levels within this time period. Of those who had been in the country longer than two years, one third had good or very good German skills and 37 percent had intermediate levels. Separately, most refugees had taken some form of class to acquaint themselves with the country and language. About one third of those surveyed had already taken an integration course with BAMF, while 38 percent had taken an unspecified language course. Another roughly one third had not or could not yet take a language class.

The report seemed optimistic that refugees' level of ambition would ultimately push them towards further education. "The knowledge of German is often still too low for refugees to go to educational institutions. Against this background, it can be estimated that their participation in education will still grow."
© The Local - Germany

up  

German far-right extremists seen networking in Europe, U.S.: official

16/11/2016- Far-right extremists in Germany are increasingly ready to commit violent acts and are now networking with like-minded groups across Europe and in some cases even with the United States, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said. "This is not just purely a German phenomenon," Hans-Georg Maassen, who heads the Verfassungsschutz, told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday. "The right-extremist scene is networking on a European level, and in some cases, with connections in the United States." Maassen said the international connections seen among far-right extremist groups still paled compared with global networking by Islamist groups, but European authorities were cooperating well to keep a close eye on those developments. Maassen's agency in June reported a sharp rise in far-right violence in 2015, a year in which it took in nearly a million migrants and said it was taking steps to prevent the emergence of more structured "right-wing terrorist" groups.

"We have seen in a series of cases that there are numerous people in the far-right extremist scene who are ready to do anything and who have joined forces to create right-wing terrorist cells," Maassen said. He said authorities could not exclude the possibility that there were additional groups like the suspected far-right militant group known as "Oldschool Society" that was arrested in 2016. "We are trying to investigate these cells, if they exist, and to prevent any attacks," he said. The agency's annual report said the number of far-right violent acts jumped 42 percent to 1,408 in 2015, and the number of arson attacks against refugee centers surged to 75 from just five a year earlier. Germany was home to an estimated 11,800 violent far-right extremists, the report said, roughly half of the total number of far-right individuals in the country.
© Reuters

up  

Germany: Far-right Freital terrorist group charged

Eight German nationals have been formally charged with forming a far-right terrorist organization. They are also charged with carrying out five xenophobic or politically motivated attacks in Saxony.

15/11/2016- Federal prosecutors confirmed on Tuesday that the seven men and one woman - aged between 19 and 38 - have been accused of forming the "Gruppe Freital," and carrying out five attacks on refugee and leftwing centers. All eight have been in custody since April. According to the investigators, the right-wing extremist group - named after a suburb of the eastern city of Dresden that has seen several anti-refugee protests - is responsible for five xenophobic or politically motivated attacks in Saxony. In a previous reports, three attacks were mentioned. "The goal of this group was to carry out bombing attacks on asylum-seeker facilities as well as homes, offices and vehicles of those with different political thinking," prosecutors said. "By doing that, the suspects wanted to create a climate of fear and repression."

Prosecutors allege the group made pipe bombs and other improvised explosive devices using powerful banned firecrackers from the Czech Republic. It is accused of several attacks, including blowing up the car of a Left party politician and a Left party office in Freital, as well as two bombings of refugee homes in which windows were blown out and one asylum-seeker suffered facial cuts. The newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported that the gang had been active since July 2015. No one was killed in the campaign of violence, but prosecutors are pursuing charges of attempted murder, the report said, citing the indictment.

The accused were identified as: Timo S., 27; Patrick F., 25; Philipp W., 29; Justin S., 19; Maria K., 28; Mike S., 38; Sebastian W., 26; and Rico K., 38. Their last names were withheld in line with German privacy laws. Timo S. and Patrick F. are accused of having a "central leadership role" in the organization. Seven of the suspects are also charged with attempted murder, while Mike S. is charged with accessory to attempted murder. In April, the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe took over the case after critics said the prosecutor's office in Dresden was not taking the case seriously enough.
© The Deutsche Welle*

up  

French court restores far-right candidate's ties to father

17/11/2016- French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen thought she had cut the political cord with her controversial father by expelling him from the far-right party he founded, but a court ruled Thursday Jean-Marie Le Pen still is the National Front’s honorary president. While campaigning in next spring’s presidential election, Marine Le Pen has worked to smooth her image and distance herself from her father’s extremist views and anti-Semitic comments. Kicking him out of the party was part of her strategy. The civil court outside that heard Jean-Marie Le Pen’s reinstatement claim upheld the National Front’s decision last year to expel him as a rank-and-file member. But the court also ruled that the 88-year-old firebrand can remain the party’s honorary president. As a result, the court ordered the National Front to summon the elder Le Pen to any high-level party meetings and to give him voting rights as an ex-officio member of all the party’s governing bodies.

“No statutory provisions specify that the honorary president must be a member of the National Front,” the judges said.vThe court sentenced the party to pay Jean-Marie Le Pen 23,000 euros ($24,500) in damages and lawyers’ fee. “This can be called a success,” his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, told reporters after the ruling was returned. Joachim had asked the court for 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in damages because “it’s a political life they tried to destroy at home and to cast scorn on abroad.” The party’s lawyers didn’t immediately comment on the ruling, which both sides can appeal. The National Front ousted the party patriarch for a series of comments, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of World War II history. Le Pen contends his comments were protected by freedom of expression, though he has been sentenced repeatedly in France for inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity.

Since taking over the National Front in 2011, Marine Le Pen’s more mainstream politicking has turned her into one of France’s most popular politicians while she campaigns on an anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform. She has widened the party’s electoral base to include former supporters of the traditional conservative and socialist parties frustrated with the status quo, economic stagnation and France’s shrinking global clout. The elder Le Pen, who retains a core of dedicated supporters, has said he hasn’t decided whether to support his daughter’s presidential bid.
© The Associated Press

up  

France’s far right embraces its feminine side, Le Pen rebrands

The French far right leader hopes to show a softer side

16/11/2016- Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far right Front National (FN) party, inaugurated her new campaign headquarters in Paris on Wednesday. From here, Le Pen will manage her bid for the French presidency in April 2017 — on a platform to Make France Great Again. Le Pen, 48, is broadly anticipated to reach the second round of presidential elections. She told CNN this week that Donald Trump’s surprise election will deliver a boost to her campaign. Le Pen’s popularity has been buoyed by a Front National re-branding, which has seen the party marry its historic anti-immigrant rhetoric with language borrowed from the Left about the fragility of the French welfare state and the need to build France’s working class. In the FN’s formulation, however, it is not market forces, but rather Muslims and EU bureaucrats who put these institutions in jeopardy. In 2015, Le Pen stood trial for inciting racial hatred after she compared Muslims praying in the streets to a Nazi occupation. She was later acquitted.

As she opened her new offices, Le Pen also unveiled her new campaign logo: a thornless blue rose, lying on its side, with the words “Marine Présidente” written in soft blue and grey. The icon is understated, even delicate — hardly the traditional hallmark of far right iconography. The poster has no French flags or brash party slogans, and Le Pen explains in a Twitter video that the graphic has a “feminine nature.” “In the language of flowers,” said Le Pen, “the blue rose renders the impossible possible.” The choice of flower borrows from the French Socialist Party (whose logo features a red rose) and the right-wing Republicans Party (whose color is blue) — in an effort, says Le Pen, to show that traditional political cleavages are “obsolete” in a post-Brexit, post-Trump world.

Almost more important is what the poster does not show: specifically, the name “Le Pen.” Since she took over the helm of the party in 2011, the leader has preferred to use only her first name, Madonna-style. This is usually interpreted as an attempt to distance Marine from the cruder politics of her father. The FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, was kicked out of the party last year for comments he made in which he dismissed the Holocaust as a mere “detail” of history and urged France to save the “white world.” A week ago, Marine Le Pen emerged from several months of media inactivity to publicly congratulate Donald Trump on his US presidential victory. A longtime supporter, she said that Trump’s win “shows that people are taking their future back… It’s a sign of hope for those who cannot bear wild globalization. They cannot bear the political life led by the elites.”

Trump’s team has flirted back. Steve Bannon, the controversial Trump strategist and executive chairman of the conservative Breitbart News group, told French journalists: “France is the place to be, with its young entrepreneurs and women of the Le Pen family.” Michel Thooris, a Front National politician who sits on the party’s central committee, told VICE News that “the French are waiting for a radical change. Marine is the only one to embody this hope… She is the only one who does not belong to the system.” The general consensus in France is that Marine le Pen will do well in next year’s elections, possibly seizing up to 30% votes in first-round elections. But in the second round, she will face off against a centre-right candidate — likely Alain Juppé — and the rest of France will tactically rally against her; swallowing widespread distaste for Juppé’s Republicans in an effort to keep Le Pen out of the Elysée Palace. But in a year of shock political results, some of Le Pen’s rivals worry that this scenario might not play out as planned. She can’t! She won’t!, the consensus holds. But could she?
© Vice News

up  

French far right eager for US site Breitbart to hit France

Breitbart, the anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-establishment US news site that supported Donald Trump is to launch in France with one job in mind - help get Marine Le Pen elected president. And her party are thrilled.

15/11/2016- A leader of France's far-right National Front said Tuesday that she welcomed reported plans by ultra-conservative US website Breitbart News to expand in France and support the party's presidential campaign. Breitbart News, whose anti-elite, anti-immigration agenda has made it popular with white supremacists, is credited with helping propel Donald Trump to the White House. Trump named the executive chairman of the platform, Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist at the weekend. Marion Marechal-Le Pen, whose aunt Marine is the leader of the National Front (FN), told AFP on Tuesday that she would be happy to work with Breitbart if they came to France. "All alternative media are generally positive. Donald Trump is the demonstration of that... they're among the useful tools," the 26-year-old parliamentarian told AFP on a visit to Moscow.

Bannon called Marechal-Le Pen a "rising star" in an interview with French website radio-londres.fr in July and said Breitbart was hoping to open a Paris bureau, or start a French version. The site's editor-in-chief, 30-year-old Alexander Marlow, told The New York Times that the site's expansion was linked to elections next year in Germany and France, where Breitbart intends to support Marine Le Pen. The site launched in Britain in 2013 after seeing a "business opportunity" in the campaign to leave the European Union. During the Brexit campaign Breitbart's te site's London editor took a brief leave of absence from the site to advise Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit movement. Breitbart sees a similar opportunity in France. "There's an under-served readership" in Europe, Marlow was quoted as saying in an article published on Sunday. "It's the same readers who had been ignored in Britain and had been ignored in the United States."

Marine Le Pen, among France's most popular politicians, is forecast by pollsters to win or come second in the first round of French presidential elections in April next year. She would then face a second-round run-off against a rival candidate, most likely from the centre-right, which she is expected to lose, according to polls. Le Pen has worked hard to try to make the FN more acceptable to mainstream voters, shedding its overtly anti-Semitic and racist image under the party's former leader, her father Jean-Marie. Her platform remains focused on restricting immigration, fighting against Islamic fundamentalism and withdrawing France from the European Union. She welcomed Trump's stunning victory last week, saying his rise signalled the "building of a new world" and a blow against "unfettered globalisation" and the world elite. Marechal-Le Pen told AFP on Tuesday that there had been "some small contacts for some time" between the FN and the Trump campaign.
© The Local - France

up  

France: Protesters storm Brittany migrant center after assault

Protesters, many members of local far-right groups, broke down the door of a migrant centre in Brittany on Monday night, following a sexual assault on a local woman.

15/11/2016- An anti-migrant demonstration in the Brittany village of Arzon degenerated on Monday night when police were forced to fire tear gas after protesters kicked down the door of a centre where young migrants were being lodged. A number of protesters were arrested after forcing their way into the centre, regional newspaper Ouest-France reported.  Police were forced to stand guard at the entrance throughout the night. According to Ouest-France around 100 members of far-right 'identitaire' groups travelled to the village to hold the protest. Reports say very few locals joined in. The protest had been organised by right wing groups after the regional prosecutor confirmed that a 67-year-old local woman had been sexually assaulted by a young Sudanese migrant on Thursday November 10th. The 16-year-old had been placed in the local centre to accommodate refugee minors after being moved out of Calais when the Jungle camp was cleared.

The extremist groups had accused the local authorities of covering up the incident, but the prosecutor hit back saying the assault had been greatly exaggerated on social media. François Touron, the prosecutor in the town of Vannes told Ouest France: “The victim was taking the shopping out of her car when she was approached by a young man. In broken English he told her that her house was beautiful. Then he gave her a kiss. After the fifth kiss the woman pushed him back.” The prosecutor continued: “The young man, from Sudan, touched the woman’s left breast, but at no point did he expose himself. He made a gesture as if he was masturbating, then ran off quickly.” The 67-year-old victim reported the incident to police and the 16-year-old migrant was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He was later released and is due to go before a court in Brittany in March.

Mayor of Arzon Roland Tabart told Ouest France: “Since Thursday I have been in permanent contact with the local authority and the local police. “There has been a complaint and there is an investigation. The mayor said staff from Britain’s immigration services were working with French authorities about the relocation of the young migrants in the centre to the UK. "A number of young migrants will leave for the UK as planned," said Tabart. It is not clear whether the young Sudanese migrant will be moved from the local area. Thousands of migrants have been moved to orientation centres around France since the Calais Jungle was closed last month. The reception they have been granted has been mixed. While some are greeted warmly, some locals have held protests against the welcoming of migrants in their town.
© The Local - France

up  

USA: 2015 Hate Crime Statistics Released

Annual Report Sheds Light on Serious Issue

14/11/2016- Earlier this year, a Florida man pled guilty to threatening to firebomb two mosques. A Virginia man was charged with assaulting a gay victim. And an Iowa man was convicted of stomping on and kicking the head of an African-American victim. Hate crimes like these can have a devastating impact upon the communities where they occur, which is one of the reasons why the investigation of hate crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction is the number one priority under the FBI’s civil rights program. But in addition to its investigative work, the FBI gathers and publishes—through its Uniform Crime Reporting Program—hate crime statistics from law enforcement agencies across the country to help provide an accurate accounting of the problem, by state and nationally. And today, the Bureau released its latest Hate Crime Statistics report—this one containing data for 2015—that includes information detailing the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of hate crimes. The 2015 collection marks the 25th anniversary of the Bureau’s work to compile data about bias-motivated crimes, which began in 1990.

This year’s report, which contains data from 14,997 law enforcement agencies, reveals 5,850 criminal incidents and 6,885 related offenses that were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

Additional findings in Hate Crime Statistics, 2015 include the following:
# There were 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. Of those victims, 59.2 percent were targeted because of a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 19.7 percent because of a religious bias; 17.7 percent because of a sexual orientation bias; 1.7 percent because of a gender identity bias; 1.2 percent because of a disability bias; and 0.4 percent because of a gender bias.
# There were an additional 32 multiple-bias incidents that involved another 52 victims.
# Of the 4,482 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons, intimidation accounted for 41.3 percent of those offenses, while 37.8 percent involved simple assault and 19.7 percent involved aggravated assault.
# There were 2,338 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property, and the majority of those (72.6 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism.
# During 2015, most reported hate crime incidents (31.5 percent) happened in or near residences or homes.
# Of the 5,493 known offenders, 48.4 percent were white, 24.3 percent were black or African-American, and race was unknown for 16.2 percent of the offenders. The rest were of various other races.

New to the 2015 Hate Crime Statistics report is the inclusion of seven additional religious anti-bias categories (anti-Buddhist, anti-Eastern Orthodox, anti-Hindu, anti-Jehovah’s Witness, anti-Mormon, anti-other Christian, and anti-Sikh), as well as an anti-Arab bias motivation.

Importance of Reporting Hate Crime Data
In 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which required the attorney general to collect data “about crimes which manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The attorney general delegated the responsibility to the Director of the FBI, who, in turn, assigned the task to the Bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. Since then, additional categories have been added in an effort to improve the quality of the data collected. The more detailed we can be with the collection, the better all of law enforcement can detect trends and add necessary resources to combat these crimes.

But the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report is only as good as the information it contains, and increased participation from law enforcement agencies will provide a more complete picture of hate crime in America. Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police—with the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—issued a model policy for law enforcement agencies around the country on the investigation of hate crimes. The IACP also encouraged each agency to develop a standard for collecting, analyzing, and reporting incidents of hate crime—and, in particular, to submit monthly reports on all hate crime occurrences to the UCR Program.

Said FBI Director James Comey during a 2014 speech to the ADL, “We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it.” Full report: Hate Crime Statistics, 2015
© The FBI

up  

Poland: The March of Hate

By Rafal Pankowski for the NEVER AGAIN Association

14/11/2016- The annual nationalist march on the Polish Independence Day, 11 November, has arguably become the biggest far right gathering in Europe or, in fact, the world. According to estimates, it attracted around 50,000 – 100,000 participants in 2016. A glance at the demonstrators shows the bulk of the marchers were mobilised by formal and informal football fan networks, coaches full of fans of various Polish football clubs arriving in Warsaw for the occasion. The march was frequently advertised on banners displayed at Polish league games in the weeks before the demonstration. Polish football fan culture has been largely hijacked by far-right nationalism. That tendency is not counteracted by the Polish Football Federation whose chairman, Zbigniew Boniek, has himself voiced shockingly xenophobic views. For example, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice earlier this year, he posted an anti-migrant message on Twitter saying: “The making of Eurabia fucks me off.”

The Independence Day event is organized jointly by two organizations, the All-Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska, MW) and the National-Radical Camp (Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny, ONR). Both of them took their names from radically antisemitic nationalist groups active in Poland in the 1920 and 1930s. The ONR was created as a Polish equivalent of other European fascist movements and was banned by the Polish authorities for inciting hatred back in 1934. In 2009, it was prohibited by a regional court in Opole but today it operates unhindered again, reflecting an increasingly xenophobic social climate. In recent years, the gathering has attracted growing interest from foreign extremists. Numerous representatives of the Hungarian racist party Jobbik are highly visible on Warsaw’s streets each year, joined by extreme-right delegations from other countries, including Sweden, France, Spain, Croatia, and many more.

The London-based Polish youth group Patriae Fidelis has been regularly represented, too. One of the keynote speeches this year was delivered by none other than Roberto Fiore, the convicted terrorist and godfather of contemporary European fascism. The march was accompanied by anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish chants and a Ukrainian flag was burnt. Unfortunately for genuine Polish patriots, the Independence Day seems to have exploded into an annual festival of xenophobia and hatred.
© HOPE not Hate

up  

Netherlands: Wilders should be fined for anti-Moroccan chant, says public prosecutor

17/11/2016- Dutch anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders should be fined €5,000 for leading supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant after the local elections in 2014, the public prosecution department said on Thursday. The department said in its sentencing statement that Wilders had been ‘unnecessarily offensive’ and had attacked an entire population group. In addition, the speech and the chanting had been well planned in advance causing ‘insult, fear, hatred and divisiveness’, public prosecutor Wouter Bos said. Wilders is not attending the trial, arguing that it is politically motivated. In a statement on Twitter, published before the sentencing demand was made, he described it as ‘madness’. ‘I will not let it stop me,’ the MP said. As the sentencing demand was being read out, in parliament several MPs unfurled a banner with Wilders’ photograph and a cross over his mouth, disrupting a debate on the defense ministry. According to the Telegraaf, camera crews and photographers had been tipped off about the action in advance. Demonstrations are not allowed in the lower house and court officials removed the banner. Judges are due to publish their verdict on December 9.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: Nearly 200 arrested in anti-Piet protest, no trouble at Sinterklaas arrival

14/11/2016- Sinterklaas parades took place all over the Netherlands at the weekend following the official ‘arrival’ of the saint in Maassluis on Saturday, three weeks ahead of the December 5 festivities. In Rotterdam, nearly 200 anti-Zwarte Piet protestors were arrested on Saturday but elsewhere there was little or no trouble between the pro and anti Piet camps, Dutch media reported All but one of the people arrested in Rotterdam on Saturday, have since been released. They were picked up for ignoring a ban on demonstrations. Those arrested included known activist Jerry Afriyie, Amsterdam city councillor Simion Blom and lawyer Michiel Pestman, who described the arrests as ‘scandalous’. The person who remains in custody was arrested for trying to shove a reporter for populist tv programme Powned under a car, police said.

Welcome
In total, some 20,000 parents and children came to Maassluis to welcome Sinkterklaas, who was accompanied by Piets in both blackface and sooty make-up. Although this was some 5,000 fewer than the organisers had hoped, ‘the arrival went extremely well,’ the town’s mayor Edo Haan told reporters. The mayor had invoked his emergency powers to allow passersby to be stopped and searched in an effort to avoid trouble between pro and anti Piet campaigners. Security was tight and the area where the procession took place was sealed off to all but parents and children. One man was arrested after he was found to be carrying a knife. The man, a Polish national, was later released and police said the knife was part of his tool kit.

Blackface police
A number of military police officers in blackface make-up were part of the parade. They were forced to remove a message on Twitter showing the undercover officers an a pastiche of a Sinterklaas poem. Tens of thousands of people turned out to watch Sinterklaas in Amsterdam where he was accompanied by sooty faced Piets only.
© The Dutch News

up  

Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet

Sweden’s neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) mounted the biggest march in its history on Saturday, with its leadership saying the election of Donald Trump in the US marked the start of a world revolution.

12/11/2016-
Five people were arrested and two were injured in Stockholm on Saturday as an estimated 600 far-right demonstrators marched from the central Kungsträdgården park to Mynttorget, the square where Sweden’s parliament is based in historic Gamla Stan. “A number of people have been held. They were aggressive at one of our barriers,” Kjell Lindgren, a press spokesman for the Stockholm police said. He said that police had registered two cases of violent rioting, which carries a maximum four-year sentence. At least twenty others were detained for the duration of the march. The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and press commentators had questioned the wisdom of authorising Saturday's rally, given the likelihood of violence. According to a reporter from the anti-Nazi Expo magazine, Per Öberg, the Nazi group’s press chief, told the gathered crowd that Donald Trump’s election was a sign that a world revolution was beginning.

Also speaking was Vera Oredsson, a lifelong Nazi who was a member of the Hitler youth as a child growing up in Nazi Germany, and Fredrik Vejdeland, the group’s head of strategy. According to Expo, Vejdeland expressed his support for a proposal to break up Bonnier, the media empire which owns the Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Sydsvenskan and Dagens Industri newspapers, and the the TV4 television network. Bonnier is controlled by the Bonniers, one of Sweden’s richest Jewish families. According to Expo, when Vejdeland began talking the crowd began to chant “Hang them, hang them”. An AFP photographer said the Nazi marchers were easily outnumbered by the thousands of anti-fascists who came to protest their presence.

Swedish police said the counter demonstrators pelted the neo-Nazis with snowballs and bangers. “A lot of loose objects, including snow, ice, bangers and fireworks of various kinds have been thrown,” Lindgren said. “I have not heard that anyone has been harmed, but it is possible that they have been.” Police spokesman Lars Byström told TT news agency that a policeman was hit by a demonstrator, and a second individual was injured in circumstances that were unclear. Roads were blocked and bus traffic affected in parts of central Stockholm as a result of the demonstration, which was set to continue until about 15.30.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

UK: EU warns May over Trump

'Even before Tuesday the chances were rather low,' says leading German politician

12/11/2016- Theresa May has been warned by a leading German politician that she is “delusional” if she believes she can get a good trade deal from Donald Trump. A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat coalition partner, Axel Schafer said the PM's hope that President-elect Trump will look favourably on the UK will come to nothing. Referring to the shock election of Mr Trump, Mr Schafer told The Times: “What changed is the likelihood of a speedy and preferential trade deal between UK and US. “Even before Tuesday the chances were rather low, now the hope for this kind of deal seems delusional.” The pointed remarks came after ministers talked-up the chances of a close working relationship with the surprise winner of the race to the White House.

Underlining the starkly different approach to Mr Trump taken by London and the continent, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told his EU counterparts to end the “whinge-o-rama” over the outcome of the US election. The comments came as Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said his party would vote against triggering Article 50 which formally launches withdrawal negotiations with the EU, unless there was a guarantee that the final Brexit deal with Brussels is put to a fresh referendum. He insisted he respected the decision made by voters in favour of leaving the EU but said nobody should have a deal “imposed” upon them. Although the Lib Dems only have eight MPs they have more than 100 peers in the Lords, which could spell trouble for the Government if judges rule that a full Act of Parliament is required before Article 50 can be triggered, as the legislation would have to clear both Houses.

Mr Farron said he believed the Lords would not get a vote either for or against Article 50 but would be able to move amendments. The Lib Dem leader said: “We have said we will vote against Article 50 if our red line is not met, and it is a single, simple red line which is that we want to respect the will of the people and that means that they must have their say in a referendum on the terms of the deal. “It is the only logical and it is the only democratic option on the table. There will be a referendum at the end of this process so that nobody would have imposed upon them something they didn't vote for.”
© The Independent

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to