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Headlines 24 June, 2016

BREXIT & JO COX MURDER

Headlines 17 June, 2016

Headlines 10 June, 2016

News from UK & Germany - Week 23

Headlines 24 June, 2016

Czech Rep: Court upholds 7-year verdict for racially-motivated attack

22/6/2016- The High Court in Prague upheld yesterday the almost seven-year prison sentences for two men who committed an arson attack on a Romany dormitory in As, west Bohemia, and were found guilty of a racially motivated attempted murder and endangering of the public's safety. The lower-level courts sentenced Tomas Kopecky and Michal Polacek each to six years and nine months in prison for their attack from February 2012, when they threw Molotov cocktails to the building where 18 people including eight children were staying. Nobody's health was harmed as the inhabitants put the fire out. In his appeal, the state attorney demanded a 15-year sentence for the two perpetrators, but the Hight Court did not meet his request and upheld the previous verdict yesterday. It stated that Kopecky and Polacek committed the crime as fans of the neo-Nazi and racist organisation Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and its militant branch Combat 18 Bohemia.

Before throwing in the Molotov cocktails, they poured petrol around the entrance to the dormitory in order to thwart the inhabitants' escape. Apart from Kopecky and Polacek, another seven people were tried for neo-Nazi activities. The court stated that the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi groups was Jan Balik, who did not take part in the arson attack in As. Balik was sentenced to three years and eight months for racist and neo-Nazi activities such as the recruitment of new fans, writing of articles, launching of websites and promoting racism and neo-Nazism. He also sold T-shirts, CDs, DVDs and other items promoting neo-Nazi groups and aims. Other four men and one woman received suspended sentences for promoting radical groupings, assisting in the distribution of neo-Nazi CDs, T-shirts and other items and calling for violence against Romanies. The remaining suspect was acquitted of charges of the manufacturing of items bearing racist and Nazi symbols and motifs.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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French authorities block British aid convoy for Calais refugees

Supporters were travelling back to London to hold a protest at the French embassy over the ban

18/6/2016- A convoy of 250 vehicles taking tonnes of aid and donations to refugees in Calais has been refused permission to cross the Channel by French authorities in a decision condemned as “shameful” by volunteers. Hundreds of people had assembled in Whitehall before driving down to Dover, with ferry tickets booked for a crossing on Saturday afternoon. But the French police, who carry out border checks on English soil as part of a bilateral treaty, refused entry to the country for unspecified security concerns. Members of the convoy were held in Dover as the ban was confirmed, holding a rally where protesters waving “refugees welcome” banners chanted: “We’ve got aid, let us through – refugees are people too.” Kent Police was sent an official notification from French authorities that entry had been refused. “No agency within the United Kingdom has any grounds to challenge this decision,” a spokesperson said. “The refusal of entry to France is a matter for the French authorities.”

A spokesperson for the Port of Dover authority said the ensuing demonstration caused “temporary disruption” from midday onwards but that services had returned to normal. It came after the port in Calais was shut down for several hours in the early hours of Saturday morning when refugees were spotted swimming in the sea, making desperate attempts to board ferries to the UK. Shipping traffic was stopped shortly after 2am as a search and rescue operation was launched, with those taken out of the water transferred to hospital. The Convoy to Calais was organised by The People’s Assembly, the Stop the War Coalition, Stand Up To Racism, trade unions and other campaign groups. John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, and shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott were among the MPs supporting the effort.

Zak Cochrane, from Stand Up to Racism, told The Independent people had paid more than £8,000 for ferry tickets to take tonnes of aid donated from across the UK to charities working in Calais. He said the convoy was separated from the rest of ferry traffic in Dover before leaders were handed a letter saying permission to cross had been denied. “At the request of charities we wanted to deliver a lot of aid, but we also wanted to send a message that a large section of the population want more to be done for refugees,” Mr Cochrane added. “Throughout the EU referendum, both sides of the debate have used refugees as a political football.” The convoy was on its way back to London on Saturday afternoon and heading for the French embassy, where supporters were planning a protest against the blockade.

A lorry carrying donations raised as part of the project was separately allowed to cross to France via the Channel Tunnel. Steve Sweeney, from the People’s Assembly, called the decision to block the convoy "shameful". “There is a desperate situation in Calais,” he told The Independent. “The French and British governments are responsible for the crisis just across the water and it’s not acceptable to sit on their hands and do nothing while people suffer.” Organisers received notification from the French prefecture of Pas-de-Calais last week saying that they would not be permitted to hold a demonstration in France. But they insisted that a rally was only scheduled on British soil and that the delivery of aid was not covered by the scope of the ban. France has been under a state of emergency since Isis militants massacred 130 people in November’s Paris attacks, while violence at the Euro 2016 football tournament it is hosting and the assassination of a police officer last week has put added pressure on the security services.

Mr Sweeney said supporters from as far away as the Shetland Islands had travelled to join the convoy and that people who had donated would be “hurt and angry” at the refusal. “It could be you or me finding ourselves in that situation (as refugees) and they are treated like animals,” he added. “It’s an embarrassment.” The donations were due to be handled by British charity Care4Calais, which had requested basic items such as warm clothing, non-perishable food, blankets and toiletries for the thousands of asylum seekers they help. Clare Moseley, a volunteer for the charity, said organisers had offered to receive the convoy 30 miles away from “The Jungle” camp to assuage any concerns but were refused. “We are desperate for donations at the moment, we are struggling to cope,” she added. “We needed this.”

Ms Moseley told The Independent that since French authorities started destroying parts of the camp earlier this year donations had fallen, because of a perception that the problem had “gone away”.She said: “There are more than 6,000 people here and more are arriving every day. “We had managed to get everyone into wooden shelters build by volunteers but then the evictions happened, then we had a fire a couple of weeks ago that destroyed even more. “Now it just feels like we’re going back to the beginning with everyone living in tents.” The French government has installed accommodation for refugee families using converted shipping containers on the site but the facility can only hold 1,400 people. A survey of refugees in Calais by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) found that more than 80 per cent were aiming to reach Britain and that more than two thirds had experienced violence, amid warnings of sexual abuse and exploitation.

An unknown number of asylum seekers have been run over, hit by trains, electrocuted in the Channel Tunnel and drowned in desperate attempts to swim to England. The number of refugees living in Calais is expected to rise over the coming months as people smugglers exploit calmer summer weather to send overcrowded boats across the Mediterranean. While arrivals to Greek islands have fallen since the EU-Turkey deal, the number of boats crossing between Libya and Italy has risen dramatically, with almost 3,000 refugees drowning in a succession of disasters so far this year.
© The Independent

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Slovakia’s leader said Islam has ‘no place’ in his country

Now he’s taking a leadership role in the E.U.

21/6/2016- One of the causes driving the Brexit movement -- the desire in Britain to quit the European Union -- is fear over immigration and refugees. Backers of the Leave campaign, whose hopes may come to fruition at a referendum later this week,  claim that the freedom of movement allowed in much of the continent, as well as proposals to accommodate an influx of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere, are simply unacceptable. Ironically, that's an argument for which the leader of the country slated to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union, an upper body in the E.U.'s legislature, may feel sympathy. The job of the presidency rotates every six months among E.U. member states. Next week, Slovakia will replace the Netherlands. And its prime minister, Robert Fico, has been one of the more outspoken European leaders on the subject of Muslim immigration.

“Islam has no place in Slovakia," Fico told reporters in May. He warned that "migrants change the character of our country," and declared he wouldn't allow such change to affect his nation. Fico has made similar pronouncements over the past year, as Syria's escalating humanitarian crisis spilled over into Europe, bringing an unprecedented wave of migrants and refugees to the continent's borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel bucked popular opinion and welcomed refugees in 2015 -- with roughly 1 million migrants arriving in Germany -- but her decision fueled widespread ire, and gave momentum to her country's Euroskeptic far-right. Fico, like other politicians from Eastern and Central Europe, has argued both that his country has no obligation to house refugees and that, unlike the United States and leading Western European nations, had little experience of Muslim immigration.

"Since Slovakia is a Christian country, we cannot tolerate an influx of 300,000-400,000 Muslim immigrants who would like to start building mosques all over our land and trying to change the nature, culture and values ​​of the state," he said in January 2015. (Never mind that Slovakia's present Muslim population is a fraction of a percentage point of its population and that no Brussels policy maker expects it to accommodate a particularly large number of asylum seekers.) declared this January that he would "never make a voluntary decision that would lead to the formation of a unified Muslim community in Slovakia." He went on: "Multiculturalism is a fiction. Once you let migrants in, you can face such problems." Fico has indicated that the burden to deal with the consequences of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa lie further west and mocked Germany for treating Muslim immigrants as a “protected species.”

"I only have one question: Who bombed Libya?" Fico said in August, referring to the 2011 NATO intervention against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. "Who created problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No." A spokesman from Slovakia's Interior Ministry suggested last year that, if the country would After some Muslim migrants were implicated in a spate of attacks on women in public spaces in the German city of Cologne around New Year's Eve, Fico take in Syrian refugees, they would have to be Christian. Though a veteran center-left politician, Fico's anti-immigrant populism is in part seen as an attempt to head off far-right politics within Slovakia. But it hasn't impressed European policy-makers and officials who are still working to push through a deal that will establish mandatory quotas of asylum seekers each E.U. member state would have to accommodate.

“I don’t think anyone is very enthusiastic about the Slovak presidency,” one Brussels official told Politico Europe. “We are in the middle of a huge reform on migration, and we’re almost over. How are we going to be led by a country which will torpedo any plan on migration?”
© The Washington Post.

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Germany: More than 10,000 protest against racism in several cities

19/6/2016- Thousands of Germans formed human chains against racism in several large cities on Sunday after a surge in hate crimes against foreigners following a record influx of more than a million migrants last year. Organizers said over 20,000 people joined protests in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig and Bochum while police counted more than 10,000 demonstrators. The human chains were jointly organized by church groups, trade unions and human rights organizations under the motto "Hand in hand against racism - for human rights and diversity". Reiner Hoffmann, head of the DGB trade union confederation, said the turnout showed that many Germans still supported the "Willkommenskultur" (welcoming culture) that greeted arriving migrants last year. He urged the government to not only step up efforts to integrate migrants, but also implement reforms to support low-wage earners. "We must not play them off against each other," Hoffmann warned.

Germany is on the front line of efforts to integrate migrants into Europe after more than a million arrived in the country last year alone, most of them Muslims fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The influx has increased tensions in Germany, where police registered a record surge in crimes by right-wing radicals last year. Attacks on refugee centers rose more than five-fold. The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has become a political force over the past year by branding Islam as incompatible with Germany's democratic constitution and calling for a ban on minarets and women's face veils. Human rights groups say Germany is failing to deal with the surge in hate crimes and signs of what they call "institutional racism" among law enforcement agencies.
© Reuters

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Germany: How a Holocaust row threatens to split the AfD apart

Anti-Semitic comments made by a politician for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party threaten a rift among the leadership.

21/6/2016- The row started when comments made by an AfD member of the state parliament in Baden-Württemberg about the Holocaust came to light. In a book published in 2012, Wolfgang Gedeon described the Holocaust as “certain infamous actions” and Holocaust deniers as dissidents. After he won election to the state parliament in March, the comments resurfaced in the press, with newspapers describing them as a trivialization of the Holocaust and an implicit show of support for Holocaust deniers. Jörg Meuthen, who along with Frauke Petry is party head of the AfD on the national level, agreed and called on the party chapter in Baden-Württemberg, which he leads, to throw Gedeon out. If they did not chuck Gedeon out, he would leave the party himself, Meuthen warned. But the ultimatum did not go down well with co-leader Petry, who accused Meuthen of turning “a professional matter into a personal one”.

The party chapter in Baden-Württemberg were also angered, claiming Meuthen had decided upon Gedeon’s guilt before they had had a chance to properly look into the incident. With the fledgling party threatened with loosing its second leader within a year - after founder Bernd Lucke was deposed last summer - on Tuesday a compromise was agreed. After a meeting in Baden-Württemberg, Gedeon agreed to have his party membership suspended until an internal investigation came to a decision on his case in September. While his demand for Gedeon to leave the party was not met, Meuthen interpreted the decision as a victory. “I think I have clearly asserted myself,” he said. “I won’t work together with Gedeon any further in this party.” But according to Die Zeit the dispute is far from settled, with the agreement of 16 of the 23 members of the AfD in the state parliament needed to remove Gedeon from the party.

The row could be more costly for Petry than Meuthen though, writes Die Welt. Almost the entire party leadership are behind Meuthen, a fact that has as much to do with concerns over Petry's leadership style as over the specifics of the current row. “It’s touch and go now for Petry,” the conservative daily writes, noting that only one member of the party’s executive committee still supports her. In state elections in March, the AfD won 15 percent of the vote in Baden-Württemberg, becoming the third largest party in the state parliament. It also scored double-digit results in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, leading the media to take it seriously as a national party for the first time. The AfD has been in a series of rows over recent weeks for comments on race and homosexuality by elected officials. Most recently the party's deputy leader Alexander Gauland suggested that most Germans wouldn't want national football player Jerome Boateng, whose father is from Ghana, as a neighbour. The remark met widespread disapproval and has been used to explain a recent drop in the AfD's popularity in polling.
© The Local - Germany

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Frauke Petry: the acceptable face of Germany’s new right?

The leader of Alternative für Deutschland has been called ‘Adolfina’, praised Donald Trump and criticised Germany’s Muslim international footballer Mezut Özil. Is the country’s most talked-about politician a serious contender for office?

19/6/2016- Frauke Petry is, unusually for her, a little flustered. The 41-year-old politician has turned up for a television interview very late, wearing a checked shirt, a no-go for the camera, she quickly realises. Swiftly changing into a cream jacket borrowed from the TV presenter, she pleads for the camera not to show her scuffed boots. “It was all a bit of a dash this morning,” she admits afterwards. Two of her four children are at home sick – “on the sofa, headache, stomach ache” – and she didn’t want to leave them until she knew they would be OK on their own. But this, she insists, is how she wants it to remain, with family as her number one priority, despite her swift rise up the political ladder since becoming leader of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). After dramatic gains in March’s regional elections, it is now the most threatening challenger to Angela Merkel’s coalition government, and she is the most talked-about female German politician after the chancellor.

“It’s not a problem as such, being a woman in politics – in fact, it’s easy to move up precisely because you’re in a minority,” she says. “The problem has to do with actually managing to still see your children and to look after them.” Time management, she says, has become even more crucial since she recently separated from her husband, a Lutheran pastor, and formed a romantic attachment with the AfD’s representative in the European parliament, Marcus Pretzell, himself a father of four, who has advocated forming closer ties with France’s Front National. “Before last summer I left family almost completely to my husband, but since the autumn we have separate times with the children. So I’m forced to organise my appointments so I can have breakfast with them, take them to school, read the goodnight story, all that normal stuff.”

It’s hard to reconcile this woman – affable, intelligent, quoting philosophy and making references to classical music – with the cold, hardboiled image she has projected since she became the party’s de facto leader last year. AfD has a strong profile in the former communist east of Germany but a growing following in western parts as well. She calls the party “liberal-conservative”, rejecting labels such as rightwing populist, far right, anti-immigrant… “The idea of the party is embodied in its name, ‘Alternatives’,” she says, a response to Merkel’s repeated insistence that her policy on the euro was “alternativlos” (“without alternative”). “Basically we are a very necessary corrective in German and European politics.” She predicts that, like the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ) in neighbouring Austria, the AfD will benefit from “a breakdown of the big parties”.

But any attempts she makes to dismiss the far-right labels might seem hollow after the party’s recent announcement of a European alliance with the FPÖ. “True, our meeting with the FPÖ could be seen as moving the party to the right, but on the other hand the FPÖ is something you just cannot ignore from a German point of view because it’s so near in terms of language and political structure – it would be stupid not to talk to each other. We found similar characteristics with other parties, whether the Danish People’s party, the Swiss People’s party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Finns, also the Front National,” she says. The growing cosiness between the parties found no better expression than when Petry and Pretzell joined the FPÖ for beer and goulash under the linden trees at their election celebrations in Vienna earlier this month, with “Pretzy” – the name given to the couple by the German media – clearly in awe of the FPÖ’s success after its candidate, Norbert Hofer, narrowly missed being elected Europe’s first far‑right president.

Petry took to the helm at AfD after the ousting of founding member Bernd Lücke, who complained that the party had become too xenophobic and pro-Russian. Formed in 2013, the party was originally focused on its opposition to the euro but gained real prominence through fears triggered by last year’s influx of refugees, which saw an estimated 1.1 million newcomers arriving in Germany. “The migration crisis was the catalyst for our success,” Petry admits, although she angrily rejects the phrase used by Alexander Gauland, the party’s leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, who called it “a gift from heaven”. She also rejects the idea that her party is opposed to Germany having welcomed refugees. “Not the real refugees,” she says, arguing that many of the arrivals are not genuinely in need. “There is enough space for refugees in Germany but the problem is that we don’t distinguish any more between migrants and asylum seekers.”

Now that new arrivals have largely ceased – due to the closure of the Balkans route, the erection of fences and sealing of borders around Europe – the AfD has markedly shifted its campaign agenda to one of stopping the “Islamification” of Germany. Among Petry’s concerns are separate swimming classes in schools for boys and girls, the rise in sexual harassment, which she puts down to migrants (she quotes a website she follows daily that collects new data from police reports), and the destruction of Christian prayer rooms in asylum-seeker homes. Meanwhile, Petry complains, her party’s other policies get little media attention. They want to see more balance between the state and the individual (“at the moment the state interferes in everything”). They want to improve state television (“a regimen of football, telenovelas and American movies with no sign of its legal obligation to inform and educate”). And they oppose plans to introduce sex education to toddlers (“How can you possibly teach three-year-olds about masturbation?”).

Such issues have been buried, she says, while headlines are made by the party’s frequent confrontations with religious, cultural and political figureheads and its more “colourful” controversial remarks. There was outrage from liberal Germans when AfD’s Thuringia chief, Björn Höcke, who is on the right of the party’s nationalist faction, claimed that Europe’s readiness to accept refugees would only encourage Africans to reproduce. In a lecture, he referred to an “African life-affirming propagation type” which had led to the “overpopulation” of Africa, insisting “as long as we are prepared to take on this population surplus, Africans’ reproductive habits will not alter”. Then there were Petry’s remarks in an interview – repeating comments made by Pretzell some months before – that, according to German law, border police were allowed to “use firearms if necessary” in their attempts to control the refugees.

The reporter suggested she had used the term “order to shoot” – to German ears, a chilling reference to the orders East German guards had to shoot anyone trying to escape illegally from the GDR. Petry denied having used the term, insisting no policeman “wants to shoot a refugee, and I don’t want that either. Armed force is the last resort.” Newspapers widely reported that Petry had advocated firing on refugees. Even the party’s unofficial organ, Compact, said Petry had not tried to withdraw the statement “perhaps because she recognises that 25% of Germans are in favour of deploying firearms, even on unarmed refugees”. For two days she failed to respond to her critics. Deputy AfD head and MEP Beatrix von Storch then added fuel to the fire by answering “yes” to a question on Facebook as to whether firearms should be used against women and children trying to cross the German border.

Von Storch – whose real title is Duchess Beatrix Amelie Ehrengard Eilika of Oldenburg, and whose grandfather served as finance minister under Hitler – later suggested her computer mouse had slipped. Petry is at pains to address the controversies. “The [storm] about the ‘order to shoot’ was a clear case of people wanting to purposefully misapprehend me,” she said. “What I said is that the use of armed force if necessary is in line with German law, even though it’s not something I would personally ever want.” As to Höcke, she appears to find it hard to contain her rage towards him or her desire to see him thrown out of the party. “Björn Höcke is a very difficult figure, to be honest,” she says, lowering her voice as if someone might be listening in. “He’s sometimes just beyond the line. When he talked about Africans and Europeans, putting a genetic argument to it – well, having studied genetics myself at university for a couple of years, I can distinguish very clearly between fairytales and facts.”

She talks about the intentions of some within the AfD to try to shift the party further to the right by saying things that are outrageous, or what she repeatedly refers to as “beyond the line”. Is it not the case that therein lies the AfD’s key strategy for gaining social acceptance and respectability? To put a message out that is then withdrawn, but as it’s already in the public realm – on social media, and perhaps most crucially at the Stammtisch (the German term for a regulars’ reserved table in the pub) – it usefully sticks and cannot be properly recalled? “Well, sometimes, I don’t deny, we think we have to use provocative arguments in order to be heard,” Petry says. “Because we tried very hard at the beginning of 2013 to be heard with lots of very sensible thinking and arguments, and we simply couldn’t get through to anyone. So what do you do? You put forward a provocative argument, and sometimes you are given the chance to explain what you meant. I know it’s a difficult choice to make but sometimes, for us, it feels like the only way.”

She was at it again at the start of June when she appeared to criticise one of Germany’s biggest heroes, Arsenal midfielder and member of the national football team Mesut Özil, after he posted a picture of himself on Facebook, standing outside the Kaaba, the Muslim shrine in Mecca, just days after other party members had condemned the visit as an “anti-patriotic signal”. “Was it necessary to present it to the whole world?” Petry asked in an interview. “One could ask Özil whether he intended to make a political statement with this confession of faith.” She went on to suggest that the way he lived his life “contravened sharia law” because “the women with whom he appears in public certainly don’t wear headscarves”.

The party’s relationship with the Dresden-based hardline protest movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), which thinks nothing of demonstrating with mock-up models of Merkel in a noose, has come under much scrutiny, with the AfD often referred to as the group’s political arm, “which it never was,” Petry swiftly insists. But the overlaps are undeniable. Not only are the complaints of Pegida and AfD supporters very similar (everything from anti-Muslim sentiments to opposition to Russian sanctions, and even to Germany’s high television licence fee), many at the demonstrations who are often disillusioned Christian Democrats, desperately negative in their outlook, call the AfD their natural home.

“You’re totally right about the overlap,” Petry says. “Pegida started as a small group of friends demonstrating against German weapons deliveries to the [Kurdish] PKK and then morphed into a movement critical of asylum and immigration laws. They were simply expressing that something is wrong in society, and expressed it on the streets. I think that’s fine, as long as it’s peaceful.” Patriotism and the fear of “Islamisation” are as central to the AfD’s raison d’etre as they are to Pegida’s. In its new manifesto, the party recently called for a ban on minarets, Muslim calls to prayer, headscarves and halal slaughter.

Petry says she sees a direct connection between the rise of radical Islam and the often allergic reaction in Germany – as a response to the country’s past – to showing national pride. “Germans are always apologising for their own identity, especially politicians, but the country has to find its balance again. For many leftists, the answer has been to dissolve ourselves into Europe, which I think is not good.” It has led to an unquestioning acceptance of Islam in every form, from moderate to radical, she argues. “We have Qur’an schools in Germany teaching young children that the ultimate goal is to get rid of Judaism and Christianity. So when we say Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, we don’t mean those who have fully integrated here over decades, who are completely fine living in Germany as Germans. It’s a reaction to those politicians who stated: ‘Islam belongs to Germany’ without allowing any discussion on the topic.”

Petry was born in Dresden in the days of the communist east. The experience taught her a lot about free speech and freedom of the individual. “I couldn’t speak freely in school,” she says. “You could not even say the word Germany but had to say German Democratic Republic [for the east] or Federal Republic of Germany [for the west] or else risk the teacher’s wrath. They even tried to find out from kids whether their parents were secretly watching West German television, by asking what the clock on the evening news looked like, because it was different in east and west.”

Petry left for the west at 14 – just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall – after her father, who had spent a decade trying to plot the family’s escape, managed to obtain an official tourist visa for himself, and then got permission for his wife and two daughters to follow. “I never expected the paradise in West Germany that some easterners dreamed of,” Petry recalls. “I had family in the west, and the cold war situation was a constant topic of conversation at the kitchen table. Of course, there were disappointments when we got there [they moved to North Rhine-Westphalia], such as in school, where the level of education in maths and science was not as high as in the east.” What disturbed her most, she says, was how westerners looked down on the girl from the east, “which is why I decided at the age of 14 or 15 to abolish all signs of an accent or dialect, speaking only high German, so that I wouldn’t stick out”.

It was that experience that gave her the thick skin that lets her appear to laugh off the criticism she regularly receives in Germany, she says. She is rarely out of the headlines. Recently she walked out of a meeting with the Central Council for Muslims, saying that it had refused to withdraw its comparison between the AfD’s manifesto and the policies of the Third Reich. Aiman Mazyek, the council’s president, countered by saying that talks broke down because Petry “wants to go further along the path of populism, defamation and above all prejudice”. Petry also appeared to praise Donald Trump in an interview, calling him a “refreshingly alternative apparition”, who represented a new style of politics. “That wasn’t even authorised,” she says, referring to the common practice among German print journalists to allow leading figures to authorise interviews before publication. “Sometimes I don’t find what he has to say very attractive, particularly about women. But he is refreshing in a way that shows how [similar] the others are.”

She was lampooned for the original remarks by German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who drew a mischievous sketch of Trump with one hand on the shoulder of his wife, Melania, and the other on Petry’s. “Mrs Petry,” he says, “you see my beautiful wife, and you’ll surely understand that I can’t be at all interested in you as a woman, but politically, your ideas are very pleasing to me.” Shrugging it off, she says: “I just have to accept this as a side effect of deciding to be a public person and heading this party.” It’s for such treatment, though, that she often refers to the media as “Pinocchio press”, and sees herself as a victim of its attempt to “put us into the brown [Nazi] camp right from the start”. That includes a cover story in the news magazine Spiegel which, she says, “gave me the dubious honour of depicting me as Adolfina, with a Leni Riefenstahl look”.

More distressing than the media attacks, she says, were criticisms from two of her former teachers, in particular the man who taught her chemistry – a subject in which she excelled – who said that while she was intelligent he could certainly not call her wise. Heinrich Peuckmann wrote on his Facebook page: “Wisdom is linked to morality, and I can’t recognise that in her any more.” “It was very hurtful,” she says. “They think it’s unacceptable to be so provocative. But that just shows me that the idea of controversy as a normal element of free society has got lost, and the fight between the political left and right is always being defined as a fight between the morally good and morally bad. I find that appalling.”

Her own party has done its utmost to cash in on her image as a youthful breath of fresh air in contrast to Merkel’s stodgier persona. The party’s unofficial organ, Compact, is full of articles praising her, and describes in almost erotic terms the allure of her smile, how the “corners of her mouth reach her ears, puckering at the ends, her eyes twinkle mischievously, her chin lifts with restrained arrogance”. “Who,” editor-in-chief Jürgen Elsässer goes on to ask, “is not reminded of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” In the same piece, Elsässer argues that Petry would be “the better chancellor” and is far more deserving of the epithet “Mutti” (Mummy), the popular nickname for Merkel. “In contrast to ‘Mutti’, she really does have children, no less than four of them – without having lost her fresh youthfulness,” he writes.

What she has in common with Merkel, apart from her East German heritage, is her science background. Petry did a chemistry degree at Reading University, spending three years in the city – “not a pretty place”, but a happy time “where I found good friends”. It’s also where she learned her impeccable English, which she speaks fast and almost without an accent. Like Merkel, she gave up her scientific career to pursue politics, relinquishing control of the Leipzig company she set up nine years ago to manufacture environmentally friendly polyurethanes, for which she holds a joint patent with her mother. The time she spent in Britain also taught her a lot about the fundamental differences between British and German attitudes to Europe. “When Britons talk about Europe, it never seems to include Britain,” she laughs, whereas talking about Europe in Germany can only mean inclusion of Germany.”

While AfD is critical of Europe and supportive of lots of the Brexit arguments (Petry says she agrees with many of the ideas put forward by Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and chair of the Vote Leave campaign), it does not share Ukip’s desire to leave the union. Her partner Pretzell’s invitation to Nigel Farage to discuss his views with the party caused an internal bust-up. “What we need,” she says, “is to start with a white piece of paper to decide what Europe should be for all of us. If we don’t do it, I think that Europe will break apart anyway.” She worries that if Britain leaves, not only would Germany have to shoulder more of the costs of the EU, “but we’d also lose the motivation for reform which Britain provides”.

It is in her effort to steer away from the “Adolfina” depictions, as she puts it, and with an eye on entering the Bundestag following the 2017 election, and government the one after that (in around 2021), that she’s now on an offensive to project a different image of herself in the media, embracing the very forces she has frequently condemned for what she perceives as their false portrayals of her. “It’s not a strategy as such, but I think it’s necessary for people to get to know our human side,” she says. The apogee of this was a three-page article in the gossip magazine Bunte in which Petry and Pretzell (pronounced, by the way with the stress on the last syllable, so as not to mistake him for the knotted bread roll of the same name) posed, apparently at home, in jeans and open‑necked shirts. They were asked questions such as “who wears the trousers?” as well as those addressing her “shooting at refugees” remarks.

She was described as “girlish and tender”, he as a “provocateur”. They gave details of the holiday they had taken with the eight children they have between them. When asked to describe his new love, Pretzell called her “devilishly beautiful”. “[But] if I was just a nice face,” says Petry, “there would be much more conflict between the base of the party and myself than there is. I’m one of the few who can bring us the stability we need.” The waitress of the Leipzig restaurant in which the interview takes place orders Petry a taxi, but when she pops to the toilet, the waitress returns with a request from the owner to please not mention its name in the newspaper. “He does not want bad publicity,” she says. As Petry returns and switches her phone on again, it buzzes with an SMS. “Oh it’s Markus – his divorce has just come through. We plan to get married as soon as possible,” she smiles, quickly adding: “For ourselves, not for the party.”
© The Guardian.

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Moldova: Should Reject ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law

Bill to ‘Protect’ Children Would Violate Their Rights

21/6/2016- The Moldovan parliament should reject a bill to introduce discriminatory anti-gay “propaganda” clauses in national law, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to lawmakers. The bill is similar to those proposed in other countries in recent years that have been roundly criticized by regional and international human rights bodies. “Moldovan legislators should put the need to protect people from bias, as well as the country’s constitution, and international law ahead of their personal views,” said Boris Dittrichlesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “By rejecting this bill, Moldova can demonstrate to its citizens and international partners that there is no place for prejudice in its laws.”

The draft legislation pending in parliament would amend two national laws. It would add a paragraph to Article 21 of the Law on the Rights of a Child that reads: “The state ensures protection of a child from the propaganda of homosexuality for any purpose and under any form.” It would also amend Article 88 of the Code of Administrative Offenses to define “propaganda of homosexuality” as: “Propaganda of homosexual relations among minors by means of assemblies, mass media, Internet, brochures, booklets, images, audio-video clips, films and/or audio-video recordings, via sound recording, amplifiers or other means of sound amplification.” The bill would impose fines for individuals and organizations found in violation, and would be primarily enforced by the police.

The provisions of the bill would violate the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as create an environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, Human Rights Watch said. This would include discrimination against LGBT children, by restricting their access to information necessary for them to make critical decisions about their lives and health. Moldova’s parliament has previously amended national laws to include other clauses similar to those currently under debate. In 2013, parliament passed a bill to amend the Code of Administrative Offenses featuring language that activists felt could be interpreted as a prohibition on the dissemination of information about sexual orientation and gender identity, namely: “propagation of any other relations than those related to marriage or family.” Three months after it was passed, in October 2013, parliament annulled the bill, removing the discriminatory clauses.

In May 2016, representatives from Moldova’s Education Ministry attended UNESCO’s inter-ministerial conference in Paris. Moldova was one of 27 countries there to publicly call for an end to school-based violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “Rhetoric about ‘protecting children’ around this ill-conceived bill, cynically misuses children’s rights to perpetuate the falsehood that to be gay or lesbian is to be a danger to children,” Dittrich said. “This way of thinking ignores the rights and needs of children themselves, including LGBT children, to access information about themselves – and indeed that positive, affirming information about sexual orientation and gender identity can be life-saving.”
© Human Rights Watch

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Roma still at Europe's margins

18/6/2016- In a corner of eastern Slovakia, a middle-aged nun steps from a bus in the spring sunlight and heads across the gravel yard past a row of crumbling tenements, as the bell from the nearby church summons local residents to morning Mass. When Sr. Atanazia Holubova joined the Greek Catholic Order of Basil the Great in the early 1970s, her country was under communist rule and religious orders were banned. She was also highly unusual, as one of very few would-be nuns from Eastern Europe's large Roma, or Gypsy, minority. More than four decades after completing her Basilian novitiate in secret while working as a hospital nurse, she's helped build a school and culture center for her fellow Roma at Bardejov, Slovakia, and provided much-needed pastoral care for poor Gypsy families. While conditions have improved in some areas, however, they've remained much the same in others.

"It's hard to generalize -- we're still working and making small steps, but life is hard here," Holubova told NCR. "There are a few priests and nuns from the Roma community now, and some seminarians in training. But spiritual conditions reflect the economic situation, and most Roma settlements are still just as poor and downtrodden as ever." Gypsies reached Europe from India in the Middle Ages after fleeing Islamic invaders, and are known by various group names, the commonest being Roma and Sinti. They were hunted as outlaws in some countries during the 17th and 18th centuries. In World War II, up to half of all Roma were killed by the Nazis in the Porraijmos, or Roma Holocaust, an atrocity not officially commemorated until the 1990s. Today, Europe's 10 million Roma still comprise a third of the world's total. But they remain the continent's least organized and represented minority, with high infant mortality, unemployment averaging 80 percent, and life expectancy at 15 years below the average.

In April, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences marked International Roma Day by deploring the Roma's continued mistreatment and urging Christians to do more to ease their plight. "Roma are among the most deprived and marginalized people, facing daily discrimination and often denied access to basic schooling, housing and health care," the Swiss-based council said in a joint statement with the non-Catholic Conference of European Churches. "The Roma have a centuries-old sense of shared European identity and free movement across political, cultural, and religious boundaries. They are one of the indigenous European nations, however, without an equal standing in terms of respect and honor among them. More than 600 years after their migration to Europe, their full reception remains incomplete." However, some observers fear the attention of governments and institutions is now diverted by the refugee crisis, consuming resources that might otherwise have been available to Europe's Roma.

"Some Roma communities look similar to the segregated camps occupied by refugees from Iraq and Syria, with no identity cards or decent facilities," said Thierry Bonaventura, spokesman for the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. "Although Roma problems are still acute everywhere, media interest has moved away, while the politicians are preoccupied elsewhere. Many Europeans still have trouble considering Roma as real citizens. Even in the churches, we need a great cultural effort to help people understand who they are." Both the European Union and United Nations have criticized European states for denying equal rights to Gypsies, while human rights organizations have condemned their forced eviction from unofficial settlements, including the bidonvilles, or shantytowns, of France, and warned that anti-Roma declarations by right-wing politicians could fuel violent attacks.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum, set up in 2004 under guidance of the Council of Europe with elected delegates from some 40 countries, has also issued regular reports, documenting "discrimination, aggression, intimidation, eviction, deportation and hate speech" in countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden and France. In a "Charter on the Rights of the Roma," adopted in 2009, the forum noted how Roma had been deprived of recognition as a national minority and "treated as a social fringe group" with "disciplinary measures and state repression."  It also deplored how the fate of Roma had been "determined by self-appointed experts and specialists," leaving them to be viewed by much of society, with government and media encouragement, as "a criminal and unwanted menace." While many Roma belong to charismatic and Pentecostalist sects, which began actively recruiting them in the 1960s, many are also devout Catholics. Yet Europe's Catholic church has been slow in responding to their needs.

In 1965, the Vatican hosted the first Gypsy pilgrimage and recognized a pastoral mission at the initiative of local Catholic clergy, while Pope Paul VI visited a Roma settlement near Rome. However, it took until 2006 for a pontifical council to issue the church's first "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies," and until 2007 to organize the first World Meeting of Gypsy Priests, Deacons and Religious Men and Women, with 40 participants. Over the past two years, Pope Francis has shown a lead. In June 2014, he addressed a five-day Vatican pastoral conference, hitting out at anti-Roma prejudice and suspicion, and calling on Europe's governments to help integrate those "at the margins of society." He also recalled the scorn for Gypsies he'd personally encountered on Rome buses and deplored how Roma were still often driven toward "new forms of slavery," such as forced begging.

Last October, Francis returned to the theme, greeting 7,000 Roma pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. "The time has come to uproot secular prejudice, preconceived ideas and the reciprocal diffidence that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia," he said. "No one must feel isolated … and no one is entitled to trample on the dignity and the rights of others." Catholic leaders have responded by urging the EU to improve Gypsy access to education, health care, employment and housing, while calling for European schoolchildren to be given classes in Roma culture and history. Meanwhile, several bishops' conferences have set up Roma missions and pastorates, including those of the Czech Republic and Poland. The Polish church also organizes an annual Gypsy pilgrimage to the southern Marian shrine of Limanowa.

In Hungary, where Roma make up 7 percent of the 10-million-strong population, the church is running special social and educational facilities. Yet here, too, Catholic leaders have been urged to do more. "The current political system is doing too little to counter the marginalization of Roma," Bishop Miklos Beer of Vac, Hungary, told the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation in January. He warned that most Roma remain, even today, "foreigners in their own country," at a time when public attention was focused on refugees and asylum-seekers, and said aid efforts were being hampered by the "self-righteousness of the successful." "As long as there are poor and disadvantaged among us, it's an illusion to think we're secure," Beer added, "and to relax in our comfortable apartments, smart cars and holiday homes." It was at Hungary's primatial see of Esztergom that an unofficial International Catholic Committee for Gypsies gathered in April, attended by 140 priests, nuns and lay Catholics specializing in Roma pastoral work.

In their joint declaration the same month, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Conference of European Churches recalled the "long history" of anti-Gypsy prejudice, noting how Roma minorities have nevertheless preserved their culture, and should be brought into a "meaningful dialogue" that respects their identity. The two groups urged Europe's Christians to acknowledge their own historical responsibility for forms of mistreatment that were "a disgrace to all European countries," and to recognize how Roma, "with their unique traditions, faith and culture," could "bring values to European society as responsible citizens." "For centuries, Roma have been enslaved, tortured and murdered, their families broken apart -- they suffered legal persecution, were segregated from society and denied basic civil rights," the two church organizations added. "Their inclusion now is a necessary indication of our commitment to a shared European identity, and to the free movement of people, commerce and ideas."

Bonaventura, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences spokesman, welcomes the unity being shown by all churches on Roma issues. However, with material conditions still varying widely around the 28 countries of the EU, he agrees the hardships and injustices facing Roma are a long way from being resolved. Catholics like him hope Francis will continue defending the cause of the Roma and recall their historic mistreatment this June when he visits the former Nazi-run Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than 20,000 Gypsies were killed. "While steps have been taken to help the Roma, the truth is that not much has really changed in their situation -- while many of their problems have now been overshadowed by the more general economic crisis," Bonaventura told NCR. "Much more needs to be done to highlight best practices which have had some impact, while efforts continue to change the cultural conditions which have so greatly worked against them."

Back in Slovakia, Sr. Atanazia Holubova, now 63, recently retired from her teaching work after preparing hundreds of local Roma children over the years for first Communion. But she remains a familiar figure among Bardejov's 1,600-strong Roma community, while also sitting on the Slovak church's Roma pastoral council and helping organize Gypsy pilgrimages to the sanctuaries of Gaboltov and Lutina. Some three dozen Roma priests and nuns are now at work in the Catholic church across Europe, including nine in Slovakia. In 1997, thousands of Gypsy Catholics attended the beatification of a Roma, Ceferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936), martyred during the Spanish Civil War. Holubova returned to Rome for the anniversary of Ceferino's martyrdom in June 2011, and was shown in the world's media being personally greeted by Pope Benedict XVI. Yet she admits the problems are vast.

Although the EU unveiled a strategy five years ago to ensure the social integration of Roma by 2020, she says, local administrators often divert funds intended for Gypsies to other uses, while Roma social and cultural facilities are crowded and overused. While Gypsies could become the majority in Slovakia by 2050, according to some forecasts, most young Roma still drop out of school and remain isolated from the majority population, and the country still has just a single Roma minister of parliament. "For most Roma communities, the prospects will depend on individuals with will and energy -- and the possibilities they create by finding opportunities for themselves and others," Holubova told NCR. "But no one really wants to help, and there's been no significant change in public attitudes. This is why the church's pastoral care can't be confined to conducting services, but has to broaden out to other areas as well."
© NCR

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UK: How far-Right extremists draw vulnerable people into their poisonous delusions

By Dr Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

21/6/2016- Far-Right terrorism in Britain rarely receives the attention it deserves, and since the turn of the century it has been overshadowed by the global jihadist threat. This makes it easy for many to forget that there is a long history of neo-Nazism in Britain, which does sometimes explode into violence. It's important, then, that we understand what this threat looks like and how it works. Neo-Nazi groups have their own particular methods. They frequently call on supporters to commit what the media have come to call "lone wolf" attacks – in fact, neo-Nazis coined the term. Such attacks are carried out by individuals disconnected from hierarchical terrorist networks and are therefore very difficult for authorities to track and prevent.

This call has always found a receptive audience among a minority of British white working class men who feel marginalised by a society and state which they see as having prioritised the needs of immigrants and other non-whites above their own. Neo-Nazi ideology pushes a narrative which not only feeds off of this sense of alienation, but also adds to it a deeper conspiracy, presenting the problems of the white working classes as the result of an alliance of Jews, liberals, minorities and immigrants working together to destroy the so-called white race and white British culture. For neo-Nazis, a "civil war" is already taking place within America and Europe; whites are being systematically pushed aside, out-bred and exterminated. If they are to ensure their survival, they have no choice now but to stand up and fight as “soldiers of the white race”.

It's true that people who commit these kinds of violent acts often show signs of mental illness. But when assessing motivations for terrorism, violent ideologies and mental illness should not necessarily be seen as mutually exclusive. Indeed, in their lone actor recruitment strategies, both neo-Nazis and global jihadist groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Isil) have specifically targeted people who find themselves on the fringes of society, often for reasons of mental health. Through their ideologies, they are able to identify both a target group for these potential recruits to blame and a framework for how they can respond with violence in order to improve their situation. These groups are then able to pin themselves to the subsequent attacks which assists them in their ongoing propaganda efforts.

Until recently, the most well-known case of neo-Nazi terrorism in Britain was that of David Copeland who in 1999 killed three people in a campaign targeting homosexuals and minorities in London. But there is evidence that the far Right's target selection is changing. This ongoing threat is taken seriously by British authorities, who have ensured the inclusion of far-Right extremism in the government’s Prevent strategy, which seeks to counter radicalisation of various types. Of course many have raised concerns about Prevent's impact on free speech. It is important that those with concerns about immigration, race, culture, or the perceived marginalisation of the white working class, be able to speak, however much others may disagree with them. Indeed, it is unfair and childish to claim that those who articulate these concerns in more moderate and less conspiratorial ways are directly responsible for neo-Nazi violence.

But that doesn't mean we should ignore the consequences of negative political campaigns which exaggerate the threats we face. Unstable people who are already adherents to a violent xenophobic ideology may react to this in very extreme and violent ways. Fear of an impending disaster for a specific group of people coupled with conspiracy theory serves as the basis of most violent, extremist ideologies. For the neo-Nazis’ jihadist counterparts in Isil, Muslims and Islam are facing an existential threat emanating from an alliance of secular states and Jews (again) which aims to destroy the faith and oppress Muslims. Such conspiratorial doomsday messages have always succeeded in coaxing dangerous people out of the woodwork. That will continue for some time yet.
Dr Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is head of research at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), and a lecturer at King’s College London.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Far right group stages protest at Howe Barracks in Canterbury

18/6/2016- Demonstrators gathered at the Howe Barracks in Canterbury today (June 18) to protest against the former military base's conversion to housing for London families. People living nearby joined members of a group calling themselves the South East Alliance to pin up flags of St George on its perimeter fence . The alliance describes itself as angry, white and proud, and as a "non-political community based street movement that will seek to act as a unity platform for the right". Kent Police officers reportedly attended but it was described as peaceful. Howe Barracks hit the headlines last month after it was revealed Redbridge Council had outbid Canterbury for the use of the base to house up to 150 families from London. The prospective tenants are currently in temporary accommodation, leading to fears their arrival will place a strain on local services. Canterbury currently has 2,500 people awaiting homes. The decision sparked anger, and a petition, 'Stop the take over of Howe Barracks by the London Borough of Redbridge', was set up at the start of the month by James McCrossan. It has since gained more than 2,800 signatures.
© The Canterbury Times

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UK: Muslim school accuses Ofsted of racism after 'acts of devil' leaflets row

A Muslim faith school has accused Ofsted of racist conduct after the watchdog expressed concern at the discovery of leaflets branding music and dancing as "acts of devil".

18/6/2016- The Darul Uloom Islamic High School said the leaflets - described by Ofsted as evidence of safeguarding weakness - were not found on its premises but at the rear door of an adjacent mosque. The independent school in Small Heath, Birmingham, has alleged that an Ofsted inspector angrily refused to take off their shoes during a recent inspection, and was "extremely belligerent" throughout the visit. Ofsted said a large number of copies of the leaflet were found in May in areas shared by the mosque and school and used by pupils. Darul Uloom was subjected to a full Ofsted inspection last October when its overall effectiveness was rated as inadequate. It then drew up an improvement action plan which was evaluated by inspectors in February.

The latest Ofsted report, published this week, said: "Leaders and staff have had training in preventing extremism and radicalisation, and been given the latest Government safeguarding guidance. "However, the impact of this work has not rectified safeguarding weaknesses. "A large number of copies of a leaflet containing highly concerning and extremist views, such as 'Music, dancing and singing are acts of devil and prohibited', were discovered during the inspection. "The leaflets were found in areas shared by the school and adjoining mosque which are used by leaders and in areas used by the pupils from the school." Inspectors were also critical of Darul Uloom - which caters for boys aged 11 to 16 - for failing to provide pupil progress information.

In a statement issued after Ofsted's latest findings were published, the school, which has a music curriculum, said the leaflets had no association with the mosque or the school and had been "dumped" by a member of the public. The school statement added: "These leaflets were not on the display board or anywhere near the display board. "They were clearly dumped by a member of the public, ironically next to the sign where it is clearly signposted 'Strictly no posters or leaflets'. "Furthermore in regards to the inspection in question, the conduct of the Ofsted inspectors during this inspection were unacceptable and racist." As well as claiming that an Ofsted official refused to take off their shoes when visiting the mosque, the school alleges that its equality statement was dismissed as being "just a piece of paper".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "These leaflets should have no place in any school - and we will not hesitate to take strong action when schools focus on ideological indoctrination rather than a high-quality education. "We are urgently investigating the concerning allegations about this school and as part of this we commissioned Ofsted to do an unannounced inspection. "Extremism has no place in our society and when we find schools promoting twisted ideologies we will not hesitate to take action, including closing the school or working with the police if necessary." An Ofsted spokesperson said in response to the school's allegations: "We do not confirm or comment on individual complaints received. "However, Ofsted takes complaints very seriously, investigates them thoroughly and deals with them as quickly as possible."
© Yhe Daily Echo

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Swedish crackdown targets migrant families

Sweden’s parliament passed a restrictive asylum law on Tuesday (21 June) that critics said could put more children at risk.

22/6/2016- A broad majority backed the government’s proposal, which aims to sharply reduce the number of asylum seekers over a three-year period during which Sweden is to improve its capacity for reception and integration of migrants. The law makes it harder for people who get asylum, but who are not classified as refugees, to bring in family members. It also replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, which must be renewed every 13 months. The Social Democratic-Green coalition government said its goal was to bring Sweden in line with the EU’s minimal conditions for asylum rights. Justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, told MPs on Monday that Sweden had done more than any other country for the world’s refugees. ”But we can’t help everyone”, he said.

One hundred and sixty thousand people applied for asylum in Sweden last year, with 114,000 of them lodging claims in just a four-month period in autumn. Johansson said Sweden had managed to deal with the unprecedented situation and praised the national migration agency and civil society for their efforts. ”But we cannot underestimate the political effects of the situation,” he said. ”Many Swedes felt the authorities were losing control of the situation. That could have been exploited by far-right forces”, he added. The law comes despite a sharp drop in the number of asylum seekers in the country. So far this year, fewer than 14,000 have applied. The Swedish bill was said to have deep flaws by all 36 organisations that the government consulted in the legislative process. The Council on Legislation, the Swedish equivalent of a constitutional court, was also critical, but finally gave its lukewarm approval.

Save the Children, an international charity, said the law went against the UN declaration on the rights of the child, which is on its way to becoming legally binding in Swedish law. ”Family reunion is one of the few legal ways for coming to Sweden today,” Save the Children said. ”The new law can drive more families to set out on life-threatening journeys as parents don’t want to risk never seeing their family members again. More children risk to drown in the Mediterranean”, it added. The charity said the law is counter-productive as people who left their families in a war zone would not be psychologically equipped to lead a productive life in Sweden.
© The EUobserver

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Sweden's plan to stop migrant children disappearances

The Swedish government is set to react to fears that unaccompanied migrant children who are disappearing during the asylum process may be suffering from sexual abuse and human trafficking.

22/6/2016- As a result of the disappearances, the Swedish government agency tasked with representing the rights of minors could now be given a mandate to carry out in-depth interviews with children who return after going missing. The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden ('Barnombudsmannen') is an agency charged with representing children regarding their rights and interests on the basis of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The goal of their proposed interviews is to analyze what children have experienced, and try to work out how their disappearances can be prevented in the future. It is part of a 23-point program with which authorities and other bodies hope to protect children from crime and social deprivation in Sweden. The Swedish government will make a final decision on the mandate during a meeting on Wednesday.

On Monday, local radio station P4 Blekinge reported on the poor conditions that six unaccompanied refugee children in the southern Swedish province were living in. The children claimed that all six had shared the same basement at a foster home, that they were not given sufficient food and that their toilet usage was restricted. In June, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized Sweden’s treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, highlighting the long waiting periods for asylum processing as well as a lack of adequate psychological care for those in need. According to Human Rights Watch figures, more than 35,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden in 2015, a significant increase from around 7000 in 2014.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests

Sweden is to carry out controversial age tests on as many as 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children, estimating that as many as 70 percent lie about their age.

18/6/2016- “This is not just about asylum procedure, it’s about the safety of the accommodation,“ Sweden’s Justice and Migration minister Morgan Johansson told Swedish Radio. “Adults should live with adults and children should live with children, which is why this should be done as early as possible in the procedure.” According to the Swedish Migration Agency, more than 18,000 of the young men and women might warrant medical age tests this year and next year. Sweden's migration law gives strong incentives for asylum seekers aged 18 or over to claim to be minors, and the Agency believes there is reason to doubt the claims of as many as 70 percent of asylum applicants who say they are between the ages of 15 and 17. The tests are controversial in Sweden, however, with doctors arguing that there is as yet no method of reliably determining a person’s age.  In April, the National Board of Health and Welfare judged that MRI scans of asylum seekers’ knees provided the most reliable currently available age tests. At the end of last month, the government gave The National Board of Forensic Medicine responsibility for carrying out the new tests. It has now launched an inquiry into how best to carry them out, which is due to report in November. Ann Lemne, project manager at the organisation, underlined the shortcomings of existing methods in a press release sent out in May. “There is no method for medical age assessment can be safely determine an exact age,” she said. “With all methods, the result is produced as an age span.”
© The Local - Sweden

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Euro 2016: Spanish far-right fans to be kicked out of France

The public prosecutor in Nice ruled that 11 Spanish fans should be expelled from France for troublemaking.

21/6/2016- The public prosecutor in the southern French city of Nice has ruled that 11 Spanish fans arrested prior to last Friday's win by Spain over Turkey in Nice should be expelled. Six Spanish police working alongside French counterparts identified the 11, some of whom bore tattooed portraits of Hitler and Goebbels and Nazi insignia, as troublemakers. Four of the group are accused of stealing from and assaulting a supermarket owner in Nice after he refused to sell them alcohol before the game, in line with a tournament ban. Their expulsion came as two Hungarian Foreign Legion members were found guilty of offensive acts against police during unrest in Stade Velodrome in Marseille before Hungary's game against Iceland on Saturday. They were given suspended two-month jail terms. The two were drunk and said to have spat on police struggling to hold back Hungarian fans who crossed security barriers to get into the same section of the stadium, forcing riot police to intervene. A 25-year-old Hungarian filmed taking part in attacks on police during the brawl was given a six-month custodial sentence

'Perfect hooligan kit'
A fourth Hungarian caught in Marseille's city centre with a bag containing flares, a ski mask and a gum shield was given a suspended 15-day jail term. Prosecutor Olivier Sabine called it "the perfect hooligan kit." A Hungarian and Slovak man who tried to smuggle flares into the stadium were also given suspended 15-day sentences. Meanwhile, a French-Albanian man who hid a banned flare in his rectum to smuggle it into a fan zone was due to appear in court in Nice. Two people were hurt when the flare was set off, prosecutors said. Pat-down searches at the Nice fan zone before last Wednesday's match between France and Albania failed to find the 18 centimetre (seven-inch) by four centimetre (1.6-inch) flare which was reportedly hidden in a condom. The 18-year-old set off the flare in the fan zone causing burns to two people as well as himself, prosecutors said.
© The Local - Spain

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Euro 2016: Far-right Russian fan leader arrested in France two days after deportation

Alexander Shprygin was among 20 Russian fans expelled in connection with violence at the beginning of the Euro 2016 tournament

20/6/2016- French police have arrested the leader of Russian football fans who attacked England fans two days after he was deported from France. Alexander Shprygin, who has far-right affiliations and is president of the Russian Supporters Union, was among 20 Russian fans expelled in connection with violence at the beginning of the Euro 2016 tournament. It was not immediately clear how he reentered France. A message on his twitter account said he had taken an unconventional route, and included a photo of a jet belonging to Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling Airlines. Another post on his Twitter account showed a short video filmed inside the stadium ahead of Russia's match against Wales. Shprygin previously warned all of the group would return to France to attend the Wales game if their visas were not cancelled. After being detained at the time, he said: “We are to be expelled. I would like to stress, not deported but expelled. "They are not deporting us with no right of further entry to the country, they are going to expel us. It means we will keep our visas.”
© The Independent

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Euro 2016: Meet the Carpathian Brigade: the far-right Hungarian supporters group

18/6/2016- The official supporters' group of the Hungarian national team, known as Carpathian Brigade, again caused trouble in the match against Iceland at Stade Velodrome despite being warned by FARE [Football Against Racism in Europe] for their behaviour in their Euro 2016 opener versus Austria. Several independent radical groups form the Carpathian Brigade, including the fearsome Green Monsters, who support Ferencvaros in club competitions. This group is well-known in Europe for their violent history and the racist, anti-Semitic chants they sing at Groupama Arena. The Green Monsters define themselves as far-right Hungary patriots and organise large fights against rival groups.

Founded in the 1990s, their extreme violence has been a source of pride, and they have been known to engage in beatings and stabbings whenever their team loses. Racist chants directed towards the black, Gypsy and Jewish communities are popular among their members, while a large number of these hooligans are martial arts professionals and enjoy showing off their muscles in the stands. Even though UEFA has repeatedly warned and sanctioned the Hungarian football federation for the Carpathian Brigade's well-documented disturbances, the Magyar radicals have struck again, and threaten to do so at the final group-stage match.
© Marca, international football news

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Euro 2016: UEFA Charges Croatia Soccer Body for Fan Disorder, Racism

18/6/2016- After Croatia was once more the focus of racist behavior and fan disorder at a European Championship match, UEFA formally opened a disciplinary case against the country's national soccer federation on Saturday. The federation apologized for the incidents during Croatia's 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic on Friday, while also blaming its national government for not identifying and punishing hooligans in recent years. "The Saint-Etienne incident is the product of the passivity of the Croatian state, and today we have all become hostages of a group of hooligans," the Croatian federation said in a statement. Play was stopped for several minutes late in the match when firecrackers and lit flares were thrown on the field from one end of the stadium where its fans were sitting. Croatia fans then fought among themselves as players appealed for calm.

UEFA's anti-discrimination monitors said Saturday they also reported hearing fans singing far-right songs and displaying offensive banners at the stadium. UEFA said the charges against Croatia related to racist behavior, crowd disturbances, throwing objects on the field and setting off fireworks. The Croatian federation faces at least a five-figure fine when UEFA's disciplinary panel judges the case on Monday. It is the second round of charges involving Croatia fans in France. UEFA charged the federation over flares being lit and a fan running on the field to celebrate a goal with Croatia players in a 1-0 win over Turkey last Sunday. That case will be judged on July 21. Croatia has a track record of disruptive fans, including at each game it played at Euro 2012. The federation claimed it "warned UEFA and French police about the hooligans' intentions to interrupt the match."

The national team has a faction of fans with far-right views, and also groups who are protesting against the widely unpopular soccer body, which is based in Zagreb and led by former Croatia great Davor Suker. "This deserves zero tolerance," Suker said in an earlier statement on the federation's website. "Croatian Football Federation is doing its job, and I call upon government institutions to do theirs. We'll ask French police for help." Many believe the repeated disorder is an attempt to provoke UEFA and FIFA to act in order to shame Suker and other officials linked to Dinamo Zagreb. Four years ago, all three Croatia games in Poland were also delayed because of flares and fireworks being thrown on the field. Then, UEFA fined the federation a total of 135,000 euros ($170,000) for a series of incidents including racial insults aimed at Italy forward Mario Balotelli, a fan running on the field, and fans' offensive chants and banners.

UEFA already deducted a point from Croatia in Euro 2016 qualifying when fans created a swastika image on the field before a home qualifying match in Split. The Italy game, and a subsequent qualifier against Bulgaria, were played in empty stadiums as punishment from UEFA for fans using far-right chants and banners. An earlier qualifier against Italy, in Milan, was also stopped in each half because of flares thrown on the field from a section of Croatia fans. In separate cases, FIFA has already barred fans from attending the first two of Croatia's five 2018 World Cup home qualifying matches in Zagreb in September and November. On Saturday, the Croatian federation apologized to "the spectators at Saint-Etienne, to the television audience, and the Czech Republic national football team."
© ABC News

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BREXIT & JO COX MURDER

Daily Mail Brexit coverage sees 40,000 sign petition for editor’s dismissal

22/6/2016- A petition calling for the editor of the Daily Mail to be fired has accrued more than 40,000 signatures in a direct address to the tabloid paper’s owner Lord Rothermere. The campaign, started by civic organisation Avaaz, describes Paul Dacre as the “Nigel Farage of newspapers” and accuses the Mail of “adding to a climate where rage and xenophobia flourish” under his leadership. Central to the complaint is the paper’s obsessive coverage of, and mistruths about, immigration, particularly in the run-up to the EU referendum. Last week the paper was forced to issue a correction on its front page story due to its reliance on inaccurate copy and the false impression that illegal immigrants found in a van came from Europe. “The Daily Mail has spread lies and hate and a steady diet of Leave messaging for the duration of this referendum campaign, while offering virtually no space for the Remain perspective,” said Avaaz campaign director Iain Keith. “Paul Dacre claims to be a champion for press freedom, but this betrays the principles of journalism to an ugly political agenda. Paul Dacre is the Nigel Farage of newspapers and it’s time Lord Rothermere either reins him in or cuts him loose.”

That the petition has accumulated 40,000 signatures in just one day may turn heads but is highly unlikely to trouble Dacre who has been at the helm of the Mail as editor since 1992, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful newspapermen of his generation. Under his leadership the paper has seen daily circulation hit a steady average of roughly two million and been awarded Newspaper of the Year six times. Dacre has his finger on the pulse of middle England unlike any of his contemporaries and is a staunch defender of his strategy of placing sensationalism, fear and anger above facts, railing against the biases he perceives in the ‘objective’ journalism of the BBC and its ilk. After years of stoking fear and loathing over the EU, the paper finally came out with an official endorsement of Brexit on June 21, conveniently neglecting to mention that Dacre himself has pocketed to the tune of £460,000 in EU subsidies over five years to bolster his luxurious Highlands estate.
© Euro Weekly News

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UK: One of Vote Leave's biggest donors is a former BNP member

Gladys Bramall has given £600,000 to Leave in recent weeks. She has reportedly confirmed she was a BNP member under Nick Griffin's leadership - but says her husband signed her up.

21/6/2016- One of the Leave campaign’s biggest individual donors is a former member of the far-right BNP, it has been reported. Gladys Bramall, an 88-year-old woman from Birmingham, has made two cash donations to Vote Leave Limited of £500,000 and £100,000, making her the campaign’s third-largest financial backer, Electoral Commission filings show. And Ms Bramall is also named on the database of then-members of the BNP that was published by WikiLeaks in November 2008, when Nick Griffin was still its leader. The link was first reported by BuzzFeed News, and Ms Bramall told the website that she must have been signed up to the far-right group by her husband – who is also named on the leaked list. She nonetheless confirmed her membership, saying: “My husband joined, he obviously enrolled me at the same time. It wasn’t with my knowledge.”

The BNP membership database was published three times before the party expelled Mr Griffin in 2014 for “trying to cause disunity by deliberately fabricating a state of crisis”. The party, which campaigns on an anti-immigrant message and tried to restrict membership to “indigenous British” people until it was legally barred from doing so, received fewer than two thousands votes in total at the last general election. Asked why she had donated £600,000 to support Leave, Ms Bramall told BuzzFeed News: “Just that I want to come out of Europe. I’m very anxious that we come out of Europe. I did what I could by giving money.” The link will be embarrassing for the Vote Leave campaign, which has sought to distance itself from accusations of racism among its more extreme elements. Michael Gove, the most senior politician in the mainstream of the campaign, said he “shuddered” to see a poster unveiled by Nigel Farage showing a line of refugees under the title “Breaking Point”.

Ms Bramall was not available to comment when contacted by The Independent. Vote Leave has declined to comment on the link, but when asked about the donations during an LBC interview Mr Gove promised money from "tainted sources" would play no part in the campaign. Asked whether he welcomed the donation, Mr Gove told LBC: "Absolutely not," adding that he was "not aware of that beforehand". "I'd obviously like to investigate myself who this lady is and what the history behind it is," he said. "But if this money comes from someone whose views are objectionable then of course we will do everything we can to make sure that money that comes from any tainted source is returned and plays no part in the campaign."

Conservative minister and Remain campaigner Sam Gyimah said the revelation was particularly worrying in the wake of the resignation of Vote Leave board member Arabella Arkwright for sharing anti-Muslim material on social media. Mr Gyimah said: "It's extremely concerning that Vote Leave have received so much money from a former member of the BNP an abhorrent organisation. "By accepting this money they risk associating themselves with these views, especially following the resignation of one of their board members after she re-tweeted far-right material. They must now return the donation immediately."
© The Independent

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UK: Vote Leave board member quits over anti-Muslim retweets

Businesswoman Arabella Arkwright resigns after Guardian asked her about activity on her social media account

20/6/2016- A Vote Leave board member has resigned after it emerged that she promoted anti-Muslim material on social media, including an image of a white girl in the middle of a group of people wearing burqas saying: “Britain 2050: why didn’t you stop them Grandad?” Arabella Arkwright, a businesswoman who sat on the board and finance committee of Vote Leave, stepped down after the Guardian asked her about a series of tweets and retweets from her account. Other retweets included a link from Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League, suggesting UK Muslims were trying to build an Islamic state in Britain. Another retweet came in response to a Twitter user saying they would never eat tikka masala again if it “got seventh-century barbaric savagery” out of Britain. A reply from Arkwright’s account said: “No to sharia law. By by [sic] tikka masala .”

A further retweeted picture has a “Stop Islam” badge in the corner and asks people to compare photographs of Yazidi women and Syrian men fleeing Isis. Labour MP Emma Reynolds said some of the material was racist and the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, called on Vote Leave to take action to stop stoking divisions. According to her biography for Vote Leave, Arkwright is a businesswoman who runs health clinics. She is also the partner in a visitor attraction and pub in Warwickshire. Her name has already been removed from the Vote Leave website. After being approached by the Guardian, Arkwright denied the retweets represented her view and said she abhorred racism in every form. She has apologised for any offence caused and said she was stepping down so as not to affect the last three days of the Vote Leave campaign led by leading Tory Brexiters Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

She said her retweets did not imply that she was endorsing the content of the tweets. “I am absolutely appalled that there should be any underlying suggestion that I have any racist tendencies,” she said. “I would like to make it absolutely clear that my RTs and forwarding do not mean that I endorse in any way the content of them. I RT a wide variety of different views on issues related to the referendum with which I do not agree in order that others can see the breadth of opinion on these matters. Is there anything wrong in that? “You will note that my RTs are seldom accompanied by comments from me except Syrian Christians, who it was being widely reported at the time were being tortured for their faith. I am not a political animal and maybe am guilty of being naive, but I reject all prejudice and am deeply sorry for any offence that may have been caused. Moreover, perhaps I can be clear, I ABHOR ANY FORM OF RACISM.”

Reynolds, a member of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to remain in the EU, said xenophobia and nasty divisiveness from members of the leave campaign should not be tolerated. “The fact that a member of their board has tweeted and retweeted racist material, including from the founder of the English Defence League, demonstrates the levels to which the leave campaign has stooped,” she said. “Vote Leave have already lost the economic argument, and are now focusing solely on running a nasty campaign scaremongering about immigration.” A Vote Leave spokesperson said: “As soon as we were made aware of these tweets we asked Arabella to hand in her resignation, which she has done with immediate effect. These tweets do not reflect the views of the Vote Leave campaign.”

Farron said it was “deeply worrying” and called on the leave campaign to stop “stoking division in our society and start responding to the overwhelming evidence showing we’re better off in the EU”. Meanwhile, Vote Leave has been trying to distance itself from a Ukip poster that has been compared to Nazi propaganda. Leading Vote Leave figures have stressed in recent days that they are completely separate from Ukip and strongly pro-immigration, while wanting to take back control of Britain’s borders. Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, even repeated his old call for an amnesty for people who entered the country illegally more than 12 years ago, in an apparent attempt to neutralise accusations the Brexit campaign is anti-immigrant. The remain campaign has been trying to frame the choice in the referendum as a choice between an open, liberal Britain and the Britain of Farage.

The controversial Ukip poster shows a queue of migrants crossing a border, with the slogan Breaking Point and a call to leave the EU. Politicians from George Osborne to Nicola Sturgeon have called it vile and divisive. However, Farage has defended it and claimed to be a “victim of hate” himself, while accusing David Cameron and other remain campaigners of exploiting the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox for their own political ends.
© The Guardian.

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US/UK: Here’s How Islamists and the Far Right Feed Off Each Other (opinion)

Whether it's the horror of Orlando or the murder of British MP Jo Cox, our attempts to understand tragedy fall prey to our own prejudices and political constructs.
By Maajid Nawaz

20/6/2016- While the world was still reeling from the self-starter jihadist atrocity in Orlando, and as people everywhere were still trying to process one of America’s worst-ever mass shootings, a far-right extremist accosted, shot and stabbed British Member of Parliament Jo Cox, who tragically succumbed to her wounds later that same day. Jo Cox was a mother of two, a tireless campaigner for refugees, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group “Friends of Syria,” and the former head of policy at Oxfam. In other words, she cared a great deal about vulnerable people. One of Parliament’s brightest lights has just been extinguished by nothing but hate. Her suspected killer, whose name is Tommy Mair, has been arrested, swiftly charged and put on trial in one of London’s highest courts. Mair had been a supporter of various far-right extremist groups. Eyewitness accounts state that the suspect shouted “Britain First”—the name of a far-right direct action group in Britain—as he attacked Jo Cox.

He had also been a longstanding member of the white-supremacist group, White Rhino, and according to documents obtained by the U.S. far-right extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, Mair was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi group, National Alliance. In 1999, Mair bought a homemade weapons manual from the National Alliance, and in total sent $620 to their publishing arm for titles including “Incendiaries,” “Chemistry of Powder and Explosives,” “Improvised Munitions Handbook” and Ich Kampfe, published by Hitler’s Nazi party. On Saturday, Thomas Mair was asked to confirm his name in court for the charge. He replied only to say “Death to Traitors, freedom for Britain.” Not much more can be said of this man, for a trial is ongoing, but what has already been reported appears to suffice.

It has been a terrible travesty of a week. But what the two cases—the attack on Orlando and the attack on Jo Cox—come to symbolize is what worries me more. The 1930s have returned. The world seems to be sliding into a repeat of that grim decade before World War II: a decade that beheld the ascendance of Italian Fascism, Soviet Communism and German Nazism; a decade in which “the establishment” was to blame for everything, the status quo was rejected and radical change was demanded. It was the age of identity politics, conspiracy theories, dehumanizing rhetoric and total solutions— the age of populist demagogues and competing extremes. And while nationalist populism hasn’t gone away, the ideological project of Communism has given way to the theocratic project of Islamism, supported today by the regressive left. The one common ingredient that all of these “total solutions” require is for their partisans and recruits to identify themselves primarily as “victims.”

The feeling of “victimhood” is one of the most blinding, counter-productive, human soul-destroying and degenerative conditions to afflict society, and all political discourses. Once it has consumed its host, “victimhood” immediately renders anyone outside of its group as the aggressor. It leaves no room for human empathy for the “other,” because that “other” is seen to be locked in a competition for rights with the “victim.” And by definition, there can only be one “victim.” This is why “victimhood” demands a “special status,” and whispers to its host that hers is a “special people.” The Nazi Aryan race, the Communist international proletariat, the Islamist global ummah, none of these “special” people, requiring a “unique” state for which they must agitate through a “historic” revolution would thrive if not for first and foremost seeing themselves as “victims”. The duplicitous response by today’s populist right, Islamists, and the regressive left to last week’s atrocity in Orlando and to the murder of Jo Cox showcases the problem well.

Let us begin with Orlando. Immediately, ideological talking points became the predictable standard response from both sides to the tragedy. For Islamists, the regressive left and some of their supporters among liberals, Omar Mateen was judged a madman, a loner, a traumatized Afghan angered about American foreign policy in his ancestral home, a confused and a closeted gay man in denial. Of course, they insist that he also should not have had such a ready access to guns. Many also focused on the fact that Mateen did not appear devout in the traditional religious sense, thus arguing the slaughter had nothing to do with Islam. As well as resting on a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of radicalization, this approach contained serious logical errors. We liberals cannot simultaneously oppose profiling as I do then say Mateen couldn’t be radicalized because he "didn’t fit the profile.”

Likewise, we can’t also claim that jihadism has “nothing to do with Islam” if suspects must be devout for us to consider them jihadists in the first instance. It was, for this camp, anything but a problem of Islamist radicalization, of religious fundamentalist shame around gay sex, and of deeply entrenched cultural intolerance. To dare suggest such a thing would be seen to be aiding the narrative of the opposing conservative camp, and that would be akin to scoring liberal and Muslim own-goals against our “victim” scorecard. President Barack Obama even entered the fray, making remarks to reassert why he would not be naming the ideology Islamism. And for the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and some of their populist-right supporters among conservatives, the problem in Orlando was not mental health, the problem was not the very same homophobia promoted for years by some within their own ranks, and the problem was certainly not gun laws. No, Omar Mateen was nothing but a Muslim terrorist and to suggest anything else was to apologize for jihadist terror.

Neither camp stepped back from their own dogma to consider that mental health, poor social integration, closeted homophobia, Islamist radicalization and the ability of civilian extremists with all the above problems to access assault rifles after they are already suspected of links to terrorism, are not mutually exclusive. Far from it. Individual radicalization cannot be boxed into neat fitting ideological categories. It was probably always a mixture of all those reasons. But to concede such a thing would be to concede some points to the “other,”and a “victim” must never do that, for it lets the side down. It betrays the tribe. Orlando would have been sufficient to make the point. But by serving as its mirror opposite, the brutal killing of Jo Cox in Britain hammered the same lesson home in a way that is too poignant to ignore.

Here, Islamists, the regressive left and their liberal sympathizers, in an eerie and Orwellian backflip, traded places with the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and their populist-right supporters. Suddenly, the same group among Muslims and the Left who had argued so vociferously that Omar Mateen had been nothing but a loner with mental health problems, were arguing that Thomas Mair was a neo-Nazi ideologue and pointing to why the ideology of white supremacism must be challenged wherever it is found. Talk of mental health problems and foreign policy grievances gave way to pious pronouncements about the scourge of racism and xenophobia, and questions around why “white people” are never deemed terrorists by mainstream media, as if our entire history of Irish Republican terrorism and many other such examples, hadn’t happened at all.

Not to be outdone, in the case of Thomas Mair the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and many of their populist-right supporters developed overnight a newly discovered yet profound awareness of mental health problems, social isolation and the economic grievance narrative around jobs being lost “to foreigners.” For them, it was anything but white supremacist ideology. Of course, as in the case of Omar Mateen, the truth probably lies in a mixture of all of these factors. As I’ve been arguing for years, radicalization occurs due to a combination of perceived grievances, an identity crisis, charismatic recruiters and an ideology, and in all cases probably involves mental trauma. There is a negative symbiosis between Islamist and far right extremism.

It is no revelation that jihadist terrorists use far-right posters in their own propaganda to prove that the world is at war with Islam. And it is no surprise that the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik cited al-Qaeda writings in his own manifesto to validate his murder of 77 innocent people. Each faction relies on the other to exist. Each needs the “other”—the enemy—to point to as the cause of all its ills. But the world of politics has become—quite horrifically—like a football game. Each of us cheers for our own tribe and disparages the opposing team even when they have a reasonable point to make. We are always the "victims”; they are always our oppressors.

People are playing politics with evil while human lives are lost to hate. We must take stock, and recognize that by raising our political pompoms every time an event appears to confirm our narrative, and by playing up our own victimhood, we are only feeding into the recruitment narratives of all terrorist groups. The first stage to the emancipation of any community is to shed this perpetual state of victimhood, and begin to take responsibility for our own actions, and our own advancement. We have reentered an era of competing extremes. The 1930s never looked so close, from so far. It didn’t have to be like this. Islamists and far-right extremists, a plague on both your houses.
© The Daily Beast

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UK: Far-right groups incite social media hate in wake of Jo Cox’s murder

20/6/2016- Police are being urged to investigate extreme right-wing groups in Britain and their incitement activities after a series of hateful messages were published on social media in the wake of Jo Cox’s murder. Nationalist groups have been accused of glorifying Thomas Mair, Mrs Cox’s accused killer, crowing about the attack and making excuses for it. It comes amid concern about the rise of the far right in pockets of the UK, notably in Yorkshire, with violence at anti-immigration marches and increasing anti-Muslim hate crimes. In the days since Mrs Cox’s death scores of members of far-right organisations have taken to social media to make threats to other MPs and to crow about the fate of the 41-year-old mother, who was a prominent campaigner for remaining in the EU.

The northeast unit of National Action, which has campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, tweeted: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. #JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans.”
#VoteLeave, don't let this man's sacrifice go in vain.#JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans! pic.twitter.com/qXT5ez6dlG
— National Action NE (@NANorthEast_) June 16, 2016

The police northeast counter-terrorism unit confirmed it was probing a number of “offensive messages on social media and extreme social media content”. A spokesman said: “We are conducting checks on this material to establish whether or not any criminal offences have been committed.” There have been numerous other disturbing messages from far-right supporters in other areas of the country, resulting in calls for police to monitor and investigate online hatred. A member of the English Defence League, another far-right group, posted on Facebook: “Many of us have been saying for years that sooner or later “SOMEONE” was going to get killed. No one thought it was going to be one of “them” (left-wing) who was going to be the first victim of the coming civil unrest heading towards Europe ... BUT he had reached his breaking point (like many of us) and snapped.”

One Twitter user described Mrs Cox as a “traitor” while another said she was a “threat to the UK” and described Mr Mair as an “Aryan warrior”. Another group, calling itself the Notts Casual Infidels, linked to a news story of Mrs Cox’s murder and posted on Facebook: “We knew it was only a matter of time before we take it to the next level. We have been mugged off for too long.” A man associated with Pegida UK, an anti-Islam group, posted on Facebook: “From today the game changed as a good friend said have a look at today’s date 16/06/2016. Next time the government must listen to its people.”

Matthew Collins, head of research at Hope not Hate, a charity that seeks to defeat the politics of extremism within British communities, said he was concerned that “there are a number of tiny, right-wing organisations that are taking great glory and satisfaction from Jo’s death”. He added: “I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division.” Mr Collins said that although there were many people who did not agree with or vote for Mrs Cox, “they had the decency to recognise the contribution she made to wider society”. Referring to hateful messages posted on social media, he said: “These people are so on the margins of society that they no longer have any sense of moral decency or moral codes. I think the police should look at the motives behind some of those people that are continuing to speak so much hatred and division and are well aware of what such words have led to. These people are engaged in a whole network of tearing down the moral fabric of society.”

Stephen Kinnock, the MP who shared an office with Mrs Cox, was subjected to “particularly venomous” online abuse last week after an article about his family’s support for the Remain campaign. One email threatened violence and has been reported to the police, he said. Mr Kinnock said the far right were a “shady bunch” who had many of their “views legitimised by the referendum and the choice of the Leave campaign to go hard on immigration”. “I get the sense that a lot of rhetoric around the Leave campaign would have been classified as far right only five years ago but now it’s more mainstream. “There seems to have been a drum beat over the years for venomous rhetoric. A lot of this referendum would have been classified as pretty extreme. “Many MPs have a siege mentality because of the abuse, so I do think something needs to be done about it, but the question is what. You’ve got to get a balance between free speech and protecting people’s security. The last thing we’d want to do is never hold surgeries, then the bad guys have won.”
© The Times

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UK: Jo Cox 'was ready to launch report on far-right nationalists'

Jo Cox was planning to launch a report in Parliament on the dangers of nationalist radicals, according to reports.

20/6/2016- Jo Cox was planning to launch a report in Parliament on the dangers of nationalist radicals, according to reports. The Labour MP for Batley and Spen, who died after being shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency surgery on Thursday, had also recorded a video about preventing Islamophobia, according to The Times. The report by Tell Mama, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim incidents, warns of rising aggression by far-right nationalists and an increase in Islamophobia in the last year. Mrs Cox was known for her commitment to causes such as the plight of Syrian refugees. The Times reports that on June 29 she planned to launch the report and play the video. It shows her saying she had spoken to Tell Mama about preventing Islamophobia and discussing the problem that in her constituency "many of our young women don't feel safe when they're out on the street".

The director of Tell Mama, Fiyaz Mughal, told the newspaper there were significant clusters of far-right activity in Yorkshire and that the charity's annual report would detail an increase in anti-Muslim activity in the UK last year. Mr Mughal said: "In the last 18 months South Yorkshire is one of the leading areas in the country (for Islamophobic incidents)." Thomas Mair, 52, from Birstall, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday charged with murdering Mrs Cox, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of a knife.
© The Press Association

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UK: Former far right politician to run for slain Jo Cox's seat

A former member of far right party the BNP is to contest the by-election which decides Jo Cox's successor.

19/6/2016- Jack Busby (23) says the Labour Party has “blood on its hands” over the politician’s death. Mrs Cox, who represented the Yorkshire area Batley and Spen, died earlier this week after being shot and stabbed at a constituency surgery she was holding at a local library. A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. All major political parties have said they do not intend to contest the upcoming by-election to elect an MP to the seat following the tragedy, out of respect for Ms Cox’s family and colleagues. However, Jack Buckby has announced he will be contesting the seat for far-right political party Liberty GB, which lists as its main aims; "halting the Islamisation of Britain" and "promoting British values and assimilation rather than multiculturalism".

Mr Buckby was formerly tipped to be a leading figure in the BNP while a member of its youth wing 'the BNP Crusaders' and has been described as an "heir apparent to Nick Griffin", the former party leader. However, Mr Buckby left the BNP, citing concerns that the party’s views had become “racist”. In a statement announcing his decision to stand, he wrote: “While the murder of Jo Cox is tragic, we must not let this tragedy blur the fact that the Labour Party is responsible for the demographic and cultural assault on Britain which has already done great damage in areas of Yorkshire. ”Too much is at stake to allow Labour to retake Batley and Spen unchallenged. The constituency is part of a region that has been turned upside down by mass immigration, with mosques sprouting like triffids, Islamic extremism proliferating, child-rape gangs still on the loose, and long-standing English communities under threat of demographic eradication.

“The Labour Party has blood on its hands. And by shutting down debate and labelling working class people concerned about their communities as racists, they risk driving desperate, disenfranchised people to further horrendous acts like this.” Announcing his campaign on social media, he also said he supported capital punishment for the person responsible for Ms Cox’s death. He wrote: “Liberty GB calls for a referendum on the restoration of capital punishment. I support it, and I say we hang the Jo Cox killer.” He also criticised the decision of many members of the public to donate to the charity ‘Hope Not Hate’ to honour the Labour MP who worked to improve community relations in her West Yorkshire constituency. He wrote: “Nasty ‘Hope Not Hate’ being given tens of thousands of pounds from the Jo Cox fundraising. And they moan about people ‘politicising’ the killing.”
© The Irish Independent

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UK: Pro-EU Bristol councillor has car vandalised with far-right graffiti

19/6/2016- A Bristol Labour councillor says she has been left "shaken" after discovering her car had been vandalised by suspected far-right sympathisers. Ruth Pickersgill, who represents Easton, woke on Friday morning to find the letters 'NF' - short for National Front, an extreme right-wing organisation - scratched into the bonnet of her car. A makeshift attempt at an England flag had also been scratched into the red car's paintwork. The pro-EU councillor, who is also a refugee rights activist, had left Remain campaign leaflets visible in the back of the vehicle, as she had been planning to deliver them that afternoon.
© The Bristol Post

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UK: Brexit could see the rise of racists across Europe

By David Hirsh, Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

20/6/2016- Brexit would cause an immediate recession and the poor would pay. The pound, wages, consumption and GDP would plummet; cuts in welfare, pension, health and education would follow. In the long-term, the economy would continue to suffer as we find ourselves locked out of the European market and global trade deals. But this is about more than money. It would be expensive, the Brexit argument concedes, but we would be buying something priceless. Actually, the freedom, peace and democracy that we already have is priceless and the Brexiteers are risking everything for a mirage.

Europeans were once seduced by totalitarianism; and we Brits remember that the willingness of Americans to kill and die for us was decisive in the maintenance of our freedom. As Europe emerged, it built the EU to set in stone its renewed liberty and peace. Southern Europe embraced human rights and joined the European community; later, Eastern Europe grasped democracy and the EU. As Yugoslavia emerges from genocide it, too, reaches towards the EU. The EU is a machine for cementing former slave peoples into democratic Europe.

With modernity, buying and selling became a dominant way for strangers to relate to each other. It’s no accident that freedom of movement, freedom to work where you choose and freedom of trade are linked to the rule of law and human rights. But we know it is necessary to regulate markets to prevent monopolies and to protect the vulnerable. EU regulation prevents Vodafone stinging you because you cross a border; it prevents British Airways restricting air travel to the wealthy; it stops McDonald’s competing over the length of the working week or the annual holiday.

If there is trade, there must be rules. How do we agree rules? It is not true that unelected commissioners make decisions. Elected governments negotiate within the Council of Ministers and come to consensus. If we were outside the EU, we would still have to obey the rules to trade and we would still have to pay, but we would have no say. Democracy is not sufficient. Democratic peoples have to deal with injustice, inequality, loneliness, homelessness, illness, meanness, addiction, everything. But democracy is necessary. In the USA, too, voters are itching to smash it

all up. There, too, people are thrilled by the big mouth blaming foreigners and blaspheming against civilised values. This bout of fury with the Beltway, Brussels, or last year with Westminster, is infantilising. On the British left, the childish fury is directed against Israel, and the Jews and the grown-ups who look on, with fear in their eyes. Remember when some students peeled off a demonstration and surrounded Charles and Camilla’s car? One participant was so angry that the police did not stop them. He’d experienced himself slipping over the line between teenage protest and something irreversible. If you run with Trump or Brexit or boycotters, you are putting something into motion that might become unstoppable. You are the grown-up now.

We live in a time where democratic states and democratic culture are under threat and, ironically, this threat is often articulated using the appropriated language of democracy. Our grandparents knew the difference between totalitarianism and democracy, as do the people risking all to get to the free world on rafts. But we have won battles too. Racism, sexism and homophobia are now violations of our laws and of our cultures. Official buildings flew the rainbow last week. But still we have trouble valuing what we have built, what we have won.

Imagine Trump in the White House and Islamism threatening democratic movements and minorities across the Middle East. Now is the time for Europe to stand strong and united in peace and in democracy. Some, in a faux inverse nationalism underestimate the importance of Britain. Brexit could collapse the whole European project and it could lead to the rise of the racist and protectionist right across Europe. The walls could come up, people designated as foreigners could more and more be swept back and forth across frontiers and totalitarian movements could rise promising order in the chaos.

If you want to be naughty, have an affair, start smoking again or buy a Harley. Don’t run with Trump, Brexit or boycotters. It may be Europe’s turn to lead the free world for a time.
© Jewish News UK.

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If the UK walks away, the continent's far right will step into the EU vacuum (opinion)

By Fidelma Cook

18/6/2016- Within a few days the outcome will be known and another referendum result will leave only bitterness and anger in its wake. Only a fool would attempt a prediction at this late stage as polls swing widely, and bloodshot-eyed politicians lay their increasingly tarnished wares before us. There seems, at this moment, to have been a surge for Brexit but I wonder how many of those ‘surging’ have actually registered to vote? Indeed, how many will even bother to vote: For we live in a strange world of parallels where life is often more real on Twitter or Facebook than in action. It is also a false world where one gains impressions of great passion and power in the rhetoric spewed out every milli-second.

We are truly on the edge of The Matrix where the great question is: "What is real?" Or: "What is true?" Had I been an undecided perhaps I would, like many, have found myself pulled and pushed from all sides with appeals to prejudice, self-interest and self-protection. But I have never, ever, doubted that our interests and our safety lie within a united Europe, however flawed the present set up may be. So there is no argument that would sway me otherwise. I am not open. As I’ve written before here, I was schooled, in both languages and hope, towards the common good of, initially, a Common Market, and later a European Union. Schooled to look outwards and not look back at the confines of one’s own small country.

Yes, also taught to have immense pride in my country and its struggles, but not to be tethered, or have my wings clipped, by its hold. Taught by a generation who had grown up during or in the aftermath of the Second World War. As they said after the First World War, never again, but this time there was a burning desire to ensure the words had real meaning. All that schooling meant that I could end up in La France Profonde, often shocked at my audacity and bewildered at how it had happened, but never questioning my right to be here. Indeed, living now in a country so brutally decimated by both world wars, hardens my belief that we somehow need to be in a fluid, yet united whole, to prevent it happening again.

If anything I feel a vulnerability being in an ever-stretching land mass and not gripped within an island’s shores. But history has shown us that even islands are open to conquest. As an immigrant, an economic immigrant, I identify with those Farage holds up as a reason for the UK to walk away. There is little difference between us in our separate countries, apart from our colour and religion, and there, however much dressed up, is the truth in the core of the Brexit argument. Writing this, I’m stopping to check online newspapers and yes, Twitter.

Fifty people are known to have been murdered in a lesbian and gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That figure will undoubtedly rise. The killings have edged the shocking scenes of the thugs – English, French, and Russian – who opened the Euro 2016 with such appalling violence – down the news schedule. We’ve reeled from disgust on one hand to incomprehension on the other as yet again, one individual unleashes hell. It’s as if a terrible bloodlust has come upon the world; a furious anger that can only be assuaged in cruelty and brutality. Already with breathtaking opportunism there are those seizing on these events to further their case for shrinking back into a perverse form of nationalism. Make no mistake – if the UK walks away, the EU is unlikely to ultimately hold and a vacuum will form as other countries assert their claims. And into that vacuum will swarm the far right of France, Greece, Italy and Germany, pounding out their dark, dangerous, xenophobic tunes to an audience always willing to dance.

Smiling from the outer reaches will be the Russian bear – Putin, whose goals can only be achieved with European disarray. Oh such déja vu. If that sounds bleak, it is because I believe we are living in the most dangerous times since the 1930s. I had intended to write this column using cold statistics and accepted facts, on both sides, to bolster my argument that to remain is the only option. I still could, but see little point, as I do think most of us knew where we stood from the start. And many, frankly, don’t care – willing to be tossed and turned whichever way the tide runs. France has already signaled that if Britain walks away, it will move fast to ensure that the divorce will be swift and with no concessions.

Britain will be an anti-EU party by its actions so can accept no quarter in any trade deals or treaties. Whichever way we jump – and yes here in France I’ve voted too – we are facing a frightening future. But there is not one single doubt it my mind that the only way to face it, is together, as a European Union. Right, my solo party political broadcast is now over. As they say these days….see you on the other side.
© The Herald Scotland

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UK: Nigel Farage accused of resorting to xenophobia

18/6/2016- Nigel Farage has been accused of resorting to xenophobic fear tactics after unveiling what Nicola Sturgeon branded a "disgusting" Brexit poster, showing a huge queue of non-white migrants on the borders of the European Union. Politicians from across the political spectrum joined forces to condemn the campaign tactic, which they said exploited the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the "most dishonest and immoral way". But the Ukip leader brushed aside suggestions the poster was racist and insisted very few people who came into Europe last year would qualify as genuine refugees. However, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party MPs attacked Mr Farage for resorting to "small-minded fear tactics". The First Minister claimed the poster, which showed people crossing between Croatia and Slovenia to a refugee camp, under a warning that the EU was at "breaking point", was "disgusting".

Labour's Yvette Cooper said: "Just when you thought Leave campaigners couldn't stoop any lower, they are now exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way. "Europe didn't cause the Syrian refugee crisis and pulling out of the EU won't stop people fleeing conflict and persecution by Isis and the Assad regime." Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "Using the innocent victims of a human tragedy for political propaganda is utterly disgusting. Farage is engaging in the politics of the gutter. "The refugee crisis has not been caused by the EU. It is a common challenge that all countries must deal with effectively and humanely - and that is far more possible inside the EU than out," she added. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake said: "It's a shame that instead of engaging on the issues, Farage and his cronies have resorted to small-minded fear tactics and xenophobia."

Conservative MP Neil Carmichael said: "Distasteful propaganda like this can only make our immigration challenges worse, not better, and damage community cohesion in Britain." Mr Farage launched the poster with a battle-bus tour through Westminster, followed by 10 vans plastered with the image. He claimed so-called Islamic State was exploiting the migrant crisis to flood the continent with terrorists. "But, frankly, as you can see from this picture, most of the people coming are young males and, yes, they may be coming from countries that are not in a very happy state, they may be coming from places that are poorer than us, but the EU has made a fundamental error that risks the security of everybody," declared the Ukip leader. When it was pointed out the people in the posters were refugees, Mr Farage replied: "You don't know that; they are coming from all over the world. If you get back to the Geneva Convention definition, you will find very few people that came into Europe last year would actually qualify as genuine refugees." He added: "When IS say they will use the migrant crisis to flood the continent with their jihadi terrorists, they probably mean it."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon brands Ukip Leave campaign's Breaking Point poster 'disgusting'
Read more: How an English majority to leave EU could be over-ridden by pro-Remain vote of other home nations
Read more: Focus on EU membership as key to resolving immigration issues misplaced
© The Herald Scotland

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UK: Far-right hijacks MP murder to campaign for Brexit

18/6/2016- A far-right group has tried to hijack the killing of British parliamentarian Jo Cox and link it to the campaign for Brexit. National Action posted a picture of murder suspect Thomas Mair with a caption reading: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!” It was one of several offensive posts about the killing that have appeared on the Twitter feed of the group’s regional northeast branch. They came to light as the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen appeared to try to explain away Cox’s killing. “People resort to violence because they are sneered at by Brussels elites,” tweeted the leader of the National Front in France. National Action is barely 100 strong, according to the Hope Not Hate organisation, which monitors far-right activity in Britain.

However, the Nazi group is dangerous despite its small size because of the impact its propaganda can have on young men, a spokesman for Hope Not Hate said. Zack Davies, a white supremacist, told police he was a supporter of the group when he was arrested over the attempted murder of a Sikh dentist in a supermarket. Davies, who was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years, shouted “white power” during the machete attack last year. “National Action is a vile, publicity-seeking group which seeks to revel in notoriety, as with its pathetic attempt to claim that Jo Cox’s murder was about the killer’s ‘sacrifice’ for Vote Leave,” the Hope Not Hate spokesman said. “The danger lies not so much in the group itself, but in those who would believe its message — and take it to its violent and logical extreme.” Police are believed to be investigating the Twitter feed.

The “leave” campaign has been dogged by far-right groups attempting to associate themselves with the campaign. This weekend Cox’s murder has put the spotlight back on their attempts to infiltrate the Brexit camp. Mair, who has been arrested and charged over the killing, was named as a supporter of the Springbok Club, an organisation that has defended the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa. His name was mentioned in the group’s online newsletter from 10 years ago. A recent edition from April urges supporters to get in touch with the conservative Bruges Group “in order to assist with the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. “All help and support in advancing the campaign at this centre is of course encouraged,” the Springbok Cyber Newsletter said. The Bruges Group, which was inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 anti-EU speech, had contacted another fringe right-wing organisation, the Swinton Circle, for help, the newsletter said.

That claim was hotly rejected by Robert Oulds, director of the mainstream Bruges Group, who said his organisation had not sought contact and did not want anything to do with the other two groups. “We have no links with them. We have nothing to do with them whatsoever - there is no involvement with our campaign, with our work or anything at all,” he said. “I wonder what is going on here.” The Sunday Times revealed last month how the unofficial Leave.EU group headed by the Ukip leader Nigel Farage had courted far-right sympathisers with targeted advertisements on Facebook. The Brexit campaign used the social media site to direct adverts at users who had shown an interest in the British National party, the National Front, Britain First and English Defence League (EDL). A spokesman for Leave.EU said an advertising agency hired by the group had targeted “all parties and none” when it was looking to become the official Brexit campaign but had “stopped promoting to far-right groups instantly” when it learnt what had been happening.

Dozens of far-right extremists have sought to attach themselves to the Brexit movement. Andrew Edge, a prominent member of EDL, posed with a “We want our country back: vote to leave” banner produced by Ukip beside the gravestone of the gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray , and has also been photographed with Farage.
© The Sunday Times - UK

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UK: Why the far right has made West Yorkshire a home

In the wake of Jo Cox’s death, attention has turned to Britain First and the many other ultra-nationalist groups that have established a foothold in the area

18/6/2016- In late January, a column of demonstrators marched in driving sleet through the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, chanting: “Britain First, fighting back.” Although the group has amassed more than 1.4m Facebook likes, greater than any other UK political party, the number of actual boots on the ground for Britain First, a relative newcomer on the far-right scene, was not that impressive. Just 120 supporters assembled to march from the train station to the town hall, escorted by many police and jeered by many residents. Yesterday Thomas Mair from the West Yorkshire town of Batley, a mile north of Dewsbury, appeared at Westminster magistrates court and was charged with the murder of MP Jo Cox. There has been considerable speculation that the 52-year-old may have had links to far-right groups. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that an extreme right-wing element has established a disturbing foothold in the post-industrial social landscape of West Yorkshire.



© The Guardian.
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UK: Leader of US neo-Nazi group says Jo Cox ‘put a target on her back’ by supporting Syria

18/6/2016- The leader of a US neo-Nazi group ‘supported’ by Jo Cox’s accused killer last night launched a sickening attack on the murdered MP saying: ‘She put a target on her back.’ In a vile, hate-filled outburst Will Williams said he felt ‘no guilt’ about the killing. Williams, 69, is the leader of the white-supremacist National Alliance, from which Thomas Mair bought £430 worth of books in 1999 and 2003, including texts on how to build homemade guns and explosives. Williams said: ‘I hear that she loves the idea of bringing a bunch of Muslim refugees from Syria or wherever. ‘You can see how people would be opposed to that. So she put a target on her back. He [Mair] is the effect. ‘The cause is clear to him and he’s reacting. That’s how I look at it.’ The National Alliance was founded by William Pierce in 1974. Pierce’s book The Turner Diaries is said to have inspired US terrorist Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, killing 168 people. Pages torn from Pierce’s book were found in McVeigh’s truck.
© The Daily Mail.

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UK: Jo Cox’s husband speaks out about mainstream politicians' far-right rhetoric

Brendan Cox says politicians all too often accepted the framing of the populist right wing on immigration

18/6/2016- Mainstream politicians are legitimising extremist anti-immigrant views by “aping” far-right rhetoric, the bereaved husband of killed MP Jo Cox has said. Ms Cox was stabbed and shot to death outside her constituency surgery in West Yorkshire on Thursday by a man eyewitnesses said shouted “Britain first”. Investigations suggest that the man arrested by police over her death, Thomas Mair, appears to have had links to white supremacist and far-right groups. Brendan Cox wrote a paper on the subject of anti-immigration sentiment a few weeks before his wife’s death and has circulated it after her killing. He argued that mainstream politicians had reinforced the frame of right-wing populists on immigration and had been “fanning the flames of resentment”.

“Petrified by the rise of the populists they try to neuter them by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric,” he said. “Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise their views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremes (Sarkozy and the continuing rise of Front National is a case in point).” He added: “They obsess over numbers (to most people 10,000 sounds as scary as 100,000), when they should focus on reinforcing frames of fairness and order. “The UK government policy is a masterclass in how to get the crisis wrong; set an unrealistic target, miss it, report on it quarterly and in doing so show a complete lack of control heightening concern and fanning the flames of resentment.”

David Cameron was criticised last year for describing refugees coming from Syria to Europe as a “swarm”, using rhetoric critics said was dehumanising. Labour too attracted ire at the last general election for putting the campaign slogan “controls on immigration” on a mug. Ukip's leader Nigel Farage has gone further and spoken on television of immigrants and refugees as carriers of infectious diseases like HIV. The campaign to leave the European Union has also focused with laser-like intensity on immigration and immigrants in recent weeks. On the day of Ms Cox’s killing Ukip leader Nigel Farage unveiled a poster featuring refugees that was likened by many onf social media to “Nazi propaganda”. After Ms Cox’s killing Mr Cox said: “[Jo] would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.”
© The Independent

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UK: Suspected killer of British lawmaker is neo-Nazi — but media blamed mental illness

The brutal attack on Labor MP Jo Cox comes 1 year after fellow neo-Nazi Dylann Roof killed 9 people in Charleston

17/6/2016- The man suspected of brutally killing a left-wing British lawmaker on Thursday was a longtime supporter of a neo-Nazi group, a hate group watchdog says, although media reports have misleadingly portrayed the white shooter as a “crazed loner.” This attack comes one year after fellow neo-Nazi Dylann Roof massacred nine black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in another attack media outlets deceptively blamed on mental illness. Labour Party MP Jo Cox was attacked outside of a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire on Thursday. She was shot three times and stabbed several times. Multiple witnesses say the alleged killer repeatedly shouted “Britain first!” as he attacked her. This phrase could be a reference to Britain First, a far-right, anti-immigrant party. The party, however, strongly denies any involvement and says the shooter could have been shouting “It’s time to put Britain first!”

The vicious attack came mere days before the U.K. votes on whether or not to leave the European Union. Cox was known for her outspoken support for refugees. She also strongly opposed Brexit, a British exit from the E.U. Far-right parties like Britain First and the U.K. Independence Party want to leave the E.U., which they hope will allow them to cut down on immigration. Authorities arrested 52-year-old Thomas Mair as the suspected shooter. British media outlets described Mair simply as a “loner” with a “history of mental illness,” mplying that his alleged attack was not politically motivated. The leading monitor of hate groups, on the other hand, says Mair was not a mere loner. Rather, he had “a long history with white nationalism” and “was a dedicated supporter” of a neo-Nazi group, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported. The watchdog group obtained records that show that, for decades, Mair supported the National Alliance, “the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States.”

Mair sent more than $620 to the neo-Nazi group, buying periodicals and manuals with instructions on how to build guns and make explosives. Among the items on Mair’s receipts was “Ich Kämpfe,” an illustrated handbook issued in 1942 to members of the Nazi Party. The National Alliance’s founder, William Pierce, was most well-known for writing white supremacist novels, including “The Turner Diaries,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center noted may have been an inspiration for Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing extremist who bombed an Oklahoma City federal government building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring at least 600 more. Police also found “Nazi regalia and far-right literature” at the home of the suspected shooter Thomas Mair, The Guardian reported. “Sources say that the suspected killer was lucid when first questioned,” The Guardian added, further suggesting earlier claims that the attack was a product of mental illness are misleading.

“A picture is now emerging of a deliberately targeted attack in which Mair lay in wait for the MP as she emerged from her constituency meeting on Thursday,” the prominent British newspaper wrote. Media reports also revealed that Mair was a longtime subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a pro-apartheid South African magazine. The racist publication, which says it opposes “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam,”described Mair in 2006 as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.” Media outlets have long been criticized for blaming attacks carried out by non-Muslim white people on mental illness. In reality, scientific research shows that mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators. This same misleading media response, in fact, was exemplified one year before the killing of MP Cox.

On June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof massacred nine black Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Media outlets immediately blamed the attack on mental illness. They insisted that Roof was a “white loner” who “has a history of severe mental health issues that have either gone untreated or undiagnosed.” News outlets also reported that Roof was a “really sweet,” “quiet,” “normal” kid with only “a few friends” — including even some black ones. Yet he “was raised in a home destroyed by domestic violence” and was a product of “internet evil,” they claimed. When anti-fascist activists dug deeper, they discovered Roof’s website, which contained his white supremacist manifesto, along with 60 photos of the Charleston killer posing with neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbols. In his manifesto, Roof made it clear that his attack was politically motivated; by slaughtering black civilians, he hoped to instigate a race war.

Mainstream journalists actively depoliticized the killing. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal went so far as to claim that racism is dead and that Roof’s shooting was “a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity.” Meanwhile, avowed communists did real reporting. “As a communist, it is my duty and obligation to spend at least $49 to help ruin this guy’s insanity plea,” said one of the sleuths after unearthing Roof’s neo-Nazi website. One year later, media outlets continue to depoliticize these murderous attacks by right-wing extremists, which are on the rise throughout the West. It appears few lessons have been learned.
© Salon

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UK: Alleged killer of MP longtime supporter of neo-Nazi National Alliance

Thomas Mair, alleged killer of British MP Jo Cox, was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

16/6/2016- Jo Cox, a member of the Labour Party in the British Parliament, died Thursday after an attack by a lone man who shot and stabbed her in West Yorkshire following a regular public meeting she held with constituents. Her alleged killer is Thomas Mair, 52. According to eyewitness accounts, which are still under investigation, Mair was armed with a knife and a gun, either antique or homemade, and may have shouted “Britain First” when he attacked Cox, a possible reference to the far right Britain First party, whose leader, Paul Golding, is a former member of the white nationalist British National Party. The Daily Telegraph reported that Mair’s brother claimed Mair has a “history of mental illness,” and neighbors called him a “loner,” but he also has a long history with white nationalism. According to records obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center Mair was for decades a dedicated supporter of the National Alliance (NA), the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States. Mair purchased a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.

Mair, who resides in what is described as a semi-detached house on the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall, sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s publishing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint, and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook." Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store. The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The Daily Telegraph also reported that Mair was a subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a South African magazine published by White Rhino Club, a pro-apartheid group. The club describes that magazine’s editorial stance as opposed to “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam.” According to the Daily Telegraph, a January 2006 blog post attributed to the group described Mair as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.”

Cox, 41, known as a rising star in the Labour Party, was an advocate for Syrian refugees. She had worked as an aid worker in developing countries and went on to become head of policy at Oxfam. She had also worked as an advisor to Sarah Brown, wife of the former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in women’s and children’s health campaigns. Cox was elected to Parliament in 2015 and quickly gained a reputation for taking on her own party’s leadership. She supported staying in the European Union in the face of the upcoming so-called “Brexit” referendum, which will determine whether the UK leaves the European Union.
© Southern Poverty Law Center

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Britain First: The far-right group with a massive Facebook following

16/6/2016- The Leader of Britain First has distanced the far-right group  from the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, despite several witnesses confirming that the killer shouted "Britain First" three times during the attack in Leeds on Thursday. "At the moment that claim hasn't been confirmed - it's all hearsay, Paul Golding said. "Jo Cox is obviously an MP campaigning to keep Britain in the EU so if it was shouted by the attacker it could have been a slogan rather than a reference to our party - we just don't know. "Obviously an attack on an MP is an attack on British diplomacy - MPs are sacrosanct. We're just as shocked as everyone else. Britain First obviously is NOT involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort. "As an MP and a mother, we pray that Jo Cox makes a full recovery." In a video on the party’s website he said the media had “an axe to grind”. He added: “We hope that this person is strung up by the neck on the nearest lamppost, that’s the way we view justice.”

What we know about the group
Formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, Britain First has grown rapidly to become the most prominent far-right group in the country. While it insists it is not a racist party, it campaigns on a familiar anti-immigration platform, while calling for the return of “traditional British values” and the end of “Islamisation”. The party says on its website: “Britain First is opposed to all mass immigration, regardless of where it comes from – the colour of your skin doesn’t come into it – Britain is full up.” Although it claims to have just 6,000 members, Britain First has managed to build an army of online fans, mainly by using social media to campaign for innocuous causes such as stopping animal cruelty, or wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day, and appealing for users to “like” its messages.

It now has more than 1.4 million “likes” on Facebook, more than any other British political party. In a bid to garner newspaper coverage, the group has carried out mosque invasions and so-called “Christian patrols”. A march in January targeted Dewsbury, near Jo Cox’s Batley and Spen constituency, and featured 120 Britain First members carrying crucifixes and Union Jacks through the town. Mrs Cox wrote on Twitter at the time: “Very proud of the people of Dewsbury and Batley today - who faced down the racism and fascism of the extreme right with calm unity.” Britain First’s current leader, Paul Golding, stood against Sadiq Khan in the London mayoral election earlier this year. After Khan’s victory, the group announced that it would take up “militant direct action” against elected Muslim officials. In a chilling warning on its website, the group said: “Our intelligence led operations will focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives and official functions, including where they live, work, pray and so on.” The party has a vigilante wing, the Britain First Defence Force, and last weekend carried out its first “activist training camp” in Snowdonia, at which a dozen members were given “self defence training”.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Cox murder leaves UK in shock, ugly EU campaign blamed

17/6/2026- The killing of an opposition Labour MP on Thursday (16 June) has left British politics in shock and prompted world tributes to the late, pro-immigration and pro-EU Jo Cox. "We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart," British prime minister David Cameron said. Finance minister George Osborne commended Cox's humanitarian work: "Jo fought to help the refugees from the Syrian civil war - she gave a voice to those whose cry for help she felt was not being heard." German chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack "terrible and dramatic", but she added she did not want to connect the incident with the UK's vote next week on EU membership. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the murder “a violent act of political intolerance”.

Jo Cox, the 41 year-old Labour MP for Batley and Spen in northern England, was killed after being stabbed and shot in the street outside a library. On Friday, the British Union Jack was lowered to half-mast at Buckingham Palace across from Whitehall, the UK government headquarters. Campaigns for the Leave and Remain camps were both suspended until the weekend at least ahead of the 23 June ballot. An improvised vigil was also held at Westminster Abbey on Thursday night for Cox, the first British politician to be murdered since the Irish troubles. "Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Who is to blame?
The suspect, named as Thomas Mair, remains under police arrest. Witnesses said he shouted "Britain first" as he attacked Cox. Neighbours described Mair, who is known to have had mental health problems, as "quiet and helpful”. But he also had ties with hard-right nationalist groups, British media reported. While the motives of the 52 year-old suspect remain unclear, commentators and politicians across the UK blamed the political atmosphere of the EU referendum campaign. On the day of her murder, staunch anti-EU MEP Nigel Farage unveiled a poster saying "The EU has failed us”, with a picture a long line of marching migrants that also said: "Breaking point".

A column in the British conservative magazine, Spectator said in the wake of Cox's murder: "When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either." The Guardian, a British daily, called the attack on Cox "an attack on humanity, idealism and democracy". Cox had received death threats before for her pro-immigrant stance.

In her first speech as an MP last year in parliament she praised the benefits of immigration. “Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir”, she said. She also backed a campaign to accept more unaccompanied children to the UK. It remains unclear how the murder will affect the referendum outcome. Some analysts speculated it could boost the pro-EU "Remain" campaign, which has fallen behind according to recent polls. The markets seemed to agree with this analysis, as Britain's sterling currency rose against the dollar after news of the attack.
© The EUobserver

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Headlines 17 June, 2016

Turkey: Istanbul authorities ban transgender and gay pride marches

Parades banned after ultra-nationalist youth group Alperen Hearths calls them immoral and threatens violence

17/6/2016- Authorities in Istanbul have banned transgender and gay pride marches this month, citing security concerns after ultra-nationalists warned they would not allow the events to take place on Turkish soil. A march in support of transgender people was planned for Sunday in the city centre, while an annual gay pride parade – described previously as the biggest in the Muslim world – had been due to take place a week later on 26 June. The Istanbul governor’s office said on Friday the marches had been banned amid concern for public order. Security in the city remains tight after a series of bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants in recent months. The ban also follows a warning from an ultra-nationalist youth group, the Alperen Hearths, that it would not allow the marches, calling them immoral and threatening violence.

“To our state officials: do not make us deal with this. Either do what is needed or we will do it. We will take any risks, we will directly prevent the march,” the group’s Istanbul provincial head, Kürþat Mican, told journalists on Wednesday. “Degenerates will not be allowed to carry out their fantasies on this land … We’re not responsible for what will happen after this point,” he said, citing a Turkish proverb: “If you’re not taught by experience, you’re taught by a beating”. While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, unlike many other Muslim countries, homophobia remains widespread. Critics say the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, and the Islamist-rooted AK party he founded have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

There had already been concerns about the security of the planned marches after last weekend’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida of 49 people by a gunman who had expressed sympathy for a variety of Islamist militant groups. Yeni Akit, a religiously conservative newspaper loyal to the Turkish government, published a headline the next day saying “50 pervert gays killed in a bar”. Historically the gay pride parade in Istanbul – a city seen as a relative haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the Middle East – has been a peaceful event. But last year police used teargas and water cannon to disperse participants, after organisers said they had been refused permission because it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, as it does again this year.
© The Guardian

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Malta wanted "more ambitious" EU defence of LGBTI community

17/6/2016- Malta has joined seven other EU member states in calling for a stronger effort to provide equal rights to everyone and ensure LGBTI persons are free from discrimination. The joint statement, signed by Malta, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal, comes hot on the heels of an Employment and Social Policy Council meeting in Luxembourg, during which EU ministers adopted Council Conclusions on a new start for a strong social dialogue. In a statement, the Civil Liberties ministry said that Malta was hoping for a "more ambitious and stronger message concerning the...human rights of LGBTI persons" to emerge from the Council Conclusions.

Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli remarked that member states had to send a strong political message, in the wake of a massacre of 49 people inside an Orlando gay nightclub. Last May, Hungary vetoed a draft agreement calling on the European Commission to tackle homophobic and transphobic discrimination, promote measures to advance LGBTI equality, and step up efforts to collect data on the treatment of LGBTI citizens. The joint statement signed by Malta and the seven other member states calls for a stronger concerted effort from all to work within and outside the EU for equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and to ensure that cultural, traditional or religious values cannot be invoked to justify any form of discrimination.
© The Times of Malta

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Spain rejects more asylum seekers than most other EU countries

17/6/2016- Contained in the 2016 report of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) issued on June 16, the organisation highlighted the fact that more people than ever had applied for refuge in Europe in 2015, yet more draconian measures adopted by European countries have made it more difficult for genuine refugees to find safety. The number of asylum seekers in Europe doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year, reaching 1,321,600, but of these only just over 300,000 applications were accepted. The decision to close land routes encouraged more people to attempt to enter Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in 3,700 deaths. The actual process of application for asylum was quite erratic, with Germany receiving nearly half a million, while Spain, despite the increase in refugees, only received just under 15,000 applications (around 1 per cent of the total) which was the highest it had ever received.

The Commission criticised the manner in which many members of the EU were loath to extend the hand of welcome to asylum seekers yet were very quick to vote to return illegal entrants to Turkey in exchange for certain concessions. It went on to say that the nationalities of the main applicants for asylum in Spain were from Syria, Ukraine and Palestine but only 3,200 applications were completed in the year and of those, 69 per cent were rejected, a much higher figure than the EU average of 50 per cent. Apart from the very few people allowed to settle in Spain, there was also criticism with the way in which applicants from the Ukraine and Mali were put on hold as it appeared that hostilities in those countries were coming to end. Finally, the Commission also drew attention to the fact that it was difficult for immigrants to understand asylum procedures and equally important, little was done to help those in Ceuta and Melilla.
© Euro Weekly News

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Bulgaria: Fears Grow of Clashes at Pride March

Pro-gay activists are dismayed that the Mayor of Sofia has given the go-ahead for ultra-nationalists to rally at the same time and place as the ninth Sofia Pride march.

17/6/2016- Tensions have grown ahead of the Sofia Pride in support of LGBTI people on Saturday, after the municipality gave the go-ahead for ultra-nationalists to stage a counter-protest at the same time in the centre of the capital. The routes of the two marches will even meet at one location, which worries the organizers of the Pride in terms of the safety of their supporters. “One month after we notified the municipality [about the Pride parade] we were aghast to learn that the route of the traditional counter demonstration against the march is going to coincide with some parts of the route of the Pride,” Radoslav Stoyanov, member of the organizational committee of Sofia Pride, told BIRN on Friday.

Earlier on Tuesday, organizers of the LGBTI march sent an open letter to Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and to Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, saying that allowing the two opposing demonstration to collide is either “intentional” or a result of “serious neglect”. They called on the authorities to cancel the counter-protest or at least to take all the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of demonstrators. Among them will be representatives of nine diplomatic missions to Bulgaria, visitors from the Swedish police and, traditionally, many families with their young children. In response, the Sofia authorities on Wednesday urged the organizers of the two marches to change their starting points. Activists behind the Pride march have refused to make any concessions, however, as this would affect the program and the attendance of the event.

In the shadow of the Orlando mass shooting terrorist attack on June 12, the annual Sofia Pride is focusing on mobilizing the support of the heterosexual friends and families for their LGBTI close ones. “Every time that we are asked why we organize Pride, the answer is Orlando,” the organizers said on Facebook. Opposition to the gay rights demonstration has become something of a tradition in Bulgaria, where hate rhetoric against LGBTI people remains a problem. Every year, the so-called “anti-gay” parade is organized by an ultra-nationalist group, led by Blagovest Asenov – a radical linked to the international neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor, which is banned in Germany, Italy and Russia.

In 2013, together with other radical groups, Asenov’s “National Resistance” tried to register a Bulgarian Nationalist Party, but the prosecution blocked the registration of the party on the grounds of its anti-democratic ideology. Among other opponents of Sofia Pride are two more mainstream far-rights parties, represented in parliament and on Sofia’s municipal council, VMRO and ATAKA. They have demanded that the Mayor cancel the demonstration, deeming it against the interests of citizens who do not want “sexuality and perversion imposed on them”. “The Pride is a political march with political demands and holding it is an assault on traditional Bulgarian values and morals and a provocation against the family,” Carlos Contrera, a municipal counselor from VMRO, said on June 8.

Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church has also endorsed anti-pride attitudes. On Thursday, Patriarch Neophyte said in a statement that: “Once more, our capital will witness open, intrusive propaganda and public demonstration of homosexualism as a way of life". He particularly opposed the date of the event, which coincides with the All Souls Day, when the Orthodox Church commemorates the souls of the dead.

Bulgaria, where hate rhetoric against LGBTI people remains a problem. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/ultranationalist-counter-protest-to-clash-with-sofia-pride-06-17-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=cee271207f-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-cee271207f-308289045#sthash.elOoZgk4.dpuf

© Balkan Insight
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Women refugees at high risk of being victims of gender-based violence

Women and girls fleeing from persecution or turmoil in their home countries are particularly at risk of physical, sexual and psychological violence when seeking sanctuary, in transit and when they arrive in the EU. In advance of World Refugee Day on 20 June, FRA’s latest summary report of migration-related fundamental rights concerns, throws the spotlight on the plight of female refugees at reception and accommodation centres. This issue will also feature during discussions on improving refugee protection as part of FRA’s 4-day Fundamental Rights Forum which also opens that day. Access the monthly data collection highlights and gender-based violence

17/6/2016- The report identifies a number of issues in relation to preventing, identifying and addressing victims of gender-based violence, including the alarming lack of data from Member States on violence against women and girls that are newly arrived or need international protection. It points to the shared use of bathrooms and showers in reception and accommodation centres particularly in the evenings or at night that are not separated for men and women. Sometimes such facilities are accessible via unlit corridors and doors that cannot be locked. Such issues expose women and girls to greater risks, and leave them feeling unsafe.

Victims rarely report their attacks. This is often due to fear about the repercussions on the victim’s asylum claim or from the perpetrator (especially when it comes to domestic violence), and the lack of information about what can be done. In some Member States, if they flee the centre without permission because of fear or because they have been attacked then they may also be judged as having committed an offence.

Various EU and national laws and policies take gender-based violence into consideration when it comes to granting asylum and when receiving asylum seekers. However, drawing on data from the nine Member States most affected by the migration flows, FRA has identified challenges in identifying, reporting and protecting female refugees which Member States should tackle. These include:

No Member State collects data on reported incidents of gender-based violence towards female refugees that have just arrived or need international protection.

# Information on gender-based violence, how to report it and where to seek help is not usually available in reception centres.
# Victims are reluctant to report to reception centre authorities or the police. Most Member States are taking steps to address this. These include: asylum interviews with women in private rooms by trained staff and interpreters of the same sex separated from the husband; information material and sessions; and ‘women-only’ spaces.
# Nearly half of the Member States have guidelines or procedures to identify and deal with victims. However, they are not always effective and training is often lacking.
# All Member States offer some form of prevention of gender-based violence and protection for victims. Most commonly this includes separate accommodation for newly-arrived unaccompanied migrant women and access to women’s shelters for victims. Sometimes victims can receive medical and psycho-social support, and report incidents of violence but protective and preventative measures are rarely comprehensive and seldom coordinated.
# Most Member States have no special procedures for children who are victims of violence.
# Some Member States lack legal support or adequate interpretation for victims of gender-based violence in reception centres.

To better protect female refugees the European Parliament has also recently called for new gender guidelines. In addition, the European Commission has suggested that the EU ratifies the Council of Europe’s violence against women convention (the Istanbul Convention) which also covers migration and asylum. It would then join the 14 Member States that have already ratified the Convention (all 28 have signed it) which provides a solid legal basis for addressing violence against all women. The European Commission asked FRA to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States, particularly affected by large migration movements. The countries covered are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. Each overview covers different issues including:
# initial registration and asylum applications;
# criminal proceedings initiated for offences related to irregular border crossing;
# child protection;
# reception conditions for new arrivals;
# access to healthcare;
# public response such as rallies of support, humanitarian assistance or voluntary work;
# racist incidents such as demonstrations, online hate speech or hate crime.

While this month has a section looking specifically at gender-based violence, last month’s focus was on trafficking and smuggling. Next month will be on local communities.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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Greece sidelines officials who blocked expulsion of refugees to Turkey

Under pressure from Europe, Greek MPs vote to change composition of committees that held up planned deportations

17/6/2016- The Greek government has sidelined members of an independent authority that had blocked the deportation of Syrian refugees, following sustained pressure from other European countries. Greek MPs voted on Thursday to change the composition of the country’s asylum appeals board, in an attempt to sideline officials who had objected on legal grounds to the expulsion of Syrians listed for deportation to Turkey. The appeals board had jeopardised the EU-Turkey migration deal, the agreement enacted in March that is meant to see all asylum seekers landing on the Greek islands detained in Greece – and then deported. While Greek police had enacted the first part of the plan, Greek appeals committees have largely held up the planned deportations – potentially giving Syrians greater incentive to reach Greece. The appeals committees argued that Turkey does not uphold refugee law, and is therefore not a safe country for refugees.

Currently the three-person appeals committees consist of one government-appointed official, and two appointed independently by the UN refugee agency and Greece’s national committee for human rights. After pressure from European politicians who feared a new surge in arrivals to Greece, Greek MPs have voted to create new committees formed of two administrative judges and one person appointed by the UN, meaning that state officials will now outnumber independent ones on the committees. An independent appeals committee member interviewed by the Guardian in the run-up to the law change said it was a political move designed to bend an independent judicial process to the will of the executive. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the change was “a serious blow to the independence of the committee. We think like legal scientists. We have a specific view that is based on legal analysis. If we lose our [places on the committee] then the cases will be handled the way that politicians want.”

The migration minister, Yannis Mouzalas, conversely said the change would in fact make the boards more independent. “Having been enlightened by my colleagues in Europe, we are introducing an amendment to the way the appeal committees are formed which ensures their independence, introducing two judges who are evidently independent,” Mouzalas said in a speech to parliament. The change caused internal divisions within Syriza, the governing party in Greece. In an internal letter leaked to the media, five Syriza MPs asked Mouzalas to withdraw his amendment. “This amendment is on the border of what is constitutional and not consistent with our common [Syriza] position regarding human rights. It doesn’t have our support because its goes against our fundamental political positions,” they wrote.

The Greek government, as well as the EU and many of its members, believe that Turkey is a safe country for refugees because it offers them a basic level of protection. But rights groups say this is not enough, and that Turkey does not offer them the higher protection refugees are owed under the terms of the 1951 UN refugee convention. Despite recent legislative changes, Turkey does not in practice offer most Syrians the right to work. While Syrian children nominally also have access to education, over 300,000 school-age children are not in school, and many are instead working in factories or farms. Turkey denies deporting Syrians back to Syria, or firing on them at the border – but rights groups have documented hundreds of expulsions to Syria, and there are multiple reports of Syrians being shot as they try to reach safety on Turkish soil. In related news on Friday, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières said it would no longer accept funding from EU members such as Britain and Greece, in protest at the continent’s response to the refugee crisis.
© The Guardian.

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DW Global Media Forum on how the press failed refugees

Despite the gravity of the story, journalists have failed to present an objective picture of the refugee crisis. Resolving this problem was in focus at the international media conference.

15/6/2016- With Germany at the forefront of Europe‘s unprecedented influx of refugees, it was imperative that the 2016 Global Media Forum take a critical look at the political, journalistic, and societal responsibilities in handling the crisis. One common thread united all the discussions: How time and time again, the media had failed both their audiences and the refugees in how the situation was covered. With the public reaching a saturation point on the subject, it seemed that, over and over, fear-mongering and sensationalism were the order of the day, focusing on incidents of violence and big numbers rather than the human element of the story. "Don't talk about refugees, talk to them…Go to them, live with them, be part of their life – don't just sit in an office, give them a voice," said Jaafar Abdul-Karim, contributor to Der Spiegel and host of DW's "Shababtalk."

Journalist failings 'unforgiveable'
"We don't have many refugees, but we have a lot of hysteria," said Milan Nic, director of the GLOBSEC think tank, about central Europe – highlighting the drastic difference between public perception and reality in the panel "Migrants versus Natives." It's not only misrepresenting the number of migrants as a threat, added journalist Caroline de Gruyter, but the language used by the media as well. "We don't have policy anymore, we have values," she said, referring to the change of rhetoric from political solutions to the fear-mongering of identity politics inherent in the repeated use of the phrase "European values." Western media is far from the solitary offender, said Kadri Gürsel – a Turkish journalist whose determination to question the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already cost him a job at the Milliyet newspaper.

Turkey has a special responsibility, Gürsel explained, being on the border with Syria and hosting so many refugees, yet "it's underreported, the Turkish media has not done its duty." It's not only the government censorship, the Al-Monitor columnist said, though the crackdown on the free press has made journalistic integrity difficult, but self-censorship on the part of media organizations as well. "It's unforgivable," said Gürsel, that despite having more refugees in the past four years than in the past seven decades combined, the media's hesitance to stand up to Erdogan has left most people in Turkey completely unaware of how so many people inside their borders are living, that the southeastern part of their country is beginning to resemble Syria in terms of destruction and the number of displaced people. Gürsel admitted, however, that on that front the media and the government were not the only ones to blame for the missing facts and information: "Lack of interest is another paradoxical problem."

Beyond the hype
"You've heard lots of rhetoric. Lots of hype," said Michael Myer, a writer and journalist who also served as a speechwriter for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Myer, who moderated the panel "Migration: A story of two worlds," seemed to sum up the importance at the Global Media Forum of hearing not only Western, analytic voices speaking from on high but also hearing about the refugee crisis from the point of view of those who risked their lives to come to Europe. "I am not an economic migrant. My life was in danger," said Afghan journalist Suhrab Balkhi, who fled his home country after he was threatened not only by the Taliban, but by government agents after he spoke out about the influence jihadis have on administration in Kabul. Throughout the talk, Balkhi was determined to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding refugees – that they come to Europe to take resources and give nothing back. Balkhi was desperate to work and integrate in his country of arrival, Austria, but he was not allowed to – despite offering proof that his life had been threatened in Afghanistan, he languished for four years with uncertain residency status, unable to work and barred from taking a German course.

'There isn't anything special in Europe'
Asked if he would recommend Europe to other Aghans, Balkhi replied flatly: "No. I would say, don't leave your country, there isn't anything special in Europe." Prince Wale Sonyiki, who fled Nigeria after his town was attacked by Boko Haram, spoke highly of European culture and society but echoed Balkhi's sentiments. "I would tell Africans, if you are safe in your own country, don't come," he said, before detailing the mix of welcoming locals and racist abuse he has experience while seeking asylum in Croatia. Sonyiki laughed at the thought of refugees being economic migrants: "Why then would I stay in a country that gives refugees ten euros a month? But the media wants to sell their papers," so stories of violence and attempts to game the system take precedence, he added. Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, the first female Editor-in-Chief of Austria's daily Der Standard newspaper, offered a solution. Austrians didn't know, for example, that refugees were not allowed to work – a problem of underreporting that promoted the vicious cycle of xenophobia. "It's important to tell readers personal stories," and humanize migration, she said, "but we also have to report the negative aspects…we are journalists, not activists." The important thing, she said, was to remain balanced and objective alongside the human face of the refugee crisis, even in the face of negative backlash.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Migrant Group Says 3,400 Dead or Missing So Far This Year

15/6/2016- More than 3,400 migrants died or were recorded as missing as they tried to cross borders around the globe in the first five months of the year — over 80 percent of them trying to reach Europe by sea, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday. The number is 12 percent above the 2,780 deaths or disappearances recorded during the same period in 2015. Over the whole of last year, the IOM estimated Wednesday that 5,400 migrants died or were reported missing worldwide. Frank Laczko, director of the IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre in Berlin that tracks missing migrants, said the Central Mediterranean route between Northern Africa and Italy has become the world's most dangerous passage for migrants. In the last week of April, some 1,100 migrants died or went missing off Libya in nine separate incidents.

The IOM said its new data analysis center receives information on a daily basis from its 400 offices all over the world and from various international organizations to help collect information on missing migrants. Laczko pointed out that available data is often shaky and vague and that the identification of dead migrants is being neglected in many countries. Often bodies washed to the shores are simply buried in anonymous mass graves. "What happens to those who die? Who are their families and will they ever know what happened?" Laczko said. "Caught between grief and hope, their search can take years, even a lifetime."

The IOM called on governments to do more to help trace the missing and identify the bodies of the dead — especially to assist the distressed families. "For every migrant who dies, there are probably 20 people affected," said IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, adding that family members are not only distressed by the loss, but also were hoping the migrant would financially support them financially. Currently, a majority of migrant bodies are never found, and of those that are, many are never identified, the IOM said. In the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, bodies for fewer than half of those thought to have died were recovered. The organization also reported that over 60,000 migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing on sea and land routes worldwide in the last 20 years.
© ABC News

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Netherlands landlord offers tenants €100 rent cut for helping refugees

Trudo housing corporation residents to get monthly discount if they guide new arrivals through Dutch customs and rules

16/6/2016- A social landlord in the Netherlands is offering to cut rents by €100 (£80) a month if tenants help refugees integrate into society. The Trudo housing corporation, based in Eindhoven, says residents will receive the discount if they agree to spend 10 hours a week helping new migrants navigate Dutch bureaucracy and guiding them through their host country’s rules and customs. “We expect them to do two things,” said the managing director, Thom Aussems. “First, they should help them settle into their new home, get to know their neighbours, and learn things like when to take the bins out. “Secondly, they can act as a kind of liaison officer when they’re dealing with institutions in areas like learning the language, education, work and social security, so they can highlight any problems quickly.”

Social landlords, which own and manage around 30% of all housing in the Netherlands, are obliged to accommodate “status holders” - refugees who have gained the legal right to stay in the country. Aussems’ organisation has 85 refugees on its books this year and expects to take in twice as many next year. The initiative is one of scores across Europe in which ordinary people are seeking to help refugees adjust, integrate and even find work. Trudo operates in some of the most deprived districts of Eindhoven. Aussems says the average monthly rent is around €435, so a €100 discount is a fair-sized carrot for tenants on low incomes. The housing corporation is funding the €250,000 scheme from its own resources, as part of a five-year €430m investment programme.

The idea came from a 2007 project in which young tenants were given a similar discount in return for helping local schoolchildren with their homework. “We wanted to prevent another lost generation,” said Aussems. “Within four years we had helped 350 children. It was a fantastic result. “So then we went looking other areas where we could adopt the same strategy. We identified seven or eight, one of which was helping refugees settle.” The refugee issue has caused social unrest in parts of the Netherlands, where asylum applications doubled in 2015 to 59,000. Pigs’ heads have been dumped beside fields where asylum seekers’ centres were due to be built and police had to break up a riot outside a council meeting to outline a proposed centre for 1,500 refugees.

Geert Wilders, leader of the populist rightwing Freedom party, which is leading Dutch opinion polls, called for all male refugees to be locked up in the wake of the new year sex attacks in Cologne. Aussems said his incentive was designed to defuse tensions between local residents and refugees before they reached crisis point. “Tensions occur when people don’t know each other, can’t understand each other or can’t communicate,” he said. “If you give people the opportunity to connect with each other and work together, it’s a lot more effective and efficient than doing it via the bureaucratic route.”
© The Guardian.

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Netherlands: Racism, says Sylvana Simons, is like being touched up

Television presenter Sylvana Simons caused a media storm when she announced she was getting involved in politics. She talks to Senay Boztas about why people would rather see her dance than hear about the dark side of colonial history, and why she believes the Netherlands is suffering a crisis of racism.

15/6/2016- ‘Somebody touches you as a woman. You say, “oh, I don’t like that”, and the guy says, “I was just trying to be nice”. People deal with racism in the Netherlands in the same way. Because they say they mean well, you’re not supposed to be offended.’ The 45-year-old television presenter has launched her own offensive now, against xenophobia in the Netherlands. She first announced that she will stand for the new ‘tolerance’ party Denk in the general election next year. Then she went to a police station in The Hague to report the worst of 40,000 instances of racist insults that followed. Simons lives in Amsterdam and was born in ‘one part of Holland’ known as Suriname before moving as a baby to ‘another part of Holland’ known as Hoorn. When some people tell her – as they do – to go back home, she points out that she was born in a former Dutch colony, and this is home.

Colonial past
The problem, she says, is that the Netherlands has not come to terms with its colonial past, conveniently forgetting the nasty bits, and expecting non-Western immigrants to assimilate by leaving other cultures behind. ‘In Holland, integration has become assimilation,’ she says over the telephone to DutchNews.nl. ‘It’s a utopian sense of ever reaching true integration. For me, I could never wash off my colour, so it doesn’t matter how Dutch I become, I will always be a black woman.’ Simons believes the Netherlands is experiencing a crisis of xenophobia, intolerance and denial – the kind of thing that led to race riots in America and 1980s Britain. ‘I think it has become very politically correct to be politically incorrect,’ she says, matter-of-factly. ‘Over the past 15 years, racism has been more and more accepted, and inequality along ethnic and racial lines. It’s becoming dangerous. ‘We have seen the rise of some political parties that have made it their number one issue to polarise to gain power. In particular, of course, the PVV.’

Free speech
Geert Wilders, party leader, will stand trial in October, for alleged hate speech in a 2014 rally where right-wing PVV supporters called for ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ Moroccan people in the Netherlands: and Simons believes the accompanying free speech debate is the most important result. ‘There’s nothing wrong with speaking your mind,’ she begins, in classic Dutch fashion. ‘There is something wrong with being racist and a xenophobe, dehumanising and criminalising people and putting fear into people based on ethnicity and race.’ This isn’t a popular message, adds the TV presenter who began her career as a VJ at TMF music channel, was runner-up on the Dutch Strictly Come Dancing and now works across various channels. She says, with increasing passion. ‘In my case, there was nothing wrong with me until I started speaking up about certain social issues. Everybody was like: “She can dance, she can present, she’s an entertainer, we don’t have a problem with that. But please do not interfere, even though you are paying taxes. Let us run the country. You just be happy that we allow you to be here and just be an entertainer.”’

Racist incidents
Simons believes the first step is to measure the problem, which is why she has reported the worst of 40,000 online and offline racist incidents to the police, and is encouraging other Dutch people to do the same. ‘I hope more and more people will report what happens to them because one of the things people hear when they do speak up is the numbers don’t reflect that, and this is just you being super-sensitive,’ she says. ‘I’m encouraging people so we can get the numbers and I’m trying to find out what happens once you go to the police. Where do we draw the line of freedom of speech, the right to insult?’ Zwarte Piet, the controversial blacked-up helper to Sinterklaas, symbolises the problem for her – not least, a widespread amnesia about the Netherlands’ leading role in the slave trade. ‘You have to understand that when you make the comparison, for instance, to the United States, there is a conscious awareness of what slavery was and why [blacking-up] is not appropriate. ‘We never went through that process of emancipation in the Netherlands. The Dutch seem to believe that slavery is something that happened on the other side of the world, but we were great slave traders. We’ve accepted a cultural archive that simply doesn’t deal with this.’

Symbol
This is something she said she grew up with in Hoorn, home of the V.O.C trading company that flourished in the Dutch 17th century Golden Age. ‘Zwarte Piet has become a symbol, not just to the ones who are against it. A symbol of colonialism and racism, but on the other side a symbol of “this is ours” in a time where people are scared for their livelihood. We are all looking for something to hold on to.’ Although Simons talks about ‘the Dutch’ who don’t want to think about this, then takes offence at being thought of as anything other than Dutch herself, she says there’s no contradiction. ‘I’m talking about us, really, I am. I really understand the sentiments that go along with Zwarte Piet and the whole Sinterklaas thing. I’m not trying to say them versus us. I’m trying to come to a point where we can make Zwarte Piet a symbol that’s acceptable, welcoming and loving to all children, all people in this country.’

Prime minister
She has no truck with the lack of political leadership on the subject either. ‘Our prime minister [Mark Rutte] made it very clear that he personally doesn’t have a problem with Zwarte Piet. He spoke to his friends in the Dutch Antilles and they are so happy they don’t have to put anything on their face because they are black. They are lucky because he’s always spending days washing this shit off. I was appalled by that comment.’ It’s also time, she says in perfect English, to get rid of words like ‘allochtoon’, describing people with one parent born elsewhere, but often used pejoratively. ‘My parents were born in the Netherlands. My children were born in Amsterdam. How many more generations before we really can be Dutch? It seems there’s a ceiling to your Dutchness, and we need to fix that.

The word allochtoon means you’re different, you can’t really have an opinion about important social issues, you can’t really be included.’ She’s not calling for riots, although social media might get bloody. And she bats away criticism of Denk as being overly sympathetic to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as ‘dehumanising, criminalising, based on absolutely nothing’. Instead she wants people in the Netherlands to have a good think about themselves. ‘The Dutch are very proud of the Golden Age, the era in which they conquered the world, killing people, raping people, enslaving people and doing a lot of bad. The Dutch have this lack of responsibility and no self-reflection about being able to be hurtful. They have this sense of “we’re good people”.’ And, her implication is, good people don’t harass anyone else, even if they’re just trying to be nice.
© The Dutch News

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Europe Can't Outsource Its Migrant Crisis (Op-Ed)

By Editorial Board

14/6/2016- Europe’s latest plan to stem the flow of migrants to its shores raises awkward questions. The situation is urgent, and the need for bold action is indisputable -- but the new proposals are both troubling and inadequate. In effect, the European Commission’s new “Partnership Framework” tells migrants’ home countries they’ll be rewarded with trade and aid for curbing the outflow, and punished if they fail to. As it stands, this plan is unlikely to work; to the extent it does work, it may put refugees in danger. Last year, some 1 million people came to the EU seeking sanctuary and better lives. Nearly 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean this year. Most migrants embark from Libya and, increasingly, Egypt. More and more of them are unaccompanied minors. Criminal syndicates have turned migrant smuggling to Europe into an estimated $6 billion business.

So it’s understandable that the EU wants to replicate the initial success of its arrangement with Turkey, which agreed to let Greece send back “all new irregular migrants” in exchange for 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and the right for its citizens to travel to Europe without visas. The deal cut arrivals through Greece by 90 percent, and considerably reduced the flow to Europe overall. But arrivals through Italy are undiminished. Under the new proposal, the EU will spend 8 billion euros ($9.1 billion) over five years on aid for more than a dozen countries in Africa and the Middle East. In return, they must cooperate in accepting the return of more arrivals to their countries of origin or transit, cracking down on smugglers, and generally improving migration management. Over the longer term, the EU also hopes to raise about 60 billion euros of mostly private money for invest-ment to address the root causes of migration.

The EU says it will use its trade, aid and visa policies to reward countries that cooperate, and that “there must be consequences for those who do not cooperate on readmission and return.” What’s the problem with this? Simply that many of the would-be partner governments are much less competent than Turkey’s (think Mali or Niger), or corrupt and unjust (think Eritrea or Sudan). Without close oversight and effective accountability, they can’t be trusted to properly discharge their partnership responsibilities -- and they shouldn’t be encouraged, in effect, to stop migration by any means necessary. There’s another drawback: Linking aid to stopping migration opens the EU up to blackmail. After the EU did its deal with Turkey, Niger demanded an extra 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in aid to curb the outflow. Kenya has threatened to close the Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest.

The Commission is right, though, to offer more money for helping refugees in place. It’s proposing more support for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, which have borne a huge burden, but the commitment still isn’t adequate. The new Government of National Accord in Libya, the point of departure for migrants headed across the Mediterranean, also needs more of this kind of support. Joining efforts to crack down on smuggling gangs is a win-win proposition for both the EU and the weak states it wants to assist. And well-targeted development aid can help keep people at home by easing or averting humanitarian emergencies. There’s no quick or easy fix for this problem. Balancing humane (and lawful) treatment of refugees with what Europe’s citizens are willing to accept is an enormous challenge, and likely will be for years to come. Europe will doubtless need to spend more money -- but it can’t meet all its obligations in this matter just by paying other governments to take care of it.
© Bloomberg.

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Euro 2016: Six Spanish fans arrested for neo-Nazi banners, flares

17/6/2016- Three Spanish "ultras" fans were arrested in the southern city of Nice for carrying neo-Nazi banners and another three for trying to bring flares into the stadium ahead of Spain's Euro 2016 match against Turkey, regional police said on Friday. French authorities have been cracking down on more radical fan groups after clashes in Marseille last week marred the start of the month-long European Championship soccer tournament. Tournament organiser UEFA has also imposed a strict ban on all flares entering stadiums, although at several games fans have managed to get them inside.
© Reuters UK.

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Euro 2016: Videos show English fans throwing coins and jeering at migrant children

16/6/2016- Videos have been posted online of English football fans taunting and throwing coins at migrant children in France. The English fans are in Lens today for their team’s game against Wales, but many were staying in nearby Lille yesterday. Videos of a group of fans outside a bar in the city show a group throwing coins to young boys identified as migrants before jeering as they fight over the money. A second video filmed from the first-person perspective shows a person offering a child a coin before throwing it away. The fan who took the video said on Twitter that the children had been trying to steal his wallet. Lille has been the scene of clashes between Russian and English fans in the last 24 hours. Clashes erupted but were quickly quelled by riot squads behind shields, who fired tear gas and flash bombs. Thirty-six people were arrested and 16 hospitalised with injuries. English supporters belted out anti-Russian and anti-European songs and kicked footballs over the heads of watching riot police through the day. Russian fans occasionally squared up to rivals but there was none of the mass fighting that darkened football’s reputation in Marseille.
© The Journal Ireland

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Euro 2016: far-right activist at tournament with Russian delegation

• Alexander Shprygin photographed giving a Nazi salute • Shprygin considered a leading light in network of extreme-right ultra groups

13/6/2016- A notorious far-right activist who has been photographed giving a Nazi salute is travelling with the official Russian FA delegation at Euro 2016 and was in Marseille at the weekend as clashes erupted between Russian and English fans. Anti-racism groups have raised serious concerns over the fact that Alexander Shprygin apparently holds official accreditation with the Russia team’s entourage at the tournament. He also joined a Russian delegation that toured France’s host cities in March. Amid the fallout from the weekend’s violence in Marseille, which has led to Russia and England being warned they could be kicked out of the tournament, the organisation employed by Uefa to monitor racism within stadiums has identified Shprygin as one of the leading figures in introducing neo-Nazi views and practices to the Russian supporter scene since the late 1990s.

Shprygin is considered by the Fare network, which provides official observers at matches for Uefa and Fifa, to be a leading light in Russia’s network of extreme-right ultra fan groups. Piara Powar, the network’s executive director, said that the presence of Shprygin within the official party raised wider concerns about “the apparent nexus of high-level politicians, far-right leaders and extreme nationalism” in Russian football ahead of the 2018 World Cup that will be hosted in the country. Shprygin has been photographed performing a Nazi salute with a singer from a notorious Russian far-right rock band, Korrozia Metalla, some of whose songs are banned and included in the federal list of extremist materials in Russia for inciting inter-ethnic hatred.

Since forming the Russian Supporters Union in 2007, Shprygin has appeared to tone down his rhetoric. But he outraged many when he recently said he wanted to “see only Slavic faces in the Russian national team” and suggested there was “something wrong” with a team photo posted on Twitter by France player Mathieu Valbuena because it contained “very many” black faces. He said in the same interview: “Of course, when in 2018 the team will play at home in the World Cup, and before the start of the match, our national anthem will play, and 11 fellows will be proud to stand and sing along and tears will roll down their cheek, causing a feeling of patriotism, I would like these players to have Slavic faces.” A Dynamo Moscow fan, Shprygin works as an assistant to the politician Igor Lebedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s parliament, who also attracted controversy for a series of tweets on Sunday in which he offered support to the Russian fans.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting,” he wrote. “Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!” Lebedev added: “I don’t understand those politicians and officials who are criticising our fans. We should defend them and then we can sort it out when they come home. “In nine out of 10 cases football fans go to games to fight, and that’s normal. The lads defended the honour of their country and did not let English fans desecrate our motherland. “What happened in Marseille and in other French towns is not the fault of fans but about the inability of police to organise this kind of event properly.” Russian reports said Shprygin was “congratulated” by a Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, after the England game. “As for the fight, we didn’t speak about that at all. Mutko just congratulated us on the victory and didn’t even mention it,” Shprygin is quoted as saying.

Mutko sits on the Fifa council and is pivotal in delivering the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The minister, who was filmed applauding Russian fans after the match and after the incident in which England fans fled the stands in panic, initially appeared to play down the clashes but later admitted that some fans had brought “shame on the country”. Another notorious figure who was identified at the match was Alexander Rumyantsev, known as Makasin. It is not clear whether he also had official accreditation. Rumyantsev was the former leader of the Zenit Landskrona, the fans’ group that released the notorious Manifesto 12 in 2012 in which they demanded that no black or gay players be signed by the club Zenit St Petersburg. Shprygin did not endorse the “manifesto” openly but in an interview called it “an ideal case image”.

On Sunday night Shprygin claimed in a tweet that the Russian supporters union’s hotel had been raided and that 40 armed French police had stormed their rooms, taken their passport details and photographed everyone. It is believed that Fare made representations to Uefa in May when it became clear that Shprygin was likely to be officially accredited. Fare believes Fifa also has questions to answer, given that Shprygin sits on the local organising committee for the World Cup in Moscow. Uefa said: “All accreditation applications are screened by the police but we can’t comment on individual cases for data protection reasons.” A senior source insisted that Shprygin had not been accredited through Uefa. Others in Marseille said they had received multiple reports of Russians with official accreditation handing out tickets to apparent ultras before the match.

Shprygin is reported to have organised a charter flight from Moscow for members of the RSU, with six of those onboard being refused entry to France. Shprygin had joined an official tour of host cities in March. Delegations from Toulouse and Marseille refused to meet him after he and his associates had met officials from Lille, from which he tweeted pictures of his meeting with police chiefs. “Shrypgin’s involvement and recognition as a fan leader speaks volumes about the positioning and influence of the far-right within the Russian fan scene,” said Powar. “But it just isn’t acceptable with all of the challenges that European football faces to have people like him holding office and influence in a country that will host the World Cup in two years.” There are fears over the potential for fresh violence, with Russia fans heading for Lille before the match with Slovakia on Wednesday and England fans without tickets for their match with Wales on Thursday officially advised to go to the city and watch in the fanzone.

Brice Robin, the chief Marseille prosecutor, told reporters that no Russian fans had been arrested in connection with the violence. He said about 150 Russian hooligans had been involved in the trouble. But only two Russian fans had been arrested, both for pitch invasion, he said. Six England fans had been charged over the trouble, including a 16-year-old accused of throwing bottles during chaotic scenes in which fans clashed with locals and police. About 150 Russian fans attacked England supporters in the old port area on Saturday before kick-off. Inside the Stade Vélodrome there were chaotic scenes after the final whistle when Russian fans charged at the England contingent, causing them to flee.
© The Guardian.

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Crusaders in the crowd: Fighting Poland's right-wing football ultras

As Euro 2012 co-hosts, Poland took steps to curb fan violence and racism. Four years later, the situation is fundamentally different. What are the results of those efforts ahead of Poland's match against Germany tonight?

15/6/2016- A crusader defending Europe with a sword while threatening to capsize a refugee boat on the Mediterranean in the fight against the "Islamization" of Poland: that was the image the Slask Wroclaw ultras depicted in a pre-match display last Autumn. This season, UEFA asked clubs to donate a portion of ticket proceeds from European matches to help ease the refugee crisis. Fans of Lech Poznan called for a boycott of the campaign. Just 8,000 instead of the regular 20,000 attended the next home match. At a Legia Warsaw game, fans chanted: "Lost sheep. Welcome to hell." "A scary shift to the right is taking place in Poland," says Rafal Pankowski, a Polish professor and expert on extremism, who has been studying the country's fan scene for more than two decades. Through anti-Muslim banners, songs and street protests, the hostile attitude towards refugees is clearly visible in almost all fan groups. "Most ultras are reinforcing the national conservative climate," says Pankowski. "Unfortunately there is almost no protest against it in football. So the overall picture does not look as bright as we had hoped it would four years ago."

FA chief campaigns against anti-racist activists
Rafal Pankowski conducts his research at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw. He was one of the founders of the "Nigdy Wiecej," or "Never Again," initiative in 1996. With the Euro 2012 tournament in mind, the organization launched one of the most extensive programs in European football, with support from UEFA and the network FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe). The program consisted of workshops, events, tournaments and training for teachers, coaches and security personnel. In the four years since Euro 2012, support for prevention programs from politicians, UEFA and the media has continued to diminish, says Pankowski. "Unfortunately the Polish FA has hindered rather than helped the work." FA head Zbigniew Boniek, one the most successful Polish players of all time, cheered the right wing populist Law and Justice party's recent election victory. He posted a photo on Twitter of Jacek Purski, one of the leading figures of the "Never Again" initiative. Boniek then made reference to a right-wing magazine. What followed were insults and threats directed at Purski.

Fan projects are only the beginning
In the current climate, no Polish fan groups have taken a stand against right-wing politics. Instead, they are stirring up controversy. Poznan fans, for example, displayed a poster with the words: "The Pila Legion - The Blood of our Race." The words come from the right-wing extremist band "Konkwista88". The majority of the stadium reacted indifferently to the rhetoric, likely out of fear of the ultras. "We would like to support the strong personalities in the fan scene," says Dariusz Lapinski. "So that the younger fans in the future can guide them and improve the situation." Lapinski attended university in Frankfurt an der Oder, just over the Polish border in Germany. He studied nationalism and has been researching the fan scene in Germany for many years. With Euro 2012 in mind, he returned to Poland to set up socio-educational fan projects based on the German model. Since then, the projects have expanded to 12 different places around the country, with more expected to follow. Lapinski works for the Polish FA, and is known around Europe as a fan expert. It is his job to win the trust of the supporters and the backing of the community and to make sure there are enough social workers for the various projects.

Digs at Lewandowski
Clubs in Poland are frequently hit with fines and crowd bans in stadiums. Lapinski has also keeping tabs on how the country's shift to the right is playing out in fan groups. For a long time, the Law and Justice party has had friendly words for the "patriotic messages" of the ultras. Taking it a step further, the Euroskeptic parliamentarian Krystyna Pawlowicz questioned the "national loyalty" of national team captain and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. He was one of the few leading Polish athletes who spoke out in support of alleviating the plight of refugees coming to Europe. His agent is in close contact with the "Never Again" initiative. "The fans do not want to be dictated by party policy," says Darius Lapinski. "They have had too many bad experiences." Still, many fans attend protests against refugees - similar to the far-right Pegida and Legida rallies in Dresden and Leipzig respectively, where right-wing supporters of Dynamo Dresden and Lokomotive Leipzig play a significant role.

"The risk of tragic incidents"
What impact do these developments have on the Euros in France, where Poland plays Germany on Thursday and Ukraine on Monday? "I do not think many right-wing extremist fans will travel, but a few will go certainly," says Rafal Pankowski. "We are not assuming there will be riots in the stadiums, but a lot of people with African and Arab roots live in France and will be around the stadiums. I hope that there will be no tragic incidents, but the risk is there." In France, 19 of the 24 participating countries have set up mobile liaison offices - organized by fans for fans to create a friendly atmosphere. That includes countries like Russia, Ukraine and Hungary, where many violent and nationalist fans play a prominent role. There is no Polish fan liaison office. Dariusz Lapinski lobbied long and hard for exactly such a project, but there was not enough interest.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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European extremism rears its ugly head at Euro 2016 (comment)

By Pantelis Boukalas

14/6/2018- Only romantics and incurable optimists believe soccer is a celebration of the athletic spirit, which brings nations closer. And only people who are comfortable with lies will say that politics has no relation to the tensions that arise from the sport. As well as being a big business, soccer is also a ritualistic form of extreme competition, one of the biggest in the world. In addition, it provides setting of semi-sanctioned aggression: physical on the pitch, verbal in the stands and no-holds-barred away from the stadium.

As we see from the European Championship currently taking place in France, soccer marches comprise symbolic wars between nations that started long before the referee’s whistle and do not end after 90 or 120 minutes. These teams are not random assemblies of players. Instead, those with blind faith would have us believe, they bring together and showcase the traits of the nation they represent. Not just the physical traits, but also the intellectual and spiritual. This is why the most fanatic of fans – who tend to grow in number at times of increased nationalist sentiment, such as at the present – cannot accept defeat. They do not view it as a mere athletic failure that can be explained in many different ways and possibly even reversed. They see it as an insult to their nation, as a disgrace.

The displays calling for divine intervention that are so prolific on and off the pitch are not simple superstition but are linked to the belief of every nation, passed down through the generations, that a higher power is rooting for it and protecting its interests, even when it comes to soccer. Here in Greece, many still believe that God is Greek and some even claim that this explains the country’s hat-trick victory at the Euro 2004, even though it does not explain why we failed to make the cut this year. Similar religious chauvinism prevails in other countries too, both Christian and Muslim.

It is this kind of blind belief that allowed ISIS-style extremism to appear in France without a single jihadist having to move from the Middle East. The start was made by English fans who crossed the Channel not to watch a game but to chant in drunken arrogance “ISIS, where are you?” – thus delivering the most brutal and callous of insults to the French, whom they perceive as their eternal enemy. They were followed by German neo-Nazis, who arrived in France waving Nazi banners and chanting, appallingly, “We’re invading again.” Their ideological allies – though rivals on the pitch – the mayhem-causing Russian fascists, are not missing either. So Europe has its own form of ISIS, its neo-Nazis, who share the same “values:” hate, blood, annihilation of the other.
© The Kathimerini.

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Austria: Far-right leader caught up in online racism scandal

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) was caught up in yet another scandal this week after his supporters posted racist comments about Austria's football team on his Facebook page.

16/6/2016- Many of Heinz-Christian Strache’s Facebook followers started posting anti-immigrant hate speech after Austria lost their first Euro 2016 game to Hungary 2-0 on Tuesday. The comments were published underneath a post from Strache wishing the Austrian team luck with their debut game. After they lost he suggested that people keep their spirits up and that the referee was partly to blame for Austria’s loss. Some of his followers disagreed, however, arguing that having players whose families have an immigrant background on the Austrian team might be why the Austrian team lost. One poster described the Austrian team as “the amazing national team with two coal sacks”, likely referring to David Alaba and Rubin Okotie, who have a Nigerian-Filipino and Nigerian background respectively. Another user said he “could puke” when he sees “what is sold as Austria”.

Germans writing online had similar complaints about their own team. One commentator said that his team should no longer be called the German team but just “the team”, suggesting that because some of the German players' parents have immigrant backgrounds they are not true Germans. A member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party recently also faced criticism for saying that the German team was “no longer German”, the Local Germany reported. It is not the first time that Strache has been caught up in a scandal involving comments left on his Facebook page. Only a few days ago, his followers posted death threats to Chancellor Christian Kern from the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ). The Freedom Party leader has had to ask his followers to be more moderate with their postings. The FPÖ have deemed these comments unacceptable but have also often said that they could not check each one, as there were so many posted everyday.
© The Local - Austria

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Denmark bans Muslim prayers at school

Students in a school have been banned from performing their prayers including in their own time during recess

16/6/2016- Muslim students studying at a Denmark school have been banned from praying during school hours by officials. Mia Victoria Lunderød Hansen -a student of SOPU Hillerrød-shared a picture on Facebook of her fellow student holding a sign which read: "New from the director. May one pray at SOPU Hillerrød? The answer is NO!" Inger Margrethe Jensen, the schools director, confirmed the decision, saying: “We have reminded our students about it and reprinted our code of conduct because we have had some incidents that required that we brush up on things,” Danish newspaper BT ported. “Some [students] wanted to establish a prayer room on school property and the Muslims’ prayers have become far more visible because in some cases and they have used the hallways to pray. Religion and education don’t belong together – it belongs to the private life. “We’ve been asked why they can’t pray at specific times because there are some Islamic directions that one should pray at specific times and it is unfortunate because it just adds more fuel to the fire on Islamism.” Jensen, has banned the prayers for Muslims has also said that they have banned the students from prayer during recess With many students including Christian students against the ban, the students have begun to collect signatures to present to the board. With a population of 5.6 million in Denmark, there are more than 200,000 Muslims residing in the country.
© World Bulletin

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Denmark: MP: 'Only thing worse than a devout Muslim is a convert'

A debate spurred by Muslim student’s complaint that she is not allowed to pray in school has resulted in a racism complaint against a Danish People’s Party MP.

13/6/2016- Alex Ahrendtsen of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) will formally be reported to police for racism on Monday over remarks he made about Muslims on Friday night. Speaking to TV2, Ahrendtsen gave his full support to a suburban Copenhagen school that has told its Muslim students not to pray and accused Muslim converts of “boasting” about their faith. “There is only one thing worse than devout Muslims and that is converts,” Ahrendtsen said. “They want to absolutely show how good they are as Muslims, and that should happen in full public view and as often as possible. On the floor, everywhere,” he added. “They want to boast, they want to flaunt their new-found Muslim faith.” Ahrendtsen also directed his comments toward devout Muslims in general. “Devout Muslims damage democracy and therefore we need to crack down on them. And converts are particularly extreme – in fact, they are the worst,” the DFer said.

The organisation AnmeldHad (Report Hate) said over the weekend that it would file a formal complaint against Ahrendtsen on Monday, contending that his remarks violate article 266b of Denmark's penal code, best known as “the racism paragraph”. “We were contacted by numerous people who were offended by the remarks Alex Ahrendtsen made on Friday night,” the organization’s chairman, Qasam Ijaz, told TV2. “They were deeply offensive comments and when a member of parliament speaks in that way, it become acceptable for normal Danes to express themselves in the same way,” Ijaz added. Ahrendtsen said he wasn’t particularly worried about the complaint leading to a criminal charge. “People use the [racism] paragraph as a tool to shut the mouths of politicians and it is always rejected by the police,” he told TV2 on Sunday. He stood by his comments and said “it is a fact” that Muslim converts “are often more extreme”.

“They want to show that they belong to the religion and have adopted all of the religious rules,” he said. Ahrendtsen also clarified that when he talked about “devout Muslims” he meant those who “oppose Danish society and encourage deception, fraud and violence against women”. “I’m not thinking about all Muslims in Denmark, because the majority of Muslims try to find a balance between religion and society,” he said. Ahrendtsen is no stranger to controversial statements. In August 2015, he lashed out against what he called “pizza Danish”,  referring to the sort of Danish that is often spoken at pizzerias, where words and phrases from Middle Eastern languages are often utilized due to the ethnic backgrounds of the staff. Two months before that, he proposed a tax on the use of English words in advertising. He later told The Local in an interview that too many in Denmark suffer from “language anxiety”.
© The Local - Denmark

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Germany: One in 10 wants country to be led by 'Führer'

A new study by the University of Leipzig sheds a worrying light on the depth of racist and authoritarian beliefs in German society.

15/5/2016- One in every ten Germans wants their country to be led by a 'Führer' (dictator) who applies a firm hand for the common good. Eleven percent of respondents say that Jews have too much influence in society. Twelve percent think Germans are by nature superior to other people. Four in ten people think Muslims should be prohibited from immigrating to the country. These are just some of the more hair-raising findings of the study, which the University of Leipzig has been carrying out at regular intervals since 2002.



Islamophobia on the rise
Hostility to Islam has shown a particularly marked increase since the last report in 2014, when 36.6 percent of people didn't want more Muslims migrating to Germany. Half of respondents in the most recent survey of 2,240 people also said they feel like "foreigners in their own country" because there are too many Muslims. That result marked a seven percentage point rise from the 2014 poll. Overall, three in ten complained that Germany had been "infiltrated by too many foreigners in a dangerous way", added the survey, which was carried out after a year in which Germany opened its doors to a record 1.1 million asylum seekers. Skepticism appears to be running high against migrants, with three in five Germans saying that most asylum seekers "are not really at risk of any persecution in their home country".

'More sympathy with violence'
“There has been no increase in extreme right attitudes, but in comparison with our study from two years ago people who have far-right attitudes are more prepared to use violence to achieve their aims,” Dr. Oliver Decker, one of the report’s authors, notes on the university website. The report also claims to have found ”a clear polarisation and radicalisation” in German society, with more respondents also likely to completely reject violence this time around. “The two groups exist next to each other. We have people who actively engage to help refugees and there are people who actively reject refugees,” said Decker. Titled “the uninhibited middle”, the study argues that extremist ideology has become more acceptable in mainstream German society, leading to the increased popularity of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"Most AfD voters have a hostile attitude to the world," report co-author Dr. Elmar Brähler said. Racist attitudes are also highly prevalent among people who up until this point have not voted, the study shows, with almost 30 percent likely to harbour xenophobic opinions. “The potential for extreme right or populist right-wing parties is still higher than what electoral results have yet shown,” Brähler stated. The survey noted an increase in negative attitudes towards Roma or Sinti communities, with half of respondents saying people from such groups should be banned from city centres. Homophobia also appears to be on the rise: 40 percent of people said they found it disgusting when gay people kissed in public, an increase from 25 percent in 2011.
© The Local - Germany

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German Man Takes Aim At Refugee Shelter, Shoots 2 Children

13/6/2016- A man fired shots with an air rifle at a refugee shelter in western Germany, leaving a five-year-old girl and an 18-year-old lightly wounded, police said today. The 21-year-old man targeted the shelter from his third-floor apartment just 40 metres away in the shooting on yesterday, police said in a statement. The mother of the Macedonian girl had noticed that her child was hurt in the leg but initially thought someone had thrown stones or sand at her. But shortly after, a witness saw the suspect shooting from his apartment, wounding an 18-year-old Syrian in the leg. Police searched the man's apartment and removed an air rifle and munition. The suspect was however not detained as "there were no grounds for arrest", a police spokesman told AFP. "It is unclear if the act was politically motivated," added police, adding that investigations were ongoing. Hate crimes and attacks against migrants have exploded since arrivals spiked to 1.1 million in 2015, mostly from the Middle East and Africa. Germany recorded nearly 1,000 far-right offences targeting refugee shelters last year, a five-fold annual rise. Some 923 offences against refugees and refugee facilities were recorded in 2015, against 175 the previous year, according to Interior Ministry statistics on political crime in Germany.
© AFP

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German national team make fools of far-right populists

German coach Joachim Löw couldn't resist a dig at the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after the national team won their opening Euro 2016 game against Ukraine.

13/6/2016- “It’s good when you have a neighbour like Jerome Boateng in defence,” Löw said directly after the game of the Berlin-born defender, whose father is Ghanaian. The Germany coach was having a none-too-subtle dig at Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the far-right AfD, who said recently that most Germans wouldn’t want Boateng as their neighbour. In the first half of the match, which Germany eventually won 2-0, Boateng spectacularly cleared the ball from the German goal line, while falling over backwards. At that stage Germany were only winning by a single goal and Ukraine were putting ever more pressure on the world champions. Many people on Twitter also mocked separate comments by Gauland, who said last week that the national team was no longer German "in the classical sense.” Commenters noted that the player who scored the first goal of the game was Shkodran Mustafi, who was born to Albanian parents.

“If Gauland had his way, it would still be 0-0," tweeted Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-leader for the Green Party in the German parliament. And with Mesut Özil - another national team player criticized by the AfD for a recent pilgrimage to Mecca - setting Bastian Schweinsteiger up for the killer goal in the dying minutes, there wasn’t much to smile about for the traditionalists on the right of German politics.

German hooligans cause trouble in Lille
Despite the ethnic diversity of the national team, they appear to remain an attraction for far-right thugs. German police stopped 21 hooligans, who were attempting to travel to France, before they crossed the border, broadcaster N-tv reports. Some of the men, all of whom are on a national watch list, obtained tickets through false names. Balaclavas and face masks were found in one of the cars. Nonetheless, more than 50 German hooligans attacked Ukraine fans before the match in the streets of Lille, where the match was held. Witnesses spoke of seeing bottles, chairs and smoke bombs being thrown. Some of the hooligans were also heard chanting far-right slogans. Representatives of the German police who were present in Lille said that the situation was not comparable to scenes witnessed in Marseilles recently where Russian and English fans fought street battles over several days.
© The Local - Germany

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German MPs targeted by Turkish nationalists

13/6/2016- A German MP has called for an entry ban to Germany for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan after 11 MPs including her were placed under police protection following death threats from Turkish nationalists. Sevim Dagdelen, from the Left Party, told Bild newspaper that "anyone in Turkey who calls for violence against members of the German parliament should get an entry ban" to Germany. "This includes president Erdogan," she said in an interview on Sunday (12 June). Dagdelen and 10 other MPs, all of Turkish origins, received the threats in a backlash to the vote by the German Parliament, on 2 June, on a resolution saying the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 was a genocide. The 11 MPs were singled out by Erdogan, who said they were a "mouthpiece of terrorist organisations", that their blood was "impure" and should be "tested in a laboratory".

"What kind of Turks are they?" Erdogan asked about the German members of parliament.

Ankara's mayor Ibrahim Melih Gokcek, a close Erdogan ally, tweeted a photo of the 11 MPs with a caption saying they had "stabbed [Turkey] in the back" and a hashtag calling them traitors who should be deprived of their citizenship. Turkish activists have used social networks to attack and threaten the MPs. The German foreign affairs ministry advised the MPs against going to Turkey because their security could not be guaranteed. Another targeted MP is Green Party co-chairman Cem Oezdemir, who initiated the genocide bill. Last week he said that although "insults and threats have started to become normal", the new flurry had "taken things to a new level". On Monday, he ruled out any Turkish EU membership as long as Erdogan ruled the country. "There will be for sure no EU membership under Erdogan," Oezdemir told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "But in the long term, we have an interest in a democratic Turkey in Europe," he said.

With the escalation of the row between the German MPs and Turkey, chancellor Merkel could be obliged to criticise Erdogan, with whom she has tried to keep good relations in order to manage the refugee crisis. After Turkey's angry reaction to the Bundestag vote, she said last week that "accusations and statements which have been made by the Turkish side [were] incomprehensible". She added that cooperation between Berlin and Ankara remained "broad and strong", however.
© The EUobserver

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Ukraine: Thousands attend first major LGBT Pride event despite far-right threats

Ukraine has held its first major LGBT Pride event in Kiev, despite threats from far-right thugs that they would ensure that “rivers of blood” would run through the streets.

12/6/2016- More than a thousand people turned up for the Pride event in Kiev on Sunday. Several thousand police officers lined the streets following threats from far-right groups that they would attack the event, as has happened in preivious years when demonstrations have been attempted. “The road to equality in Ukraine is difficult as well as dangerous,” Bohdan Hloba, one of the rally’s organizers, said. “We have been threatened with a ‘bloodbath’ but every step of this march gives us hope.” Among slogans written on placards were “love has no gender” as well as rainbow flags. But counter-protesters did take to the streets, carrying signs reading “Ukraine is no Sodom”. One father of 12, Serhiy Hashchenko, 56, told ABC News: “I’m against gay propaganda that these sick people have organized here in collusion with authorities.” In previous years, Pride has been called off in Kiev as authorities refused to police the event, and far-right thugs have attempted to interrupt other events. For the second time in a row, a Pride March is scheduled to take place in Kiev this Sunday.

From the European Parliament, Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup Sophie in ‘t Veld, and members Ana Gomes and Rebecca Harms announced that they would march along for equality and human rights. In 2015, far-right hooligans attacked the event, and several police officers were injured. This year, Neo-Nazis threatened to create a “bloodbath” at the event which takes place on Sunday. Over the last year, Ukraine has made significant progress on the rights of LGBTI people. It included provisions in the Labour Code which outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at the work floor. A National Strategy on Human Rights was also adopted which included provisions seeking to advance the rights of LGBTI people. However, homophobia and transphobia remain severe problems. Back in March an LGBTI festival in Lviv in the West of Ukraine, was cancelled following local authorities’ failure to protect the festival from far-right activists. Thugs surrounded a venue of the LGBT festival and chanted “kill”, while hurling blunt objects at those inside.
© The Pink News

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Spain’s far-right seeks to break beyond political fringe

Nationalists fail to capitalise on EU anti-immigrant sentiment

12/6/2016- In a half-deserted building near the centre of Madrid, dozens of people clutch their empty trolleys and patiently wait their turn, a silent assembly of tired faces and haggard looks. Every Sunday, they are drawn here by the promise of free food. The handouts offered are basic — a loaf of bread, sausages, rice, pasta, beans, biscuits, oil and milk — but gratefully received. Even three years after the end of Spain’s recession, there is nothing unusual about such scenes, as the deep economic crisis has created demand for soup kitchens and food charities up and down the country. What makes this particular programme remarkable is the politics that underpins it. Run by a group called the Hogar Social Madrid (HSM), it is one of the rare expressions of far-right political activity in Spain.

HSM and its members advocate a strict Spaniards-first policy, and have launched a string of demonstrations and stunts to publicise their cause. The group wants refugees out of Spain, and Spain out of the EU. Their food aid is available to Spanish nationals only. “Our main concern is the sheer number of migrants living in Spain now and the huge social benefits they receive,” says Melisa Ruiz, the 27-year old spokeswoman for HSM, who also presides over the food handout. “For Spaniards who are going through hard times, this is a massive injustice.” It is a political pitch that has entered conversations — and parliaments — across much of the EU. In Spain, however, anti-European and anti-immigration parties remain barely visible. There are none in Spain’s national parliament or any of its regional assemblies. This month’s general election will once again be fought without a far-right party in serious contention.

Spain’s political spectrum may have splintered in the centre and on the left — but on the right it ends, as before, with the conservative Popular party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy. Ms Ruiz and other activists are determined to change that — but they admit they have a mountain to climb. She points to the historical legacy of Spain’s civil war and four decades of rightwing dictatorship that lasted until the late 1970s. “This has left behind a revanchist mindset. The politically correct and socially acceptable thing in Spain is to be on the left,” she claims. Political scientists agree that Spain’s fraught history is a big obstacle to any movement hoping to repeat the successes of France’s National Front or the Freedom party in Austria. But this is not the only hurdle — in other European countries, the far right has flourished partly due to popular anger with the EU and over migration, but in Spain these two issues have so far caused little controversy.

Even at the height of Spain’s recent economic crisis — and despite an influx of migrants during the boom years — the country did not experience an anti-immigration backlash. “The blame for the crisis fell on the economic elites, on the banks, the IMF, the Troika and on the austerity measures. But not on migrants and foreigners,” says Sergi Pardos-Prado, a political scientist at the University of Oxford. It helped that a high proportion of the migrants who arrived in Spain before the crash were from Latin America — people who were foreigners by passport but who spoke the same language and worshipped at the same church as the locals. “The experience of ethnic diversity for the average Spaniard has not been the same as for the French and British. It was less shocking,” says Mr Pardos-Prado.

Spanish support for the EU has declined sharply as a result of the economic crisis — but only a fringe favours leaving the bloc altogether. Whatever misgivings Spaniards have about the European Commission in Brussels, they seem to mistrust their own political elite even more. Earlier attempts to forge a nationalist political platform failed partly because they were based on Franco-era nostalgia, says Rafael Ripoll, the leader of the far-right España 2000 movement, and a local councillor in the town of Alcalá de Henares. “We were more concerned with reviving the past than with building the future. I think it is time for patriots in Spain to open a new chapter,” he says. Mr Ripoll also presides over a newly formed far-right platform that hopes to run in the 2019 European Parliament elections. “Our path will be long and arduous, but in 10-15 years I think we can establish ourselves as an organisation that is strong enough to influence the destiny of our nation,” he says.

Back in Madrid, Ms Ruiz sees her movement as an even longer-term project, arguing that it is too early to think about elections and parties. “For a political party to exist we have to build a social movement first,” she says. With her bleached blonde hair, extensive tattoos and oversized neon ear studs, she presents — visually if not ideologically — an obvious break with the crusty image of Spain’s old-school far-right. Her blend of social work and in-your-face protests, alongside her opposition to mass migration, economic liberalism and what she defines as “radical feminism”, make for an idiosyncratic political mix. Ms Ruiz points to Greece’s ultra-right Golden Dawn movement as a model, but she is quick to acknowledge that Spain remains a political outlier in Europe, at least for now. Spanish society, she says, “does not yet see us as a political alternative”.
© The Financial Times.

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Britain First sends activists to ISIS and Ultras-style training camps in mountain

Britain First has taken a group of activists to a remote mountainside to sharpen their knives and martial arts skills as it trains up a Far Right army.

15/6/2016- The anti-immigration political party appears to be mirroring Russia's brutal Ultras – seen . It's a method employed by terror cult ISIS – which regularly flies its jihadis out to Syria to begin training at its HQ. Pictures of the "activist training camp" showing the men in military garb and holding British flags in the Welsh countryside have emerged online. Describing a knife class, the group said: "Knife defence and self defence is crucial to keeping our activists safe. Knives are prevalent in our society. We never want trouble but we refuse to leave our activists exposed." The group – known for posting Islamaphobic slurs on its Facebook page and sparking violent clashes during anti-immigration protests throughout the country – has been recruiting for its own league of defenders.

It called on supporters with a military background to form part of its army and began recruiting a general earlier this year through a secret Facebook group. The timing of its trip coincides with countless clips of utter brutality showing thugs squaring up to England supporters leaving pubs in France as the Euros rolls on. Videos posted to Twitter showed chairs being thrown at the English and Welsh in Lille as the hooligans unleashed utter carnage on the streets. The Russian team has since been served with a one-strike-and-you're out threat of disqualification from Euro 2016 over their fan's behaviour. Party leader .
© The Daily Star UK

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UK: Another Hate Crime Attack in Rotherham.

14/6/2016- Sadly, we have received another report of a violent assault against an Afghan taxi driver in Rotherham. We were notified just within the last hour of this assault on a 28 year old taxi driver in the Swinton area of Rotherham, which took place today on Tuesday the 14th of June 2016. The attack took place in the early hours of the morning at 12:40 am and the victim was racially abused, and attacked for what he says, “was being a Muslim”. The perpetrators, whilst assaulting him also allegedly said, “when you come to our country, do what we say.” The assault took place in the vehicle of the taxi driver and he was found unconscious on the road. He was assisted by the local community who called the police. His injuries are not life threatening though he suffered both head and body injuries. Police have also arrested 2 people, a 50 year old and a 25 year old in relation to the incident. Rotherham continues to be a flashpoint for anti-Muslim incidents and Tell MAMA will be working with South Yorkshire Police to ensure that where possible, we can highlight the need for local communities to report in such hate incidents.
© Tell Mama

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UK: Man stabbed during Bootle race hate attack by gang of youths

Police were called to Hawthorne Road entrance to South Park in Bootle after the stabbing

12/6/2016- A man suffered facial injuries and was stabbed in the buttocks during a racist attack in Bootle. The 24-year-old man was walking with friends on a pathway in South Park near to Hawthorne Road at around 11pm on Saturday when the attack took place. He was racially abused verbally and attacked by a “large number of youths”, police said. He managed to escape from the park before dialing 999 for an ambulance. Detectives said he was taken to hospital where he is being treated for facial injuries and what is though to be a stab wound to the buttocks - his condition is not thought to be life threatening. Merseyside Police’s specialist SIGMA hate crime team will be running the investigation. It comes a month after a 16-year-old boy was stabbed in the park.

Detective Inspector Paul Nilsen said: “The investigation is at an early stage but this would appear to be a completely unprovoked attack on a man just going about his business. “We are carrying out extensive enquiries in the area - a number of scenes have been established for forensic examination, CCTV is being sought and enquiries carried out with witnesses. “While this incident took place late at night we are particularly keen to speak with anyone who was in the park, maybe even earlier that evening, who saw a large group of youths, to get in contact. “This incident is being investigated by specialist detectives from our SIGMA hate crime team and I’m sure the local community would agree that violence and racism have no place in our communities and those responsible for this attack need to be brought to justice.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact Sefton CID on 0151 777 3835, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the Stop Hate UK charity on 0800 138 1625 where they can also receive advice and support.
© The Liverpool Echo

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Austria: Security tells 'not sexy' lesbians to stop kissing

The University of Vienna are investigating after a lesbian couple claimed a security guard told them to stop kissing because it "is not very sexy".

16/6/2016- One of the couple - using the fake name Moni - told Vice magazine that she had met her girlfriend in the entrance to the university and they had greeted one another with a kiss and a hug. After sitting on the steps and kissing and comforting her girlfriend, who was going through a stressful time, she said they were then approached by a security guard. Thinking she was going to tell them to stop sitting on the steps, Moni asked if everything was OK and the guard reportedly replied: “No, actually not. This is a public space and what [you] are doing is not actually very sexy.” The woman then apparently told them that the other security guards did not want to see that any more. The incident was first tweeted about by Twitter user Lena (@lenrustotalus) who wrote: “Were two kissing women told to stop by a guard because ‘it does not look sexy’?”

A spokesperson for the university told Vice that they were investigating the incident but reaffirmed the pro-LGBT position of the university, referring to the rainbow flags hung outside the university. “If this incident really happened, it is definitely an isolated case,” they said. It comes as Vienna celebrates a week of gay pride ahead of the Rainbow Parade taking place this Saturday. Although Vienna is generally celebrated for its openness and tolerance towards LGBT groups, the city has not been without some controversy when it comes to gay and lesbian kisses. In 2015 thousands protested in Vienna after a lesbian couple were told to stop kissing in the city’s popular Cafe Prückel by a waiter who then refused to serve them. According to the couple, the cafe manager Christl Sedlar barred them, reportedly saying "diversity such as this belongs in a brothel, not in a traditional coffee house". The manager later said the cafe’s reaction had been “excessive” but argued that the couple were "canoodling".

In March 2016, a gay couple were attacked by a taxi driver after they kissed while sitting on the back seat. The driver had reportedly said: "I don't want anything gay like that in my car.” When one of the men pointed out that he needed to be a bit more open in his view of the world, he had then shouted: "People like you need to be shot." He then punched the 27-year-old in the face, and only stopped his verbal and physical attack when police arrived. He is now being investigated for assault.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Far-right file case against media for 'Nazi' claim

A right-wing xenophobic group who clashed with left-wing demonstrators at a protest in Vienna on Saturday are bringing a case against Austrian media after they described them as ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘extremists’.

14/6/2016- The Austrian branch of the Identitarian movement - Identitäre Bewegung Österreich - took to the streets at the weekend in protest against refugees and immigrants, chanting slogans such as ‘Our Flag, Our Country’. Between 800 and 1000 right-wing protesters from Austria, France, Germany and Italy clashed with a similar number of counter-protesters from anti-fascist and left-wing groups. Before the march Identitäre had posted rules online for the participants to follow, including banning the showing of right-wing extremist tattoos and clothing. Now the group say they are bringing a case against the ORF’s main evening news broadcast Zeit im Bild for describing them as right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis. “Patriots faced violence and murder attempts while exercising their democratic rights, to only then be insulted by politicians and media as neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists,” said their spokesperson Patrick Lenart.

Following the march, one member of the right-wing group was arrested for alleged neo-Nazi propaganda activity. Thirteen people were injured during the clashes between left and right-wingers, including four police. Seven of the left-wing protesters - who started throwing rocks, fireworks and bottles - were arrested for a variety of public order offences. The march was the latest in a run of protests organised by the right-wing group. A few days earlier the Carinthian branch of the group had stormed into a lecture on asylum at a university in Klagenfurt dressed up in burkas and middle-ages costumes. The group then proceeded to carrying out a pretend ‘stoning’ on a member who they said was dressed to represent an Austrian patriot. Previous attacks have included throwing fake blood onto an audience watching a play performed by refugees, interrupting the play by unfurling a banner saying “multiculturalism kills”.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: 13 injured in left-right clashes in Vienna

Clashes between right-wing activists and left-wing protestors led to violence, with 13 people injured in Vienna on Saturday, including four police.

12/6/2016- According to a police spokesman, the original protest by the right-wing xenophobic Identitären movement of around 800-1,000 marchers was intercepted by a similar number of far-left socialist counter-protestors, who were determined to disrupt the right-wing group's peaceful protest. Police were forced to intercede when the left-wingers began throwing rocks, fireworks and bottles at the right-wing supporters, and some began attacking them with iron rods. Seven of the left-wing protestors were arrested for a variety of public order offenses, while one member of the right-wing group was arrested for alleged neo-Nazi propaganda activity. Within the group of right-wing protestors were visitors from France, Germany and Italy.

Among the injured were four police officers. Around 1,000 police were deployed to keep the two groups from clashing. According to news reports, at least one of the injured remains in a coma. A police spokesman said that they had to use force to protect the rights of both groups to have freedom of assembly, while ensuring that the two groups were unable to engage in direct clashes. An official police tweet allegedly shows one of the large rocks which was hurled by one of the protestors at a police officer. "We are often, especially now, between politically opposite interest groups. Above all, one thing is clear -- the police are committed to protect neither 'right' nor 'left', but rather to protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly," said a spokesman.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Swimming lessons for refugee children cause storm

Swimming lessons for refugee children have whipped up a storm in Austria, with a lifeguard's car window smashed and a newspaper on Friday filing charges against a woman who said the migrants should drown.

11/6/2016- Local newspapers reported this week that the southern state of Carinthia was offering the courses free of charge for unaccompanied minors in order to prevent accidents in lakes and swimming pools this summer. This provoked a torrent of what local politician called Heinz Kernjak called "ignorant and offensive" online comments, while an unknown assailant smashed the window of a van belonging to lifeguards in the town of Wolfsberg. When national daily Kurier reported the story on Thursday, it provoked complaints -- alongside messages of support -- about the costs of the lessons to the taxpayer and how the courses would only encourage more immigration. One woman even commented on Facebook that the migrants "should drown", prompting the Kurier on Friday to file charges with the authorities, the first time it has done so for a comment on an article on the social media website. "Because of the growing number of hate posts, Kurier will from now on be more rigorous in its efforts against hate posts and in bringing charges," the daily said.

Austria last year received some 90,000 asylum requests, the second highest per capita in the European Union, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of racist attacks, although it lags well behind neighbouring Germany. Last week police said that a fire that burned to the ground a recently completed but still empty refugee centre was likely caused by arsonists. In May a suspected neo-Nazi was arrested and weapons were recovered at his home after telling friends he wanted to massacre migrants. The influx has also boosted support for the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe), which on May 22 came close to winning presidential elections and which this week filed a legal challenge against the result. FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Frauke Petry, head of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), on Friday held talks on the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, to discuss increased cooperation. Marine Le Pen, the head of France's National Front who will run for president in 2017, is due to meet Strache outside Vienna next Friday for an event dubbed by the FPOe the "Patriotic Spring".
© AFP

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Czech president warns of neo-Nazism threat

11/6/2016- At a memorial ceremony on Saturday that commemorating the 74th year of extermination of the Lidice village which was obliterated by the Nazis in 1942, Czech President Milos Zeman warned that neo-Nazism is starting to threaten inconspicuously the Czech society. Zeman said that Lidice tragedy binds people not only to remember the past but also to actively fight against neo-Nazism, which has been spreading in the country under various pretexts. This ideology is based on racial hatred, rejection of pluralism and forcing physical and opinion uniform upon people, said the president. Zeman said that neo-Nazis also benefit from the reluctance of democratic politicians who are incapable of facing current problems. He said if someone adores war criminal and mass murderer in the World War II, he objectively becomes a neo-Nazi.

Bans are no effective solution, said Zeman. "Let's promise right here, in the village of Lidice, we will not only remember the past, because it is not enough. We will also actively act against those who are in our territory again beginning to spread neo-Nazism under various pretexts," Zeman was quoted as saying. Officials, ambassadors, representatives of regional and town governments, churches and civic associations, witnesses and other guests at Lidice commemorated the 74th anniversary of the day when the Nazis burned this Central Bohemian village down in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi Deputy Reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak paratroopers. All the man in the village were shot dead, women sent to a concentration camp, most of the children were sent to the gas chambers and several of them were sent for re-education in Germany.
© Xinhua News Agency.

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Finland: Police ponder probe into Soldiers of Odin secret Facebook group

Police say they are considering a criminal investigation into racist messages exchanged in a secret Facebook group by leaders of the Nazi-linked Soldiers of Odin. Police chief Seppo Kolehmainen confirmed to Yle that police will try to determine whether or not any of the group’s messages are criminal in nature.

11/6/2016- In March this year, Yle obtained screenshots of a secret Facebook group maintained by leaders of the anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin, which was founded by Kemi-based neo-Nazi Mika Ranta late last year. Among one of the regular greetings used by members of the group is the salutation, "Morning racists." The posts also feature members showing Nazi salutes and include images of Nazi symbols. As reported earlier this week by Yle, leaders also suggested patrolling without insignia so as to be able to engage in attacks more freely, urging members to have "unmarked patrols and zero tolerance for dark skin" and to "hammer anyone who even leans to the left". Police commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen told Yle that officers will be looking into the group’s posts to see if they bear the hallmarks of criminal activity. "We are now evaluating the content of the messages to see whether or not they can be considered criminal. The National Bureau of Investigation is now responsible for the evaluation and on that basis we will determine whether or not to begin an investigation into some message or individual," Kolehmainen said.

Fresh assault conviction
Finnish news agency STT first reported on law enforcement’s intention to investigate the group and its messages. Soldiers of Odin founder Mika Ranta was convicted of aggravated assault in May. He had previously been convicted of racially-motivated attacks on two immigrants in 2005. Ranta, who was previously a member of the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement, said he founded Soldiers of Odin, ostensibly to protect nationals following the arrival of asylum seekers in the northern town of Kemi.
© YLE News.

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Headlines 10 June, 2016

European Commission presents Action Plan on Integration

10/6/2015- In a Communication released on 7 June 2016, the European Commission presented its Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals. As stated in the Communication, specific attention should be paid to newly-arrived refugees, who often face specific problems, such as vulnerability resulting from traumas, lack of documentation to prove their qualifications, inactivity prior to and during the asylum procedure, but also cultural and language barriers. Providing integration support in the pre-arrival stage could be a measure specifically beneficial for refugees waiting to be resettled to European countries: acquiring knowledge about culture and traditions prior to the arrival would speed up the integration process in the new host societies. Integration measures during pre-arrival stage could include language and job-related training, but also the provision of country-specific information with a focus on cultural traditions and labour market orientation.

The Commission repeatedly mentions the fact that refugees have a positive impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) of individual Member States and the EU as a whole, provided that appropriate integration policies are put in place, an analysis also made by Philippe Lagrain. Countries welcoming a significant amount of refugees could easily foresee a rise in their GDP: for example, Germany could witness an increase of 0.4%-0.8% of its GDP by 2017. The Commission also issued a Staff Working Document, which clarifies that the macroeconomic effect of the arrival of refugees depends on how well and quickly they are integrated into labour markets.Even though integration is primarily a competence for the individual Member States, the European Union tries to create incentives and offer support for Member States to further develop and strengthen their national integration policies.
© The European Council on Refugees and Exiles

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Italian newspaper publishes Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’

10/6/2016- An Italian newspaper has published Hitler’s political manifesto “Mein Kampf,” angering Italy’s premier and the country’s tiny Jewish community. The conservative Milan daily Il Giornale gave the book free to whoever purchased the newspaper and first installment of William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” The daily is publishing volumes exploring Third Reich history and defended its decision in its Saturday edition by arguing that reading “Mein Kampf” is the “true antidote to the toxins of national socialism.” Editor Alessandro Sallusti stressed the version included critical commentary by an Italian professor of contemporary history. Sallusti also said he wanted to make readers understand “where and why absolute evil was born,” but acknowledged that protests over the publication were “legitimate” and even “understandable.” The rambling tome lays out Hitler’s ultranationalist, anti-Semitic, anti-communist ideology, which culminated in the Holocaust and a war of conquest in Europe. Premier Matteo Renzi says it’s “squalid’ an Italian paper published it. An Italian Jewish community leader, Renzo Gattegna, said it was “indecent” of Il Giornale to publish Hitler’s work.
© The Associated Press

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The 5 richest countries host just 5% of refugees

Oxfam calls on wealthy nations to help more, especially given their role in fueling the worst crisis since WWII

10/6/2016- Those who oppose admitting more refugees in Western countries often ask why other countries aren’t taking them. The reality is they are. In fact, the five wealthiest countries — which make up half the global economy — are hosting less than 5 percent of the world’s refugees, while 86 percent of refugees are in poorer developing countries that are often struggling to meet the needs of their own people. These are the findings of a new report by Oxfam, titled “Too small a welcome from the world’s wealthy.” Together, the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K. and Germany are hosting less than 1 million refugees. These five richest countries have taken 938,231 people, or 4.8 percent of the world’s 19.5 million refugees, even though they boast just over one-half of the cumulative global GDP.

The five countries that have taken the most refugees, on the other hand, are all developing nations. Together, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories host a staggering 50 percent of the world’s refugees, even though they make up less than 1.5 percent of the world’s economy. Japan has taken by far the least, with China and the U.S. following behind. The tiny nations of Jordan and Lebanon have taken by far the most, with one refugee for every roughly three or four people in their countries. “The world’s richest countries can and should do much more to help the world’s most vulnerable people who have fled their homes because of violence and conflict,” Oxfam stressed.

The international aid organization blasted the “dangerous trend of governments turning their backs on the world’s most vulnerable people and failing to uphold the spirit and the international law they claim to champion.” Oxfam is launching a new campaign to pressure leaders in the world’s wealthiest countries to welcome more refugees and to do more to help and protect them.

“Shallow” commitment
The world is witnessing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. More than 60 million people have fled their homes because of violence, war and human rights violations, according to the U.N. Approximately one-third of the world’s 60 million displaced people are external refugees, whereas roughly two-thirds are internally displaced in their own countries. The largest refugee populations come from Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The wars and conflicts in many of these countries have been inflamed by some of the world’s wealthiest nations. That is to say, the rich countries that have contributed the most to fueling the refugee crisis have taken the fewest refugees, leaving the responsibility to significantly poorer countries. Oxfam acknowledges this in its report, noting that all of the conflicts refugees are fleeing “are man-made,” while “neighboring states and rich countries further afield sometimes fuel those wars by supplying arms.”

Meanwhile, there is little sign that the disparity will get any better. In all of 2014, the five richest countries resettled just 53,029 people, as the number of displaced people in the world soared. In March, the E.U. and Turkey reached an agreement to deport refugees and migrants in Europe en masse to Turkey, where rights organizations say their lives may be endangered. The U.N., rights groups and legal experts have blasted the deal as illegal and immoral. Oxfam condemned the E.U.-Turkey agreement, writing, “It trades human beings for political concessions, flying in the face of at least the spirit if not the letter of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the legal document which defines the rights of refugees and responsibilities of governments to protect them.” “By trading refugees for political concessions, the E.U.-Turkey deal fails to respect the spirit of international and E.U. law,” Oxfam stated. Other countries have cited Europe’s anti-refugee positions to justify their own, Oxfam noted. In May, Kenya closed the Dadaab camp for refugees, arguing that, if Europe was allowed to turn away Syrians, it could turn away Somalis.
© Salon

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Ireland: Barber 'refused haircuts to gay couple and young boy with disability'

A barber allegedly turned away a gay couple and a young boy with a disability when they came into his shop to get their hair cut.

10/6/2016- Michele Giansanti and his boyfriend Robert Nagle claim they were refused by a Turkish barber in Cork, because they were gay. “A few days ago I needed a haircut and my boyfriend came with me because he saw a style he wanted for me in a magazine wanted to explain to the guy the style. I sat down in the chair and while my boyfriend was explaining what I wanted the barber interrupted him and said he wasn’t going to do this and we could get it done next door,” said Michele. “I had been going to this barber for 10 months previously and never had any problems but the second I walked in with my boyfriend he was very rude. I’m gay so I’m pretty sure that was the reason.” Michele said his friend had a similar experience from the barber who claimed his hair “was too short and he didn’t need a haircut at all”. “I was walking in the area after and when the barber saw me he came to the door and locked it,” said Michele.

Mary Bermingham called into Cork’s 96fm this morning and accused the same barber of refusing to serve her 13-year-old son who has mild cerebral palsy. “We just decided to go in for a haircut. He has cerebral palsy, it’s mild enough but he was in his wheelchair that particular day because he uses it if he gets tired so we went in for a haircut, didn’t think anything of it,” said Mary. “Thomas was taking of his safety belt and he was going to get out and your man said I can’t cut his hair and I said why not and he said oh he can’t in the chair. I just asked was he serious and he opened the door for us to leave. I just couldn’t believe it, I was shocked.” Mary said that it wasn't an issue that Thomas was in a wheelchair as he can get out of his seat himself. “He looked at my son like he was going to catch something and my son just put his belt back on. He didn’t want to make an issue out of it. He was embarrassed," she continued. “I said to him what kind of person refuses someone because they’re disabled, especially a child.”

After attempts to contact the barbers were unsuccessful, Cork’s 96fm reporter Fergal Barry went to the barber to talk to him. Fergal claimed he went into the barber when it wasn’t busy, but was asked to leave after explaining he was a journalist and asked for a comment on the discrimination. “He caught me and he pushed me out of the premises not very violently but if I had resisted it would have hurt,” he said. The reporter claims that the barber followed him around the corner and told him to never come back to the premises again. Both Michele and Mary plan to file a discrimination claim to the Gardai after being turned away. “He had a very bad attitude. I’m surprised that that happened and at this point given the other people’s experiences I’m seriously thinking about doing that. There is clearly something wrong with that person,” said Michele. Attempts by Independent.ie to contact the barbers at the centre of the allegations have been unsuccessful.
© The Irish Independent

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Ukraine: Politicians to stand with LGBT people at Kiev Pride despite threats

Despite previous attacks on the event, politicians are to attend Kiev Pride and stand with LGBT people.

10/6/2016- In previous years, Pride has been called of in Kiev as authorities refused to police the event, and far-right thugs have attempted to interrupt other events.For the second time in a row, a Pride March is scheduled to take place in Kiev this Sunday. From the European Parliament, Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup Sophie in ‘t Veld, and members Ana Gomes and Rebecca Harms will march along for equality and human rights. In 2015, far-right hooligans attacked the event, and several police officers were injured. This year, Neo-Nazis threatened to create a “bloodbath” at the event which takes place on Sunday. Over the last year, Ukraine has made significant progress on the rights of LGBTI people. It included provisions in the Labour Code which outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at the work floor. A National Strategy on Human Rights was also adopted which included provisions seeking to advance the rights of LGBTI people. However, homophobia and transphobia remain severe problems.

Back in March an LGBTI festival in Lviv in the West of Ukraine, was cancelled following local authorities’ failure to protect the festival from far-right activists. Thugs surrounded a venue of the LGBT festival and chanted “kill”, while hurling blunt objects at those inside. Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice President of the LGBTI Intergroup, commented: “On Sunday we support those who want to make Ukraine a modern, open, inclusive society where all citizens are equal, where all can freely and safely be themselves. There is still a long road ahead to achieve full equality in Ukraine and to eradicate homophobia, but I truly welcome the support of Ukrainian politicians and authorities. By embracing diversity, these Ukrainian representatives and all the other pride participants are paving the way for a more open-minded and enriched Ukraine.”

Rebecca Harms MEP, Co-President of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament added: “It is the fundamental right of every citizen to freely assemble. The values of tolerance and diversity that will be celebrated this Sunday were at the heart of the Maidan protest. Ensuring these rights is of crucial importance for the society as a whole as they foster democracy. I look forward to joining the march.” Ana Gomes MEP, Coordinator of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the S&D Group and Member of the LGBTI Intergroup, added: “Undeniably, a lot of progress has been made on LGBTI rights. However, the spotlight on LGBTI people has also led to an increase in violence and homophobia, as the events in Lviv illustrate. I urge the authorities to ensure that all participants of the Pride will be well-protected, in line with European standards.”
© The Pink News

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Sweden to pay damages over Roma register

Eleven of the people present in a Roma register built by Swedish police were victims of ethnic discrimination, a court has ruled.

10/6/2016- Stockholm district court concluded on Friday that the eight adults and three children should each be awarded 30,000 kronor ($3654) in damages from the Swedish state, due to the presence of their details on a much-criticized database built by police in Skåne, southern Sweden. The database, containing information on around 4700 people, was ruled illegal in 2013. Victims were subsequently awarded 5000 kronor ($609) each in damages for invasion of personal privacy. Human rights group Civil Rights Defenders sued for further damages to be awarded to 11 of the victims on the grounds of ethnic discrimination.  “My heart is leaping and my voice is high, this is a victory for me and for the Roma that were on the register,” said Fred Taikon, one of the victims involved in the discrimination case, in comments reported by news agency TT. The Civil Rights Defenders lawsuit stated that Taikon had never been convicted of a criminal offence, and that he did not know any criminals in either his extended family or network of acquaintances. “Registering Roma is particularly offensive in light of the history of registering and persecuting Roma in Sweden and the world. In combination with the feelings of fear and discomfort that those who have applied for compensation have spoken of, the district court considers that the requested damages should be awarded”. It is thought that more lawsuits could now follow the ethnic discrimination ruling.
© The Local - Sweden

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Bosnia: European Court Rules Bosnian Constitution Discriminatory

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bosnia discriminated against Ilijaz Pilav for not allowing him to stand for the presidency because he was a Bosniak living in the country's Serb-dominated entity.

9/6/2016- The European Court of Human Rights, ECHR ruled on Thursday that the Bosnian authorities had discriminated against Pilav by refusing his candidacy for the Bosnian presidency because he was a Bosniak living in a municipality that is part of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity. Pilav tried twice to become a candidate to be the Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency, in 2006 and 2010 but was rejected both times by the Central Electoral Commission in accordance with the Bosnian constitution, Bosnian media reported. According to the constitution, the Bosnian Presidency “shall consist of three members: one Bosniak and one Croat, each directly elected from the territory of the Federation [entity], and one Serb directly elected from the territory of [Republika Srpska]”. The Strasbourg court ordered Bosnia to pay Pilav compensation of 6,607 euros in the next three months, regional TV station N1 reported.

“After this verdict, my mission is accomplished,” Pilav, Pilav, a doctor who lives in Srebrenica, told Sarajevo-based website Klix. He said he would not try to stand for the presidency again, however. “This was not a battle for my candidacy, it was a battle for all those who had their right to be candidate violated,” he explained. This is not the first time that the ECHR has ruled that the Bosnian constitution, which is based on the equality of the three ‘constitutive peoples’ (Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats), is discriminatory. The same judgment has been handed down on two previous occasions, in the case of Dervo Sejdic and Jakob Finci in 2009, and in the case of Azra Zornic in 2014. Sejdic and Finci, two Bosnian citizens of Roma and Jewish origins, appealed to the ECHR because they were not allowed to stand for the Bosnian presidency and the Bosnian parliament’s Chamber of Peoples, as places in both institutions are exclusively reserved for members of the three ‘constitutive peoples’.

Zornic won a similar case in 2014, when she appealed to the ECHR because she was not allowed to stand for the presidency and the Chamber of Peoples after she refused to declare herself a member of the three constitutive peoples, but only as “a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. Although the Bosnian constitution has repeatedly been found to be discriminatory, any attempt to reform it has so far failed. In recent years, the European Union tried to find an agreement to change the Bosnian constitution, but temporarily put aside the issue after Germany and Britain launched a new initiative to foster Bosnia’s integration based on economic and social reforms rather than political changes.
© Balkan Insight

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Unaccompanied child refugees' suffering on route to Europe laid bare

Interviews by Human Rights Watch with 50 refugees aged nine to 17 in Sweden reveal scale of trauma, as they tell of imprisonment, rape and beatings.

9/6/2016- The suffering of unaccompanied child refugees who have made their way to Sweden has been laid bare in a report detailing the horrific abuse some have been subjected to at home and on their journeys north. Interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with 50 unaccompanied child refugees aged nine to 17 reveal the scale of trauma suffered by many making the perilous voyages from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria and other countries. Sweden accepted 35,000 unaccompanied child refugees last year and is the most popular destination for lone children on the move. HRW said it conducted the research in order to better understand the needs of young people fleeing by themselves to Europe. From beatings and rapes to witnessing people dying in the Mediterranean and being held captive by Islamic State, the children’s testimonies reveal a litany of abuses and tragedy.

Nadia J, 16, from Afghanistan, said she was repeatedly raped by a people smuggler in Turkey. “[I told] the smuggler that I was alone and didn’t have any money. He told me: ‘No problem, I can help you.’ The same smuggler arranged for a place where he could keep me. He kept me for 12 days. I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t know the way. He had sex with me,” she told the researchers. Karam B, 16, from Syria, said Isis held him captive for five months and forced him to watch as others were tortured and killed. Abed D, 16, from Afghanistan, said he had gone to the police after his parents died and his uncle tried to make him join the Taliban. But rather than helping him, the police jailed Abed for four days, he said. Several other children from Afghanistan said they fled to avoid being forced to join the Taliban or other armed groups. Many of the horrors were inflicted on the children during their journeys to Europe. Abroon N, 13, from Somalia, said Libyan authorities imprisoned him and beat him around the head with a metal rod.

Rasoul D, a nine-year-old Afghan boy, recalled watching others die in the Mediterranean. “On the way we saw many problems. I saw people who are drowning,” Rasoul said. “I was scared and I felt really bad. Still I have problems. I have nightmares about it.” Four children said they were separated from their families and had to travel on alone. “You have no choice. If you stay in Libya, they can kill you,” said Saare V, 16, from Ethiopia. Using interpreters, HRW researchers interviewed 53 asylum seekers and refugees, of whom 50 were unaccompanied children. Three were 18-year-olds who had arrived alone in Sweden as children. They were housed in 17 asylum centres across the country. Of those interviewed, 37 were from Afghanistan, four from Eritrea, four from Syria, three from Somalia, two from Iraq, two from Ethiopia and one from Yemen. Nine of the interviewees were girls. The interviews were all voluntary and conducted so as not to risk further traumatising the children.

“We recognise Sweden’s leadership in this area, and a lot of children are understandably relieved to be here – Sweden ensures they are in homes not detention centres, it guarantees access to school and healthcare, it provides a model to other EU countries,” said Rebecca Riddell, a Human Rights Watch fellow and author of the report, the organisation’s first on Sweden. “But that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. Serious shortcomings are leading to delays and difficulties, but a few key reforms will help ensure children get the care and protection they need.” The number one issue for children is the long wait they face for decisions on their asylum applications, Riddell said. “The fear of return is very powerful. They have fled such horrors ... Extended periods of insecurity can have a particularly strong effect on children, which adds to the stress they experience,” she said.

The report finds that, amid a broader backlog of asylum cases owing to the 160,000 applications received in Sweden last year, there is “a lack of prioritisation” of applications by unaccompanied children. As a result, 34 of those interviewed in late January had yet to have their asylum determination interview, including 12 who had been in Sweden for five months or more. HRW also found some children, including those who said they had experienced sexual violence, had not received adequate mental and physical care. Nadia, for example, had told her social worker she wanted to be in a group home without boys because of the rape and harassment she had experienced – yet she ended up in a camp with 15 boys, and had not been referred for post-rape care, gynecological examination or psychological support. The report also raises concerns about accommodation and the effectiveness of Sweden’s guardianship system for young refugees.

A spokesperson for Sweden’s Inspectorate for Health Care (IVO), which is responsible for standards in asylum accommodation, said a sharp reduction in the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Sweden would now enable their needs to be better assessed and understood. “During the extraordinary situation that occurred in the autumn of 2015, the inspectorate’s ambition was to see to the immediate needs of the refugee children that arrived to Sweden without legal guardians,” the spokesperson said. “These unaccompanied refugee children were given shelter and food to start with. The children`s welfare and security has never been compromised. Now that the situation no longer calls for any extraordinary measures can we embark in getting to know the children and their needs better.”
© The Guardian

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Poland: Opposition party pushes for broader anti-hate crime laws

The opposition Nowoczesna (Modern) party wants to ban ageism alongside discrimination based on sexual orientation and disability under the country's criminal code.

8/6/2016- The grouping's proposed legislation was assessed by civil society organisations on Tuesday, along with representatives of circles that often fall victim to verbal aggression and hate crimes. The consultations were attended by activists such as Piotr Bystrianin, from the Ocalenie Foundation, an NGO helping migrants integrate in Poland, LGBT rights campaigner Mira Makuchowska, from the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), and Joanna Grabarczyk, from the HejtStop project targeting hate speech in Polish society. The two chief conclusions from these talks are "unsettling", says Nowoczesna's Pawe³ Rabiej. "Firstly, the level of aggression in public life has risen exponentially in recent months, which, unfortunately, translates to a hike in [attacks against foreigners] and hate speech," Rabiej said. "We are clearly facing a rise of neofascist movements."

The other conclusion is that "anarchistic and terrorist actions" in Poland are the result of "growing aggression in the political arena," which Rabiej says "is fuelled by the governing [Law and Justice] party." "We want to have the same standards that exist in the European Union," said Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, deputy head of the Nowoczesna caucus, who heads a parliamentary team on countering hate speech and protecting human rights. At present, Polish law penalizes discrimination against nationality, race, ethnicity, religion or lack of religious conviction. Poland's anti-discrimination laws do not cover crimes motivated by homophobia, and no separate statistics recording such offences exist. The draft legislation is to be presented at a conference in parliament on 4 July.
© The News - Poland

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Hungarian newspaper fined for comparing Roma with animals

7/6/2016- Because of an offense towards the Roma in an Hungarian daily newspaper Magyar Hirlap , paid a fine of 850 Euro. The author of the column, one of the founders of the Governing Party Fides, in the text uses hate speech, announced the Hungarian council. The journalist and friend of the Hungarian prime minister, compared the Roma with animals. The fine of 850 Euros is given because the author of the column Zolt Bajer broke the journalist rules. He wrote an article about a celebration in a bar, where he had a conflict, the individual attackers were identified as Roma and Bajer wrote 'The Roma are like animals and they act as if they were animals'. 'A large number of Roma are not able to coexist'. 'They are not able to live among people', wrote Bajer who is close with conservative Government. Bajer was giving similar comments about the Romani community, and that is why the newspaper Magyar Hirlap was criticized many times.
© The Roma Times

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Cyprus urged to focus on integration in racism report

Cyprus needs to come up with a new plan for the integration of non-nationals, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said on Tuesday.

7/6/2016- Despite some human rights improvements in Cyprus in recent years, the ECRI came up with a long list of actions that still need to be taken, including those related hate speech and racial profiling by the police, Roma segregation and gender identity. The ECRI, established by the Council of Europe, in its 47-page report covering developments up to December 9, 2015, said there were two main recommendations that needed to be tackled immediately. One was to develop a new integration plan for non-nationals, including foreign domestic workers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and other migrants. The second was to consult the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights – who is also the Ombudswoman – on all appointments of staff to her office “and allocate an adequate budget for her to carry out her functions properly”. She should also be granted the right to initiate and participate in court proceedings, ECRI said.

The government’s initial integration plan more or less expired in 2012. In February 2013, the cabinet announced that it would prepare an updated policy but it has not yet appeared, according to ECRI. On top of that, the report says racist statements in the public sphere continue to be a common phenomenon and there had been a rise in racist violence against migrants. The authorities should also define in law and prohibit racial profiling by the police, as well as provide further human rights training for them, the report added. “The ECRI notes that a policy circular instructs police to ‘avoid’ such activities but racial profiling is not prohibited by law… and it… has substantial negative effects and undermines trust in the police”. The body also considers hate speech particularly worrying because it is often a first step in the process towards actual violence.

According to statistics on “incidents and/or cases of a racial nature and/or with a racist motive”, which are collected exclusively by the police, between 2005 and 2014, around 120 such incidents were recorded. Of these, 58 were classified as verbal assault/hate speech. However, only two cases were tried, in 2009 and 2010, one of which ended in a conviction. The report also said Cyprus had still not developed a proper strategy for Roma inclusion in all areas of life. Despite the implementation of measures to address the educational needs of Roma pupils, school enrolment and attendance among Roma children are low and drop-out rates in the transition between primary and secondary school are high. “The policy of constructing prefabricated housing units for Roma in isolated areas promotes a practice of de facto segregation,” it added.

Other recommendations include amending the law to include the offence of public incitement to discrimination and the grounds of race, colour, language, religion, citizenship or national or ethnic origin. Public expression, with a racist aim, “of an ideology which claims the superiority of, or which depreciates or denigrates” these same groups should also be criminalised. There should also be an increase in penalties for homo/transphobic hate speech under the new criminal code provision and police should be clearly instructed to record any racist motivation behind all offences involving violence, and collect data on the aggravating circumstances. “Without such information there can be no solid basis for developing and implementing policies to address intolerance and discrimination against LGBT persons,” the report said. It also covered the issue of gender identity, recommending that legislation be amended to allow gender changes in personal documents without the requirement for gender reassignment surgery.
© The Cyprus Mail

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Latvia: Swastika Allegedly Mowed into President’s Lawn

Observers noticed the man making the symbol in the grass shortly before he mowed the rest of the lawn, making it disappear.

7/6/2016- Depending on whom you ask, a Latvian gardener was either being creative with the use of a national symbol for happiness or had darker intentions to promote Nazism. When the incident happened last week, journalists were unable to confirm the Swastika version when they arrived to the scene later, Delfi reports. But photo evidence quickly circulated on social media after television show Bez Tabu TV3 posted an image on Twitter. The lawn in question is located next to Riga Castle, the official residence of Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis. Jânis Siksnis, the president’s press secretary, stated that the photos were a surprise for the administration, Russian news outlet Lenta.ru reports. Siksnis also did not rule out the possibility that the administration would end its business relationship with State Real Estate, the company in charge of maintaining the grounds, over this incident.

However, according to the press release of gardening company Ingrado, who employed the gardener, the image on the lawn was not meant to be the Nazi symbol. “In order to restore the grass, our gardener, as a specialist and subscriber to Latvian traditions, decided to use the ‘pçrkonkrusts’ symbol while mowing the lawn. This tradition symbolizes and attracts happiness and energy,” read the statement, as quoted by Meduza.  Ingrado does not plan on punishing its employee, and currently the presidential administration is not cutting ties with State Real Estate, which uses Ingrado’s services, according to Meduza.

On 16 March, over 1,000 people participated in an annual parade honoring the Latvian Legion, which was commanded by the Waffen-SS. The Legion cooperated with the Nazis to repel the Soviet army’s advance during World War II. Russian and Jewish residents of Latvia denounced the march for its glorification of Nazi military history. Several far right-wing politicians also took part in the event. In November 2013, the Riga-based soccer team Dynamo was fined for a pre-game demonstration involving a display of swastikas, according to Lenta.ru. “Perkonkrusts” was the name used by an ultra-nationalist, fascist group in Latvia. The group, also known as Thundercross, operated from 1930 to 1934. They were banned by the government in 1934 and over 100 of its members were arrested.
Compiled by Anna Bisikalo
© Transitions Online.

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Google didn’t need to delete the anti-Semitic (((Echo))) app (opinion)

The reaction from social media users was the best two-fingered response that Twitter has ever seen, as Jewish people reclaimed their identity from the trolls who hoped to use it against them
By Jacob Furedi


9/6/2016- Anti-Semitism is all the rage these days. From the emergence of far-right parties across Europe to our very own Labour party, we are constantly warned that life as a Jew is becoming rather unpleasant. Most recently, animosity towards the Jewish people has extended into the cyber sphere. An anti-Semitic app available to download on Google Chrome has made its way into the public sphere after Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor for the New York Times, raised questions about why Twitter trolls were referring to him as (((Weisman))). He had just tweeted about an article criticising GOP candidate Donald Trump titled “This is how fascism comes to America”. It became clear that certain users had downloaded a “Coincidence Detector” which automatically surrounded Jewish names written on the internet in parentheses. ‘Israel’ automatically reads as (((Our Greatest Ally))). Users of the app consequently used the symbol to denote a Jewish subject online.

Having been born into a Jewish family, I’m not particularly surprised. To be honest, the most offensive element of the app is its shameful appropriation of that fantastic gram-matical tool: the parenthesis. By highlighting the presence of Jewish names, the app intends to make users aware of Jewish involvement in the media. According to its creators, the chosen people have secretly masterminded to take over the world. Given the apparent ignorance of the schmucks who created the “Coincidence Detector”, it wouldn’t be surprising if their deeply-held fear was correct. Perhaps I’m being harsh. The algorithm used by the app was pretty clever. Anti-Semites who use the detector’s use of parentheses are almost untraceable given that search engines tend to exclude punctuation from their search results. Anyhow, Google decided that it no longer wanted to host the extension and promptly removed it from its store by appealing to “hate speech”. Given that Google is private company, it had every right to withdraw a component of its search engine that may affect the reputation of its business.

But was it necessary? The Twittersphere’s reaction suggests not. Rather than needing to be shielded from anti-Semitic users, people actively chose to track them down and expose their prejudiced convictions. Jewish users reacted with the best two-fingered response Twitter has ever seen. They promptly edited their usernames to include the symbol that was previously being used against them. Jonathan Wiseman became (((Jonathan Wiseman))) and Jewish journalists and writers followed suit. Soon our newsfeeds were plastered by comments from (((Jeffrey Goldberg))), (((Yair Rosenberg))), (((Greg Jenner)))) and (((Lior Zaltzman))). Instead of appealing to “hate speech”, these people thought it more prudent to reclaim their Jewish identity from a few trolls who hoped to use it against them.

Despite receiving a five star rating on Google’s store, only 2,473 people downloaded the app. And it showed. Their voices were soon drowned out by swathes of users undermining their anti-Semitic cause. Crucially, the counter-movement demonstrated that Jewish users didn’t need Google to protect them from the ‘Coincidence Detector’. They were perfectly capable of doing that themselves. From their enslavement in Egypt to their genocide in Eastern Europe, the Jewish people have never had it easy. But, importantly, they still survived. We shouldn’t be too surprised, therefore, that they managed to deal with a crudely devised anti-Semitic app. ‘Coincidence’? I think not.
© The Independent -Voices

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Online anti-Semitism: Difficult to Fight, but Even Harder to Quantify

Amid the Jew-hating, anti-Israel and Holocaust-denying conversations, 12 percent of the anti-Semitic discourse one Israeli company monitors is Trump-related.

7/6/2016- Julia Ioffe, a Jewish journalist, becomes the target of anti-Semitic attacks, and even death threats, from Donald Trump supporters on social media after she publishes a profile of his wife Melania.
Jonathan Weisman, a Jewish editor at The New York Times, finds himself inundated with anti-Semitic epithets from self-identified supporters of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate after the editor tweets an essay on fascist trends in the United States.
Erin Schrode, a young Jewish Democrat running for Congress in California, receives a torrent of Jew-hating messages on Facebook (“Fire up the ovens” was just one of the gems) in what appears to be an orchestrated attack launched by American neo-Nazis.
A Google Chrome extension (removed a day after it was discovered) marks members of the Jewish faith online by placing three sets of parentheses around their names.

Mere coincidence, or is this the dawn of a new and dangerous era in online anti-Semitism? The honest answer, say those in the business of tracking attacks on Jews, is that it’s hard to tell. In the old offline world, life was far less complicated. You counted acts of vandalism, physical assaults and whatever else was quantifiable, compared the total with the previous year, and then determined whether things were getting better or worse for the Jews. With the advent of social media, however, those sorts of calculations have become virtually impossible. Not only is it difficult to know what to count (Tweets? Retweets? Likes? Posts? Shares? Follows? Reports of abuse?), but also, with billions of people posting online, how do you begin searching?

“Back in the days when online anti-Semitism was confined to websites like Stormfront and Jew Watch, we were able to keep statistics,” says Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who runs the Digital Terrorism and Hate Project at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California. “But in the era of social networking, the numbers have become meaningless. If you get one good shot in and it goes viral, how do you count it? Social networking has changed the whole paradigm.” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, has been keeping himself busier than usual this election season, calling out anti-Semites, their supporters and apologists. Yet, even he is reluctant to describe the current level of online attacks as unprecedented. “Back in 2000, when Joe Lieberman was on the presidential ticket, there were anti-Semitic attacks against him, too. So there’s certainly a history of these things,” he notes. “But we didn’t have Twitter back then. What social media has done is offer a platform that circulates some of the most noxious ideas in ways that were never previously possible, allowing bigots and racists, once marginalized by mainstream society, to now come out of the woodwork.”

Even if it were possible to make accurate numerical calculations about online anti-Semitism these days, says Greenblatt, there is no way to know if the situation has become worse, “because we don’t have a sample set from previous elections with which to compare.” Probably the closest thing to hard statistics related to the phenomenon appear in a recent report compiled by Buzzilla, an Israeli company that monitors and researches discussions in various online arenas: responses to articles, blogs, forums and social media. In preparing the report – commissioned by an Israeli nonprofit that promotes Holocaust remembrance – Buzzilla scoured the Internet for key phrases associated with anti-Semitism (“Hitler was right,” “burn the Jews,” “hate the Jews” etc.). “We define anti-Semitism as content that is against Jews, not against Israel per se,” says Merav Borenstein, Buzzilla's vice president for strategy and products. Regardless, she notes, Israel serves as a lightning rod for online anti-Semitism.

Examining anti-Semitic discourse over the course of a 12-month period ending in March 2016, the report found a spike in the three last months of 2015, coinciding with the spate of Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis. “We have found that whenever Israel is in the news – and this was true during the Gaza War in the summer of 2014 as well – it translates into a rise in online anti-Semitism,” says Borenstein.


Cooper, of the Simon Weisenthal Center, confirms this pattern. “You can almost write the script,” he says. “Within an hour of any terror attack against Jews or Israelis, the images of the perpetrators are up online, and they are touted as heroes who should be emulated.” According to the Buzzilla report, roughly 600 anti-Semitic conversations took place in the arenas it monitors in April 2015. By March 2016, that number had almost tripled. (The peak month was December 2015, with 2,500). At the request of Haaretz, Buzzilla also examined how much of the recent anti-Semitic discourse on the Internet has been fueled by the Trump campaign. It found that since the beginning of this year, 12 percent of the total volume of anti-Semitic discourse in the arenas it monitors is related to the presumptive Republican presidential candidate although not posted by him personally.

Flagging offensive content
They Can’t is the name of relatively new Israeli nonprofit devoted to fighting online anti-Semitism. Through a network of grass-roots activist, the organization flags anti-Semitic content, mainly on YouTube and Facebook, and demands that it be removed. Its founder, Belgian-born Eliyahou Roth, says their track record is unmatched. “Over the past three years, we’ve managed to remove more than 45,000 accounts, pages, videos, posts and photos with anti-Semitic content from the Internet,” he says. “About 41,000 items were what we call classic anti-Semitic items, another 1,000 dealt with Holocaust denial, and the rest, which were in Arabic, fell into the category of terror incitement.” That was out of a total of 78,500 anti-Semitic items that his organization tracks on an ongoing basis. Over at the Simon Weisenthal Center, Cooper says that the number of anti-Semitic items his organization has succeeded in removing from the Internet is “probably in multiples of tens of thousands.”

But such success is not the norm, according to a report prepared earlier this year by The Online Hate Prevention Institute. Titled “Measuring the Hate: The State of Anti-Semitism in Social Media,” it found that out of 2,000 anti-Semitic items the Australian-based organization had been tracking over a period of 10 months, only 20 percent had been removed from the Internet. The report did take note, however, of significant variations in the response rates of different social media companies. Facebook was hailed as the company most responsive to demands to remove anti-Semitic content, whereas YouTube was the least. A breakdown provided in the report of anti-Semitic content by category found that 49 percent was “traditional” (defined as containing “conspiracy theories, racial slurs and accusations such as the blood libel”), 12 percent was related to Holocaust denial, 34 percent to Israel, and 5 percent promoted violence against Jews.

Acknowledging the difficulties of quantifying online anti-Semitism, David Matas, a prominent Canadian human rights lawyer, points to a key indicator that social media companies adamantly refuse to divulge, although it could provide a useful benchmark: the number of complaints they receive about anti-Semitic content. Speaking at a recent conference in Jerusalem, Matas, who also serves as senior legal counsel of B’nai Brith Canada, lamented that “unless we have a solution on metrics, we cannot even know the problem.” Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland and an expert on online harassment, is not sure whether online anti-Semitism is spreading or simply drawing more attention. “What I can say is that it’s become more mainstream,” she notes. “It is no longer hidden in the dark corners of the internet like it once was. We are now seeing it on very mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

At the same time, Jew-haters are clearly feeling more emboldened – not only by the anonymity provided by social media, says Citron, but also, more recently, by the nod they’ve received from the Republican presidential hopeful. “Trump gives people permission to be hateful, whether that is to women, to the disabled or to Jews,” she explains. How much of what seems like an uptick in online anti-Semitism can be blamed on extreme right-wingers who support Trump and how much on extreme left-wingers who hate Israel? “I see two twin vectors converging here,” says the ADL’s Greenblatt. “One is right-wing anti-Semitism, steeped in white supremacist ideology, and it’s very anti-Jewish. Then there is the left-wing anti-Semitism, steeped in anti-Israel ideology. In my estimation, though, the end result is the same: Jews are being attacked for being Jewish. It’s prejudice plain and simple.”
© Haaretz

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Austrian extremists stage a 'stoning' in asylum lecture

Far-right extremists stormed a lecture on asylum in Austria yesterday dressed up in burkas and middle-age costumes to carry out a pretend ‘stoning’ on one of their members in a protest against refugees.

10/6/2016- The group of about a dozen protesters from the far-right group Identitäre Bewegung Österreich stormed the university lecture hall in Klagenfurt around 17.30 when the lecture was taking place and unfurled a banner that read ‘Integration is a lie’. One of the men wearing a burka proceeded to carry out a ‘stoning’ using styrofoam blocks on another protester wearing traditional Austrian clothes who had his head and hands trapped in stocks. According the group’s online statement, the man was supposed to represent an “Austrian patriot”. The vice-chancellor of the university Oliver Vitouch, who was attending the event, received a punch in the stomach after trying to seize hold of one of the men to identify them. He later described the actions from the far-right extremists as an “incitement campaign”. After the police were called, the group left the hall. An investigation into the incident has now been launched by the state office for the protection of the constitution.

It is the latest in a run of incidents involving the Identitarian group, who have targeted events and buildings in protest against what they see as the ‘Islamisication’ of Europe. Earlier this year the group stormed a performance of a play by refugees in Vienna and threw fake blood at the crowd before getting into a fight with the audience. When the play was put on again this week at the Rathaus in Vienna it received police protection. The same group have also scaled the Green party headquarters in Graz and the Burgtheater in Vienna in similar protests. A far-right demonstration is planned to take place at 14.00 in Vienna this Saturday, where police are expecting between 500 and 1000 people to take part. Several counter-demonstrations will also take place throughout the day, started at 11.00 at U3 station Johnstraße. A second will begin at the same time Vogelweidpark and a third will take place at 13.00 at Kardinal Rauscher-Platz.

Lifeguard vehicle targeted by anti-refugee protest
In a separate incident this week, an unknown culprit smashed the window of a water rescue vehicle in Carinthia because they were angry the volunteer lifeguards were giving refugee children swimming lessons. It followed reports in local media that the water rescue service were giving free swimming lessons to young unaccompanied refugees who live directly next to lakes in the region but who are unable to swim. “During wintertime, we prepared them with courses about water and the dangers at swimming pools,” explained head of the regional lifeguard group Heinz Kernjak to the Kurier. Kernjak said they then received “unqualified and abusive” comments online from people hostile to the idea of asylum seekers receiving free swimming lessons. The day after the story was published, a vehicle belonging to the water service had a window smashed in. Kernjak says the negative reaction will not stop them providing lessons to refugees and they will continue with the courses in summer.
© The Local - Austria

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Austrian far-right FPO challenges presidential election result

8/6/2016- Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on Wednesday formally contested the result of last month's presidential election, calling into question the count of postal ballots that swung the vote against its candidate. Postal ballots pushed former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen past the FPO's Norbert Hofer in a tight run-off vote in which the margin of victory was less than 1 percentage point, or roughly 31,000 votes. While the post of president is largely ceremonial in Austria, Hofer would have been the first far-right head of state in the European Union. Governments across the continent breathed a sigh of relief at his defeat. FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache called for a re-run of the election, saying his party had evidence of numerous irregularities, including the early counting of postal ballots - an issue many see as a technicality, not a serious breach.

"We are not bad losers. Rather it is about the foundations of democracy, which must be secured," Strache told a news conference announcing the challenge. Various irregularities have already come to light, mostly involving the early counting and processing of postal ballots, but the interior ministry has said the number of votes affected was smaller than the margin of victory. Strache said that figure was much higher. "The scale of this observation is more than frightening and more than relevant. For this reason I feel obliged to challenge this result." Austria's Constitutional Court must now determine whether the law has been broken and whether the breach might have affected the outcome of the election. It said it aimed to reach a verdict before Van der Bellen is due to take office on July 8.

Country Divided
The FPO challenge focuses on 573,275 of the more than 700,000 postal ballots cast in the election. Irregularities cited by the FPO included ballots being counted by unauthorised people or without observers present. The Freedom Party's move threatens to revive a contest that split the country almost evenly in two, with workers and rural areas largely backing Hofer and cities and the highly educated leaning towards Van der Bellen. The Interior Ministry has said that the overwhelming majority of votes judged irregular in the run-off were labelled thus because they were postal ballots processed or counted before 9 a.m. on the day after the election. Up to 23,000 votes were affected, with a further 2,000 ruled out due to more serious violations such as when a handful of teenagers not yet of voting age were allowed to cast ballots, the ministry said.
© Reuters

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Austria: Far-right tells refugees how to interact with 'our women'

Austria's far-right Freedom Party has released a controversial video aimed at asylum seekers with some Arabic subtitles telling them to keep their hands of Austrian women.

7/6/2016- The video is presented by Freedom Party (FPÖ) politician Armin Sippel where it quickly went viral and attracted a storm of controversy. Speaking in German, it shows Sippel addressing "Dear...Asylum Seekers", and then goes on to explain how to interact "with our women". A blonde mannequin in a low-cut dress is then shoved on the screen and the politician then goes on to talk about what is ‘allowed’, with signs containing the German and Arabic words for ‘No', although the Arabic was misspelled. In other instances he uses pictures, such as an aeroplane to indicate that the asylum seekers would be sent back home. He also demonstrates putting his hand on the model's bottom and breasts to drive his point home. At the end of the video, he notes: "Keep your fingers off our women." The politician was widely criticised online and said that "as a result of the extremely aggressive personal attacks, I decided to take it offline", although the video was put online again by other people. He did say, however, that he did not regret making the video as he felt it was necessary to address issues surrounding what happened in Cologne and the "daily individual cases" in Austria.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: a country split over far right

6/6/2016- When the far right took the lead in Austria's presidential election earlier this year, Viennese businessman Georg Demmer says he was so shocked that he got involved in national politics for the first time. Patiently and methodically he and a group of like-minded people worked their way from bar to bar, persuading and cajoling voters to cast their ballot to keep the far right Freedom Party candidate from office. But 180 km to the west, in the city of Linz, shoe saleswoman Patricia Haginger took a very different view. To her, the prospect of putting an Austria-first eurosceptic in the presidential palace was a chance to upend mainstream politics. Demmer and Haginger, both 33, stand on either side of a near perfect political divide in Austria, where the collapse of the political center has set up a clash between an often disgruntled and fearful working class and a more comfortable urban elite.

With many Western voters moving away from traditional parties and politicians, lifting forces as varied as the National Front in France and Donald Trump in the United States, Austria's split could be mirrored elsewhere. In the end, the presidency narrowly eluded far right candidate Norbert Hofer in a run-off vote last month, thanks in part to Demmer and others like him who mobilized voters in support of Hofer's second round opponent, former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen. The Freedom Party traces its roots to the decade after World War Two. Its first leader was Anton Reinthaller, a decorated member of the Nazi SS who served as agriculture minister after Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938. On Reinthaller's death in 1958, he was replaced by another former SS officer, Friedrich Peter. The party's more recent history was dominated by Joerg Haider, who became leader in 1986. It is from Haider's nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-EU platform that much of the party's current line is derived. Haider died in a car crash in 2008 but still casts a shadow over Austrian politics.

Splits
Demmer in Vienna and Haginger in Linz are equally sure of their ground. Demmer runs a working space for startups and freelancers. He says it is unimaginable that "a backward-thinking person with ethnically-based and nationalist views could take such high office." This notion is rejected by Hofer, who says he expresses the concerns of ordinary people. Demmer recounts how, shocked by Hofer's strong first round showing, he and others who share his views targeted bars in areas where neither run-off candidate had a clear lead. They found people were generally prepared to listen. "There was no negative atmosphere, no aggression," he said. "There were many arguments that had little to do with facts, more with sympathies and a general feeling of protest against the government."

In the run-off on May 22, Van der Bellen's margin of victory was only about 31,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point - a result that Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said on Saturday he is likely to challenge. The election for the largely ceremonial post revealed splits between young and old, city and countryside, and blue- and white-collar workers. Election-day polling by the SORA institute showed 86 percent of blue-collar voters backed Hofer. Among those with a university degree, 81 percent voted for Van der Bellen. Cities were also hubs of support for Van der Bellen. In Vienna for instance he had a margin of 26.6 percentage points. The former Green leader had the backing of 60 percent of women voters. For many of Hofer's supporters, immigration and integration were important issues. "Being multicultural is all well and good, but we need to make sure that there is a togetherness," said Haginger, the shoe saleswoman who lives in Auwiesen, a largely working-class area of Linz.

In Haginger's view, immigrants should accept the cultural and religious values of predominantly Catholic Austria. The Freedom Party's message that mass immigration threatens security and jobs in a country that took in 90,000 asylum seekers last year - more than 1 percent of its population - resonates in neighborhoods like hers. While she says she gets along well with neighbors who settled in Austria years ago and learnt to speak German, security is a big concern. Hofer's direct language is appealing. "He believes in what he says. He says very clearly Austria first, homeland first," she said. For her, the party's roots in Austria's Nazi past are irrelevant. "We are not a Nazi party. I would never describe myself as a Nazi," she said. "We are people who want security and want to see Austrians put first." That outlook is anathema to Demmer. To him, Austria's Nazi, or "brown", history is relevant. Austrians have a Nazi past and a "brown core", he says, "and it is therefore slightly different than in other countries."

Frustation
Voters on both sides are frustrated with Austria's traditional parties of government - the Social Democrats (SPO) and the conservative People's Party (OVP) - which have dominated post-war politics and whose coalition term runs until 2018. Their dominance has been such that they have carved up major institutions between them and supplied every president since World War Two. But this election marked a sea change, with both parties' candidates having failed to make the run-off. "The OVP and SPO were increasingly busy fighting each other," Haginger said, explaining why she switched from supporting the center-left SPO to the Freedom Party years ago. "The FPO has become the real workers' party." She feels the party better understands what life in her neighborhood of post-war apartment blocks is like, unlike Van der Bellen whom she calls "a daydreamer".

In Vienna's 10th district, where 38.4 percent of the population was born outside Austria, kebab shop worker Pasa Coeset reflects on events - and voices sympathy for Hofer. Coeset recounts that he came to Austria from Turkey in 1988. A naturalized Austrian, he has served in the Austrian army and his children have Austrian passports. But now he hankers to return to Turkey. "Working here doesn't pay anymore, bills are getting more expensive, fees and taxes, electricity is getting more expensive. Hofer is right. Hofer is not against foreigners. He only does not want you to get money from the state if you have been unemployed for a long time." "I am Muslim, but Hofer is not Islamophobic."
© Reuters

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French 'far-right extremist' was model employee

6/6/2016- A suspected far-right French extremist who was allegedly planning to attack the Euro 2016 football championships never aroused suspicion amongst his neighbours, with his employer describing him as an "exemplary" worker. Ukraine said Monday that it arrested the 25-year-old last month in possession of a huge arsenal of weapons. According to Ukraine's SBU security service, he was intending to attack a mosque, a synagogue, tax offices, transport checkpoints and several other locations. But neighbours and acquaint-tances in northeastern France expressed surprise at the arrest of a man they described as "reserved" and "hardworking", who had never publicised any extremist views or activi-ties. The man, yet to be formally identified by French authorities, hails from the northeastern region of Meuse near the Belgian border. He works for an agricultural cooperative, Elitest, in the small town of Brumath in the Bas-Rhin region of northeastern France.

The man's employer told AFP on Monday he was an "exemplary employee". "We have no information on his private life," added the firm's technical director Luc Voidey. A farmer acquaintance, Nicolas Wilt, said the suspect regularly visited Ukraine as "he told us he had a girlfriend in Ukraine and that he went to her place from time to time". "A guy with no back story," he added. Another work acquaintance recalled a tall, "blond guy with blue eyes, skinny, very very reserved and very shy." A police source indicated that a t-shirt bearing the motif of an extreme rightwing group had been seized during a search in the tiny village of Nant-le-Petit, where the man regularly stayed with his grandfather. But the village mayor Dominique Pensalfini-Demorise said locals were "astounded" at the news. "This doesn't fit with the person we knew," she said. "Everybody found him very pleasant. He was very decent towards the neighbours and me -- very intelligent and kind, ready to be helpful."

- 'Never talked politics' -
Jean-Jacques Renck, a neighbour of the man's grandfather, said the suspect wanted to set up in Ukraine and was not outwardly political. "His dream was to settle down in Ukraine, build a farm there and make use of his talents. He never talked politics with me." The neighbour added that the "well spoken" suspect was "very hard working", and sometimes helped him with chores. Another neighbour, Catherine Lenquette, said he had been to visit a farm in the United States and then "one in Ukraine two or three years ago". "He never talked politics, not even after (last year's Paris) attacks," added Lenquette. Ukrainian authorities say the man was arrested on the border with Poland in possession of 125 kilogrammes (275 pounds) of TNT and 100 detonators and five Kalashnikov assault rifles. He also had grenade launchers and some 5,000 rounds of ammunition. Ukraine's secret service said it had become aware in December of the arrival of a French national who had begun "to establish contacts with a number of representatives in the (pro-Russian separatist) east".
© AFP

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Frenchman arrested in Ukraine 'planned string of Euro 2016 attacks'

6/6/2016- A French citizen arrested with a “vast arsenal” of explosives and assault rifles was planning “15 attacks” to coincide with the Euro 2016 football tournament in France, according to Ukraine’s state security service. Confirmation of the arrest of Grégoire Moutaux, 25, a suspected far-Right nationalist, came on the day the England team arrived at their French base ahead of their first game in Marseille on Saturday. Police said Moutaux, who was seized on Ukraine's border with Poland on May 21, had amassed a “vast arsenal” including “more than 5,000 bullets, two anti-tank grenade launchers, 125 kg of TNT, 100 detonators, 20 balaclavas and other things”.

News of the plot came as French intelligence said it was “deeply concerned” about a potential attack from home-grown terrorists following the slaying of 16 Real Madrid fans this months in Iraq, which agents view as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (Isil) “postcard” to the West over its murderous intentions during the tournament. However, Moutaux, who originally comes from Bar-le-Duc, near Reims, in northeast France, was driven by ultra-nationalist views. His intended targets included Jewish and Muslim places of worship and buildings involved with the soccer tournament, as well as police patrol units, according to police. French government administration buildings, including those dealing with tax collection, were also a target. He had planned to mine roads and bridges in several regions of France.

"The Frenchman spoke negatively about his government's actions, mass immigration, the spread of Islam and globalisation, and also talked about plans to carry out several terrorist attacks," said Vasyl Grytsak, head of the Ukrainian state security service, SBU. Moutaux, a farm worker, had made contact with armed groups in Ukraine with the aim of buying weapons and explosives. "The SBU was able to prevent a series of 15 acts of terror (planned) for the eve and during the Euro soccer championship," said Mr Grystak, who added that the SBU had sold Moutaux deactivated weapons after they found out that he was looking to purchase the arms. Soon after Moutaux's arrest in Ukraine, a raid was carried out at his home in France. There officers found neo-Nazi T-shirts, as well as chemicals used to produce explosives and five balaclavas. He had no criminal record. Locals in Nant-le-Petit, which has a population of just 80 people, described Moutaux as a “polite and pleasant lad”.

Thousands of British football fans are due to travel to France for Euro 2016 this week, amid warnings that they face an unprecedented security threat. French intelligence has been on high alert since Isil operatives killed 130 people in November with suicide bombers exploding their devices around the Stade de France during a football friendly between France and Germany. Suicide bombers then killed 32 people at Belgium's main international airport and on the Brussels metro in March. Plans to launch fresh attacks in France during Euro 2016 emerged on a computer belonging to Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Isil Paris death squad. The arrest came amid revelations that 82 members of the 3,500-strong security personnel employed to police sensitive Euro sites are on France’s intelligence service watch list, which includes potentially violent Islamist radicals. The figure was in a note from the DGSI, France’s domestic spy agency, leaked to Le Point magazine.

Speaking to AFP, one French intelligence agent warned: “Quite frankly, I’m worried.” “What we’re most concerned about are people already in place in Europe, which is apparently the case,” he said. “Guys stationed in Germany, for example, who we didn’t see get through, who the Germans didn’t spot and who have been lying in wait ever since. We’ve re-established certain borders, but let’s be honest, borders are uncontrollable.” The intelligence source said that the Isil attack on May 13 on local Real Madrid supporters gathered to watch old matches and 16 of whom were gunned down was a “post card sent to the Euro”. “It’s a direct message. It was perhaps meant to frighten us, in which case it has succeeded in doing so,” he said. One terror attack would see three quarters of the Euro teams go home, and a pledge of fresh ones would kill the tournament altogether, he warned.

Security officials are concerned about “soft targets”, in particular fan zones – cordoned off areas in ten cities around France where supporters can watch the games on giant screens. On Monday, Olivier Feray, head of one of France’s top private security firms, Prosegur, in charge of security at Olympique Lyonnais stadium where six Euro matches will take place, said that personally it was “out of the question to take my kids to a fan zone”. “We could have requisitioned other stadiums not used for the competition. But here, these are places created artificially for the occasion at sites that are not at all designed for the job right in the town centre. Naturally, this carries major risks,” he warned. French authorities have extended a state of emergency until the end of the tournament, as well as the Tour de France cycling race, which will be held from July 2 to July 24.

Some 2.5 million football fans are expected in stadiums, including 1.5 million foreign visitors. On Monday, French President Francois Hollande said that the threat of extremism would not stop the European Championships from being successful. He said: “This threat, alas, will exist for a long time so we must guarantee this great event ... is successful. It will be.”
© The Telegraph

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Czech Rep: Judge reprimanded for insulting migrants

6/6/2016- The disciplinary panel of the Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) imposed a reprimand on judge Milos Zbranek for having posted online two articles grossly insulting migrants and the staff of the NGOs helping them yesterday. The disciplinary panel complied with the complaint over the articles A Report on Wandering to Germany and a Letter from a Disoriented Runner. The panel ruled that the texts in question were on the verge of taste and decency. "In some cases, they crossed the boundary," chairman of the court panel Radovan Havelec said. Zbranek described the refugees generally as self-seeking persons and pure opportunists. According to Zbranek, the NGO staff sponge on the aid to the refugees. In addition, Zbranek used liberally vulgarisms, the verdict said.

Zbranek works in the Liberec branch of the regional court in north Bohemia. He is in charge of commercial law cases. His superiors do not have any objections to his work. However, the chairman of the regional court, Lubos Doerfl, previously asked him to be moderate when writing. As Zbranek's publication activity continued, he lodged the disciplinary action.
Although Zbranek did not expressly confirm that he was the author of the articles, the court panel ruled that it was beyond dispute. There are a number of limitations associated with the post of a judge, but judges can be active in literature, arts and comments on public affairs. However, they must not violate the dignity of the calling of judge and threaten the trust in the independence of the judiciary. "In my view, neither the refugees nor Muslims are slandered there. If anything, they are described as a sort of victims of the persons around them," Zbranek has said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Trump-like opposition to Islam is growing in Europe

By Anthony Faiola in Erfurt, Germany

6/6/2016- This medieval city of timber-framed buildings and cobblestone streets is on the front lines of the escalating culture war over Islam in the West. Donald Trump may be calling for a ban on Muslims visiting the United States. But on this side of the Atlantic, Islam is also under fire, with political opposition to the faith growing as an anti-Muslim message emerges as the rallying cry of Europe's far right. In few places is the shift more startling than here in Germany, where Islamist terrorism in neighboring nations and a record wave of Middle Eastern migrants are testing the national will to protect minority rights adopted after World War II.

Once a libertarian force opposed to the euro and Greek bailouts, the fast-growing Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) has now squarely joined the anti-Islam ranks. In recent weeks, the AfD unveiled a scathing denunciation of the faith, warning against "the expansion and presence of a growing number of Muslims" on German soil. Adding further fuel to the party's crusade, German authorities on Thursday arrested three Syrian men who had posed as migrants for allegedly plotting an attack on the historic center of Düsseldorf in the name of the Islamic State.

To protect women's rights, national security and German culture, the party — supported by almost 1 in 6 voters — is calling for a ban on headscarves at schools and universities and is preparing to release an anti-Islam "manifesto" based on "scientific research." Here in the former communist east, the party has gone further — startling local Muslims by launching a campaign to stop the construction of what would be Erfurt's first-ever mosque. According to city records, 75 percent of Erfurt's 200,000 residents say they have "no religion." But AfD officials are outraged by the thought of minarets rising only a few tram stops away from the steeples of Erfurt's ancient Christian churches. "This issue is too important to remain silent about," said local AfD politician Stefan Möller. "We owe it to our country to speak out. We are patriots."

Muslim leaders and progressive politicians, meanwhile, are sounding the alarm, while calling the AfD's move against Islam a sign of the times. This year at least two German universities have closed Muslim prayer rooms, arguing that places of higher education should be secular and that Islam should not receive "special treatment." They are encouraging Muslims who want to pray to use generic "rooms of silence" designed for all students. In Germany, as in other parts of Europe, there has also been a recent spat of attacks on mosques, including attempted arsons and vandalism.

Some here — and not only Muslims — are deeply worried by the trend. "The crematoriums for the concentration camps [of World War II] were built in Erfurt," said Bodo Ramelow, the left-wing governor of the state where Erfurt is located. "Buchenwald and Dora concentrations camps were here. The first big wave of racism was directed against our fellow Jewish citizens . . .We must never again allow a majority vote to prevent a minority from thriving." Muslim leaders see rising opposition in Germany as part of the same phenomenon that has turned Islam into a campaign issue in the United States, but also in France, Austria, Holland, Poland and other nations in Europe. "For the first time [since World War II] there is a party again attempting to existentially constrain an entire religious community and to threaten it," Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said about the anti-Islam stance of the AfD. "This reminds us of the times of Hitler."

Political opposition in Europe to more conservative forms of Islam has been growing for years. In 2009, Switzerland effectively banned a new mosque and a year later, France passed a law banning headscarves in public. But Muslim leaders fear a resurgence of anti-Islam sentiments throughout the West. In the United States, Trump is targeting Muslims, while in Austria last month, a "Muslim invasion" of migrants fleeing war became the dominant theme of a presidential race narrowly lost by the far right. In Britain, London's first ever-Muslim mayor faced a campaign in which even Prime Minister David Cameron sought to link him to extremists.

In France, acts of violence against Muslims surged more than threefold in 2015, jumping from 133 incidents to 429, according to the country's Interior Ministry. In May, Polish police entered university dorms in Krakow to question a number of foreign students about connections to terrorism, prompting allegations of racial profiling and Muslim-bashing. In January, the Danish city of Randers passed a resolution requiring public institutions to serve pork. Supporters rallied in favor of the bill by saying that Danish food culture should trump the religious requirements of Muslim immigrants. In April, the Italian province of Veneto adopted a change in a law that critics say makes it harder to build mosques. "I'm absolutely against the construction of new mosques," Luca Zaia, Veneto's governor from the right-wing Northern League, told the Nuova di Venezia newspaper. "I've already met some of these preachers, and I told them clearly that sermons need be pronounced in Italian, for reasons of transparency."

Germany has long been a bastion of tolerance in Europe, with many pointing to World War II history as an example of the danger when religious and ethnic minorities are targeted. Some AfD supporters point to the growing influence of radical Islam in Germany as evidence of what happens when the faith is left unchecked. In 2014, for instance, a group of ultra-conservative Islamists staged a publicity stunt in the German city of Wuppertal, dressing up as "Sharia Police" — a reference to Islamic religious law — while allegedly telling bystanders not to drink alcohol or visit nightclubs. Islam's critics, although insisting they have nothing against progressive Muslims, are increasingly taking aim at the faith more broadly. They point to a lack of respect for gays and lesbians, as well as women, allegedly shown by some Muslims — including suspects in a series of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in the German city of Cologne.

But opponents of the right wing argue that its own stances against gay rights and in defense of "traditional" roles for women suggest that anti-Islam positions are merely being used a political ploy to win votes. The AfD "basically represents the same authoritarian, homophobic and sexist — in short: inhumane — position as ultraconservative Islamic associations," Mina Ahadi, an Iranian dissident and critic of fundamental Islam, wrote in an open letter to the group. An attempted meeting between the AfD leadership senior Muslim officials in Germany broke down last month, with both sides blaming one another. To produce materials arguing that Islam is incompatible with German democracy, the AfD is relying on authorities such as Tilman Nagel, a former professor of Islamic Studies at Göttingen University who, in a telephone interview, lashed out at "political correctness." "The fundamental principles of Islam can't be reconciled with our free constitution," he said.

In Erfurt, the AfD's opposition to a new mosque has stunned the small local community of 70 Muslims who are seeking permission to build it, the city's first, on a grassy patch of land in an industrial quarter on the outskirts of town. In fact, the AfD only found out about their plan when a local Muslim leader informed them of it during a meeting last month. "I could see the hate in their eyes when I told them," said Suleman Malik, a 33-year old refugee councilor and immigrant from Pakistan who is leading the effort. "They want to violate our freedom of religion, but I don't think they will succeed," he said. "This is a national issue now, and I don't think Germany wants to see this happen."
© The Washington Post

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Spanish Cardinal Charged with Hate Crimes for ‘Attacks on Refugees and Minorities’

The Spanish Network for Refugees has initiated criminal proceedings against the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, charging him with inciting “hate crimes,” after the prelate spoke out publicly against a reigning “gay empire,” criticized radical feminist groups and decried Europe’s open-door policy toward migrants.

7/6/2016- In their statement, the network said that Cañizares “is an ultra-conservative trying to subvert the constitutional order,” and accused him of nostalgia for “other times when immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and women were subjected to the dictates of a society governed by the powers of the Catholic Church.” The advocacy group claims that the archbishop, nicknamed “Little Ratzinger” because of his theological acumen and similarities to Pope Benedict, has criticized feminist organizations as well as speaking out against European policy toward migrants. The statement said that in his opposition to open borders, the Cardinal was “aligning himself with neo-Fascist organizations” which, like Cañizares, “consider persons of other ethnicities or religious beliefs as dangerous and potentially criminal.”

Last month, Cañizares slammed the “gay empire” for its attacks on the family, as well as joining Pope Francis in criticizing “gender ideology,” which he reportedly described as “the most insidious ideology in the history of humanity.” The Cardinal spoke these words on the eve of the International Day Against Lesbophobia, Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, at a Mass celebrated in the chapel at the Catholic University of Valencia. The Cardinal recently flew to Rome for a Jubilee year pilgrimage, where he had a private audience with Pope Francis. In their statement, the Network said that the Archbishop had manifested an “evident disdain” toward groups at risk of social exclusion, and moreover had launched “a frontal attack on human rights and the whole system of protection of minorities, under Constitutional protection in our legal system.” The statement did not offer an opinion regarding the protection of free speech, a sore point among human rights groups in Spain.

In March 2015, the Spanish senate voted to enact controversial changes to the nation’s public security laws, in what many saw as suppression of the rights of freedom of assembly and expression. At the time, Virginia Pérez Alonso of the Platform in Defense of Freedom of Information called the legislation “one of the worst attacks on liberties that we’ve seen in Spain since the times of Franco.” As the New York Times gingerly noted in reference to the Spanish ruling, some European countries “have long placed stricter limits on political and hate speech than has the United States.” Some civil liberties groups “are growing increasingly alarmed at the broad ways such laws are being adapted,” the paper observed, and “there is no telling how the statutes could be applied in the future.” Joining the attack on Cardinal Cañizares was Monica Oltra, the vice president of the Valencian government, who said that the Cardinal’s words “encourage a feeling of hatred and associated crimes,” accusing him of throwing around “misogynistic messages that devalue the image of women” as well as the LGBT community.
© Breitbart

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News from UK & Germany - Week 23

UK: London has Muslim mayor yet Britain seems to be getting less tolerant.

For many people the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London last month was an historic moment. Not only is he the first Muslim to lead a major Western city, but his victory is proof that there are opportunities for British Muslims to reach the top in this country.

10/6/2016- The mayoral campaign itself was marred by accusations of ethnic smears and having a Muslim mayor of London will not spell the end of Islamophobia in this country, but for those who believe in multiculturalism it’s a welcome boost at a time when the belief that we do actually live in a more tolerant world is being shaken. In the US, where the levels of muck-raking and personal vitriol among would-be Presidential nominees reached a new low, we had Donald Trump, who in less than six months time could be the most powerful man on the planet, calling for foreign Muslims to be temporarily banned from entering the country following the terrorist attacks in Paris. Here in the UK, the Labour Party has found itself under fire over allegations of anti-Semitism within its ranks. Earlier this year the party revealed it had suspended 18 members for racism or anti-Semitism since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, including Bradford West MP Naz Shah and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

The Labour leader has since set up a wider inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, which is being led by civil rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti. And while such a review is welcome the fact it even needs to happen is worrying. Equally troubling is the recent news that the number of religious hate crimes recorded by Yorkshire’s biggest police force has risen dramatically in the last two years. West Yorkshire Police says the overall rise in the number of hate crimes recorded for this period is largely down to an administrative change which means reported incidents are more likely to be recorded as crimes. But while race hate crimes have risen by 62 per cent in a year, ‘faith hate’ crimes targeting specific religious groups rose by 192 per cent in the same period. And of the 178 faith hate crimes recorded in 2015/16, only 36 resulted in charges.

What concerns many people is that half the incidents were targeting Islam, with another 13 per cent relating to anti-Semitic offences. Zulfiqar Karim, Senior Vice President of Bradford Council for Mosques, says the latest figures are worrying but don’t come as a great surprise. “There is a rise and there is a real concern about this, but it hasn’t just happened it’s something that has been going on for some time.” He says the nature of racist abuse in the UK has changed. “Once upon a time people were targeted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. You used to have ‘Paki-bashing’ and now it’s Muslim bashing. “This is the modern face of racism, it targets religion rather than the colour of someone’s skin,” he says. “When I was growing up people talked about which country you came from and now it’s about people’s religion. There’s been a shift in that conversation.”

Karim believes that the rise in Islamophobia can be traced back to 9/11. “That was when things changed. Before that you wouldn’t necessarily get targeted because of your religion, but post-2001 that’s changed.” He says the spike in the number of incidents over the past 12 months is linked to the attacks in Paris and Brussels. “There’s a direct correlation between the rise in anti-Islamic incidents and anti-Semitic incidents and events around world.” But Karim is critical of the way the EU debate is being conducted and the impact it is having. “Immigration has become the number one topic and rather than have a sensible debate it’s been about scaremongering and how we need to close our borders.”

There are some, like the former Equality commissioner Trevor Phillips, who believe that British Muslims have become a nation within a nation. But Karim disagrees. “There is a fear in the community. People are worried about anti-Muslim attacks and of course you’re going to become more insular to try and protect yourself. “But I think there’s a realisation amongst Muslims that they need to integrate more. In Leeds and Bradford the community leaders and mosques are trying to encourage more dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.” It’s an issue he says can’t be swept under the carpet. “There are challenges but this is about who we are as a nation and as human beings. We have to work together regardless of race, creed or religion and this is what we are doing.”

Azad Ali, Head of Community Development and Engagement at Mend, a not-for-profit company that supports British Muslims, says there is an increase in religious hate crime, but believes this is tempered by a concerted drive by organisations like his and the police to record these incidents. He says one of the biggest concerns is the way we talk about Muslims in this country. “It’s to do with the general public discourse about Muslims and questions like whether women should wear the veil.” Ali believes the tone of the political debate over migration in the run up to the EU referendum is also problematic. “Most low level incidents of religious hate crimes are carried out by people who are ignorant of Muslims and Islam. They base what they think on what they hear and what they read,” he says. “Us Brits are tolerant people but I think we have a problem in some media and political circles. There’s a skewed narrative about Muslims that perpetuates the problem and the more we open up and challenge this the better we will be.”

It’s not only Muslim communities that find themselves being subjected to abuse because of their faith. For Jews in Britain anti-Semitism has always been lurking near the surface. Dr Simon Phillips, Director for Interfaith at the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, believes that tolerance levels of minority ethnic groups differs depending on where you live. “In Leeds, there’s been an established Jewish community since the end of the 19th Century and we are used to seeing people from different faiths and cultures. Jewish people are part and parcel of the fabric of life in Leeds. “And if you live in multicultural areas of Bradford where you have people from eastern Europe living alongside those from southern Asia, they are probably going to be more tolerant than more homogenous areas because they see ethnic diversity every day.” Dr Phillips believes, too, that Britain is a more tolerant place today. “An inappropriate joke that might have been part of a stand-up routine 15 or 20 years ago isn’t acceptable now. And I think that’s a positive sign that we are heading in the right direction.”

Building bridges between faiths
Ann Dewar, Programme Director at the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, says anti-Semitism has never entirely gone away. “It is hard to explain the feeling of hurt and intimidation when confronted with anti-Semitic comments, acts or images and it is easy under those circumstances to withdraw as a community. Instead, we are doing everything possible to engage with as many other faith and secular groups as possible in order to promote knowledge, understanding and tolerance. “This ranges from involvement in dementia and adult literacy projects to religious interface in groups such as the local branch of Nisa-Nashim (a Jewish-Muslim women’s group), the Council of Christians and Jews and the Bradford Council of Mosques.”
© The Yorkshire Post

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Scotland: Football hate crimes rise by almost 50% in last year

The number of hate crime offences in Scotland relating to football have risen by 49% in the past year, new figures have shown.

10/6/2016- There were a total of 287 of these crimes reported in 2015-2016. They related to 117 fixtures across 29 stadiums, up from 54 games played at 21 stadiums the year before. Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the Offensive Behaviour Act was an "important tool" in tackling offensive behaviour, including sectarianism. The hate crime figures, released by the Scottish government, showed that 581 charges with a religious aggravation were reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in 2015-16, a 3% increase on 2014-15.

Racial crime
The number of charges where Islam was noted almost doubled from 71 charges in 2014-15 to 134 charges in 2015-16. Overall, there was a slight increase in the number of hate crimes reported, with racial crime the most common. There were a total of 3,712 racial charges reported in 2015-16. However, this was a decrease on last year and the lowest number reported since 2003-04.

Other findings in the reports include:
# 1,020 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to sexual orientation, up 20% on the previous year, and 201 relating to disability, an increase of 14%
# Roman Catholicism is the religion most often noted in religiously-aggravated charges (51% in 2015-16), followed by Protestantism (24%) and Islam (23%)
# The police were the victims in 41% of religiously aggravated charges in 2015-16.

Mr Matheson said: "There is no place in Scotland for any crime motivated by prejudice, be it racial, religious, homophobic or any other form of intolerance. "While I am concerned at an increase in the number of charges on last year, including the rise in alleged offences against Islam, it does indicate an improvement in the willingness of the public to report these crimes, and that should be welcomed."

'Safer place'
He added: "The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup Final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem. "An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society. "I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently."

Football hate crime statistics
# 46% of the charges involved an accused aged 20 or under
# There was an increase of 50% in the number of football teams that the accused were affiliated with
# 25% of the charges involved people with an affiliation to Rangers (71 charges) compared with 9% (27 charges) affiliated to Celtic
# The majority of cases happened at a football stadium (50%), followed by a main street (24%) and public transport (23%)
# Charges were connected to 117 fixtures - a rise of 117% from 54 fixtures in 2014-15
# The fixture with the highest number of charges was Hearts v Kilmarnock (20 charges) on 3 October 2015
# The local authorities where the majority of the charges took place were in Edinburgh (20%) and Glasgow (20%)

The justice secretary said recorded crime in Scotland was now at its lowest level in 41 years and the country was becoming "a safer place". "But one incident of hate crime is one too many," he added. "Intolerance in any form is simply unacceptable and there is no place for it in 21st Century Scotland."

'Police priority'
Ch Supt Barry McEwan, of Police Scotland, said: "Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to rooting out crimes motivated by prejudice. "Last year we ran a highly successful anti-hate crime campaign which reached many people and our commitment to eradicating hate crime continues. "Today's figures provide evidence of our efforts but they also show that we must continue to work within all our communities to encourage reporting and to get the message across that hate crime will not be tolerated. "Police Scotland remains committed to ensuring that there is no place for prejudice in Scotland and, together with our partners, we will keep the communities of Scotland safe."

Speaking about the rise in football-related hate crimes, the Scottish Conservative's justice spokesman Douglas Ross said: "The Scottish government can't have it both ways. When the number of charges went down it celebrated the legislation. "Now, after a 50% hike, it still seems to think the law's working a treat. "It's bad and unnecessary legislation and it needs to be scrapped now." Scottish Labour's justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: "It is deeply concerning to see a rise in hate crime in Scotland. "As a tolerant and inclusive society, Scotland has no place for such prejudices and the country must unite behind tackling these shameful acts. "With the doubling of Islamic hate crimes and the year-on-year increases in crimes relating to both sexual orientation and disability it is clear the Scottish government must take greater action to reverse the increase in these crimes."
© BBC News

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UK: Skinheads on way to reunion 'set upon by anti-fascist demonstrators'

9/6/2016- Skinheads on their way to a reunion were set upon by "anti-fascist" demonstrators who mistook them for nationalists, according to one of the group. The four Polish men had left their hostel to get some breakfast before the reunion on the seafront when they were allegedly confronted by the masked demonstrators. One of their targets, whose identity The Argus agreed to protect, said: "About 20 people came towards us saying, 'where you come from, lads?' "I said we had come down for the skinhead reunion and they attacked us straight away. "They attacked our friend. We ran away - I am not stupid, it was like five to one. "Then we came back for our friend."  Police arrested 13 people on suspicion of violent disorder following reports of an assault in Ship Street at around 9.30am on Saturday. It was not clear whether this was the same incident as that alleged by the skinheads.

About 300 demonstrators marched through the city shortly afterwards in protest at a planned anti-refugee march organised by far-right groups that failed to materialise. Brighton police chief Nev Kemp said some demonstrators were ready to attack "any bald men who looked right-wing". The Great Skinhead Reunion held in Madeira Drive on Saturday had nothing to do with either of the planned marches or their organisers. The Polish skinhead who spoke to the Argus added: "We stayed in our hostel [the Grapevine on the seafront] talking about what happened. It was not a nice experience for us. "Then about 20 minutes later the march came past our window and they starting shouting, 'we are finding fascists so come down' to our room. "Seriously, what can I say. I am not a fascist, I am an anti-political person, I am just coming here to have fun." He said a medic checked his friend over at the hotel and he was not seriously hurt. He said he eventually made it to the reunion which was "fun - there was lots of alcohol."

Far-right groups South Coast Resistance and the Pie and Mash Squad had announced a march but did not turn up on the day. The latter told the Argus they never intended to but "wanted to show the left up for the anti democratic rabble that they are." A police spokesman said officers went into the Grapevine hostel on Saturday morning (4 June) after a man was seen shouting at the protestors from an upstairs window which caused the procession to stop. He said: "A number of men were spoken to inside the building. "A man in the building told police he had been assaulted earlier that morning and that he had already reported this to police. "A statement is due to be taken from him as part of our ongoing investigation. "Three men from Brighton, one man of no fixed address and one woman of no fixed address, arrested on suspicion of violent disorder, have been bailed to 26 July pending further enquiries.
© The Argus

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UK: Minster neo-Nazis ‘may have included students’

7/6/2016- A protest from the Neo-Nazi group National Action which was staged in York last Saturday allegedly had participators who “looked like students” according to eye witness reports. The protesters were seen outside the Minster holding a banner in support of Hitler and even performing the Nazi salute. A large police presence was established quickly and numerous members of the public were seen denouncing the protesters and their actions.According to first year History student Anna Coughlan the protesters, numbered at around 40, seemed to include members who “looked just like normal students, our age”. Coughlan, who was present at the event, went on to state how “it is incredibly worrying that people our age hold such views, views which are associated with the most hateful aspects of society”. Coughlan also described how she felt “concerned at the hostile environment and that the scene was one completely at odds with the York I have become used to throughout my first year at university”.

Following the event there have been a number of arrests, including that of a 21-year-old man from Swansea. Police are appealing to anyone with footage of the event to come forward and aid the identification of protesters. The incoming Lord Mayor of York has also joined a group of 14 key civic leaders in the city who have denounced the actions of the group, stating that their “message of hate” has no place on the streets of York. Ben Leatham, YUSU President, also joined the Lord Mayor in signing an open letter which denounced the protesters. The letter stated how “to have a group of fascists on the streets of York bearing a banner claiming ‘Hitler Was Right’, as we did on Saturday, dishonours the memory of all those who fought against the Nazi regime”.
© Nouse, University of York student website

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UK: Women gather to hear about women-led mosque plans

6/6/2016- The founder of Scandinavia's first women-led mosque said female imams would have an impact on families, providing "an alternative narrative" to tackle Islamophobia". Sherin Khankan, founder of Mariam Mosque, which opened in Denmark in February, was a guest speaker at the recent Daughters of Eve Conference, held by the Muslim Women's Council in Bradford. The conference saw the announcement of a £500,000 fundraising strategy, to buy land for a women-led mosque in the city - the first of its kind in Britain. The initiative is led by the Bradford-based Muslim Women's Council, which first revealed the plans a year ago. More than 200 women from across the UK and overseas, including speakers from America, Germany and Denmark, were at last month's conference to hear about the project. Bana Gora, chief executive officer of the Muslim Women’s Council said the aim was to secure enough donations over the next two years to purchase land "close to the city centre.”

She added: "When it comes to mosques and their facilities, women do not have equal access. We have some excellent mosques in Bradford with good access; however they are few and far between. It is for this reason that Muslim Women’s Council aim to ensure that Muslim women have the space to discuss issues that affect them and their families in their daily lives in an environment that is open to everyone. “We are pretty confident from the conversations we are having and the partnerships that we have in place that we will raise the money needed in the next two years.” Following the official launch of the project, Sherin Khankan said: “A women-led mosque would enable Muslim women to be visible in roles and institutions that are traditionally patriarchal. The impact of female ‘imamahs’ would go beyond the mosque, impacting husbands, children, and provide an alternative narrative when countering Islamophobia.”

Shaykha Reima Yosif, president of Rawiya Foundation, an organisation based in America promoting the empowerment of Muslim women, said: “The verse outlining roles of men and women has been misinterpreted. Men are not the custodians of women, and women are not meant to be devoutly obedient to them.” Since the plans were announced last year, consultations have taken place and the Muslim Women's Council (MWC) says the project has backing across the UK and internationally. A MWC statement said: "Access for women to existing mosques is inadequate at present, so a need has been established. Women’s representation on governance structures is non-existent on committees and boards, segregated spaces are dated and unwelcoming. This is by no means a criticism of the immense efforts of the previous generation in establishing a strong network of mosques across the UK. However, the needs of women have been continuously overlooked.

"The aim is to create an all-inclusive, fully accessible space for all communities, Muslims and non-Muslims. A safe space where women’s issues can be discussed as well as wrap-around community services for all. "Women make up 50per cent of the population, and many donations come from women. Yet when it comes to mosques and their facilities, women do not have equal access. We have excellent mosques in Bradford with good access; however they are few and far between. No one should ever be excluded from a place of worship but there are numerous examples where this has happened, locally and nationally. "Women are the fastest growing segment of the Muslim population and also the group most under attack, verbally and physically. They are being rejected by the institutions they need the most. It is for this reason that Muslim Women’s Council aim to ensure that Muslim women have the space to discuss issues that affect them and their families in an environment open to everyone."

Daughters of Eve, an annual event, enables women of all faiths to discuss issues of importance to them. Items on this year's agenda the status of women in Islam and the challenges facing Muslim women in the UK and Europe in the face of growing Islamophobia. The dialogue will feed into the current national debate about Islam and its place in modern Britain. The conference, held in partnership with Rawiyah Foundation, featured Shaykhas (female scholars) and other speakers including Shaykha Safia Shahid, a leading UK-based scholar, Sarah Joseph, editor of Muslim lifestyle magazine EMEL, and Yasmin Amin, a doctorate student researching humour in Islam. Selina Ullah, chairman of the Muslim Women’s Council, said: “The weekend provided an opportunity for women to take ownership of the discourse surrounding Muslim women and challenge the widely-held stereotypes of Muslim women being submissive."
* For more about the women-led mosque project visit womenledmosque.co.uk
© The Telegraph & Argus

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UK: Sun attacks BBC’s diversity ads, takes part in similar scheme

Newspaper has accused corporation of being ‘anti-white’ despite itself offering internships limited to people from ethnic minorities

6/6/2016- The Sun, which has attacked the BBC for discriminating against white people over the past few days, has employed two interns so far this year from a graduate training scheme only open to black, Asian and other people from minority ethnic backgrounds. People working with Creative Access, a not-for-profit set up to provide internships for under-represented groups in the media, have told the Guardian of their disappointment at the newspaper’s attack on the BBC, particularly given the support of parent company News Corp. “News Corp has been incredibly supportive this year … it’s sort of unbelievable what’s going on,” said one insider who refused to be named. Set up four years ago to help under-represented people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds into the media industries amid increasing criticism of a lack of diversity from parliament and elsewhere, Creative Access placed its 500th intern earlier this year.

The Sun accused the BBC of being “anti-white” in a front page headline last Friday after the corporation advertised two £25,000 junior scriptwriting roles for shows such as Holby City which called only for people from “ethnic minority backgrounds” to apply. The Creative Access Trainee Scheme was one of four minority recruitment drives at the BBC named in the Sun article. After the BBC defended itself by saying it was allowed to target minorities for traineeships because they are under-represented, the Sun returned to the issue on Monday having found another example of an unnamed producer at The One Show looking for a BAME presenter. In its leader, the Sun said the BBC was wrong to think it can could stamp out discrimination “with more discrimination”. The Sun went on to argue that it was “illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity or where they were born”.

The BBC denied that the call was a job advert. “We use dozens of freelance reporters on the One Show each year and we are seeking to encourage a wider pool of people to consider making a contribution. All casting decisions are based on merit.” Staff and board members at Creative Access said they have been subject to a huge increase in online abuse over recent weeks over the suggestion that the internships it organises at media companies were “anti-white”. “We used to get an abusive email or tweet about once a month and now its four times a day,” said one employee, who asked not to be named. The attacks kicked off when Katie Hopkins expressed her outrage in the Mail Online over what she called “a very modern form of discrimination” where “it doesn’t help to be white”.

In the article, she said she had spoken to the founder of Creative Access, Michael Foster. The Sun has run a string of negative stories about the BBC and its management in the run-up to and since last month’s white paper on the future of the corporation. A Sun spokesperson said: “The Sun is happy to support Creative Access and efforts to increase diversity in the media. However, as this and several other recent stories in the Sun have shown, the BBC has a track record of restricting roles to specific ethnic backgrounds.” While positive discrimination is outlawed in the UK, the European Convention on Human Rights and media regulator Ofcom last year produced guidance which suggested that some form of positive action could be allowed to provide training in industries where people from BAME backgrounds are significantly under-represented.

Figures from the last census showed that while 40% of Londoners are non-white and 25% of young people nationally, ethnic minority representation in the media and related industries has fallen in recent years to just 5.4%, according to the Employment Census published by Skillset in July 2013. In the UK as a whole, the population is about 86% white and 14% BAME. The BBC’s own figures suggest that 13% of all UK staff are from BAME backgrounds, although it is not clear how senior those roles are.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Warning of 'growing ugly underbelly' of racism in Wales

Labour AM Mick Antoniw fears anti-immigration rhetoric in the EU debate is feeding racism

6/6/2016- There is a “growing ugly underbelly” of racism that threatens Wales’ traditions of tolerance and internationalism, it has been claimed as the EU membership debate enters its final stages. Pontypridd Labour AM Mick Antoniw is alarmed that an increasingly confident minority of people are voicing opinions that “used to be confined to the far right parties”. Mr Antoniw – whose father was a refugee from Ukraine – fears that anti-immigration rhetoric could unleash “vociferous” racism.

There is a 'constant barrage of attacks on immigrants'
He said: “An element of racism has always been present but only amongst a very small minority , who usually kept their views to themselves, as a sort of shameful secret and for them being in, or outside the EU was never going to change their way of thinking. "However, it is clear that there are increasing numbers of decent and well-intentioned people, who are not racist and would never consider themselves as racist, but who are being worn down by the constant barrage of outrageous claims by the Out campaign propagandists who promote a simple message that immigration is the main cause of all our problems. “A constant barrage of attacks on immigrants by parties such as Ukip, backed by outra-geous headlines in some of the tabloid papers is beginning to create a growing ugly underbelly [of] racism amongst a minority of the population which is becoming more vociferous and increasingly confident in espousing the sort of opinions which used to be confined to the far right parties.”

'Loaded up in trucks'
Giving an example, he said: “On the doorstep an NHS worker told me that her son couldn’t get a job because of the immigrants who it turned out were a Chinese family living across the road and working in a Chinese restaurant. More concerning was her comment that immigrants should be loaded up in trucks and sent back. “When I told her that was what Hitler did to the Jews she just said ‘So what?’... One person was voting Out so his children could sleep safely at night without fear of being raped by immigrants.” Mr Antoniw said the “real spirit of South Wales” has been on display in the response to the migrant crisis, with churches and local communities “offering homes and support for Syrian refugees in the Valleys.”

Genuine concerns
Acknowledging genuine concerns about immigration, he said: “Of course, the issue of immigration for many raises very genuine and valid concerns which need to be addressed; but sadly, serious answers to complex problems are not getting the publicity to counter the impact of the right-wing populism of the more extreme Out campaigners. “We know that immigration has made a net financial benefit to our economy and that in Wales there are businesses that would probably have closed but for European workers. We know that parts of our health service are particularly dependent on care workers and would collapse without them. “We also know that immigration is increasingly a two way process with well over a million British citizens living and working abroad. The irony of this last point was brought home when a taxi driver told me the country was finished because of all the immigrants and now had no future, so he was going to move abroad.”

'We ignore this at our peril'
Warning that “building an ‘iron curtain’ of our own making will never work,” he said: “This distortion of the impact of immigration by the Out campaign is likely to leave us with the ugly legacy of a growing and more vociferous form of racism that will be increasingly open to exploitation by far right groups and parties. We ignore this at our peril.” High-lighting traditions of tolerance in South Wales, he said: “In the 1930s we were at the forefront of welcoming refugees from the Spanish Civil War fleeing persecution by Franco’s fascist forces and later Jewish immigrants fleeing Hitler’s persecution and it was South Wales miners who chased out Mosley’s blackshirts... The South Wales NUM was historically at the forefront of anti-racism campaigning being amongst the first to support renowned singer Paul Robeson during the American McCarthyite purges in the fifties by establishing a transatlantic link with the singer from its 1958 Miners Eisteddfod in Porthcawl and in the 1960s by opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

'Irrelevant waffle'
However, Ross England of Vote Leave attacked the suggestion the Out campaign could be feeding racism, saying: “This is patronising, irrelevant waffle. It really is desperate stuff, and a clear sign that the remain campaign in Wales is becoming increasingly rattled ahead of the vote. “Not only is it arrogant and offensive to denigrate decent people in such a way, it also partly explains why Welsh Labour is haemorrhaging votes to Ukip – because they are afraid to discuss issues like immigration honestly and reasonably. “We are leading a positive campaign here in Wales, and we believe that a Vote to Leave would enable the UK to introduce a fairer system to deal with migration; one which doesn’t discriminate against people from other parts of the world, in favour of those from the EU. Despite the best efforts of the Welsh branch of the Project Fear campaign, it seems that the public are responding to our campaign to take back control and we are increasingly confident that Wales will Vote to Leave the EU on June 23.”

Ukip standing up for 'ordinary working people'
A spokesman for Ukip in the Assembly said: “The Labour Party supports uncontrolled mass immigration, currently adding a city the size of Cardiff to our population every year. The biggest losers from mass immigration are people on low incomes, whose wages are squeezed and rents increased by the extra demand for housing. “That is why millions of ex-Labour voters are now voting Ukip. They are not racist and nor is Ukip. “Labour used to stand up for the poor and downtrodden but the metropolitan multicultural Left who now run the Labour party long since lost touch with the reality of life for ordinary working people. Ukip now speaks for them instead.”
© Wales Online

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UK: Nigel Farage: migrant sex attacks to be ‘nuclear bomb’ of EU referendum

Ukip leader says women’s safety is an issue in vote on British membership, referring to New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.

5/6/2016- Referendum campaigners on both sides have criticised the suggestion by Ukip leader Nigel Farage that the possibility of sex attacks on women will be the “nuclear bomb” of the EU referendum campaign. Farage said he wanted to raise concerns over safety for women as an issue with Britain’s membership of the EU. “The nuclear bomb this time would be about Cologne,” he said, referring to the reports in January that hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed at the German city’s central station on New Year’s Eve. “There are some very big cultural issues,” Farage said. Asked whether mass sex attacks like those in Cologne could occur in the UK, he said: “It depends if they get EU passports. It depends if we vote for Brexit or not. It is an issue.” Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, he also called the prime minister “Dishonest Dave” and said the Conservative party leader’s integrity was being questioned.

Michael Gove, the justice secretary and a leading leave campaigner, distanced himself from Farage, declining to repeat the remarks but not explicitly condemning them. “I haven’t made remarks like that and I won’t make remarks like that,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme. Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative minister campaigning for Brexit, told BBC 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “I don’t like that sort of campaigning at all. However, we know for a fact that there was an appalling experience for women over in Germany over the Christmas period. I do not approve of that sort of campaigning. “I do not believe in outright blatant scaremongering, so I think it’s really, really regrettable. I haven’t seen it and I wouldn’t support suggesting if you vote to remain you’d be raped. Obviously that is just an outrageous thing to say.”

Sal Brinton, the president of the Liberal Democrats, said Farage had “sunk to new depths in his scaremongering” with his remarks, which were completely unacceptable. She said: “The debate about whether Britain is better off in Europe is hugely important and should be based on the facts, not shameful attempts to stir up hatred and fear with smears like this. It is disgusting to see a politician make comments like this. He must withdraw these remarks and apologise.” Ryan Coetzee, the director of strategy for the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, tweeted: Disgraceful. Don't vote for this man's idea of Britain. Farage also said that voters believed the prime minister did not keep his promises to cut migration and renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership of the EU. He said: “He is ‘Dishonest Dave’. The honesty and straightforwardness of the prime minister are now being questioned.”

Jane Collins, the Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, also tweeted: Muslim men have been carrying out sex attacks in the UK for over 20 years and that threat continues with migration from Muslim countries. In a live ITV programme on Tuesday, Farage will take questions from a studio audience on the referendum. David Cameron will also appear. George Osborne took aim at the Ukip leader in an interview published in the Sunday Times, where the chancellor accused his Conservative colleagues on the leave side Gove and Boris Johnson, of adopting Farage’s populist tactics. “This is a battle between Farage’s mean vision of Britain and the outward-facing, generous Britain that the mainstream of this country celebrates,” he said. “I say: we don’t want Farage’s Britain. That means voting to remain.” It is not the first time Farage has insinuated that women would be at risk of mass sex attacks were Britain to remain in the EU, arguing in April about the dangers of living in a “Turkish-dominated Europe”.

He said: “Frankly, if we are prepared to accept, or if Germany and Sweden are prepared to accept, unlimited numbers of young males, from countries and cultures where women are at best second-class citizens then, frankly, what do you expect? None of this is going to get better because the EU now is in negotiations with Turkey and [Turkish president] Mr Erdoðan plays a clever game, doesn’t he?” Over the weekend, Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign with Gove and Johnson at the helm, was reported to have been infiltrated by far-right activists. The Mail on Sunday reported campaigners included former BNP activists and ex-senior figures from the National Front, photographed with Vote Leave materials and pro-Brexit MPs. Three prominent ethnic-minority politicians, Conservative MP Alok Sharma, Labour’s Chuka Umunna MP and the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, have written to Vote Leave on behalf of the Stronger In campaign to call for a “root and branch review of [the] campaigning structure at local and regional level”.

Vote Leave said there was little it could do “about undesirable characters buying our merchandise and distributing it”. In the letter, the three politicians said that, given the seriousness of this matter, there was a “quite shocking level of complacency” from Vote Leave. “Your campaign is being used by those with the most abhorrent views which promote racism and discrimination,” the letter continued. “We do not believe you have encouraged this but without action you will be seen as being complicit.” Vote Leave should appoint an independent figure to review the allegations of far-right infiltrators in the movement, similar to Shami Chakrabarti’s role investigating antisemitism in Labour, the letter said.
© The Guardian.

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UK: Christian fundamentalist schools are teaching girls they must obey men

Former pupils reveal homosexuality is being taught as unnatural, while Creationism is favoured over evolution in science lessons

5/6/2016- Christian fundamentalist schools are teaching children creationism is fact, that gay people are “unnatural” and that girls must submit to men, according to a series of claims. Former pupils and whistle-blowers have told The Independent that the schools, which originated in the US but are now dotted around the UK and registered as independent or private schools, teach children at isolated desks separated by “dividers” from other students. It is thought more than a thousand children are being taught at dozens of schools, although little is known about them. “No one outside the schools knows about what happens inside them, that’s why they’ve been able to go on like this for so long," a former pupil said. More than a decade after leaving, she says she is now horrified at the education she received.

Called Accelerated Christian Education schools (ACE), the schools originate from an education system developed in southern Baptist states in the US which has developed off-shoots around the world including in Britain. Between 20 and 60 pupils aged between four and 18 attend each one. The Independent can reveal a number of serious concerns have been raised about the schools, including allegations that children are given no formal educational qualifications beyond "Christian certificates", thereby failing to equip them for opportunities and employment beyond the Church. Former pupils claim a key aspect of the schools’ ethos comes from a belief in individualistic self-salvation, whereby people must actively accept God's salvation to enter heaven.

By extension, it is believed that children must teach themselves in order to get closer to God. Children are therefore expected to spend the first half of each school day teaching themselves by reading textbooks in silence, while facing the classroom walls in specially designed booths, which mean they cannot see children around them or interact with them. In the second half of the school day, children are taught in groups. Dr Matthew Pocock, who attended an ACE school in Witney, Oxfordshire, as a child, told The Independent: “We sat at our desks which were arranged around the outside of the room, with boards that slid in called ‘dividers’ that sectioned us off from the pupil either side. We were not allowed to talk or interact with each other. “To interact with staff, we had two flags. We would raise one flag for run-of-the-mill queries like asking for help with a question or a toilet break, and other one to signal that we were ready to take a test or needed input from the class teacher. If we put our flags up too often we would be told off.”

Photos inside the schools are rare but one former pupil showed The Independent photos of classroom booths in a Canadian school in the 1980s that are reportedly the same kind used in the UK schools still today. Former pupils say this self-teaching format resulted in poor education standards, with pupils who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia often particularly struggling. A number said they felt socially isolated by the segregated booths and failed to develop social skills by interacting with peers. One former pupil said: “By the time I left the school, I hadn’t really learnt anything that was of any relevance. I was taught facts and figures from reading the books, but there was no social learning in terms of interaction.” The textbooks used by the schools have also been criticised for providing allegedly inappropriate material. A number of textbooks seen by The Independent and which are reportedly used in schools appear to include worrying content about gay people, women’s rights and also appear to teach creationism as fact.

One textbook says: “Homosexual, adjective: having unnatural sexual feelings towards one of the same sex… Homosexual activity is another of man’s corruptions of God’s plan. “The Bible records that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. Some people mistakenly believe that an individual is born a homosexual and his attraction to those of the same sex is normal.” Textbooks say of the role of women and girls and society: “God has given both the husband and the wife certain areas of responsibility in the home. The husband is to be the leader of the home, loving his wife even as Christ loved the church… The wife is to obey, respect and submit to the leadership of her husband, serving as a helper to him… She is available all times day or night.” A section titled ‘Testimony of a Homemaker’ in one textbook reads: “God desires for me to submit to my husband, train up my children, see that my house is properly supplied, pray without ceasing, teach other women to love their husbands and children, and be discreet, pure and a keeper of my home.”

Former pupil Cheryl Povey who attended an ACE school in Bath, said: “I came across a lot of sexism. I remember as a girl finding it quite shocking. We were taught that if you’re a woman, you should be subservient to men; your husband, your pastor and other male figures. “There was a strong culture of men being revered and women being dangerously sexual and having to cover up. It made me self-conscious of being a woman.” Dr Pocock said attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities in the ACE curriculum also worried him. He said: “It taught me men were superior to, and should be in charge of, weak women, that the various different ethnic and social groups were ordained by God to have different roles and positions.” Another textbook warns that anyone who has sex outside marriage "will someday face God's judgement". Other textbooks seen by The Independent, and which the former pupils claim were widely used as part of the curriculum during their time at ACE schools, appear to state creationism as fact and describe evolution as “absurd”.

One biology textbook states: “Although man’s characteristics are unique, evolutionists still insist that man descended from apes. Even from a strictly scientific standpoint, the theory of evolution is absurd. “From as little as a tooth, evolutionists have fabricated entire groups of transitional fossils that ‘bridge the gap’ between men and apes! Evolutionists, who refuse to believe the simple truth of God’s divine Creation, will continue to struggle and search in vain for answers to the question of man’s origin unless they turn to God’s Word, the Bible.” Another textbook states as ‘scientific fact’ that the sun is six thousand years old and the world was created in six days. Former pupil Peter* (name changed to protect identity) said: “A huge amount of time and effort was given over to arguing against evolution and for creation, it’s a fundamental building block of the curriculum. The curriculum is stuck in the past like the rest of the fundamentalist southern Baptist churches it was born out of.”

Another concern raised about the schools is that the children are allegedly not entered for formal education qualifications such as GCSEs or A-levels. Former pupils say they are instead taught towards an ICCE- an International Certificate of Christian Education. The ICCE is not an officially recognised qualification meaning those who hold it can struggle to find employment or to be accepted into higher education such as university. Former pupilssay this disadvantages children and deprives them of opportunities later, unless they retrain as adults to gain additional, mainstream qualifications as well as the ICCE. Jonny Scaramanga is a writer and campaigner who has extensively researched the ACE school system. He is a former pupil of an ACE school in England and recently completed a PHD thesis about ACE at the UCL Institute of Education, which included analysis of the ACE textbooks illustrated throughout this article.

He told The Independent: “I have read numerous Ofsted reports in the course of my research, and the issues most commonly raised by former ACE students are almost never mentioned, let alone satisfactorily addressed. In allowing ACE schools' failings to go unchecked for decades, the government has failed in its duty of care to students in ACE schools. In future, inspectors should be specially briefed on the issues frequently found in ACE schools.” He added that he is concerned by the 'Christian certificates' children sit instead of official qualifications, telling The Independent: “Since 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld three complaints against ACE schools for exaggerating the acceptability of the certificates [International Certificate of Christian Education] they offer. I have met numerous former ACE students who have had to return to college as adults to gain qualifications that they would have earned as a matter of course in mainstream schools. All English secondary schools should be required by law to prepare and enter students for qualifications recognised by Ofqual, the exam watchdog.”

When The Independent contacted forty UK universities to ask whether they have or would accept pupils on the basis of ICCE awards, none of them said they officially accept the qualification other than in exceptional circumstances or if a student had other additional qualifications such as GCSEs or A levels to support their application. Despite this, the qualification is listed in UCAS' online publication 'UK qualifications for entry to university or college in 2015' and given the following description: “ICCE Advanced Certificate is accepted by many universities for undergraduate entry. A UK NAIRC assessment in 2011 carried out in both school and homeschool environments stated that the General Certificate can be considered comparable to Cambridge International Examinations O levels and the Advanced Certificate can be considered comparable to the CIE A level.”

When asked by The Independent why the qualification was included in the publication despite not being recognised by Ofqual and universities denying they accept it, a spokesperson for UCAS said the publication was not intended to give approval to any qualifications it included. They added that the description in UCAS' brochure had not been written by UCAS staff but by ICCE staff. Although state schools in the UK must follow a standardised curriculum, the same regulation does not apply to private schools, which ACE schools are registered as. When contacted by The Independent, Christian Education Europe, which runs ACE schools in the UK, would not confirm or deny if the textbooks illustrated here are used or respond to allegations from former pupils about the content of the curriculum they say they received. A spokesperson says the schools meet all Department for Education guidelines and their curriculum is broad, fair and balanced.

In response to the issues raised, a Christian Education Europe spokesperson said: “All the schools we serve are inspected by the government inspectorate, Ofsted, and we prepare them to meet the criteria laid down by the Common Inspection Framework. It is a Government requirement that all schools have a child protection policy and designated child protection or safeguarding officer, staff DBS checks and receive child protection training. We satisfy these arrangements and many more besides. “All the schools provide Citizenship on the timetable and we embrace British values as part of the school culture. Life with students is experienced beyond the textbook and carried into an understanding that is suitable for modern day Britain.”

They also referred The Independent to a document on their website regarding sex and relationship education which states: “Our Sex and Relationship Education concerns lifelong learning of physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. We will not promote sexual orientation or sexual activity, as this would be inappropriate teaching. Whilst we understand that the Government has redefined marriage, we will actively promote exclusive heterosexual marriage and celibate singleness as God’s gift and design; and as such the best way toward human happiness and fulfilment, but will discourage intolerance.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “The Department for Education is the registration authority for all independent schools. It has laid down a set of standards that independent schools, including faith schools, are required to meet. Ofsted inspects these schools against these standards, at the request of the DfE. Schools must comply with the standards in order to continue as a registered independent school. “Independent schools are not required to follow the national curriculum, but they are required to teach a curriculum that encourages respect for other people.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “All schools must promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for different faiths and beliefs. This is a vital part of providing educational excellence everywhere. They must also encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Equality Act. “ACE schools, like all other independent schools, are inspected against the new, tougher Independent School Standards, and where there are concerns a school is failing to meet these standards we will not hesitate to take action.”
© The Independent

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Germany: Why refugees are committing far less crime

A report this week showed that the number of crimes committed by refugees and undocumented immigrants dropped nearly 20 percent in just three months. The Local looks into why.

10/6/2016- Since numerous women reported being sexually assaulted by non-German men on New Year’s Eve, the topic of crime by refugees has become a heated one in Germany, oscillating between out-right racism and cautious questioning of different cultures. In the months following, Chancellor Angela Merkel backed legal reforms to make it easier to deport migrants who commit crimes, stories of refugees committing crimes have drawn more attention and scrutiny, and some have speculated about whether bringing in roughly one million refugees would lead to more crime. So the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) decided to bring some facts into the precarious discussion about migrant crime rates. “The debate has become has become very emotional. Some say that refugees commit all of the crimes, some say refugees are not committing very many crimes,” a spokeswoman from the Interior Ministry told The Local. “But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It is not black and white.” The results of the BKA report may have surprised some: crimes committed by refugees and undocumented immigrants actually fell by 18 percent between January and March. But what could account for the sharp drop-off?

Close living quarters create tensions
Experts are cautious to jump to conclusions. This was, after all, the first report of its kind to solely focus on the increase in immigration and its impacts on crime. The interior ministry said it’s too early to call a trend, and the rates could change when they conduct a new report for April to June. Still, one main reason for the drop in crime given was the changes in living conditions for refugees. “One factor could be that we had many people living in large shelters where they were in very close quarters, and therefore it was easier for money to go missing, for wallets to go missing, for fights to start,” the interior ministry spokeswoman told The Local. The most prevalent crimes by refugees and undocumen-ted immigrants in the report were theft, property crimes and committing bodily harm. “Many people have now been brought into houses to live and there are not as many big facilities. But it is also within three months, and that is a very short amount of time to analyze.”

An example of the adverse consequences of housing diverse groups all together in make-shift accommodation was seen this week when police say several refugees started a fire on a 5,000 square-metre building where they lived with 280 others. Prosecutors say the men seem to have been upset over disputed meal times during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “You have many different people from many different countries,” said chairman of the The German Police Union (DPolG), Rainer Wendt. “We saw this in Düsseldorf, and it is of course fundamentally better to bring people into their own housing, albeit not for certain people who are guaranteed to be sent back,” he told The Local. Deportations and a slowing down of the number of people arriving in Germany may also be factors in the crime rate decreasing, according to the interior ministry source.

The closure of borders by Balkan countries through which many refugees once travelled up north has greatly hindered people’s ability to reach Germany. More than 90,000 people were registered as entering Germany in January, compared to about 16,000 in May. “When there are more people, there are more crimes, in any kind of figures,” the interior ministry spokeswoman said. “But it is still too early to know all the factors.”

Crime rates among groups vary greatly
Another finding of the report was that refugees most likely to be granted asylum and stay - those coming from war-torn regions of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - commit a disproportionately lower amount of crimes. On the other hand, the groups committing a disproportionately high amount of crimes came from countries generally deemed “safe” and are therefore less likely to stay in Germany: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Serbia, Georgia and Algeria. Wendt said that after someone arrives and are told they won’t be able to live in Germany long-term, they may be more tempted by crime. “They come here and they wait and then are told they have no chance of staying here, but then must wait through processing,” he said. “Most are sent back. Therefore they have nothing to lose.”

Wendt said that groups from Georgia often come, knowing they won’t be able to stay, but to commit theft and burglaries while here. People from North African countries might be more likely to steal from tourists, if they learned this in the many travel hotspots in their countries, he added. But Germany has recently put in place stricter rules that may see groups more quickly deported based on where they come from. The German parliament last month voted to block more asylum claims from North Africa, classifying Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries. Germany had previously added Serbia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro to this list to more quickly deport people.

‘Saying either refugees or Germans are less criminal is stupid’
After the release of the report, an interior ministry spokesperson was quoted in German media as saying that “immigrants are not more criminal than Germans”. But the interior ministry has since told The Local that this statement was taken out of context because in fact, the ministry says “the world is too differentiated to make black-and-white statements”. Wendt from the police union agreed. “The statement comparing Germans and immigrants is stupid,” Wendt said. “You cannot make a blanket statement about refugees, who are many people coming from many different countries. “There are people who never read the news and only look at Facebook, where they only get the impression that all crimes are committed by refugees… but that of course is not statistically true. “It’s always false to say either way who is more criminal.”
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Secret meet of world elite drums up dread in Dresden

Poor old Dresden. The city where some decided Muslims are plotting to take over Europe now has an even bigger conspiracy on its doorstep - the Bilderberg group and its "plan for world domination".

9/6/2016- Some of the most powerful people from the worlds of politics and commerce are descending on the Saxon capital for a four-day meet, starting on Thursday. Prominent North Americans and Europeans have been meeting through the Bilderberg Group in strict privacy since 1954 to talk shop without the intrusive eye of the public - and it's this mysterious nature that has given rise to various conspiracy theories about their doings. The 130 select guests will be discussing topical issues of the day behind the closed doors of the Taschenberg Palace, a luxury hotel in Dresden's stunning baroque old town. Some of the biggest names in German politics will be in attendance, including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, all members of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). And as with every meeting of the Bilderberg group in its more than 60 years of existence, not a word that is said in the luxury hotel will make it to the public’s attention.

Groups from the far left and far right of German society are organizing protests against the meet, with “Anti-Fascist Action” marching for the same cause as the Islamophobic Pegida organization, and the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. “The Bilderberg group are accused of planning world domination. And that goes against the nationalistic mindset which right-wing groups have, groups that also accuse the USA of wanting to take over the world,” explained Eva Kimminich, a professor of social science at the University of Pots-dam. Dresden is a particular hotspot for far-right politics in Germany. Since late 2014 when it was founded, Pegida have been marching every Monday through the old city against what it describes as the Islamisation of Europe. Its members are also renowned for their distrust of the political and media establishment. Gallows with the names of leading politicians attached to them have been seen at protests, while journalists - described as belonging to the Lügenpresse (lying press) - have been attacked and beaten.

Dresden police are taking no precautions. A huge fence has been erected around the hotel, while demonstrations have been banned directly in front of it. Meanwhile drones have been banned from flying in the vicinity of the building. The Bilderberg group first met in 1954 in the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands, whence the name. Meetings have always been held under “Chatham House rules” a code by which the topics of discussion can be published but no mention of who said what. “It’s an informal group which talks about a variety of topics behind closed doors in order to facilitate open debate,” said Henri de Castries, boss of Axa Insurance and a member of the Bilderberg steering board. “It is not a parliament. It is not even a functioning organisation. Why shouldn’t these people have the same right not a private sphere as every normal citizen,” he asked. Whether these words of reassurance will suffice in the home city of Pegida remains to be seen.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: History made compulsory for students in Saxony

High school students in Saxony may become a bit out of touch with geography and more familiar with 20th century history as of next year. A new rule will make history compulsory for students in the eastern German state.

9/6/2016- Saxon Premier Stanislaw Tillich has said his state's students in the 10th grade will no longer be able to choose between geography and history as of the coming school year, which begins in early August. "As of the coming school year, history will be compulsory," he told Thursday's edition of the daily "Rheinische Post." The change in curriculum is intended to promote students' ability to question neo-Nazi and other far-right racist and xenophobic views. "Young people have to learn and understand the difference between freedom and democracy on one hand and totalitarianism and dictatorship on the other," Tillich said. In addition to the 10th grade, the history of the 20th century, particularly Germany's role in both World War One, World War Two and the Holocaust, is addressed extensively in several ways in classes on religion and ethics, politics and German literature. The history of divided Germany, with Saxony formerly a part of communist East Germany, also features on the curriculum. A number of xenophobic attacks have taken place in Saxony in recent years and even the behavior of police officers and politicians has been called into question. The anti-Islamic group PEGIDA also has its roots in the Saxon capital of Dresden.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany failing to deal with surge in hate crimes: Amnesty

9/6/2016- Germany is failing to deal with a surge in hate crimes such as attacks on asylum homes and there are signs "institutional racism" is a problem among law enforcement agencies, an Amnesty International report said on Thursday. The human rights group said that even before the influx of more than a million migrants to Germany last year, authorities had not adequately investigated, prosecuted or sentenced people for racist crimes. It pointed to the discovery in 2011 of a small neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which murdered nine immigrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. "With hate crimes on the rise in Germany, long-standing and well-documented shortcomings in the response of law enforcement agencies to racist violence must be addressed," Amnesty researcher Marco Perolini said.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said his ministry would carefully evaluate Amnesty's report and examine whether action needed to be taken. "One thing is clear - a state under the rule of law can never accept racist violence. We need to do everything we can to quickly catch the perpetrators and rigorously punish them," he said in an emailed statement. After a 19-month inquiry into the NSU, a parliamentary committee said a combination of bungled investigations and prejudice enabled the NSU to go undetected for more than a decade. The Amnesty report said Germany should set up an independent public inquiry to look over the NSU investigations as well as how Germany classifies and investigates hate crimes. It said part of the problem was that there was a high bar on considering a crime racist in Germany and treating it as such.

Attacks on asylum shelters surged to 1,031 in 2015, up from 199 in the prior year and 69 in 2013, data from the Interior Ministry shows. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said the number is likely to rise again this year, with 347 such attacks registered in the first quarter of 2016 alone. While refugees who arrived in Munich last September were applauded and handed sweets, the mood has since soured, with concerns about integration and security rife, and support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) rising. About six anti-refugee protests took place every week in 2015, Amnesty International said.
© Reuters

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Germany: Left party leader handed gag order over Nazi comment

Thuringia's leader has been taken to task by the state court for calling another political party "Nazis." The court ruled that he violated his official neutrality by promoting a boycott of the far-right NPD.

8/6/2016- Bodo Ramelow, leader of Germany's eastern state of Thuringia, has been hit with a gag order by the state's Constitutional Court. The court ruled on Wednesday that Minister President Ramelow had violated his parliamentary neutrality by calling for a boycott of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). In 2015, the Left party politician said in an interview: "I appeal to all democratic parties and their representatives, that we avoid finding any common ground with NPD proposals," otherwise, the state legislature would effectively "validate the Nazis."

NPD facing nationwide ban
The NPD have long been decried as neo-Nazis for their nationalistic agenda, as well as overtly xenophobic and racist statements. One attempt to ban the party for violating German laws against using Nazi symbolism and inciting racial hatred fell apart after it was revealed that too many federal agents had infiltrated the organization. Germany's highest court is currently in the process of deciding on a renewed call to prohibit the party. Because links to Ramelow's interview were shared on the state of Thuringia's authorized Twitter and Facebook accounts, the court ruled that the state premier had shared these opinions in his official capacity and not as a private individual. The court ruled that Ramelow had used his office to reduce equal political competition between parties. It also took issue with a politician using the term "Nazis," about a legally registered political party when speaking as leader of the state. Ramelow has said he will respect the decision of the court for now, but lamented the restrictions the judgment placed on what media could be shared by state channels.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany going too far in trying to control right-wing extremists?

Leftist groups are often seen as something positive in Germany, a nation still dealing with its Nazi past. But radical left-wing militants are stepping up violent attacks on right-wing groups and political parties.

7/6/2016- Alexander Gauland, a prominent leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), is no stranger to controversy. "A German or English soccer team hasn't been German or English in the classical sense for a long time," he remarked in "Der Spiegel" last week, alluding to the number of non-ethnic Germans and Brits on the teams. Before that he targeted the German-Ghanaian player Jerome Boateng in his statement, saying playing occer was all right, but that most people would want the defender as their neighbor. Gauland and the AfD continue to suffer intense media scrutiny and backlash for polarizing the country on several issues, including the refugee crisis, but the right-wingers have also been the victims of a growing number of attacks by left-wing radicals.

The fight against 'evil'
According to German newspaper "Die Welt," the party's members registered 800 complaints for assault in the past one year. Earlier this year, Gauland's private house in Potsdam was vandalized and offices of Carsten Hütter, the AfD's representative in Saxony's legislature, were broken into and smeared with brown paint. In December, left-wing activists demon-strating against a neo-Nazi rally in the eastern city of Leipzig injured 69 police officers and damaged nearly 50 official cars. A study by the Berlin Senate's Department of Internal Affairs in January noted that left-wing extremists were increasingly targeting people. Their strategies included ambushing police officers and subjecting conservative residents and businessmen to verbal and physical abuse and assaults. Despite the damage, the German media and society's focus on left-wing violence has been much less than on neo-Nazi attacks on refugee shelters, Werner J. Patzelt, political scientist at the Technical University of Dresden, told DW. The reason, Patzelt said, was because "we have this concept in Germany that being left is basically good, being right is definitely bad, and all means can be used in the fight against the bad. And violence is a legitimate means against the resurgence of fascism, Nazism, racism."

More tolerance for left-wing violence
Germany is not new to extremist left-wing violence. In the late 1970s, the Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof group, staged a series of assassinations and bombings against government officials in West Germany. However, the terrorist organization's activities were perceived as targeting representatives of imperialism and the capitalist system, some of whom were linked to the Nazis, Patzelt told DW. Militant left-wing activists continued to enjoy public acceptance in Germany. Last year, parliamentary vice president Claudia Roth of the Green Party was accompanied by left-wing radicals in a protest march against the AfD in Hanover. The incident did not generate much interest in the media compared to the backlash faced by the AfD when it was linked to the anti-Islamization PEGIDA movement. According to political scientist Patzelt, such acts of violence against right-wing groups would only serve to bring them closer. "Because when you see that you are being threatened, that the constituency offices of the AfD are damaged several times, then it naturally strengthens the desire to rebel and the decision to not get intimidated."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German: Far-right targets justice minister with 'disgusting' death threats

Germany's justice minister has reported receiving a mounting number of death threats from right wing extremists. The minister said the scale of "brutality" in the hate mail was unprecedented in his 20 years in politics.

5/6/2016- German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the "Bild" newspaper on Sunday that he had been sent hundreds of threats in recent months, including a bullet casing that was delivered to the postbox of his private apartment. "What is written and sent is pathetic and full of hate," he said, adding that many of the threats against his life came "with place, date, time." According to the minister, right wing groups are behind the notes - "primarily PEGIDA, AfD (Alternative for Germany party), NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) and whatever else exists in the right-wing corner. It is the section of society that otherwise spouts xenophobia and racism," he said. PEGIDA, a German acronym for "Patriotic Germans Against the Islamization of the West," is a right wing movement that emerged in the eastern city of Dresden in late 2014. It has since spread to other cities, staging marches against immigration across Germany.

Maas said the number of death threats spiked after he spoke out against PEGIDA, calling it shameful for Germany and urging political parties to come together to denounce the group. In his 20 years in politics, Maas said he had never experienced "so much brutality as today," but stressed he did not let the hate mail get to him. "Much of what comes is so disgusting that I just cannot take it personally. It doesn't affect me any more."

Need for security
Justice Minister Maas isn't the only German politician on the receiving end of such abuse. This week Greens leader Cem Özdemir reported getting a barrage of death threats from Turkish nationalists after he led efforts to get an Armenian genocide motion passed in the Bundestag. The situation prompted a federal review of security measures for Özdemir, who has a Turkish background. "We are used to the abuse and insults, but receiving such a high number of death threats is something we had never experienced before," Özdemir's office manager Marc Berthold told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper. The Greens spearheaded the resolution to recognize the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I as genocide. It was overwhelmingly adopted by the Bundestag in a vote on Thursday, sparking outrage in Turkey, where the government rejects charges genocide took place.

Police have reportedly boosted their presence around Özdemir's Berlin apartment in the past few days. When asked about the security measures, Özdemir said: "Unfortunately, there is also a Turkish PEGIDA." "Right-wing extremism isn't a German privilege. Unfortunately it also exists in Turkey and among German Turks."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Dortmund neo-Nazi rally held with little violence

Around 5,000 police officers were deployed in Dortmund to keep far-right protesters from clashing with counter-demonstrators. Riot teams were on standby in case of post-rally confrontations.

4/6/2016- An estimated 900 far-right protesters marched Saturday afternoon through Dortmund in western Germany - completely flanked by teams of riot police throughout the roughly 5-kilometer (3-mile) route. The neo-Nazis labeled their rally the "Day of a German future" and drew supporters from all across the country and abroad. Members of the ultra-right-wing National Democratic Party (NDP) and Die Rechte (The Right), which was formed in 2012, also took part. Both parties hold one seat each in Dortmund's city council. The protesters chanted nationalistic slogans, but their first rally unfolded peacefully. The neo-Nazi groups initially wanted to rally through neighborhoods with high numbers of immigrants, but that request was denied. Instead, their supporters posted leaflets around the city in the days before the march. As many as 5,000 people took part in counter-demonstrations on similar routes around a kilometer away from the Nazi group. Leftist, civil society and pro-immigration groups held up signs calling on the far-right group to leave.

Alternative rallies well-attended
"We don't want them!" said Antje Weirauch, a spokesperson for a Dortmund-based church group. "They should just get over their extreme beliefs. It (Nazism) happened in the past, and it all went horribly." Weirauch said that the far-right was spreading fear among ordinary Germans in light of the migrant crisis and that it was up to civil society to "call for multi-culturalism and tolerance." An artists' collective, which formed part of the main counterdemonstration, created a "Spiegelbarricade" (a mirror blockade) formed from around a hundred giant silver cubes. Many of them were carried along the protest route, while others were placed at key locations around the city. "They (the Nazis) are talking about their 'day of German future,' but we would like to see a future for Germany that is peaceful," Michael Eickhoff, who works with the group that created the blockade, told DW.

Confrontation avoided
Far-left protesters held a separate rally, which was kept away from the moderate anti-Nazi demonstration. At one point, there were jeers as the extremists passed under a bridge the larger protest group stood on. Earlier in the day, during the protest by leftist groups, more than a dozen people were pepper-sprayed after trying to cross police lines. "We weren't running at them or shouting," complained Max, a protester from the wider North Rhine-Westphalia region, who said he still felt a burning sensation from the spray two hours later. "They didn't give us any warning," added another protester, Julia. The pair said around 20 people were affected, including three who were taken to hospital. Local media reported that three police officers were injured during minor scuffles with leftist protesters. Police were out in force throughout the city, and public transport was either re-routed or cancelled for the duration of the protest. Riot teams remained on standby into the evening in case of sporadic violence after the protests had ended.

Growing movement
Some residents asked why the far-right groups were given permission to protest in the first place, given the heightened sensitivities after Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million new migrants last year. Although the far right and neo-Nazism are often associated with places in eastern Germany, Dortmund has a growing far-right movement, emboldened by the massive influx of migrants over the past 12 months.In 2014, two neo-Nazi parties won a seat each on the city council, and within weeks, one councillor had demanded that the mayor hand over a list of all Jews living in the area.Less extreme right-wing political groups, including the Alternative for Germany (AfD), have also gained support over the past 18 months.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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