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Headlines 30 September, 2016

Headlines 23 September, 2016

Headlines 16 September, 2016

Headlines 30 September, 2016

Germany boosts security for Muslim centres in Dresden after mosque bombing

27/9/2016- German police are stepping up protection of Muslim institutions in Dresden after two improvised bombs exploded in the eastern city on Monday evening, one at a mosque and one at an international conference centre. No one was hurt by the blasts although the imam of the mosque was inside the building with his wife and sons. "Even if we so far have no claim of responsibility, we must go on the basis that the motive was xenophobic," Horst Kretzschmar, president of Dresden police, said in a statement. He said police believed there was a link to celebrations planned for the coming weekend in the city to mark the anniversary of German reunification on Oct. 3, 1990. Kretzschmar said three mosques, a Muslim social centre and a prayer room would be given protection immediately. Soon after the mosque explosion, Dresden's International Congress Centre was also damaged by a home-made device and the bar of a nearby hotel was evacuated.

Mehmet Demirbas, founder of the mosque that was hit, said the Muslim community had been expecting some kind of attack for a long time. "Glass panes have been broken in the past, or graffiti on the wall. But this is the first time something like this happens. Hopefully it will be the last time and we carry on happily living in Dresden," he said. Dresden was the cradle of the anti-Islam PEGIDA grassroots movement whose weekly rallies attracted around 20,000 supporters at the height of its popularity at the start of 2015. The influx of about 1 million migrants, mostly Muslims, to Germany last year has increased social tensions, especially in eastern Germany where there have been some high-profile attacks on refugee shelters.

Support for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which says Islam is not compatible with the constitution, has risen due to Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy. AfD co-leader Frauke Petry condemned the attack on the mosque, saying: "Attacking a building in which people worship God is barbaric, whether it be a church, a mosque or a synagogue." German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stressed at an annual conference on Islam on Tuesday that Islam belonged to Germany, repeating a view that Merkel voiced in 2015 ahead of a PEGIDA demonstration in Dresden.
© Reuters

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Kick It Out statement on the disbandment of FIFA’s anti-racism task force

Kick It Out has released the following statement in relation to the disbandment of FIFA’s anti-racism task force on Sunday 25 September.

26/9/2016- Kick It Out is perplexed with the decision from FIFA to disband its anti-racism task force. This comes at a time when there is clear evidence that discrimination, prejudice and hate are on the rise in developed societies, particularly in Europe but also in different forms across the world. Football should seek to lead the way in combating such intrusions. It is clear that organisations that are actively campaigning against racism and discrimination will be deeply disheartened to hear news of the disbandment, as they look to FIFA for leadership in a game which is so popular across the world.

This is also ahead of FIFA hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a country which is notorious for racism and abusive activities towards minorities. FIFA state on their website: “FIFA is actively committed to fighting all kinds of discrimination within football and within society as a whole.” – With this in mind, Kick It Out is urging FIFA to set out a clear and concise strategy on how the sport can tackle discrimination and promote equality.
© Kick It Out

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FIFA Dismantled Its Anti-Racism Task Force And Says Its Work Is Done

26/9/2016- n 2011, while the international football association FIFA was handling two high-profile racism cases, its now-suspended chief Sepp Blatter told CNN that he believed there was “no racism” in international soccer. At the time, he said that “maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it’s a game, we are in a game.” Two years later, as complaints from soccer teams and players continued to emerge — from fans throwing bananas at black players to racial slurs being exchanged on the pitch — Blatter helped to establish an anti-racism taskforce intended to develop strategies to fight discrimination on the field.

But this week, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura said the anti-racism committee will be disbanded because “it had a specific mandate, which it has fully fulfilled.” “Its recommendations have now been turned into a program and a strong one,” Samoura said in remarks that came ahead of her presentation of FIFA’s first-ever diversity award on Monday. (For his part, Blatter was suspended from his top post last year over his alleged involvement in a high-profile corruption case.) Her announcement was immediately greeted with outrage by former FIFA officials who acknowledged some of the task force’s successes but said it still has a long way to go, and that dismantling the committee will only cause more problems in the long-run.

Among its various plans for combatting racism, the committee had ordered more observers to games to report fans if they were taking part in bigoted behavior and called for harsher punishments against officials or players found guilty of discrimination. The committee was never intended to be permanent, and was set up in a temporary manner in order to immediately address challenges facing the organization. But Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who used to serve as vice president of FIFA, said in a statement on Monday that for the task force “to be disbanded with FIFA considering its work done is extremely worrying.” “The notion that the current FIFA leadership believe that the task force’s recommendations have been implemented is shameful,” he said. Nigerian former FIFA official Osasu Obayiuwana, who once belonged to the task force, said in a statement that there “remained a lot of very serious work” to be done in combatting racism on and off the field.

But in her remarks at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, England, on Monday, Samoura said that her own presence “is a demonstration that FIFA has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination, not only racism but any kind of discrimination, including violation of human rights.” She is the first woman to hold the position of secretary general in the organization. “We can live with perceptions, but we are taking very seriously our role as the world governing body of football to fight discrimination,” she said.
© Foreign Policy

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Slovak PM Fico says EU migrant quotas are 'politically finished'

26/9/2016- Quotas for distributing asylum seekers among European Union member states are "politically finished", Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said on Monday. Eastern Europe's ex-communist states have strongly opposed the policy adopted a year ago to tackle the migration crisis that would require all EU countries to take in some of the hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum in the bloc. Slovakia and Hungary have both challenged quotas at the European Court of Justice. "Quotas today clearly divide the EU, therefore I think they are politically finished," Fico told journalists in Bratislava.

As the EU struggles to show unity after Britain's shock vote in June to leave, leaders have avoided contentious questions like quotas, instead focusing on protecting EU borders and co-operating with the asylum seekers' countries of origin. At a meeting of EU leaders this month in Bratislava, German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded defeat in her year-long quest to convince Berlin's EU partners to accept migrant quotas. She agreed to let eastern European states off the hook by embracing their proposal of "flexible solidarity". "What the Visegrad countries -- including Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- have been saying since a year and a half ago now becomes official EU policy," said Fico, whose country holds the six-month EU presidency until the year-end. "Whoever wants to divide Europe, let them put quotas on the table, who wants to unite Europe, let them come up with a different concept of fight against illegal migration."
© Reuters

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Poland wrestles with its past — and present

Xenophobia appears to be rising in Poland. A historian argues a history of unaddressed anti-Semitism is partly to blame.
By Catherine Porter


24/9/2016- During the Second World War, Building No. 5 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was a prisoner barrack filled with slave labourers. Today, it is packed with “material evidence of crimes”: a room filled with shoes, piles of decaying leather suitcases, a haunting mound of hair shorn from the heads of female prisoners and then sent to German factories to be woven into blankets. Nazis converted many parts of their victims’ bodies into useful items, our guide explains. Bones were made into buttons. Human ash fertilized fields and skin was stretched into lampshades — “especially if it had interesting tattoos.” “There is a little step by the door,” she instructs. “Watch out please.” Her courtesy in a place of such brutality brings tears to my eyes. But Anna Ploszczyca’s voice becomes firm when someone refers to the camp as “Polish.” “These were not Polish camps. They were German Nazi camps in occupied Poland,” she says. “We don’t want people to believe the Poles killed Jews here. It’s not the case.”

The role of Poles in the Holocaust remains an exposed nerve in this country. In August, the Polish cabinet approved a new law punishing anyone convicted of using the term “Polish death camps” with three years in jail. “Our responsibility is to defend the truth and dignity of the Polish state and the Polish nation, as well as our fathers, our mothers and our grandparents,” Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said. For Ziobro and the other members of his right-wing, nationalist government, the history of the Second World War is black and white — the Poles were victims and heroic resisters of their Nazi occupiers, full stop. But historians like Princeton University Prof. Jan T Gross have revealed a picture with more streaks of grey, in which Poles — in some terrible cases at least — were complicit in the Holocaust. That history is especially important today, he says, as Eastern Europe faces its biggest refugee crisis since the 1940s.

Instead of helping fleeing Syrian refugees, Poland has shut its doors, as have Hungary and Slovakia. After the terrorist attacks in Brussels last March, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo announced Poland would break its EU commitment to resettle some 7,000 refugees. And in the wake of the Nice attack, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak praised her party’s decision to “stand firm” against migrants. During the election campaign last fall, the chairman of the Law and Justice Party (known as PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, warned that many Middle Eastern refugees carried “highly dangerous” diseases and parasites. “How can one dare to say that in a country where 3 million Jews were murdered not that long ago and one of the blatant themes of Nazi propaganda was Jews are carriers of disease?” says Gross, who was born in Poland. Less than two weeks after that speech by Kaczynski, PiS won a resounding victory, becoming the country’s first majority government since communism cracked in 1989.

A month into the Second World War, Poland ceased to exist. The Third Reich took the lion’s share, and signed over the remainder to Soviet Russia. Polish resisters and academics were among the war’s first concentration camp prisoners. Poles suffered massive casualties. An underground army launched an uprising in Warsaw in 1944, and the Nazis reduced the city to rubble, killing more than 200,000 Poles and carting off most of the rest to concentration and death camps. On the other side, the Soviet army killed more than 20,000 Polish officers in 1940, before the Nazis pushed the Soviets out of Poland. Some 4,000 were shot through the head and buried in the Katyn Forest. The Polish government did not collaborate with the Nazis. It went into exile in France and Britain, sending troops to join the Allies. An arm of the Polish resistance called Zegota was dedicated to saving Jews at great danger to themselves. While in Germany, the punishment for helping Jews was three months in prison; in Poland it was death to the entire family. More Poles risked their lives to save Jews than any other nation, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum’s “Righteous Among The Nations” program.

The Nazis built their death camps in occupied Poland because more Jews lived there than anywhere else in Europe. Before the war, 10 per cent of Poles were Jewish; in major cities like Warsaw and Krakow, they made up one-third of the population. The country boasted 80 Yiddish-language newspapers. This was the prevailing story until 2001, when Polish-American historian Gross published a slim book called Neighbours. In it, Gross describes the horrific murder of hundreds of Jews in the town of Jedwabne in a single day of 1941. While the mass murder happened the week the SS arrived, it wasn’t the Nazis who killed the town’s Jews, but their Christian neighbours. Jedwabne was not a horrible oddity, Gross says. Similar pogroms occurred in many nearby villages.

Five years later, Gross released a second book called Fear, which examined the massacre in the southern town of Kielce in 1946 — a year after the war and Holocaust ended. Incited by false claims that a Christian boy had been kidnapped by Jews, a mob of locals attacked a Jewish centre housing Holocaust survivors, and killed 42 of them. Among international academics, Gross’s work has been not just validated, but lauded. But among regular Poles and, particularly, politicians, it triggered a huge, emotional debate that continues to this day. Former president Bronislaw Komorowski publicly apologized for the Jedwabne massacre in 2011. But current President Andrzej Duda slammed Komorowski for that apology. “The Lord knows that the Polish people did not take part in the Holocaust,” he said in a debate during the election campaign.

In July, the month of the anniversary of both massacres, Polish Education Minister Anna Zalewska called the Kielce murderers “not quite Polish” and said that Gross’s account of the Jedwabne massacre was “full of lies.” Last year, Gross published another bombshell. This time, it was a column in Project Syndicate, an opinion website that offers content to newspapers around the world, particularly in Eastern Europe. In the piece, Gross criticized his native country for not “contribute(ing) anything to resolve the greatest refugee crisis facing Europe since World War II.” The cause of this cold indifference, he wrote, is rooted in the Second World War. Eastern Europe has failed to “come to terms with its murderous past.” “Consider the Poles, who, deservedly proud of their society’s anti-Nazi resistance, actually killed more Jews than Germans during the war,” he wrote. “Of course, there were Poles who helped Jews during the war ... But these remarkable individuals typically acted on their own, against prevailing social norms. They were misfits who, long after the war had ended, insisted on keeping their wartime heroism a secret from their neighbours — afraid, it seems, that their own communities would otherwise shun, threaten and ostracize them.”

In response, a Polish prosecutor questioned Gross for five hours in April to determine whether should be charged with insulting the nation — which carries a three-year prison term. (Gross has been investigated before for defaming Poland for his book Fear. The investigation did not lead to charges.) After receiving thousands of complaints about the article, Duda’s office also announced it was considering stripping Gross of his National Medal of Merit. To date, it has not done so. Months after the furor over his article, Gross was back in Poland for a friend’s art exhibition. I met him in an outdoor cafe in the old Jewish quarter of Krakow, which today is inhabited almost exclusively by Catholics. The 16th-century synagogue across the street, its outer wall built with pieces of Jewish tombstones broken by the Nazis, is full for Friday night prayers only when Jewish tourists come through, my tour guides say. The country’s latest census states there are 7,000 Jews in Poland today, while Jonathan Ornstein, the executive director of Krakow’s Jewish Community Centre, estimates there are as many as 100,000. Even then, the Jewish community is a whisper of the 3.3 million before the Second World War.

“What’s incumbent on Poland is to mourn and remember. The bulk of Holocaust victims were Polish citizens — Polish Jews,” Gross says. “We understand what it means when a people is put in a situation where their physical existence is at stake and is threatened. We in Poland have seen how this can happen to our fellow citizens, while the world in a way was watching.” If Poles learned their history well — not just the noble sacrifices, but also the shameful treacheries — perhaps they would be quicker to check racism and hatred, he says. Instead, blatantly anti-migrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic marches have become regular phenomena throughout the country. Many are organized by the National Radical Camp — a party outlawed in 1934 for promoting hatred.

They often resemble military brigades, featuring marching men wearing armbands and waving Polish flags. Their slogan is “Poles for Poland.” One march last year included the burning of an effigy of a Hasidic Jew, and at another last April marchers burned a photo of the town’s mayor wearing a Jewish skull cap. (A march guard commander with the National Radical Camp, Szymon Mailian, says the person who burned both was not a party member. But he would not condemn the act. Asked if his group is anti-Semitic, he responded: “We are not Nazis. We don’t want eugenics. We don’t want to kill them. We just don’t want them to have a big influence on the country.”)

Last April, marchers in Bialystok chanted “Zionists will hang from the trees instead of leaves.” At the same time, physical attacks on minorities have spiked across the country, according to Rafal Pankowski. He is a university sociology professor and co-founder of the Never Again Association, which has monitored hate crimes since the 1990s. In all that time, he has never recorded such hate as this, he says: Up to 10 physical or serious verbal attacks daily. Few of the targets have been Jews, mostly because there are so few Jews living in Poland today. “The Jew is the symbol of the other,” Pankowski says. Most, like a Chilean musician who was attacked on the train, simply look like foreigners. Rather than denouncing the attacks and the rampant hate speech, the ruling Law and Justice party has remained silent.

It dissolved the Council against Racial Discrimination, xenophobia and Related Intolerance. It has scrapped the hate crime manual for police. “This government has created an atmosphere of tolerance for hatred against minorities,” says Mikolaj Pietrzak, a leading human rights lawyer. “I’m very worried. I can see that snowballing out of control.” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s office did not respond to emailed questions about the public displays of anti-Semitism. However, Olga Jablonska with the Polish Embassy in Ottawa said that an investigation by the prosecutor’s office led to charges against those accused of burning the effigy of the Hasidic Jew. Before the Second World War, Poland was one of most multicultural countries in Europe — about 30 per cent were ethnic and linguistic minorities, including Jews, Ukrainians, Germans, Tatars and Belarusians. Since the war’s end, it has become one of Europe’s most homogeneous countries, with 94 per cent identifying themselves as ethnic Poles.

Part of problem, says Gross, is that Poles benefitted materially from the Holocaust. While Nazis took valuables from Jewish homes, anything nailed down was left for locals. “If you were a party, at some point — as an individual or collective identity — to the violence that has taken place on this scale, this isn’t something that goes away,” he says. “It builds.” Poland’s biggest protest since the Solidarity movement’s first strike in 1980 burst down Warsaw’s stately Ujazdowkie Avenue one hot Saturday last May. Thousands of Poles blew horns, hoisted Polish and EU flags and sang the national anthem outside the prime minister’s chancellery. They were denouncing recent moves by the Polish parliament that, they say, curb their still-tender democracy. They also demanded that the country remain part of the European Union. Some wore Jewish stars, a few wore turbans.

“We’ve been here before,” says Marek Jankowski, a 58-year-old tour guide who was among the rally’s organizers. He was jailed briefly by the Communists in 1982 for his support of imprisoned Solidarity leaders. “The government is trying to change the constitution and change the system from a democracy of many parties to a one-party state. We got rid of such a system 25 years ago.” Warsaw authorities pegged the number of protesters at 240,000. The government-run Polish Television cited another official number, provided by police: 45,000. That gaping difference proved the protesters’ point, Jankowski said.

After the PiS won control of parliament last November, it took over the management boards of the national broadcaster. The aftermath: more than 160 reporters and news anchors quit or were fired because they don’t reflect the government’s views, according to the New York Times. The result, says the country’s human rights ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, is “total propaganda.” A new civil service law gave notice to some 2,200 top bureaucrats. Bodnar says “reappointment required loyalty to the government.” Then there is the new surveillance law which gives police and security agencies more power to spy on citizens’ Internet activity.

Bodnar flagged it and many others as unconstitutional, and sent them to the country’s top court for review. But, that court has been essentially paralyzed by parliament, which passed a law changing the way it functions and then refused to recognize its decision that deemed the law unconstitutional. After the European Commission ruled Poland had violated EU standards regarding the rule of law, parliamentarians pushed through another bill changing the way the top court works. Critics hold the new law is as damaging as its predecessor. “The whole idea of all of this is to create a de facto change in the way the state operates, even if later on it’s subject to review,” Bodnar says from his Warsaw office. “It will be too late to stop it.”

This summer, U.S. President Barack Obama, in town for a NATO summit, chided Duda for the impasse over the country’s top court. “And as your friend and ally,” he said, “we’ve urged all parties to work together to sustain Poland’s democratic institutions.” Viewers of the main public broadcaster, Telewizja Polska, got a creative translation. They were told Obama had praised Polish democratic efforts. “Concerning the issue of the constitutional tribunal,” the reporter related, according to the Washington Post, “he said he is sure that spreading democratic values in Poland will not stop.” Obama had urged the country to “continue to stand as an example for democratic practices.” Instead, locals watching state-owned television were told: “Poland is and will be an example of democracy for the whole world.”

Censoring an American president is further than even the Communists dared, says Jankowski. Whatever hope he had that swift change was possible has been doused; he and other pro-democracy activists are settling for a long fight. In 1989, he believed their country was on the path to openness. Now, they despair it was just a blip. “The Communists took my youth,” he says over the phone from Warsaw. “Now, they want to take my senior years.” Jablonska, with the Polish Embassy in Ottawa, cited a speech by Szydlo in which she said democracy was thriving in Poland. Szydlo pointed to the anti-government protests as proof. Jankowski’s Committee for the Defense of Democracy was organizing another one of those protests for this Saturday in Warsaw. Buses of protesters were expected from across the country. Jankowski says Irish rock star Bono was scheduled to give a concert in support. The theme this time addresses the “us and them” mentality that’s gripped the country: “Poland is one.”
© The Toronto Star

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Austria: Sharp rise in attacks on refugee shelters

24/9/2016- Attacks on centres for asylum seekers in Austria are on course to double this year, according to government figures released on Saturday. Twenty-four were recorded in the first half of 2016, compared with 25 for the whole of 2015, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in reply to a parliamentary enquiry. The incidents ranged from arson to acid attacks to stones thrown through windows, or racist or Nazi graffiti and hate postings on the Internet. Opposition Green MP Albert Steinhauser, who made the enquiry, blamed the rise on the "heated political debate about asylum seekers." "If in politics there is an atmosphere of intolerance... then it's no wonder that some people see such attacks as legitimate," Steinhauser said. Austria saw a record 90,000 people apply for asylum last year, one of the highest levels per capita in Europe. The far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), in common with similar parties across Europe, has stoked concerns about the influx to boost its support. Polls put the FPOe's Norbert Hofer neck-and-neck with independent ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen to be elected to the largely but not entirely ceremonial post of president on December 4. A victory for Hofer would make him Europe's first elected far-right head of state since 1945.
© AFP

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Finns protest against racism after man assaulted at neo-Nazi rally dies

24/9/2016- More than 15,000 people gathered in Helsinki on Saturday to protest against racism and violence, after the death of a man assaulted during a neo-Nazi rally in the city earlier this month. Following an influx of asylum seekers last year, anti-immigration sentiment has been on the rise in the small Nordic country, which has little experience of taking in large numbers of refugees. Police a week ago detained a member of a far-right movement on suspicion of attacking a Finnish national in central Helsinki who died of his injuries a few days later. Holding placards showing peace signs and red lines crossing out swastikas, demonstrators said it was time to break a silence that they said had allowed racism and far-right violence to grow in the country. Similar events were held in other towns. "People really feel that there's not enough talk about racism here. There's too much neglect. We should all speak more against racism, including the leaders," said a demonstrator who gave her name as Rosa.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who has been criticized for being cautious on his comments about far-right movements, joined a similar anti-racism rally in the city of Kuopio. "People are here for a just cause. Actions by violent extreme movements are a worry to the silent majority of the nation," Sipila told public broadcaster YLE. He said the government was planning to tighten legislation regarding extremist movements and hate speech. The 26-year-old man arrested has been charged for aggravated manslaughter. He is a member of Finland's Resistance Movement, a far-right group that the security intelligence service says aims to create a national socialist state. He has denied being involved in the incident.

Last year, police detained people at a demonstration by the group in central Finland saying that some of the demonstrators had assaulted bystanders. In Helsinki, a small group of people on Saturday gathered for a counter demonstration they titled "Close the borders", saying that critics of immigration policy should not be called racists. Police said all demonstrations on Saturday went ahead peacefully. About 32,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq, came to Finland last year. As in other Nordic countries the government has subsequently toughened up its immigration policies, such as by tightening the asylum criteria for people coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
© Reuters

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UK: EDL and anti-racist campaigners hold opposing rallies in Newcastle

Police say the rallies passed without incident, though one person was arrested for allegedly breaching bail conditions by being at the EDL rally

24/9/2016- Anti-racist protesters faced-off against members of the far right English Defence League across Newcastle streets on Saturday, as the two groups held simultaneous demonstrations. From behind a police cordon on Newgate Street, activists from campaign group Newcastle Unites chanted ‘refugees are welcome here’ and ‘black and white, unite and fight’, while the EDL held a national rally in the Bigg Market. The crowd of around 150 far-right protesters, many of whom carried signs and banners reading ‘refugees not welcome here’, had come from across the country to gather in Newcastle, marching from outside Central station to the Bigg Market. The group claimed they were ‘here for our family, our community and our country’, while making speeches condemning immigration and the religion of Islam.

Meanwhile the larger counter protest moved from outside the Laing art gallery to Newcastle street, where activists made speeches and the crowd chanted in an attempt to drown out the EDL members. Police kept the two groups apart, and a spokesperson for Northumbria Police said there were no reports of disorder at either event. One arrest was made at the EDL rally, which police said was for alleged breach of bail conditions, linked to that person’s presence at the demonstration. Among the counter protesters was Elswick councillor Dipu Ahad. He said the rally was an opportunity to ‘celebrate diversity’ in Newcastle, and show that the vast majority of people in the city did not share their views.

He said: “We’ve got a multicultural counter demonstration, people from all different backgrounds, condemning the likes of the EDL, and saying there’s no place for you in our great city. “As a city we pride ourselves on being multicultural, diverse, and supporting each other, and the EDL, which is a small group and getting smaller by the day, have got no place here.” Emily Dudley, 18, and Ross Keld, 17, from Durham , had come to Newcastle for a day out, when they came across the EDL demonstration. Emily said: “We knew we had to join the counter protest. We’ve seen the EDL protest before without anyone opposing them, so it’s good that there are people standing against them.”

Many of the counter-protesters brought colourful banners and flags, with some sporting bright, rainbow coloured wigs. Ben Haley, from anti-EDL group the English Disco Lovers, said part the way he planned to oppose the far-right group was having fun, and enjoying being part of a diverse crowd. He said: “The EDL is a hateful organisation that is telling people to leave our country. We want people to join our country, and join the groove.” But some passersby weren’t entirely supportive of the counter-protestors’ tactics. Linda Henry said: “Personally, I’m on the side of the counter-protest, but I do actually find them a bit more intimidating.”
© The Chronicle Live

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UK: If we don't tackle dinner party anti-semites, we're no better than the racists who called me 'Paki'

By Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

24/9/2016- Paki is a hard, ugly word, and one I heard too many times in the high streets and playgrounds of Bristol in the 1970s and 80s. Today it’s considered completely unacceptable, sitting alongside the N-word in the dictionary of bigotry. I’m sure many of you will even have done a double-take simply when you saw it in print. After all, such racism, prejudice and hatred has no place in decent society. At least that’s what we like to tell ourselves. But as almost any British Jew will be able to tell you, the truth is very different. Anti-semitism is making a comeback right here in the UK. In August, the Community Security Trust reported that the number of anti-semitic incidents had reached the second-highest level in recorded history. In London the figure leapt by an appalling 62 per cent.

I know that hatred, bigotry and discrimination remain a fact of daily life for far too many people in this country. But what makes the recent surge in anti-semitism stand out – and what makes it particularly worrying – is the number and range of people who are prepared to ignore it, excuse it and, worst of all, indulge in it. Some are the usual suspects – the hate preachers, the far right groups, the Holocaust deniers. But then there are the ‘dinner party anti-semites’. The respectable, middle-class people who would recoil in horror if you accused them of racism, but are quite happy to repeat modern takes on age-old myths about Jews. Who can’t condemn the murder of Jewish children in France without a caveat criticising the Israeli government. Who demand that a Jewish American artist sign a declaration of support for Palestine if he wants to perform at a festival in Spain.

I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a Jewish friend or colleague who hasn’t, at some point, found themselves sitting awkwardly at a party while a fellow guest railed against the international ‘kosher conspiracy’. As for mainstream politics, the situation is best summed up by a tweet sent from a recent debate in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency: “Meeting now dissolving into an open argument about whether randomly blaming Jews for things is anti-semitic”. Some say this doesn’t matter, that it’s only words. That the best way to deal with abuse is to simply ignore it. They couldn’t be more wrong. For one thing there’s the obvious trauma this kind of abuse causes to its victims, trauma that is only amplified by efforts to downplay the problem.

More than that, the mainstream embrace of low-level, casual bigotry creates fertile ground in which the noxious weed of anti-semitism can take root and grow. Just as one broken window in a neighbourhood, left unrepaired, leads to a climate in which vandalism and decay is seen as a normal part of life, so casual anti-semitism, left unchallenged, leads to an atmosphere in which extremism, and then violence, will thrive. And it’s also a problem for society as a whole. Casual bigotry and lazy stereotypes create division. They put people in boxes, build barriers between us. As long as we define other people by their differences rather than recognising what we have in common, we’ll struggle to build solid, coherent communities.

The Government is taking concrete action to tackle anti-semitism. For example, we’ve already provided well over £13 million for improved security measures at Jewish schools, synagogues and community centres. But I don’t want to see any minority group forced to live behind walls and under guard. That’s why it’s so important that all of us tackle the attitudes that fuel such prejudice. Our new plan for tackling hate crime of all kinds – launched in July – sets out some of the steps we’ll be taking to achieve this. But we all need to get better at speaking up when we see anti-semitism. I know that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. We’re British, after all – we don’t like making a scene. My dad, a bus driver who came to this country from Pakistan, used to joke that he knew he’d become British the first time someone trod on his foot and he apologised to them. But this simmering, lingering prejudice against Jews can only be stopped in its tracks if we call it out for what is. Racism.

We mustn’t allow ourselves to think that prejudice is something limited to foul-mouthed thugs on the streets of our inner cities. Sometimes the problem is much closer to home. Sometimes, the problem is people just like us. And if we don’t take a stand against it, we’re no better than the racists who felt free to call my family “Pakis” all those years ago.
This essay appears in ‘Lessons learned? Reflections on antisemitism and the Holocaust’, published by the Holocaust Educational Trust and Community Security Trust on 25th September.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Hate crimes against Muslims double while Glasgow already a racism hot spot

The figures make particularly worrying reading in Glasgow which already has the highest rate of racist crime in Scotland

24/9/2016- The number of hate crimes directed towards Muslims have almost doubled across Scotland in the past year. The figures released by the Scottish Government 's Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, show a 89 per cent increase in Islamophobic offences between 2015 and 2016. The figures make particularly worrying reading in Glasgow which already has the highest rate of racist crime in Scotland, according to official police statistics. Chairman of the advisory group, Dr Duncan Morrow, said: "Recent events in Orlando and, closer to home, following the EU referendum, demonstrate that hatred and prejudice have very serious consequences for people and communities. “They have a huge impact on the quality of life of individuals and the community to which they belong. “Trust becomes more difficult, and whole families and groups withdraw into smaller circles of safety with huge consequences for the overall level of trust and social capital across the whole of society.

“Even worse, this degree of isolation and fear is a threat to the basic values of a democratic society and undermines the rule of law and the principle of equality under the law.” Although the report shows a massive jump in Islamophobic offences, it also shows race crime overall dropping by three per cent across Scotland. The most recent police statistics published by the Scottish Government show Glasgow to have the highest rate of racist crime in Scotland, with 20.7 incidents per 10,000 of population. But Glasgow has also shown huge resistance to far right groups. When the Scottish Defence League (SDL) organised a rally in George Square, they were massively outnumbered by anti-fascist protesters. One protester stole the show with their banner which read "An immigrant with a degree is not coming to 'steal your job' ... When all you have is a standard grade in PE and an STI." The rally lasted around half an hour, following which the SDL members were asked to disperse by police and escorted along George Street.
© Glasgow Live

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Headlines 23 September, 2016

USA: Can racist tweets help predict hate crimes?

L.A. is about to find out

23/9/2016- Can police prevent hate crimes by monitoring racist banter on social media? Researchers will be testing this concept over the next three years in Los Angeles, marking a new frontier in efforts by law enforcement to predict and prevent crimes. During a three-year experiment, British researchers working with the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. will be monitoring millions of tweets related to the L.A. area in an effort to identify patterns and markers that prejudice-motivated violence is about to occur in real time. The researchers then will compare the data against records of reported violent acts. The U.S. Department of Justice is investing $600,000 in research by Cardiff University Social Data Science Lab, which has been at the forefront of predictive social media models.

Cardiff University professor Matthew Williams said the research is designed to eventually enable authorities to predict when and where hate crime is likely to occur and deploy law enforcement resources to prevent it. “The insights provided by our work will help U.S. localities to design policies to address specific hate crime issues unique to their jurisdiction and allow service providers to tailor their services to the needs of victims, especially if those victims are members of an emerging category of hate crime targets.” His lab’s previous research in the United Kingdom found that Twitter data can be used to identify areas where hate speech is occurring but where no hate crimes have been committed. This can be useful, researchers said, in neighborhoods with many new immigrants, who are unlikely to report the crime because of fear of deportation.

In 2012, an estimated 293,800 nonfatal violent and property hate crimes occurred in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. About 60% of those were not reported, the Justice Department found. Of course, there is a big difference between someone spouting off on Twitter or Snapchat and an actual hate crime. “It is a great idea in the abstract. But it is not the panacea you might think,” said Brian Levin, executive director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. “The problem is the correlation and reliability. … There are many different forms of social media.”

Levin, who has tracked both Middle Eastern terror groups and local neo-Nazi organizations, also noted that some hate groups don’t advertise their work on social media. “Local tensions may arise to fly and be absent from social media,” he said. “Some segments of the community shun social media … so examining social media as a predictor can be a bit like having one screwdriver and sometimes it doesn’t work.” Predictive policing already is in use at the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies. The LAPD uses a predictive policing algorithm to deploy officers to locations where prior crime patterns strongly suggest similar crimes may occur. As crime during the last two decades has dropped dramatically across the nation and Los Angeles, police commanders are increasingly looking for any edge they can get in cutting crime.

L.A. County is particularly useful because a huge volume of social media produces massive data sets that increase the accuracy of predictive models over traditional crime analysis and trend-chasing, said Pete Burnap, from Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics. “Predictive policing is a proactive law enforcement model that has become more common partially due to the advent of advanced analytics such as data mining and machine-learning methods,” he said. Traditional predictive police modeling has paired historical crime records with geographical locations and then made a probable calculation to predict future crimes. But Twitter and social media-based models work in real time using what people are talking about now. The algorithms look for particular language that is likely to indicate the imminent occurrence of a crime.

British researchers began looking at cyber-hate in the aftermath of the killing of British Army soldier Lee Rigby at the hands of Islamic extremists on a London street in 2013. Analysts collected Twitter data and tested a text classifier that distinguished between hateful and antagonistic responses focusing on race, ethnicity and religion. The British researchers are building a completely new hate speech algorithm designed specifically for Los Angeles. They said that’s necessary because of the linguistic and cultural difference between L.A. and London. "We will also gain access to 12 months LAPD recorded hate crime data," he said. The idea, he added, is to see whether “an increase in hate speech in a given area is also statistically linked to an increase in recorded hate crimes on the streets in the same area," Williams said.

In addition to potentially predicting crimes, the researchers hope their work might shed light on hate crimes that are now not reported. "We know that official reports of hate crime from police probably underestimate how common hate crime really is — but we don’t really know by how much, or which types of hate crimes are most seriously under-reported," said Meagan Cahill, senior researcher at Rand Corp. said. "Using Twitter data from Los Angeles County as a test case, this research will help create better knowledge about hate crime. And, we hope it will ultimately contribute to more hate crime prevention by police and other agencies alike.”
© The Los Angeles Times

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Sweden: Nigel Farage to speak at nationalists' gala

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage will make a speech at an ‘alternative Nobel Prize’ ceremony organized by the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) in Stockholm this November.

23/9/2016- The Swedish nationalists revealed to newspaper Expressen that they have hired out Stockholm’s Grand Hotel for what the party is calling the “European Freedom Awards”, where SD leader Jimmie Åkesson will speak in addition to Farage, and a prize will be given out. “It will be a former head of state in Europe,” SD’s group leader in the Riksdag Mattias Karlsson said about the prize winner. Karlsson added that the prize will go to someone who has done something extraordinary for the “political pursuit of increased national self-determination, democracy and influence for citizens in Europe”. Around 400 guests will be invited to the event, including what SD describes as “our friend parties in Europe” and other parties “like us”. Nato representatives and several US politicians have also been invited. SD even tried to hire out the Blue Hall at Stockholm’s City Hall for their gala – the location of the real Nobel Banquet every year – but the request was rejected for security reasons. According to Expressen, the bill for the evening will be footed by European think thank IDDE (Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe) and pan-European party ADDE (Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe), which both SD and UKIP are members of.
© The Local - Sweden

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Austria: Muslim woman attacked and bitten in Vienna ‘for wearing hijab’

'Racism in Austria is increasing, we constantly see it,' says victim's husband

22/9/2016- A Muslim woman wearing a headscarf was beaten and bitten in Vienna in what her family suspect was an Islamophobic attack. The 51-year-old woman, identified only as Mrs D, was on her way to work at 6am in the south of the Austrian capital when she was attacked from behind. Police confirmed they were investigating the incident, but said the motive of the attack was unclear. The woman said she heard someone running and breathing heavily behind her before she was struck several times on the head. After she fell over, her assailant continued to beat her. "He could have attacked me because [I was] in a headscarf, because he didn't even see my face, he came from behind and attacked me"" she told Turkish-language news site Haber Journal. She said that when she tried to defend herself by scratching his face, he bit her finger. The man eventually fled after she shouted for help.

An Austrian citizen, Mrs D had lived in the country for 30 years and worked at a post office in the city for 28 years. Following the attack, she called her husband who alerted the police. Mrs D was taken to the hospital, where she was given stitches on her forehead and treated for a bite wound on her hand. The assailant appeared to be between 25 and 30 years old, according to a witness. Mrs D's huband told Haber Journal: "We think it's a racist attack. Recently racism in Austria is increasing, we constantly see it." Support for the far-right has swollen in the country since Europe's refugee crisis began in 2015. Austria took in 90,000 asylum seekers initially but has since capped its intake and imposed strict border controls. Far-right politician, Norbert Hofer, has called for a ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in the country In July, a high court ruled that preventing an employee from wearing a veil was not discriminating against them. Earlier in September, an Austrian Catholic Cardinal, tipped to be the next Pope, warned that Muslims wanted to eradicate Christianity and conquer Europe.
© The Independent

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Austria: Could 16-year-olds derail far-right vote?

There can't be many Austrians who are happy about the many months of delay in their controversial and glitch-plagued presidential election, But Flora Maier is one.

20/9/2016- Flora, from Upper Austria, was 15 years old when the first two rounds of voting took place in April and May, and slightly too young to take part. It's an election that could give the European Union its first far-right head of state in Norbert Hofer. Flora's friend, Lena Ramaseder, who turned 16 in March, did get to vote in the first round. But Flora, who celebrated her 16th birthday on 23 May, now looks set to get a chance to vote in the re-run on 4 December. And so do around 45,600 others like her. "I was very happy when I heard that," she told me. "For me it's important to give my opinion." Austria has been trying to elect a president for months, but the plans keep coming unstuck.

From poll challenge to 'Gluegate'
In May, former Green Party politician Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat far-right candidate Norbert Hofer by less than 1% of the vote. But that result was annulled by the country's highest court because of problems with the way postal votes were counted. Austria was all set to hold a re-run of the vote on 2 October. Now Flora's opportunity has emerged from a major fiasco involving postal ballots, a scandal that has become known as "Gluegate". Over the past couple of weeks, it emerged that hundreds or perhaps thousands of postal voting forms could not be sealed properly, because the glue didn't stick.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said that as a result of the "defective envelopes" there was a risk the votes could be tampered with, and he recommended that the election be postponed. Legislation will now have to be altered to allow for the added delay. That means that Flora and the other 45,600 people who recently turned 16 are expected to be included this time around. Recent polls give Norbert Hofer a small edge. But, like many of her friends, Flora will be voting against the far-right candidate. "The situation is a bit strange," Flora told me. "But personally it gives me the chance to vote."

'Get it over with'
Political analyst, Thomas Hofer (no relation), says the inclusion of teenagers who have turned 16 since the first election could hand "a slight advantage" to Alexander Van der Bellen. "He did better with young voters than Norbert Hofer. It would have been a disadvantage for him to exclude them. But people over 60 also voted slightly more often for Van der Bellen and more of them are dying," he said. The delay has been widely criticised as an embarrassment and Thomas Hofer says the whole election is "shameful", both for Austria's international and domestic reputation. "In the domestic sphere, the confidence in the political system, which is low anyway, has been further eroded." For Lena Ramaseder, who voted for the first time in April and May, the situation is "getting a bit ridiculous". "It is a bit sad we are not able to fix one date and get it over with."

Austria's choice
Norbert Hofer
Age: 45
Background: Aeronautical engineer
Politics: Far-right Freedom Party
Campaign soundbite: "To those in Austria who go to war for the Islamic State or rape women - I say to those people: 'This is not your home'."

Alexander Van der Bellen
Age: 72
Background: Economics professor
Politics: Former Green Party leader
Campaign soundbite: "I've experienced how Austria rose from the ruins of World War Two, caused by the madness of nationalism."
© BBC News

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The situation for Muslims in Europe is getting worse: Time to act

On European Day Against Islamophobia, a coalition of organisations fighting Islamophobia call on EU leaders and decision makers to tackle rising anti-Muslim hatred as a matter of urgency.

21/9/2016- Almost a year ago, the EU held its first Fundamental Rights colloquium, focusing on Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. This was a strong political signal that the EU was finally willing to prioritise the fight against Antisemitism and Islamophobia. The European Commission – thanks to the appointment of a coordinator on anti-Muslim hatred – has had a whole year to listen and identify the main areas of concern. Now it’s time to see concrete political actions to address the most pressing issues, not least the very real – and rising – violence and discrimination faced by Muslims on a daily basis in Europe.

The recent human rights violations and abusive political discourse around the burkini bans in France epitomised the hatred faced by Muslims, and Muslim women in particular. Both politicians from across the political spectrum and the judiciary have capitalised on this structural Islamophobia to enforce discriminatory policies. But France is not alone. A study in Germany has shown that Islamophobia has risen markedly, with 40% of people surveyed who believe Muslims should be forbidden from coming to Germany. Government and political representatives in eastern European countries, including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, repeatedly talk of a “Muslim invasion” and refuse to accept Muslim refugees, stoking fear among the population and an increase in racist attacks. There has been a surge in racist incidents, including against Muslim communities, following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, a campaign marked by xenophobic and racist discourse. A recent ENAR report shows that Muslim women are the first to pay the price of Islamophobia in Europe and are disproportionately targeted by both employment discrimination and hate crime.

In addition, security-oriented counter-terrorism measures are having a disproportionate impact on Muslim individuals or those perceived as such, including racial profiling by law enforcement authorities, police abuses during raids and the use of administrative restrictions on the basis of vague and discriminatory criteria. The “escalator” approach whereby a conservative religious practice would lead to support for violent terrorism is bound to inefficiently target innocent Muslim individuals and families, and to generate violent backlash from the mainstream population.

As a first step, EU institutions must publically recognise and condemn Islamophobia as a specific form of racism. The European Commission should agree on a roadmap to ensure that EU member states adopt national strategies to combat Islamophobia in areas such as employment, education, health, hate crime and criminal justice. EU and national counter-terrorism measures must build on independent impact assessment studies, include human rights safeguards and be complemented by long-term prevention through equality and social inclusion policies.

European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique (CCIB), Collectief Tegen Islamofobie en Discriminatie, European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie & Ontwikkeling (EMCEMO), European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), Karamah EU - Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Muslimska mänskliga rättighetskommittén.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Italy: 'Racist' booklet generates more controversy for fertility day

Already criticised for sexist, archaic messages, reproductive health campaign now in the dock over pamphlet photo

21/9/2016- The controversy surrounding Italy’s first fertility day, a day designed to encourage Italians to have children, was reignited on Wednesday following accusations that the cover of a booklet published by the health ministry illustrating good and bad personal habits was racist. The cover of the booklet showed two white couples, arms draped around one another, exhibiting behaviour that was good for fertility, while the image that represented poor habits showed a black person among a group doing drugs. The image, which appeared to show people smoking marijuana, looks like it was first used in an anti-drug campaign by the US state of Arizona, according to an image published by the Phoenix New Times. An article in La Repubblica said the contrast between the “good” and “bad” images smacked of racism and the booklet was criticised on social media outlets as being racist.

The accusation was rejected by health minister Beatrice Lorenzin, a member of the New Centre Right, a conservative coalition partner in prime minister Matteo Renzi’s centrist government, who is known for her opposition to parental rights for same-sex parents. She has been an outspoken critic of surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy. “The photos represent a homogeneity of people, as is the multi-ethnic society in which we live,” the health ministry said in a statement. “Racism is in the eye of the beholder.” The controversy came just weeks after the original ad campaign to promote the Thursday’s national fertility day, an initiative meant to raise awareness about infertility and promote reproductive health and fertility treatments, was widely derided as offensive. In one ad, a woman was shown holding an hourglass and the campaign included the slogan: “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does”. The campaign was dropped and was meant to be replaced by one that was more scientific and focused on useful information.
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Bautzen youth beat up pensioner in racist attack

In the Saxon town of Bautzen, which has become a byword for racism and anti-migrant sentiment, two youths have attacked a 72-year-old man, shouting 'foreigners out'.

23/9/2016- The as yet unidentified young men attacked the elderly man and then threw him to the ground, according to the police report. They then fled the scene and have so far evaded the police’s efforts to track them down. The victim is a German national of Algerian origin, who has lived in Germany for 40 years. In Bautzen last week, police broke up a street fight between young asylum seekers and locals affiliated with the far-right scene. Police reported being attacked with bottles and wooden planks by some of the asylum seekers. When they dispersed this group, people from the far-right scene pursued and attacked them. An ambulance which was taking a refugee to hospital also came under attack with stones, and the injured young man had to be be transferred to another vehicle.

Former communist East Germany has been the scene of several ugly incidents in which far-right extremists targeted asylum-seekers. In February, a cheering crowd was seen outside a burning asylum-seeker shelter in Bautzen, clapping and shouting: "Good, that's up in flames." That same weekend, a video emerged of far-right thugs intimidating refugees - including crying children - and preventing them from getting off a bus to get into another shelter in the eastern town of Clausnitz. President Joachim Gauck, who had on several occasions urged Germans to extend a welcoming hand to refugees, was booed during a visit to Bautzen, a town of 40,000 people which borders the Czech Republic. Germany recorded more than 1,000 attacks on refugee shelters last year, a five-fold annual rise.
© The Local - Germany

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German Government Fears Xenophobia Will Do Economic Harm

21/9/2016- Xenophobia is rising in the ex-communist east of Germany and risks tarnishing its reputation as a place to do business, the government said on Wednesday as it published its annual report on the state of German unification. Far-right violence and attacks on migrants rose dramatically last year, with riots and arson attacks on refugee shelters in the towns of Heidenau and Freital in Saxony state. More than one million, mainly Muslim migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia streamed into Germany over the course of 2015. “Right-wing extremism in all its forms poses a very serious threat for the social and economic development of the new states,” Iris Gleicke, the federal government’s commissioner for eastern German affairs, said, referring to the five states that comprised Communist East Germany from 1945 to 1990.

Germany recorded 1,408 violent acts carried out by rightist supporters last year, a rise of more than 42 percent from 2014, and 75 arson attacks on refugee shelters, up from five a year earlier, according to an annual report by the BfV domestic intelligence agency published in June. Attacks were more frequent in east German states. There were 58.7 cases of far right-motivated violence per 1 million inhabitants in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern last year, compared to the average of 10.5 cases in west German states, the report said. Gleicke said the vast majority of east Germans were not xenophobic. But she urged civil society groups and businesses to speak out more loudly against far-right extremism. “Society should not look away when people are attacked or refugee shelters are set on fire. A lot is on the line for east Germany,” said Gleicke, who is from the east.

Heidenau in Saxony became infamous when anti-refugee riots broke out and Chancellor Angela Merkel - who grew up in East Germany - was heckled by far-right activists as an alleged traitor for her open-door policy towards refugees. Germany’s acceptance of more than one million refugees last year boosted popular support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is now represented in all of the eastern federal states. On trips abroad to Japan and California to try and drum up investment into east Germany, Gleicke said her interlocutors had cited concern about whether their foreign staff would be welcome and whether their investments would be safe. “It’s quite clear that a location that doesn’t show itself to be liberal-minded will face economic disadvantages,” she told a news conference.

More than 25 years after reunification, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in east German states still lags that of west German states by more than 25 percent, hindered by a population decline and a lack of major employers. Not a single company in Germany’s blue-chip DAX index is headquartered in the east.
© Reuters

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German nationalist probed for selling Nazi-era memorabilia

22/9/2016- A leading member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party is under investigation following reports that he sold Nazi-era memorabilia, German prosecutors said Thursday. Rudolf Mueller, the party's top candidate for elections in the western state of Saarland next year, allegedly sold Nazi medals and currency used in a concentration camp at his antiques store. The claims were first reported by the weekly Stern and the public broadcaster ARD. Saarbruecken prosecutors said they are probing whether Mueller broke a law banning the use of symbols deemed to be in breach of Germany's constitution. Such symbols include the Nazi swastika, which was often found on German World War II medals. There are exceptions allowing for artistic and educational use to document the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes.

Reached by phone Thursday, Mueller referred to an interview he gave the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper, in which the politician said that he didn't believe he broke the law. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism and far-right links among its members and supporters since it was founded three years ago. The party has still gained significant support with campaigns against migrants and now has members in ten of Germany's 16 state parliaments. Most recently, it received 14.2 percent of the vote Sunday in the election for Berlin's state assembly. Following that vote, AfD's co-chairwoman Frauke Petry brushed aside reporters' questions about anti-Semitism in the party as "outrageous" and "insinuations."

The party announced two days later that one of its elected members, Kay Nerstheimer, had relinquished his seat in the AfD caucus following revelations that he had previously been a member of the far-right German Defense League.
© The Associated Press

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Germany: New AfD Berlin senator: Nazi civilian killings were 'legal'

The AfD party admitted this week that one of their newest elected politicians was once part of an extremist group. And his Facebook posts reveal more about his troubling thoughts on the Nazis.

21/9/2016- One of the new members of Berlin’s state parliament from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party used to be a member of the German Defence League - an extremist right-wing, anti-Islam group - the party confirmed on Monday. Kay Nerstheimer, who was elected to the parliament as a direct candidate for the eastern Lichtenberg district, had been a member of the group as recently as 2012, according to AfD regional chair Georg Pazderski. The German Defence League - styled after the English Defence League - declares that “Islam does not belong to Germany”, and says it will protect “our culture, values and traditions”. Pazderski claimed that Nerstheimer ended his activities with the group after it came under surveillance in 2013 by Germany’s domestic security agency, the Verfassungsschutz,.

The Berlin party leader also said that the AfD would look into Nerstheimer’s past and would “find a solution”, though national party leader Frauke Petry would not say whether they would consider dismissing him from the party. But as the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Tuesday, Nerstheimer’s extremist views did not start nor end with the German Defence League. Nerstheimer has repeatedly posted on Facebook in recent years messages glorifying the Nazi time, trivializing the acts of Nazi war criminals, and using certain phrases often espoused by the Third Reich.

The politician wrote a post in July 2013 which seemed to defend SS captain Erich Priebke on his 100th birthday. Priebke had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy in 1998 for his role in the 1944 massacre at the Ardeatine caves in Rome, in which 335 Italian civilians were killed, including 75 Jews. In another post, Nerstheimer shared a photo of soldiers in Adolf Hitler’s army with the caption: “Each of them is a fine example to the people”. And as recently as July, Nerstheimer shared a link to a video with the title “It’s all a LIE! The true cause of the war of 1939”. The video showed a presentation by German author Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, who disputes Germany's guilt in the Second World War, in one book even blaming Poland.

The day before this he had shared a post that posited an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that said “the forces that caused the First World War also caused the second one”. “Now they are on the edge of starting a third one and are always finding idiots that will obey them.” Nerstheimer referred to the civilian victims of German aggression as “guerrilla fighters” and said such people were not under the protection of the laws of war, SZ reports. “Therefore the shootings were legal,” Nerstheimer wrote. In a post from this past January, Nerstheimer called the wave of asylum seekers coming to Germany an “illegal invasion” and referred to refugees as “the parasites that feed on the juices of the German people”. He has also called Syrian refugees “simply disgusting vermin” and black people “Bimbos”, which in German is used as an offensive racial epithet.

As the SZ points out, Nazi propaganda often portrayed Jewish people as rodents and vermin. Nerstheimer is not the first AfD official to be accused of anti-Semitism, or downplaying the Nazis' atrocities. A politician in Baden-Württemberg described the Holocaust as "certain infamous actions" and Holocaust-deniers as dissidents in a book published in 2012. The resurfacing of the comments this year caused a rift in the party in July when co-leader Jörg Meuthen became angered that the local party's parliamentary group had failed to oust the politician, Wolfgang Gedeon, from their ranks.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Muslim women face job barriers - study

An experiment in Germany has found evidence of job discrimination against women with Turkish names - and even more if they wear an Islamic headscarf.

20/9/2016- A university researcher sent 1,500 identical CVs to German firms - except that some bore the name Meryem Ozturk and others the name Sandra Bauer. In 18.8% of cases Sandra Bauer was invited for interview, whereas the figure for Meryem was just 13.5%. When the photo of Meryem showed her in a headscarf only 4.2% invited her. The study was published by the Institute for the Study of Labour, in Bonn. The researcher was Doris Weichselbaumer from the University of Linz, in Austria. The findings are especially significant in light of Germany's current efforts to integrate record numbers of Muslim migrants, many of them refugees from the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. More than a million asylum seekers reached Germany last year, and there has been a backlash from nationalist groups, especially Pegida and Alternative for Germany (AfD). With an estimated three million people of Turkish origin, Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora.

'Modern-looking' headscarf
In her study, Ms Weichselbaumer said that "a very modern binding of the headscarf was chosen to signal that the applicant was a young, modern woman who could easily fit into a secular environment". It is normal in Germany to attach a photo to a job application, she pointed out. The result of the experiment "implies that the candidate with the headscarf had to send 4.5 times as many applications as an identical applicant with a German name and no headscarf to receive the same number of callbacks for interview", she said. Discrimination appeared to intensify when the job required a higher skill level. When Ms Ozturk in a headscarf was applying for a secretarial job she had to send off 3.5 times more applications than Ms Bauer. For the post of chief accountant Ms Ozturk had to make 7.6 times more applications. Ms Weichselbaumer has found similar levels of discrimination in Austria. A female Nigerian job applicant was only half as successful as an Austrian woman in getting invitations to interview, her research showed in 2013.
© BBC News

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Denmark: DF'er charged with racism for saying foreigners 'steal, rape and kill'

A rabid anti-immigration speech from a member of the Danish People’s Party (DF) will be investigated by police as a possible violation of Denmark’s racism law.

20/9/2016- Speaking at DF’s national meeting in Herning over the weekend, Cheanne Nielsen delivered remarks that have been widely criticised by her political opponents. Nielsen, a delegate from Copenhagen, lashed out at immigrants and what she perceived as a lacklustre effort from the government – which has rolled out one set of immigration restrictions after another – to sufficiently limit the number of foreigners living in Denmark. “Why should foreigners take care of themselves, now that they can require rent and pocket money from the state as soon as they come here?” Nielsen wondered. “They make a mess, they cheat, they steal, they rape and they kill,” she added. While the DF crowd ate up the comments and greeted the gross generalization with applause, Nielsen’s remarks were widely criticized by members of Denmark’s other political parties and were given a slight reprimand by DF leader Kristian Thuelsen Dahl, who said Nielsen “went too far” but declined to strip her of her party membership.

Roskilde resident Mille Stockner viewed Nielsen’s comments as a clear violation of Denmark’s racism law and started a petition to report her to the police. Over 6,000 people added their names and on Tuesday, Stockner filed an official complaint with the West Zealand Police. “In my view, these comments are such extreme generalizations of an ethnic group that they are a clearly in violation of Paragraph 266b [the so-called ‘racism paragraph’, ed.]. This is also a case of using such comments as propaganda when they are expressed from the podium of a large national gathering,” Stockner wrote in the petition. Nielsen attempted to walk back her comments in a Facebook post written on Tuesday. “At the national meeting, I gave a speech. Unfortunately, I said ‘foreigners’ and not ‘MANY foreigners’. This has been interpreted to mean that I think ALL foreigners [cheat, steal, rape and kill, ed.]. It goes without saying that there aren’t problems with ALL foreigners. Many of them take good care of themselves and want to be a part of Danish society. But there are problems with many foreigners and we should be able to talk about it,” she wrote.

Nielsen’s comments weren’t the only ones to garner headlines from the DF national meeting. Marlene Harpsøe, who represents the party in parliament, also received a fair amount of criticism for her suggestion on how Denmark should handle rejected asylum seekers. “There are often reports of difficulties in sending rejected asylum seekers back home. It is very, very expensive when the trip is made by plane. We waste an incredible amount of police resources on it. So, dear gathering, I have a much better idea. Give the migrants a pair of sneakers. If they can walk all the way up here, they can also walk home again,” Harpsøe said to rapturous applause.
© The Local - Denmark

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Luxembourg: Petition 698: 'No racist, xenophobic statements'

As of Tuesday, over 12,000 signatures have been collected for Petition 698.

20/9/2016- Petition 698 calls for Luxembourgish to be considered the first official language and national language for all citizens in Luxembourg. The controversial petition has hit a new record: as a comparison, Petition 621 (calling for the closure of the Cattenom power plant) was backed by 10,007 signers. Petition 698 has also received quite the buzz on social media, gaining an ever-increasing political dimension. Even the author of the petition himself, Lucien Welter, chimed in on the discussion on his Facebook page.

Not part of a right-wing agenda
Welter has expressed his surprise at the interest the issue has garnered, but he wanted to make one thing certain: "I dissociate myself from any racist, populist and xenophobic statements," he said. The goal of the petition, in fact, was not to exclude others: rather, he acknowledges the uniqueness of the Grand Duchy, with all its diversity in culture and its multilingualism. Welter had previously stated that he wanted to "save the Luxembourgish language before it disappears". Petition 698 then is in no way meant to devalue or discredit other languages used in Luxembourg. And if there are others who were to use Welter's petition to spread their own right-wing agenda, he would distance himself from it.


© The Luxembourger Wort

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Netherlands: Anti-Islam lawmaker Wilders asks for dismissal of hate speech case

23/9/2016- A lawyer for Dutch politician Geert Wilders on Friday argued for dismissal of hate speech charges brought against the far right lawmaker for calling for a reduction in the number of Moroccans in the Netherlands. Wilders, who currently leads in polls ahead of national elections scheduled for March 15, faces a fine of up to 7,400 euros and a year in jail for discrimination and inciting racism for televised 2014 remarks which also included calling Moroccans "scum."  In a pretrial hearing, lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops called for early dismissal of the suit, saying Wilders' remarks were protected by freedom of speech laws, which he said should be interpreted liberally when they are part of political discourse. Judges said they did not expect to decide on whether the case may proceed until November at the earliest. Wilders, who campaigns on an anti-Islam, anti-immigrant platform, was acquitted of hate speech charges in 2011 for various remarks including calling for a ban on the Koran, which he equated with Hitler's' "Mein Kampf" and for saying that "Muslim criminals" should be stripped of their Dutch nationality and deported.
© Reuters

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Netherlands: Social media overload: many discrimination complaints go unanswered

23/9/2016- The public prosecution department is unable to cope with all the complaints it has received about discrimination, and some 75% of reports never even reach its offices, according to research by RTL News. The department has pledged to look carefully at ‘all complaints about discrimination’ but most are set aside without being checked by department officials, the broadcaster’s researchers say. RTL found that between 2005 and 2013, police received an average of 416 complaints about discrimination a year. But only an average of 123 were actually passed on to the prosecution department. A spokeswoman for the department admitted the difficulties, saying the arrival of social media had made it easy to insult and threaten people.

Choices
‘We have to make choices,’ spokeswoman Gabrielle Hoppenbrouwers told RTL. The department’s guidelines are being amended to reflect the change, Hoppenbrouwers said. The Dutch human rights commission says it considers it worrying that so many complaints go unanswered at a time when young people are becoming less likely to register such issues. ‘Youngsters tend to think… you can’t do anything about racism, particularly on social media like Facebook and Twitter,’ said Adriana van Dooijeweert. ‘That worries me.’ Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher told RTL that all cases of discrimination hurt people deeply but that not every case can be prosecuted. ‘We are doing a lot and we are going to look if there is any more we can do,’ Asscher said.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Far-right party to protest at Sinterklaas' arrival

21/9/2016- Extreme right-wing group NVU is planning a protest at the national arrival of Sinterklaas in Maaslluis on November 12th, the group writes on its website. “I am not ashamed of Zwarte Piet. Stop the kids festival haters”, the party writes. The NVU will apply for a protesting permit next week, foreman Kuipers Constantine said to newspaper AD. “I expect that we, as with other events where we were present, will be assigned a box where we can stand. We only want to let a positive sound be heard. Other groups want to collide with us, not us with those groups.”
© The NL Times

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Netherlands: Two police officers to face charges after Aruban tourist death

19/9/2016- Two police officers are to face criminal proceedings in connection with the death of an Aruban tourist after he was arrested in The Hague last year, the public prosecution service said on Monday. Mitch Henriquez, 42, died in hospital after being held in choke hold during his arrest at a music festival in a city park. The public prosecutor said two of the five officers involved in the arrest had not acted in line with official guidelines and this is the reason why they face prosecution. The arrest itself, a spokesman told website Nu.nl, was correct. ‘He [Henriquez] was sent away and came back talking about a weapon,’ the spokesman is quoted as saying. ‘The police believed he was disturbing the peace.’ Nevertheless, he did not pose such a risk that the violence used to arrest him was merited and he could have been subdued in other ways, the spokesman said.

Force
An internal police report seen by RTL news said that police had used ‘disproportionate force’ during the arrest. An investigation by two police scientists said the arrest team made a string of errors and failed to follow procedures in restraining Henriquez, RTL reported at the weekend. As well as using the choke hold, they used pepper spray at close range and rubbed it in his face, going against rules that state it should only be used from a distance. After Henriquez lost consciousness the officers lifted and bundled him into a riot van when they should have called an ambulance, the report noted. As a result medical assistance arrived too late to the scene. Police discovered that Henriquez had no pulse when he arrived at the station, but did not begin resuscitating him for a further five minutes, the report said.
© The Dutch News

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Nordic Nations: EU Must Punish Hungary Over Stance on Refugees

Hungarians are expected to reject a EU plan for quotas to settle asylum seekers in an upcoming referendum

23/9/2016- Leaders from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have expressed their “great concern” over Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s refusal to follow EU rules on the treatment of displaced people. Lashing out in particular at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policies on migrants and refugees, Orban has called for the EU to “round up” and deport them to guarded camps “on an island or North Africa,” the Telegraph reported on 22 September “We must set up large refugee camps outside the EU, with armed security and financial support provided by the Union. Everyone who came illegally must return there. There they can file for asylum," Orban is quoted as telling the Hungarian news site Origo.

The open letter criticising Orban’s illiberal stance comes ahead of a 2 October referendum asking Hungarians to accept or reject a EU plan for quotas to settle asylum seekers, in which a “no” vote is widely anticipated. Meanwhile, the Hungarian government has angered EU member states by publishing a pamphlet that names 900 “no-go zones” in cities across the EU, including London, Paris and Berlin, Newsweek reported. The leaflet also includes a section on how “Illegal immigration increases the terror threat.” Hungary has in the past also refused to take back refugees from other EU member states who entered the Central European country first, saying Budapest “cannot accept any incoming Dublin transfers.” In their letter, ministers from the five Nordic states say that is an unacceptable “violation of the EU law” and are calling on EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to “act promptly.”

# Hungary's government had already challenged the quota plan in the European Court of Justice. Orban may push for fundamental amendments to the Lisbon Treaty if a large majority of Hungarians back his him in the 2 October referendum, the EU Observer wrote, citing local media reports.
# Earlier in September Luxembourg’s foreign minister said Hungary should be suspended from the EU for violating democratic core values and treating refugees almost like “wild animals,” Politico reported. The EU Commission has launched probes into Hungary's asylum laws.
# Orban presented a 10-point proposal package on free movement and the protection of the EU’s external borders in April dubbed Schengen 2.0, Hungary Today reported
# Last month, he announced plans to build a second fence on its border with Serbia over fears the EU’s deal with Turkey on migration would fall through.

Compiled by Brian Kenety
© Transitions Online.

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Hungarian prime minister demands EU 'round up migrants and put them on an island'

22/9/2016- Hungary’s prime minister has called for the EU to “round up” illegal immigrants and deport them to guarded camps “on an island or North Africa.” The comments are likely to further inflame tensions with other EU governments who say Budapest’s ultra-hard line on migration flouts both international law and fundamental European values. Viktor Orban made the comments as he lashed out at Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, saying it was unfair for Berlin to try to distribute migrants across EU member states. "This could be an island, it could be a coastal area in North Africa, but the security and supplies of that area must be guaranteed by the EU in its own interest," Mr Orban told Origo, a Hungarian news website, in an interview published on Thursday. "Those who came illegally must be rounded up and shipped out," he said. "We must set up large refugee camps outside the EU, with armed security and financial support provided by the Union. Everyone who came illegally must return there. There they can file for asylum," he added.

It is not the first time Mr Orban has caused controversy with his hard line rhetoric against migrants, whom he has previously called a “poison”. He has ordered the construction of a razor wire fence along Hungary’s southern border, suggested hanging "pigs heads" on it, and has said he would refuse to take the share of refugees Hungary is obliged to accept under EU law. His government is sponsoring a referendum to be held on October 2 on whether Hungary should reject EU quotas to resettle migrants among member states. Hungarian media have reported that he may push for fundamental amendments to the Lisbon Treaty if a large majority of Hungarians back him in the referendum. His rhetoric has been met with increasing frustration by other European governments, who accuse him of flouting both EU law and fundamental European values. On Wednesday, Nordic countries called for Hungary to be punished over its hard line stance on the immigration crisis.

Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden co-signed a letter expressing their "great concern" at Budapest's refusal to act by the Dublin rules, under which refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country they enter. They called on Dimitris Avramopoulo, the EU migration commissioner, to “take measures” promptly against Budapest’s violation of EU law. Earlier this month Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign minister, said Hungary should be suspended from the European Union for violating democratic core values and treating refugees like "animals". Austria has also threatened to bring a case against its neighbour in the European courts. The British embassy in Budapest on Thursday raised concerns with the Hungarian government after it issued an official leaflet describing parts of London as “no-go areas” because of immigration. The leaflet included a map showing around 900 "no-go areas" in European cities with large immigrant populations, including London, Paris and Berlin. "This leaflet is clearly inaccurate," the Foreign Office said. "There are no areas in the UK in which the laws of the UK cannot be enforced."
© The Telegraph

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Hungary should combat, racism, xenophobia, hate speech - Council of Europe

Roma in Hungary continue to suffer systemic discrimination and inequality in all fields of life, the Council if Europe has said in its latest report on Monday. It called on Hungarian authorities to "bolster efforts to combat manifestations of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and hate speech present in Hungarian society including in the media and the political arena."

19/9/2016- [...] there is a widely acknowledged perception of an increase in xenophobia and intolerance within Hungarian society directed in particular against the Roma and the Jewish community. Also, the uncompromising stance taken by the authorities during the current migration waves has fuelled xenophobic and intolerant attitudes against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe said in a nearly 50-page report dated 12 September. It also noted that there have been reports of physical attacks against the Roma in recent years. "In the political arena, extremist movements and parties continue to spread prejudice and hate speech against the Roma, with the Internet becoming the principal medium for dissemination of anti-Gypsy and anti-Semitic rhetoric. The susceptibility of a significant part of society to openly xenophobic and discriminatory rhetoric is a source of grave concern."

Systemic discrimination in all fields of life
The Council also said "Roma continue to suffer systemic discrimination and inequality in all fields of life including housing, employment, education, access to health and participation in social and political life." In addition, evidence collected by the authorities shows that "segregation of Roma school children has become more widespread in recent years". "Alarmingly, discrimination of Roma children has deepened, in particular as a result of the approach of "benevolent segregation" promoted by the authorities by which Roma children are expected to "catch up" in separate Roma classes before their supposed inclusion in the mainstream education."

Catastrophic Roma employment figures
"Regrettably, Roma continue to be excluded from effective participation in social and economic life," the Council said. "The unemployment among Roma is a source of grave concern. Roma account for 25 to 30% of the registered unemployed (100,000-130,000 persons) and according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights research.," it added. 68% claim to have been the object of discrimination within the last five years in their efforts to find employment. Consequently, only 2% to 2.5% of the total number of employed people are Roma, although they constitute approximately 7% of the population of Hungary.

Low compulsory school attendance age raises serious concerns
"The lowering of the compulsory school-attendance age from 18 to 16, which was introduced by the National Public Education Act of 2011, raises serious concerns," said the pan-European organisation comprising 47 countries. " Given the high rate of repetition of classes and the lack of entrenched culture of school attendance among Roma children, in particular young Roma girls many of whom will have left school by the age of 16 without completing primary education," the Council added. It also noted that this will impact very significantly on their employment prospects as most jobs require a completed 8th grade of education. A combination of the difficulties experienced in education results in only 1% of Roma children reaching tertiary education.

Worse health conditions
The health indicators for the Roma population are significantly lower than those of the majority population. Consequenty, the average life expectancy of Roma in Hungary is ten years shorter compared to the entire population. The Council of Europe has also made recommendations for Hungarian authorities: to intensify measures aimed at promoting access to employment for Roma, to continue their support to guarantee equal access to health-care services for Roma, to consider making a course on Romology a compulsory element of medical studies to make health professionals aware of Roma cultural sensibility as regards health care.

Issues for immediate action:
# promote tolerance and respectful attitudes amongst the majority population;
# bolster efforts to combat manifestations of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and hate speech present in Hungarian society including in the media and the political arena and # # # monitor the situation more effectively;
# investigate and apply adequate sanctions when necessary;
# ensure that the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights is granted all the support needed to continue carrying out his role effectively, particularly as regards the enforcement of recommendations with a view to strengthening the Commissioner's competences;
# continue to make available the resources needed to operate efficiently and independently;
# reinforce the competences of the Deputy Commissioner responsible for the protection of the rights of nationalities by empowering the office holder to undertake investigations on the Deputy’s own initiative;
# make sustained and effective efforts to prevent, combat and sanction the inequality and discrimination suffered by the Roma;
# improve, in close consultation with Roma representatives the living conditions, access to health services and employment of the Roma;
# take necessary measures, as a matter of urgency and without further delay, to end practices that lead to the continued segregation of Roma children at school and redouble efforts to remedy other shortcomings faced by Roma children in the field of education;
# ensure that Roma children have equal opportunities for access to all levels of quality education, in particular by preventing placement in "catching-up classes";
# take decisive measures to prevent children from being wrongfully placed in special schools.

And now let’s hear what Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s cabinet chief, János Lázár, has to say on the subject of the Roma and migrants.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants may come to Hungary [and] I don’t know how we could live with them. We have been living together with gypsies for 600 years yet we were unable to solve their problems.
© Portfolio Hungary

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Czech Rep: Police accuse five young men of defacing HateFree premises

19/9/2016- Czech police have levelled accusations against five young men who are suspected of spraying Nazi symbols and threats on the walls of Prague cafes and shops that participate in the HateFree campaign, police spokesman Tomas Hulan told CTK on Monday. The perpetrators may face up to three years in prison if found guilty of harming other people's property and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing the human rights and freedoms, Hulan said. Apart from the Hate Free cafes and shops, the vandals also defaced a metro vestibule in central Prague, he said. Defaming inscriptions such as Death to HateFree, and neo-Nazi symbols were sprayed on the buildings' facades in the night to April 24.

After assessing them, experts concluded that the texts and symbols clearly express support for neo-Nazi movements, which, on their part, claim adherence to the Third Reich and Nazi Germany, Hulan said. The HateFree Culture group was established by the government Agency for social inclusion in 2013 and has been subsidised by the EU funds and Norway grants. Its goal is to react to displays of hatred on the Internet and in everyday life. A symbol of the initiative is a pink sticker with white letters which the shops involved put on their doors or shop windows. The vandals evidently focused on the HateFree shops in reaction to the owners' position of tolerance towards minorities and refugees.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Finland may ban neo-Nazi groups after death of man at far-right protest

Finland may outlaw neo-Nazi groups after an assault at a far-right protest resulted in a man’s death.

22/9/2016- Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen will raise the prospect of a ban with the prosecutor general’s office, according to Yle news. But days earlier, Kolehmainen had acknowleged that any ban could prove problematic as members could act independently. The suspect Jesse Torniainen, born in 1990, has been detained for probable cause of assault and grossly negligent homicide. Torniainen is a founding member of the neo-Nazi group Suomen Vastarintaliike SVL (Finnish Resistance Movement), according to police.

The SVL had protested outside Helsinki Railway Station on September 10, 2016. Jimi Karttunen, 28, had walked past the protest and noticed their neo-Nazi flags. According to his father, Jimi approached them to ‘challenge their ideology’. Police confirmed the Jimi had spat in the direction of the neo-Nazis. Words were exchanged, and Jimi continued walking towards the train station. Moments later, a member of the SVL, allegedly Jesse Torniainen, ran after Jimi and kicked him in the chest, causing him to fall backwards onto the concrete. Jimi needed stitches in the back of his head following the assault. He developed a cerebral hemorrhage and died several days later. Some have speculated that this incident was preventable. Police in Helsinki later confirmed that the notice to protest on September 9. The original notification made no reference to the real intention of the protest. Nor did it reference the SVL. So for police, it became a question of resources in a city where multiple protests occurred on September 10.

Jimi’s death shocked the nation. A small vigil outside Helsinki Central Station attracted dozens of wellwishers. Someone had written ‘Stop the Hate’ in yellow chalk near the vigil. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä called for a review of legislation concerning the legality of violent organisations. The Ministry of Interior will also consider banning violent extremist organisations. Yet, Finland’s Security Intelligence Service, Supo, do not consider right-wing extremism a threat to national security. The Helsinki Times reported that Jesse Torniainen has a history of violence. He may face further charges for his alleged involvement in a violent far-right protest and two assaults in 2015. Nor does the influence of the SVL exist in a vacuum. Mika Ranta, a member of the SVL, went on to form the Soldiers of Odin. Ranta, however, denies any link between the groups.

The SVL seeks to unite Nordic and Baltic states under the banner of national socialism. A former leader of the movement claimed the SVL has between 60-70 active members. It sounds small but it has grown in recent years. Like other extreme far-right groups, the movement is not just ideological. It seeks to create a subculture and sense of group identity. This includes martial arts training and presentation evenings.
© Tell Mama

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Finland: Police: Helsinki assailant a founding member of neo-Nazi group

Police confirmed on that Monday the suspected assailant who turned himself in following the death of a man at a neo-Nazi demonstration is a founding member of the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement and reportedly has a violent background. The case has spawned broad condemnation from the government and opposition leaders.

19/9/2016- A 28-year-old man received serious head injury after a verbal confrontation with demonstrators became violent. The victim was hospitalised for nearly a week. A day after he was released the man died from a brain aneurism. According to police the alleged assailant turned himself in over the weekend, but would not disclose whether the suspect confessed to the assault. The incident is being investigated as a case of assault and involuntary manslaughter. Lead investigator of the preliminary inquiry, Teemu Kruskopf said the suspect was a founding member of the Finnish Resistance Movement. "The suspect has, in the police's view, been a major player in the Finnish Resistance Movement," Kruskopf said. "According to our information, he was one of the founders of the movement in 2008 in Oulu." Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported on Monday that the suspect had been convicted of several violent crimes in the past.

Police: "Victim died of a head injury"
"In our view the victim died of a head injury after being kicked," Kruskopf said. Kruskopf told Yle that he interviewed the victim at the hospital right after the assault. "The man told me that he had spit when he walked by the group of demonstrators who gathered by Helsinki Central Railway Station," Kruskopf said. Kruskopf told Yle TV1's morning programme that the man had stopped in front of the demonstrators and that words were exchanged. After that the victim had begun to walk away from the group of demonstrators, he said. One of the demonstrators left the group and chased after the man and kicked him in the chest, causing the victim to fall to the ground when he hit his head. On Tuesday police will decide whether to recommend that the suspect be detained, which police said would be very likely.

PM and Foreign Minister condemn violent acts in Helsinki, Otanmäki
Writing in his blog Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that it is now important to throughly review the legality of organisations that embrace violence. He added that if necessary, the law would be revised. The Centre Party chair also called for a review to determine whether or not Finnish legislation is up to date on intervening in hate-motivated speech and actions. He noted that discussions online and in social media tend to quickly get out of hand. The PM wrote that he condemned all forms of violence, racism and hate speech. Sipilä extended condolences to the family and loved ones of the victim in the Helsinki incident, as well as the Finnish man who was killed, allegedly by asylum seekers, in Otanmäki in Kajaani two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister and Finns Party chair Timo Soini described the incidents that took place in Helsinki and Otanmäki as simply wrong. He also declared that violence is wrong, including the threat of violence. "Human life is sacred to me, from the womb to the tomb," he wrote.

National Coalition Party chair: Ban violent extremist groups
Reacting to the incident, Finland's Minister of Finance - and former Minister of the Interior and current chair of the National Coalition Party - Petteri Orpo said he was very concerned about the situation in Finland. Orpo said that he thinks violent extremist organisations should be banned, and said that he expects that the Ministry of the Interior will thoroughly look into the matter. "If we can find ways to ban political organisations which use violence, I support it," Orpo said, adding that the idea of prohibiting violent organisations by law was already discussed by a previous government. However, he said that legal experts at the time were divided over how that would be possible.

Supo: Extreme organisations not a security threat
Orpo said that he considers extreme right-wing groups to be a threat to national security, but says that's not out of line with a comment made by the head of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service, Supo. When Yle asked Supo for comment about the assault, the agency declined. Supo chief inspector Tuomas Portaankorva told Yle that Supo doesn’t consider right wing extremist groups in themselves to be a direct threat to state security. Orpo said that the case of the assault at Helsinki's train station was a single incident, but ackowledged an underlying growth of extremist atttitudes in Finland. He said he is deeply concerned about the country. "Now, if ever, we need patience and tolerance in Finland. The vast majority that rejects this [violence] must act together, with determination."

Opposition calls for action
For her part, chair of the opposition Left Alliance Li Andersson noted that one major problem is that the threat posed by violent groups in Finland has not been taken seriously enough. She said that the legality of extremist organisations could be examined but says that there are already laws on the books that enable law enforcement to intervene in the activities of extremist groups. Meanwhile Antti Rinne, chair of the largest opposition party the Social Democrats, called on Prime Minister Juha Sipilä to lead his administration and ensure that it considers any legislative changes needed to address the situation. He said that racist and extremist activity should not be tolerated in Finland. He suggested amending the criminal code to ban racist organised activity. "If any party provides a breeding ground for this kind of activity [violent extremism] and does not clearly condemn it, that party carries a grave responsibility," Rinne declared.
© YLE News.

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France: Marine Le Pen hopes to boost standing by meeting Trump

France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen wants to meet Donald Trump in a bid to boost her standing internationally and at home, according to reports in the French press.

23/9/2016- Le Pen, an outspoken supporter of Trump, is hoping to have face to face talks with the Republican presidential candidate. Leader of the far-right, populist National Front party Le Pen is riding a wave of popularity and the latest poll published on Friday morning suggests she will easily make it to the second round of France’s presidential election next May, knocking out current president François Hollande in the process, if he chooses to stand. While Le Pen is strong on the home front, she wants to build up international support from powerful figures including Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Le Parisien newspaper claims Le Pen’s election campaign team are trying to organise a meeting between the two candidates, who both present themselves as anti-system and are staunchly anti-immigration.

Although there is one large obstacle that stands in the way of a get together. Trump would need to win the US election. “We want to do this trip after the election of Trump, during the period when he is president elect,” a close aide of Le Pen told Le Parisien. Le Pen has showed her support for Trump in the past, saying in July that if she was American she would vote “for anyone but Hillary Clinton”, adding that "Clinton is war". She echoed those thoughts early this month. “In the interests of France it would be anyone but Clinton,” she said. “If Trump comes across as some kind of alien species, it’s precisely because he is operating in a political system that is completely closed,” she said. Le Pen is keen on building an international stature that would help boost her image at home and in theory make her more electable. Although whether meeting with the likes of Donald Trump will win her votes back home remains to be seen.

Her entourage is also lining up a meeting with Putin. “It’s not a question of if she will meet Putin, but when,” said a member of her entourage.
© The Local - France

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France: In Frejus, far-right FN faces test of leadership

19/9/2016- In the southern French town of Frejus, National Front (FN) mayor David Rachline is performing a balancing act that epitomizes the far-right party's strategy -- trying to prove it can run things while retaining its anti-establishment image. The stakes are high for the FN, which won just under a dozen towns including Frejus in 2014 municipal elections, and wants to use its track record in those areas to support its quest for power at a nation level. Aged only 28 and a rising star in the FN, Rachline had a relatively low-key, business-as-usual, start to his tenure. But then he started pushing the party's trademark anti-migration agenda by cutting subsidies to an association helping migrant workers and trying to stop plans to build a mosque.

As France's April 2017 presidential election draws nearer, the tension between providing basic city management and courting controversy is becoming more acute and scrutiny is certain to grow after Rachline became campaign director for FN chief Marine Le Pen at the weekend. Le Pen, seen by opinion polls as likely to make the second round of the presidential election but lose a run-off, gave a ringing endorsement of Rachline and stressed the significance of what he was doing when she launched her campaign in Frejus. "He represents success ... his success in managing his town is a way to silence those who have relentlessly said the National Front could not implement its program," she told reporters on Saturday.A resort town of 55,000 which hosts three to four times as many people over the summer, Frejus is the biggest constituency managed by the FN, making it an important test of the party.

Rachline, who was one of a few dozen mayors who banned the full body burkini swimwear on the beach this summer -- an issue which underlined tensions with France's large Muslim population -- says he is the victim of unfair criticism by some media and political opponents because of his party allegiance. "I'm a democratically elected mayor who works for the good of the community," he told Reuters in an interview, when asked what being an FN mayor is about. Fixing the town's finances and ensuring its security were his priorities, he added.

Stirring Controversy
Rachline, who joined the FN aged 14, does not shy away from controversy and staunchly defends some of the moves for which critics attack him -- including boycotting local journalists. "He is an FN mayor. By the very nature of the FN he needs clashes, this party cannot be only about going more mainstream or it would lose what makes it different," said Sylvain Crepon, a specialist on the FN at the French university of Tours. "He does that skillfully," he said of Rachline. Rachline has fallen out with local journalists, political opponents and activists in recent months. In June, his administration began boycotting regional newspaper Var-Matin, accusing it of talking down the town and political bias.

At the same time, the mayor became involved in a public row with center-right city councillor Francoise Cauwel, prompting her to file a complaint with local police accusing Rachline of a sexist slur. Rachine says he does not recall using the disputed phrase and that it would not have been that bad even if he had said it. "Things are getting increasingly tense, more radical," Cauwel told Reuters. After articles on trees being cut down to make space for a concert by veteran rock star Johnny Hallyday, of whom Rachline is a huge fan, the municipality said it would not talk to Var-Matin's local reporting team any more. It also stopped providing the newspaper with routine information including birth and deaths in the town.

The municipality's own monthly magazine, distributed to residents for free, devoted three pages in its September edition to complaining about the daily's coverage under the headline "Var-Matin is sullying our town." Eric Farel, the head of Var-Matin's Frejus team, says such a move is unprecedented. "My feeling is that as we're getting closer to the presidential election they don't want stories that would allow one to say the FN's management of a city is not fine." Some local activists also complain. "We're against the city's current policies and in an FN city when you're against them, you are the enemy, you are ostracized," said Jean-Paul Radigois, the head of an association of inhabitants of Frejus' beach area that opposes the mayor's development plans there. Rachline brushes this aside, saying his project is necessary to develop tourism and give city staff a better place to work. "Democracy is at the moment of elections, I don't know if they (activists) know about that. It's not about petitions," he said.

No Money for Migrants
As for the mosque, now built and operational in an under-privileged borough, Rachline insists his opposition to it is about building permits and not against having a mosque as such. The city and the association that built the mosque have been embroiled for years in legal proceedings that are still ongoing. "In the absence of a building permit, it (the mosque) must be destroyed -- like any building, I insist, that wouldn't have a building permit," Rachline said. He is much more blunt, however, about scrapping a subsidy to the ASTI association that gives support to migrant workers on issues including how to claim pensions. Asked to confirm the end to municipal subsidies to ASTI, Rachline said: "Well, obviously!" And added: "I don't give a cent to migrant workers or to migrants in general." In the streets of the old town of Frejus, with typical Provencal, pastel-colored houses, reactions are mixed.

Restaurant owner Patrick Loidreau says things have never been better. "When we see how well Rachline and his team are managing Frejus, reducing the debt without raising taxes, if Marine Le Pen came to power, we would be saved," said Loidreau, an FN voter who agrees with the party's anti-immigration agenda. But others differed. "It's hard to be a political opponent in an FN city, we are constantly singled out," said Insaf Rezagui, a local Socialist party representative. The young woman of Algerian descent says her origins are one of the reasons why she's targeted. In April, Rachline commented on a tweet by a journalist who wrote Rezagui might be a candidate in general elections by asking if there were elections in Palestine. Rachline points out that the FN increased its share of the vote in regional polls that took place 18 months after his election, saying this is proof that residents back his policies.

He says he's getting results. The municipality's website says the town's debt per inhabitant will have dropped from 2705 euros ($3,020) in 2014 to 2447 this year. "We've been told a lot that we wouldn't be able to manage local authorities ... I believe we are showing here that we are capable of this and that we are even more capable than others," he said. ($1 = 0.8954 euros)
© Reuters

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UK: Police chief who ‘compared gay equality to Nazi Germany’ facing disciplinary probe

A police chief who made a number of homophobic comments is facing disciplinary action.

19/9/2016- Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s Central Images Unit, is facing a probe from the Directorate of Professional Standards. It comes after flags were raised via the Independent Police Complaints Commission about public posts Neville had made on Facebook. The Sun newspaper has claimed that the police chief was suspended for “posting support for Brexit online” and “opposing gay marriage” – but PinkNews found a trail of public anti-LGBT posts on his page dating back years. In the posts seen by PinkNews, made over a five-year stretch from 2011 until this year, the police chief repeatedly complained about gay equality and drew comparisons to Nazis, while decrying “left-wing idiots” and migrants “who have turned London into a foreign city” On March 18 this year, he wrote: “At Orpington station. Poster: ‘It is ok to be gay, not all right to be late for rugby training.’.

“Read paper – teacher at primary school pushing ‘transgender’ issues onto primary school children. Arrived at London Live studio – film about gay footballers being promoted. “I am getting sick & tired off all this propaganda. I feel that I am living in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, with all this being rammed down my throat. Anyone else sick & tired of this? OR just too frightened to stand up to this politically correct campaign?” In a post from 2014 he commentated on Stonewall founder Lord Cashman, who first made his name appearing on EastEnders, entering the House of Lords. He wrote: “The new members of the House of Lords…………..no wonder people have no faith in our ‘rulers’. Crooks & tax avoiders. “Little of substance. I also note Cashman (of first ‘gay’ kiss on TV) is included. Just in case anyone thought that Eastenders / Coronation St were just fodder for the masses………in reality they are propaganda…..of which Dr Goebbels would have been proud of.”

Despite the Sun claiming he “makes no mention of his police role” on the site, in one post he publicly attacked a former colleague – the Met’s gay former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, now a Lib Dem peer – for “announcing his sexual conquests in the canteen”. In another post from 2014, he wrote: “Modern Britain – The Enviroment [sic] Agency is proud of being in the top ten employers of gays & lesbians (and has sponsored a Gay Pride event)………………..but it is crap at sorting out floods. The MADNESS of Left wing thought comes home to roost…..” Sharing a news article about an LGBT rugby team, he wrote: “Sometimes I feel I live in an occupied country, where the leaders’ views & propoganda [sic] are completely different from mine. “I am all for live & let live. BUT it is the constant ramming of PC ideas down my throat that gets on my nerves. Goebbels used sport for propoganda [sic] ….nothing changes. A lesbian, gay & transgender rugby league team………………unbelievable…”

In a post about a Christian housing worker’s legal battle over a homophobia charge, he wrote: “A victory over Left wing, political correct zealots!!! “All my family has fought for this country for five generations to preserve our way of life & freedoms. In the name of ‘equality’ these evil creatures try to stop all opinions except their own.” Of same-sex marriage, he wrote: “Gay marriage – the usual trendy nonsense. If politicians really gave a damn – why not sort out marriage in Brixton & other inner city places?? “In those places there are too many youngsters born into a life of poverty & gang membership, without any male role models and even fewer fathers. Also – what about the PROMISE to aid marriage by tax relief – no doubt forgotten…… We are ruled by idiots & charlatans.” In a separate post, he added: “Do we live in an asylum?? …….can someone explain why politicians are spending their time discussing gay ‘marriage’???”
© The Pink News

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UK: Edinburgh mosque fire attack being investigated as a hate crime

18/9/2016- A mosque in Scotland's capital has been damaged by fire in an incident police are treating as a hate crime. Edinburgh Central Mosque, in Potterow, sustained minor fire damage to the door and a small bush in the garden after an object was thrown at the building at about 2.10am on Sunday. Detective Inspector John Kavanagh said: "Fortunately, no-one was injured as a result of this incident but the consequences could have been far worse had the fire taken hold and spread. "I would ask that anyone who remembers seeing any suspicious activity around the mosque, or within the Potterrow area, contacts police immediately." Chief Inspector Mark Rennie, local area commander for south east Edinburgh, said: "This was a despicable and reckless act which we are treating as a hate crime.

"We have launched a thorough investigation to identify anyone involved and anyone who believes they have information that can assist with our inquiries is urged to get in touch." Earlier this month, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released figures showing that in the week following the vote to leave the EU the number of incidents rose by 58 per cent. The figures for the two weeks between 5 and 18 August show 2,778 recorded hate crime incidents across the country. This was a decline of 479 incidents compared to the previous week, but still a 14 per cent increase on this time last year. Nick Ryan, the spokesman for anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate told The Independent: "While we welcome any drop in hate crime figures, the number of incidents still remains on a year-on-year high. "For a few people, the Brexit decision was a chance to vent deep-seated hatred of others: this is completely deplorable and perpetrators need to face the full force of the law.
© The Independent

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Headlines 16 September, 2016

Greece: Islands in a furor over rumors of more migrant hot spots

16/9/2016- Local authorities on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios – both on the front line of the migrant crisis threatening European cohesion – have reacted strongly to suggestions that more migrant and refugee processing centers are to be built on their territory, as Greece struggles to manage growing numbers of arrivals. In Lesvos, where the municipal authority and residents have been distinguished for their tolerance and support of refugees and migrants arriving from nearby Turkey, construction work at a disused military base on the island’s north has raised a furor amid rumors that it is being transformed into a so-called hot spot. The island already has one such facility at Moria, which is dangerously above maximum capacity levels, as well as an informal center at Kara Tepe that is also stretched to its limits.  Speaking to the ANA-MPA news agency, military sources on the island would not confirm whether the base was being transformed into a migrant reception center, saying that they were acting on orders from Athens to carry out specific work.

Regional Governor for the Northern Aegean Christiana Kalogirou reacted to rumors of a new camp, saying that she had gotten in touch with Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas earlier in the week, and that such an “issue never arose.” She has also written several letters to central authorities stressing the need for measures to relieve some of the pressure on islands, which are currently hosting an estimated 13,000 migrants in facilities designed to hold just 8,000, from the around 60,000 trapped throughout Greece. “We have repeatedly written letters underlining with absolute emphasis the need to relieve pressure on the islands and that the limits of the Northern Aegean islands’ capacity to host migrants and refugees have been completely exhausted,” Kalogirou told ANA-MPA.

Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos, who has spearheaded several efforts to improve migrants’ living conditions and placate disgruntled residents, has also written to Mouzalas, as well as to Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, expressing his “categorical opposition to any such effort or even to any intention of the relevant ministries to create a new refugee and migrant reception facility on the island.” After making these letters public, Galinos said that he considers it “unconscionable” that the local authority should be “informed of these intentions via the reports of ordinary citizens and rumors, instead of there being an official briefing and consultation about an issue that is so important to Lesvos and its citizens.”

Galinos called for an emergency meeting to be held between all the relevant authorities in order to discuss the situation on the island. “I have repeatedly stressed in previous letters the dangerously explosive climate, which dictates the immediate decongestion of the island and underscores our inability to shoulder any more responsibility related to the management of the migrant crisis,” Galinos told ANA-MPA. Underscoring his concerns, riot police had to intervene on Thursday night when a brawl broke out between dozens of Senegalese and Algerian migrants at Moria. This was just one more in a string of rows that have been sparked by cramped living conditions and long delays in processing in Lesvos, Chios, Kos and other host islands. Meanwhile, residents of Moria have organized a protest rally on Monday to call for measures to decongest the camp there. The rally will also be attended by members of the local hoteliers’ association, which has warned of the negative effect on tourism of the operation of the two camps.

On Friday, Mouzalas also denied rumors that three new hot spots are being planned on the island of Chios, following complaints from local authorities there. Speaking in Parliament, Mouzalas said that only one facility is in the works and is intended to take in residents currently staying at a camp set up in a defunct factory that is also stretched beyond its capacity, as well as from other informal camps on the island. He said funds of 3.7 million euros have been set aside for the project.
© The Kathimerini.

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Iceland: Neo-Nazis Reportedly Threaten Muslim

16/9/2016- Two men reportedly confronted and threatened former Muslim Society of Iceland chairperson Salmann Tamimi in Kópavogur yesterday, and he has refused to remain silent about the incident. Salmann took to Facebook to describe the events that transpired, which he called “a frightening experience” that took place just outside the supermarket Krónan in Kópavogur. He says that he and a friend were standing outside the supermarket when they were confronted by two men, “one tall and the other short”, who addressed Salmann by name and began talking about last month’s demonstration held by the Icelandic National Front (INF). The INF is a right wing party that opposes Iceland’s immigration law (although they don’t seem to know what the law actually says), and their demonstration was met with counterprotestors who outnumbered them almost 4 to 1.

The shorter man reportedly asked Salmann repeatedly if he supported the “violence” perpetrated by counterprotestors, possibly referring to a young woman who smashed one of the INF’s protest signs, injuring no one. Salmann responded that he knew of no violence that occurred at the demonstration, but that he does not condone the use of force. “They both threatened to use violence against protestors the next time this event takes place,” Salmann writes. “He stepped close to me, leaned into my face, pointed at his muscles and said, ‘We are the power’. At the same time, the tall man lifted his T-shirt to show a large tattoo reading SS, and the other man was with the same tattoo on the back of his head.” Salmann included a photo of the SS symbol depicted in the tattoo, which is the insignia of the Schutzstaffel, or the SS of the Third Reich. As reported, the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group originating in Sweden, told reporters they were actively seeking recruits in Iceland. This, coupled with the visible presence of the INF, has been cause for concern to many Icelanders, and Icelanders are already responding to Salmann’s experience.

Illustrator and comic artist Hugleikur Dagsson, for example, wrote a lengthy note on Facebook, entitled “Dear Moron”, specifically addressed to the INF and Odin’s Army, another white power group trying to gain a foothold in Iceland. “Stop hiding behind freedom of expression,” Hugleikur writes in part. “Just because you can say what you’re saying it doesn’t make you any less of a moron. Morons love freedom of expression. I mean come on, this column is freedom of expression. So don’t comment arguing that I’m trying to ban you from being a moron. You have as much right to be a moron as I have to call you a moron. That’s how freedom of expression works. Moron.”
© The Grapevine Iceland

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EU anti-trafficking unit denies turning back migrant boats

16/9/2016- The European Union's anti-smuggling and people trafficking operation denied on Friday that it had returned any migrant boats to Libya, after Britain's foreign secretary said it had turned back more than 200. Boris Johnson said after meeting Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Florence on Thursday that the EU mission should turn back migrant boats as a deterrent and that it had "saved 200,000 migrants and turned back 240 boats." The spokesman for EU's Sophia mission said no boats had been sent back. "We have disposed of boats after rescuing migrants," Antonello De Renzis Sonnino said, suggesting there may have been some confusion. Sophia's mission is to "disrupt the business model of human traffickers and smugglers," according to its website. But its ships have also made thousands of rescues. It only operates in international waters, as the Libyan government has not allowed it to do so off the country's coast, something that might make it possible to send boats back.

EU vessels have pulled almost 26,000 migrants off overcrowded boats, almost 300 of which were subsequently destroyed so they could not be used again and to ensure they did not constitute a hazard for other vessels. Italy is on the front line of Europe's migrant crisis, taking in more than 400,000 refugees over the past three years, many of them saved from rickety boats pushed out to sea by people smugglers based in North Africa, mainly in Libya.
© Reuters

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EU Fundamental Rights Agency: rise in anti-migrant attacks across Europe

A European Union human rights agency on Friday said that racist attacks and legal obstacles are an increasing problem for the international community's ever-growing migrant population.

16/9/2016- The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) report came as EU leaders gathered in Bratislava to discuss possible reforms for the bloc. Martina Huber, a co-author of the report told EFE that they had documented a clear increase in the number of hate crimes being committed against migrant communities. The report detailed Nazi graffiti in Austria, an increase of online racist comments on social networks in Bulgaria as well as the Hungarian government's desire to classify immigration as a threat to society. In Germany, attacks against refugees occur daily, while incidents at asylum centers are recorded every three days, said the anti-racist Amadeu Antonio Foundation. "Many cases go unreported," explained the FRA, "especially because the victims are afraid of the police." It added that many refugees do not want to report the crime in fear that it may affect their asylum status, which can take a long-time to process.

Germany registered 31 injuries in 25 attacks against refugees or asylum centers in Aug alone. Huber said that the increase in migrant numbers bears no relation to the rise in attacks, but rather that they were a result of a polarized society propagated by the messages of certain political parties. Although migrant numbers in 2016 have yet to reach those registered during the waves of people entering the EU in autumn and winter last year, Europe remains the target destination for many refugees. Entries into Bulgaria, for example, doubled in Aug compared to the figures registered in July. In the same month, 17,400 people arrived on the coast of Italy, while 11,300 have set up camp on the islands of Greece, the report said. Most of the refugees entering the east of Europe are fleeing war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, whereas many of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea are fleeing persecution in Nigeria, Sudan and Eritrea.
© EFE

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Refugees Returned to Greece Sue Macedonia in Strasbourg

Eight refugees from the Middle East are suing Macedonia in the European Court of Human Rights, saying it violated their human rights by forcing them back to Greece.

15/9/2016- Eight people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are suing Macedonia in Strasbourg, claiming that its forceful expulsion of refugees breached the European Convention on Human Rights. Assisted by two non-profit groups, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, ECCHR, and Pro Asyl, the two women and six men submitted their complaint to Strasbourg on September 13. “The closure of the Greek-Macedonian border made [their] legal entry to Europe via the Balkan route de facto impossible,” ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck was quoted as saying. Pro Asyl’s spokesperson for Europe, Karl Kopp, said that the court "offers hope that victims of systematic unlawful collective expulsion from FYROM [Macedonia's provisional UN reference] to Greece may find a measure of justice”. The eight people, whose names the two NGOs did not disclose for reasons of privacy, say they crossed the Greek–Macedonian border alongside about 1,500 others on March 14 2016.

Macedonia had just closed its southern border to the flow of refugees and built a barbed wire fence to stop illegal entries. This caused a buildup of thousands of refugees on the Greek side, near the Idomeni border crossing, who were hoping to pass the border and continue their journey to Western Europe. "The Macedonian military apprehended them and forced them [the eight] back to Greece through improvised holes in the newly constructed border fence. "The claimants had no possibility to ask for asylum or to take legal action against their summary deportation from FYROM," the ECCHR press statement said. It also said the push-backs were carried out without consideration for individual circumstances and violated Article 4, Protocol 4 [prohibition on collective expulsion] and Article 13 [right to an effective remedy] of the Convention on Human Rights.

The Macedonian Foreign Ministry told BIRN that it needed more time to acquaint itself with the case before issuing any comment. Macedonia closed its border to migrants and refugees following the example of Slovenia and other countries on the so-called "Balkan route" to Western Europe. The government in Skopje claimed it could not receive any more people onto its territory without being sure they would continue their journey. At least 12,000 people were stuck for some two months at Idomeni, on the Greek side of the border, in an improvised tent camp and living in sub-standard conditions. At times, the tension escalated into violent clashes between Macedonian security forces and refugees who tried to push their way in. The tensions only subsided when Greece started re-settling the refugees to other camps further away from the border area.

Assisted by two non-profit groups, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, ECCHR, and Pro Asyl, the two women and six men submitted their complaint to Strasbourg on September 13. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/refugees-sue-macedonia-for-human-rights-violation-09-15-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=c582fe8531-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-c582fe8531-308289045#sthash.d199phx3.dpuf

© Balkan Insight
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Poland: Immigrants pay for fiery rhetoric

Politicians accused as Islamophobia sparks rise in hate crimes

15/9/2016- A Syrian man is beaten on the streets of Warsaw. A black child is expelled from a playground in a town in south-east Poland. Volunteers form patrol groups to guard against possible illegal immigrants in the central city of Lodz. Poland’s Never Again Association, which tracks racist and xenophobic incidents in the country, used to record between five and 10 such events each week. For the past year, they say they have been reaching that level daily. “Recently we have had problems keeping up with gathering and registering all the information that we get because there is so much of it,” said Rafal Pankowski, its co-founder. While official statistics from 2016 are not yet available, Mr Pankowski says he has seen a substantial increase from last year when, according to government data, 962 hate crimes were investigated in Poland, 38 per cent more than in 2014.

Poland’s battle with a rise in hate crimes comes as Polish immigrants face increased attacks in the UK since its vote to leave the EU. Rights groups say the rise in attacks in the country reflects an increase in Islamophobia that shows no sign of abating. Muslims were the group most targeted by hate speech in Poland in 2015, replacing LGBT and Roma communities as the country's most affected minority. "This aggression mainly affects people with different looks, those who have different skin colour," said Tomasz Miœkiewicz of Poland's Muslim Religious Association. Mr Miœkiewicz believes that Europe’s “migration problem" has inflamed attitudes and called for Polish children to be better educated about cultural differences. Poland’s 20,000 Muslims account for about 0.05 per cent of a population that is overwhelmingly Catholic and the EU’s most homogenous.

While neighbouring Germany has seen a big influx of Muslim refugees, Poland accepted only 206 from Syria last year, and has rejected an EU plan to play a role in resettling migrants across the bloc. Nevertheless, Polish political rhetoric increasingly depicts a society threatened, a theme common to other countries in central and eastern Europe. Nationalist and populist politicians have told citizens that their safety, security and identity are endangered by immigrants. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and the country's most powerful politician warned before last year’s elections that immigrants could bring “parasites … and diseases” to Poland.

That has led some human rights groups to suggest political rhetoric is partly to blame for the increased violence. “Everything started with the electoral campaign,” said Adam Bodnar, Poland’s commissioner for human rights, an office independent from the government, referring to last year’s parliamentary elections. “At that time those were not only [political] statements but also demonstrations, hate speech, increase of hate in the internet … It became simply enormous.” Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, in July used the commemoration of the Kielce Pogrom, an outbreak of violence against Poland’s Jewish community in 1946, to say that in Poland “there is no place for any kind of prejudice, no place for racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism”.

At the same time, Mr Kaczynski warned that accepting Muslim refugees would “threaten Poland’s security”, while Zbigniew Ziobro, the country’s justice minister, has said the ruling party is the only defence against “Islamic districts in Poland.” The government has closed down the country’s Council Against Racial Discrimination, xenophobia and Intolerance, withdrawn a textbook issued to police for the past decade to differentiate between normal crimes and hate crimes, and passed anti-terror legislation that allows it to spy on foreign nationals and detain them without court approval - all in the past six months.

The moves have drawn attention from abroad. Before Pope Francis's visit to the country in July, a Vatican statement criticised "an artificially created fear of Muslims" in Poland. “Unfortunately these fears are fuelled by some political parties, and inappropriate statements made by politicians,” said Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, a spokesman for Polish bishops. Mr Pankowski agrees. “A correlation is very clear … between what we can call hate speech of the political class and those assaults,” he said. “It creates certain social climate, certain ambience, and certain legitimisation of xenophobic behaviour.”
© The Financial Times*

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Polish man accused of racism after setting up kebab stand 'made by real Poles'

A self-styled Polishpatriothas opened a kebab stand for "real Poles" wanting to buy the famous Middle-Eastern dish from somebody other than a foreigner.

12/9/2016- Jerzy Andrzejewski opened his business a few days ago in the eastern town of Lublin selling kebabs from a converted caravan emblazoned with the slogan "a real kebab for a real Pole" and sporting a livery of red and white, the colours of the Polish flag. Mr Andrzejewski claims he is not intolerant and that he learned the art of kebab making from Arabs, but he explains he has tapped into a market for people who like kebabs but refuse to get them from Turkish or Arab-owned establishments. “There are people who want a kebab in Lublin but do not want to buy it from an Arab, and were looking for a Polish one,” he told Gazeta Wyborcza, a Polish newspaper. “There is a saying, you know: ‘Have a kebab: settle an Arab.’ “I’m a patriot who likes to eat kebabs and others do as well,” he continued, adding that he was also supporting Poland by using only Polish ingredients for his kebabs, pita bread and sauces.

Professor Rafal Pankowski from Warsaw's Collegium Civitas university, an expert on racism in Poland, says those from the far right have a genuine problem buying street food while preserving their neo-Nazi credentials at the same time. “People who buy kebabs in Poland are often hooligans and they have problems buying them because they don’t want to get them from an Arab, or some foreigner,” he told The Telegraph. “They actually have to think about where to go. This man has seen clearly there is a market out there.” Although some have regarded the story as a source of amusement, Mr Pankowski stressed that it reflects growing xenophobia in Poland. “It comes from a certain anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-refugee climate in Poland,” he said. “The climate is worsening even though the number of migrants—especially Muslim migrants—is tiny.” One kebab shop in Lublin was attacked last year, and had the words “Muslims are pigs” and “Muslims out!” daubed on it.
© The Telegraph

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Sweden's far right eye 20-25% support, to seek government role

14/9/2016- The head of the far right Sweden Democrats said he aimed to win a quarter of voters at a 2018 election with a call for a total ban on new asylum seekers and saw signs mainstream parties may be seeking the party's backing in parliament. Jimmie Akesson's party has gained support over the last decade, rising from a fringe group with neo-Nazi roots to win 13 percent in 2014's election and hold the balance of power in parliament. Polls now give it about 17 percent. Its growth echoes that of populist parties in the Nordics, which either support or form a part of government in neighbors Norway and Denmark. But Sweden's political mainstream has so far shunned the Sweden Democrats due to their radical roots. That may change, said Akesson, who has purged the party of its more militant elements and whom many credit with making the Sweden Democrats respectable in the eyes of thousands of voters worried about declining schools, doctor shortages and rising crime figures.

Last year's migrant crisis also boosted far right parties across Europe. "It will be hard to shut us out. We could even be the biggest party after the election," Akesson said. Akesson is part of a European backlash. An anti-Islam party leads polls in the Netherlands while the National Front's Marine Le Pen is strongly placed for presidential elections in April. A foothold in government for the party would mark a watershed in a country where generous asylum policies have until last year commanded automatic support across the political spectrum. Akesson said his party did not have to be a formal party of government, but wanted to put its stamp on key policy areas: immigration, law and order and the welfare state. "I don't care so much about portfolios or (ministerial) posts," he said. "For me it is the core policy that matters."

Softer Tone?
Flanked in his office by a photo of the Swedish royal family and of rock band Kiss, Akesson said he expected the party to get 20-25 percent of the vote in 2018. That would put it on an equal footing with the center-left Social Democrats - the larger party in the current minority coalition - and the Moderates, the biggest center-right group and part of the four-party Alliance opposition bloc. "The main scenario for me is that we build a government together with the Moderates and the(center right) Christian Democrats," Akesson said. The 2015 migrant crisis which saw 160,000 people seek asylum in Sweden has hardened voters' attitudes. Tough asylum rules introduced late last year by a hard-pressed minority center-left coalition have cut applications to around 20,000 so far this year. "We are still the party which has most credibility in immigration policy," Akesson said. "The other parties have confirmed our views. We were right and the voters see that."

Neither the center right nor the center left parties can form a majority government without the support of the Sweden Democrats. Their refusal so far to treat with the far right has led to some degree of parliamentary stalemate. But Akesson sees signs that is changing. Earlier this month, the leader of the small, center-right Liberal Party called for the Sweden Democrats to be allowed to take part in cross-party discussions led by the government. The leader of the Christian Democrats - also part of the center right Alliance - has softened her tone. Still, the Moderate Party, the biggest center right party, has said cooperation is not on the cards. "The signal we get from ... the center-right parties is that they are ready in some form or another, to get our support in order to form a government," Akesson said.

Some political analysts say Akesson ambitions may bear fruit. "The most likely scenario after the election is some sort of understanding between the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats with the Christian Democrats tagging along," said Nick Aylott, political science professor at Sodertorn University. Cooperation would have a price. Akesson said more asylum seekers should be turned around at Sweden's borders and there should be tougher rules for family reunions. "Our vision is a goal of zero for asylum-based immigration," he said.
© Reuters

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Spain's first openly gay referee receives death threats

14/9/2016- Spain's first openly gay football referee, who quit in May because of homophobic abuse, has received death threats and is under police protection after returning to the game. Jesus Tomillero said he was "really, really scared" but will carry on after enduring further abuse and receiving death threats on social media. The 21-year-old, who is president of an association against homophobia in sports, quit in May after reporting that he had been insulted and threatened by players and supporters during a youth team match and feared for his life when stones were thrown in his direction. Mr Tomillero decided that the abuse was not going to keep him away from his passion, to which he had dedicated ten years of his life. However, on his second day back on the job in Andalusia's second division, Mr Tomillero encountered the same homophobia on the pitch.

On Saturday, during a match between CD Lasalle and Atletico Zabal the young referee was told to "retire you fag" by a football supporter after he awarded a penalty to the opposing team, he told newspaper El Espanol. "I told the match delegate that I would suspend the match until the man was removed. He was expelled, but he came back and kept on insulting me," Mr Tomillero said. After reporting what had happened during the match on his Twitter account, the referee started receiving death threats online. One message read "You son of a b***h. You messed with the club. We’ll kill you with Aids, you f***ot." Another post featured the corpse of a man shot dead and read "The bosses are not pleased, they don't like f***ots on their pitches, retire or die." One post showing a gun simply reads: "F***ot, you won't live long."

The 21-year-old told the Guardian that he had a "fit of nerves and didn’t know what to do," so he went to the police. "They’re investigating the case, not just here but all over Spain. There are police officers outside my house 24 hours a day, but I’m still afraid and I don’t know what could happen,” he told the newspaper on Tuesday. He said he would not quit the job. "I’m going to keep on doing what I like doing, whatever it costs,” he said. “But I am really, really scared." RojaDirecta Andalucia-LGTBI, an anti-homophobia association of which Mr Tomillero is president, has since called for legal adjustments to be made against LGBTI discrimination. Spain is one of the best countries in Europe for LGBTI people, according to an index on legal equality released in May. An alarming statistic released by the Ministry of the Interior in April, however, revealed 40% of hate crimes reported in the previous 12 months were related to sexual orientation.
© The Telegraph

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Norway: Strong reactions to hijab discrimination verdict

The 10,000 kroner fine given to a Norwegian hairdresser for turning away a Muslim client wearing a headscarf has led to varied reactions in the Nordic country.

13/9/2016- The Jæren District Court ruled on Monday that Merete Hodne, a hairdresser in the small southwestern Norwegian town of Byrne, deliberately discriminated against Malika Bayan when she denied her service last year. The 47-year-old hairdresser intends to appeal the decision, which has generated strong reactions in Norway. The nation’s equality and anti-discrimination ombudsman called the verdict an important victory for religious freedom. “The important thing is that you've got a decision and a conviction that states that it is not acceptable to refuse service to someone because of the person's religion or believes.

The verdict upholds the freedom of religion in Norway,” ombudsman Hanne Bjurstrøm told NTB. Hodne had defended turning Bayan away by saying that she views the the headscarf as a political symbol representing an ideology that frightens her, rather than as a religious symbol. She said she “completely freaked out” when Bayan and her friend entered the hair salon wearing hijabs last October. “To me, the hijab is an extreme political symbol. I don’t feel good when I see people wearing a hijab. They came in and asked what it would cost to get hair highlights and I said that I do not accept people like them and that they should go to another stylist and then they left again,” Hodne said.

Nazi comparisons
Ahead of the trial, Hodne told TV2 news channel that the headscarf was a symbol of "Islamic ideology" -- which she called "evil" -- just like "the swastika is that of Nazism". The Nazi analogy came up again after the verdict, this time from former MP Peter Myhre of the anti-immigration Progress Party. Myhre wrote a post on Facebook equating the hijab with a Nazi uniform. “If a man wearing a Nazi uniform enters a hair salon, the stylist must politely say ‘Welcome, sit right here Herr Obersturmbannführer [a Nazi paramilitary rank, ed.], how would you like it today?’,” he wrote, adding that he was “astonished” by the court’s decision.

"Miscarriage of justice"
Equally astonished by the verdict was 65-year-old Jan Skoland who confronted Bayan outside of the courtroom in front of TV networks’ rolling cameras. He told TV2 that the verdict was a “miscarriage of justice” and suggested that it was a form of “revenge” against Hodne, who has been described by Norwegian media as a former activist in anti-Islamist movements such as Pegida. “The attack was revenge against Merete Hodne because she has publicly criticised Islam. The intention was to create an example of what Norwegians have in store if they criticise Islam,” Skoland said. He alleged that the whole thing “was staged by [Prime Minister] Erna Solberg and the government” as part of “a campaign the authorities are waging to brainwash people”. “The prime minister has said herself that that if we are kind toward Islam it will be as civilized as all other religions have become,” Skoland said.

“Politicians can not possibly understand what is happening among the Norwegian people. Everyone knows that it is a hopeless political dream that Islam should be a kind and good religion in Norway. I call it the Islamic utopian dream,” he added. For Bayan’s part, she said she was just happy that the court agreed that she had faced discrimination. “I'm very relieved. The size of the fine does not matter because this isn’t personal at all. I wish her [Hodne] all the best, but it is important to establish that it is not okay to discriminate,” she said after the verdict. Bayan converted to Islam in 2011 and began wearing the hijab in 2014. She says she does not take it off in front of men, but that she wouldn’t have had a problem if men had entered the salon while Hodne was doing her hair.
© The Local - Norway

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France: Paris just evicted 1,500 people from a migrant camp

16/9/2016- French police cleared out a migrant encampment in the north end of Paris Friday morning a few weeks before the expected opening of a main humanitarian center in the French capital. At least 1,500 migrants had been living there, according to the housing minister, Emmanuelle Cosse, who was there when the eviction took place. The camp on Flandre Avenue in the XIX arrondissement had grown in recent weeks as the sanitary and living conditions became precarious. The migrants slept in tents, on mattresses, and on the street itself. "There are a lot of families with children who are living here," the minister told Le Monde. The eviction happened calmly, beginning at 7am, with the deployment of a large police force. The neighborhood was surrounded and 50 buses were sent to bring the migrants to emergency housing. On August 17, a similar operation took place in the same camp, with nearly 700 people being brought to housing facilities.

In a document obtained by Le Figaro, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve designed a plan, sent to local officials, to dismantle "the jungle" of Calais, a large encampment in France's north, and ad hoc camps in the capital, like the one taken down on Friday. The government intends to create 12,000 spaces in shelters around France by the end of 2016. They hope to have thousands living there by the end of October. The purpose of the centers is to assess each person's situation and find them a permanent home. Cazeneuve wants to divide the refugee housing between all of France, with the "demographic criteria weighted to each region." The timeline set by Cazeneuve coincides with the opening of a humanitarian center in Paris. "The migrants arriving in Paris will soon be welcome in this space, open seven days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm," explained Dominique Versini, a deputy to the mayor in charge of the issue, according to Le Monde.

The project, which includes a second center in a Paris suburb, is intended for families but also for "vulnerable populations, women, children, and those who require important assistance," according to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. It is expected to open at the end of the year.
© Vice News

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France: Locals fight to block opening of far-right bar in central Lille

Locals in the northern city of Lille are fighting back in a bid to stop a far-right group from opening a bar in the centre of Lille in northern France.

12/9/2016- Far-right group Generation Identitaire has plans to open a new bar in the centre of Lille, just 200 metres from the Grand Palais. It will also contain a boxing gym, a cinema, and a library, mainly planned to function like a headquarters for the group's supporters in the northern city. The bar, called La Citadelle, is scheduled to open on September 24th, but has already prompted calls for the bar to be banned. A petition launched by local Greens councilor Josiane Dabit has garnered over 4,300 signatures since Friday. "There's just one word: Unacceptable," reads the petition, which has been addressed to the town's mayor. "I am deeply concerned, this place will propagate hate and cause incidents that are beyond control," she told the local La Voix du Nord newspaper. "In a city where we pride ourselves on living together, a bar like this simply doesn't have a future." One comment below the petition says that the bar "doesn't reflect the typical human exchanges in Lille".

Generation Identitaire was launched in 2012 and calls itself the "first line of resistance against mass immigration", and urges younger people in France to "fight for their identity". It is described as the youth wing of the extreme right Bloc Identitaire movement that was founded back in 2003 and designed to be a "rally for young French and Europeans who are proud of their roots and of their heritage.” Generation Identitaire made headlines in November 2012 when members occupied the construction site of a new mosque in the town of Poitiers. Around 60 members of the French far-right group occupied the site of the future mosque to protest against the influence of Islam in France. They climbed onto the building's roof and displayed a banner marked with “732 generation identity” in reference to the year 732, when Charles Martel halted the advance of the invading Muslim army to the north of Poitiers. France’s Muslim groups were left shocked and angered by the occupation, saying the wild act risked national cohesion.
© The Local - France

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Austrian election re-run comes unstuck in postal ballot setback

12/9/2016- Austria on Monday delayed a re-run of a presidential election as faulty glue on postal ballots scuppered its second attempt to organize a ballot that could give the European Union its first far-right head of state. The result of the first election in May, which Norbert Hofer of the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPO) came within 31,000 votes of winning, had already been scrapped due to irregularities in counting the postal ballots - heightening the embarrassment. The postal votes, which accounted for around 16 percent of the total votes, were the crucial factor for Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent, to win in May. The postponement, to Dec. 4, drew swift criticism, with the FPO calling the government incapable of holding a vote and a commentator saying it had made Austria a subject of mockery.

In delaying the election from Oct. 2, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Monday there was a risk votes could be tampered with due to the faulty glue on a "defective envelope". The FPO's secretary, Herbert Kickl, said it showed the government was "incapable of ensuring a proper election". The delay also put attention back on an election that has polarized opinion at home and across a continent where the impact of mass immigration driven by war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa is starting to dominate the debate. Hofer's near-victory in a country at the sharp end of the immigration crisis reflected a rising tide of populism in Europe that spread to Britain with June's vote to quit the European Union - an outcome some believe will buoy support for him.

"Laughing Stock"
Opinion polls have given him the edge in the ballot for a role that is largely ceremonial. A win for the FPO would be of huge symbolic significance in an anti-establishment political climate and with parliamentary elections due in 2018. Asked at a news conference if the double setback might damage Austria's reputation, Sobotka said: "The laugh is always on the loser." Van der Bellen, a former Green Party leader, won May's vote by less than 1 percentage point from Hofer. The FPO then successfully challenged the result in the constitutional court, citing procedural irregularities, forcing the re-run. The delay was "unfortunate but correct", van der Bellen told a news conference, urging supporters to "move on and win together on Dec. 4". For some, however, the prospect of another delay or contested result was too much.

"It's terrible. I really wonder if it's worth bothering to vote again, if we even need a president," 50-year-old office worker Margit Freudenthaler said. Independent political consultant Thomas Hofer said: "A democracy that had been portrayed as stable and a bulwark against crisis now shows itself not even able to organize elections properly. "Once again, Austria is a laughing stock." However, political analyst Peter Filzmaier said that, while the postponement was an embarrassment, discovery of the faulty ballot forms had left the government with no other option. "The alternative would have been to go with open eyes into a vote that was unlawful," he said, adding that Monday's decision strengthened Austria's democratic credentials.
© Reuters

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Austrian Far-right leader admits his refugee island plan 'went too far'

Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer could be seeking to soften his image ahead of election

11/9/2016- The far-right candidate in Austria's presidential election has backtracked on a plan to confine asylum seekers to islands. Norbert Hofer told a German magazine he had changed his mind about the proposal made by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to send refugees to designated islands off mainland Europe while their asylum applications were processed. Mr Kurz is believed to have copied the plan from Mr Hofer's Freedom Party after seeing how popular the far-right politician had become, but Mr Hofer now says the idea went “too far” and was “excessive, to put it diplomatically”. Mr Kurz responded by framing the issue as a matter of either stopping refugees from leaving islands like Lesbos in Greece, where they often arrive from outside the EU, or letting them travel on into mainland Europe.

A spokesman for the politician told local media: “If you are honest about the issue, then you have to openly address the current situation in Italy. "The migrants come to the hotspots on the islands and from there are carried to the mainland rather than being stopped and transported back." Mr Kurz’s spokesman challenged Mr Hofer to admit his policy reversal actually amounted to "waving on" refugees, into the mainland. Imprisoning refugees on islands is a popular policy among far-right politicians, with Mr Hofer's German and Dutch equivalents sticking by similar proposals. The plans are inspired by Australia, which confines migrants to offshore facilities such as those on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, both independent foreign territories. Human rights groups have criticised the practice as inhumane and a breach of international law. Several detainees in Nauru have attempted suicide by setting themselves on fire.

Austrian media speculated Mr Hofer had backed away from his initial policy in order to soften his image in the run-up to the presidential elections. However he said in the same interview that he is still in favour of returning migrants who are rescued in the Mediterranean to their country of origin. He also criticised the EU deal with Turkey and said Turkish citizens must not be allowed visa-free travel within the EU as this would let too many Syrians in. The result of the Austrian presidential election on 1 July was overturned by the country's Supreme Court after an investigation revealed irregularities in the vote count in several constituencies. Green Party-backed independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat Mr Hofer in the nullified election. The two politicians will face each other again in a revote on 2 October.
© The Independent

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Germany: Bautzen tightens rules for refugees after far-right clash

Violence broke out this week between refugees and members of the far-right scene in Bautzen, Saxony. Now local officials have imposed restrictions on the young refugees living there.

16/9/2016- In the aftermath of Wednesday's violence, local officials have imposed new rules for young asylum seekers. Four young men who participated in the fight, between the ages of 15 and 20, were taken to other refugee facilities, so that they would no longer have an influence over others, Bautzen officials said on Thursday. Officials also tightened rules in general for the roughly 30 unaccompanied minors living in Bautzen, imposing an alcohol ban as well as a curfew of 7pm. The fight broke out after around 80 people from the far-right scene gathered in a town square on Wednesday evening and were met by a group of young male refugees. Police chief Uwe Kilz said the violence had been sparked by the young refugees when they started throwing bottles and wooden slats at the far right group, though previously police had spoken of “mutual provocations” between the groups. The right-wing extremists, many of whom were drunk, returned fire with stones and bottles, Kilz added, in the latest incident to hit the small former communist town, which has been the scene of several eruptions of hostility toward refugees. Police struggled for hours to break up the fight. At one point, a teenage refugee was injured badly with a gash on his arm and needed an ambulance, but the far-right group started attacking the ambulance with stones.

Police prep for more demos
About 350 people - mostly locals and many from the far-right scene - also met on Thursday at the same square, but it remained comparatively peaceful, police said. Some 90 officers were on the scene and had to stop a conflict between about 25 left-wing affiliates and 300 locals after the leftists wanted to put up a sign condemning xenophobia. One 30-year-old man from the group of locals did hit a video journalist in the arm, and police are investigating him for assault. Police also registered seven offenses of people using unconstitutional symbols and using slogans that incited violence. Police are bringing in more officers as the far-right group plans to stage demonstrations on both Friday and Sunday.

Tensions building
The trouble this week had been building up over a few days, said Kilz, after young migrants had begun gathering regularly at the flashpoint downtown square called Kornmarkt over the summer. Their presence drew increasing numbers of anti-migrant people, apparently mobilised through Facebook posts, said the police chief. Skirmishes had already broken out over the past week, but not on the scale of Wednesday's clash. Condemning the violence, Mayor Alexander Ahrens said "Bautzen must not become the playground of violent right extremists". MP Caren Lay for the left-wing opposition Die Linke (the Left Party) said "that so many neo-Nazis were able to come together so quickly leads one to suspect that this racist attack was planned", adding that the "pogrom atmosphere" in Bautzen must end. Former communist eastern Germany has been the scene of several ugly incidents in which far-right extremists targeted asylum-seekers.

In February, a cheering crowd was seen outside a burning asylum-seeker shelter in Bautzen, clapping and shouting: "Good, that's up in flames." That same weekend, a video emerged of far-right thugs intimidating refugees - including crying children - and preventing them from getting off a bus to get into another shelter in the eastern town of Clausnitz. President Joachim Gauck, who had on several occasions urged Germans to extend a welcoming hand to refugees, was booed during a visit to Bautzen, a town of 40,000 people which borders the Czech Republic. Germany recorded nearly 1,000 far-right offences targeting refugee shelters last year, a five-fold annual rise.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Far-right group, asylum seekers fight in town

15/9/2016- Dozens of police officers intervened as groups of far-right Germans and young asylum seekers clashed in an eastern German town that has previously seen racist incidents, officials said Thursday. Around 80 Germans and 20 migrants attacked each other Wednesday night in Bautzen, a town between Dresden and the Polish border, local police spokesman Thomas Knaup said. Officers were assailed with wooden sticks and bottles thrown by some of the asylum seekers as they tried trying to separate the groups as they brawled in a town square, police said. The far-right protesters shouted nationalist slogans and followed the asylum seekers back to their shelter while police tried to keep the groups apart. Police used pepper spray and batons to protect themselves and to separate the two sides, authorities said.

Later, some rioters threw stones at an ambulance, preventing it from reaching the shelter to treat an injured migrant. Police said they were trying to identify the individuals who participated in the fighting. Town officials said it was also not clear who started the confrontation. "It wasn't anarchy, but there was at least a chaotic phase that I would say lasted between 45 and 90 minutes," said Bautzen's head of police, Uwe Kilz. "Then peace was restored." Bautzen Mayor Alexander Ahrens condemned the violence and vowed to deploy more police and social workers to prevent future incidents. Ahrens said there had been problems between far-right German youths and young asylum seekers during the last two weeks in the Kornmarkt square. "I'm shocked and very worried about the escalation," Ahrens wrote on Facebook. "I sharply condemn the growing violence in confrontations between the various groups."

Bautzen officials said that most of the roughly 20 asylum seekers involved in the brawl were unaccompanied minors and that they had imposed a 7 p.m. curfew and an alcohol ban on their shelter following Wednesday's violence. They described the 80 far-right Germans involved in the hostilities as young women and men who were drunk. Saxony Interior Minister Markus Ulbig said the state would send additional police officers to Bautzen and there would be no tolerance for further excesses of violence like on Wednesday night. In February, onlookers celebrated as a fire damaged a former hotel that was being turned into a refugee home in Bautzen, a case of suspected arson. And when German President Joachim Gauck visited Bautzen in March to talk about democracy, he was insulted by some locals. Hundreds of thousands asylum-seekers arrived in Germany last year, leading to tensions in some regions. The state of Saxony, where Bautzen is located, has seen several anti-migrant incidents, although it has one of the lowest percentages of foreigners in the country.
© The Associated Press

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German publican challenges niqab-wearer

A publican who turned away a woman wearing a niqab from his lakeside restaurant in northern Germany says vitriol has turned into praise. Christian Schulz says he had also evicted past guests wearing neo-Nazi clothing.

15/9/2016- Germany debated face-obscuring clothing further Thursday after a publican - accused online of being racist - replied that he had been exercising his rights as host in asking the niqab-wearer to show her face last Saturday evening. "Instead, she immediately began to rant," and then left the grounds, said Schulz, who reportedly employs cooks from Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan and Portugal. More than a thousand guests were visiting the "Seekrug," a rural lakeside venue with outdoor catering, just north of Bielefeld in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

Neo-Nazis also evicted
Schulz told regional newspapers, including Bielefeld's "Neue Westfälische" and Düsseldorf's "Rheinische Post," that in the past he had also evicted guests wearing "Thor Steinar" clothing, a label worn within the neo-Nazi scene. "Massive" insults in social media, also directed at staff, followed Saturday's incident, but there was also praise from regular guests for Schulz' intervention. One wrote in a commentary: "The publican has personnel with migratory backgrounds and is being insulted. That's not on at all." The wearing of niqabs, leaving only the eyes visible, or burqas obscuring the face remains lawful in Germany, but controversial, and echoes debate in France, where municipal bans were recently reversed by a top court ruling that cited personal freedoms.

'Simplistic solutions' won't work
Chancellor Angela Merkel, addressing a Berlin conference on religious freedoms attended by parliamentarians from 80 countries Wednesday, warned against bids to find "seemingly simplistic solutions to turn back the wheel" of time. The burqa and niqab were, however, a "major obstacle to integration," she said, adding that precise guidelines on wearing both were needed, for example, in public institutions or in courthouses. Merkel also recalled how past religious differences had left scars in German history. Bielefeld lies in the region where in 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia was signed to end that century's Thirty Years' War, one of Europe's most destructive conflicts.

Niqab-shops 'alarming'
The ARD public broadcaster on Wednesday carried a report on so-called niqab shops in Germany. Susanne Schröter, who heads the Center for Global Islam at Frankfurt am Main University, told ARD's weekly investigative program "Report Mainz" that such shops were "not just fashion outlets but also parts of a Salafist infrastructure." "The scene is clearly extremist, it is alarming and it requires the need for action," Schröter said.

Hysterical debate, says Kässmann
Late last month, the former chairperson of Germany's combined Protestant churches, Margot Kässmann, described Europe's current debate on burqas and "burkini" swimwear as hysterical. She still "well remembered" the post-war period when the bikini was seen as a threat to Western values. "Back then, women were supposed to put on more clothes; now they are supposed to take more off," Kässmann said, adding, however, that she felt sorry for women who felt they had to conceal themselves under cloth. "As a Christian, it would never occur to me that that would please God," she said.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany’s AfD co-chair wants Nazi word destigmatised

Frauke Petry, one of the two main leaders of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, says the word "völkisch" should be destigmatized. The term has Nazi connotations.

11/9/2016- In an interview with the Sunday edition of the newspaper "Die Welt," Alternative for Germany (AfD) co-chair Frauke Petry called for revaluing the term "völkisch," which is closely associated with National Socialism. Duden, the German dictionary of record, defines "völkisch" as follows: "1. (National Socialist) (in the ideology of National Socialism), concerning a people as a purported race; of or belonging to a people as a purported race 2. (obsolete) national." "It's unacceptable to reduce the word 'völkisch' to 'racist,'" Petry said. "I myself don't use the term, but I have a problem with the negative connotations of the concept 'völkisch' being extended to the word 'Volk.' We need to work on giving the concept positive connotations."

The word "Volk" had racial connotations during the Third Reich but continues to be used in common speech to signify people in the sense of the German people. By contrast, the adjective "völkisch" has no active meaning apart from Nazi racist ideas. Petry's statements made headlines in almost all the Sunday editions of Germany's major newspapers and drew initial condemnation from a variety of critics. "Next up will be the concept of 'race,'" Green Party Bundestag Deputy Konstantin von Notz tweeted. The comedian Jan Böhmermann, himself no stranger to controversy, also tweeted sarcastically: "She could have used the occasion to positively revalue the terms 'racial defilement' or 'popular parasite.'" Those are phrases from Nazi jargon, but the term "völkisch" goes back even further.

An unsavory history
The philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte may have used the word in 1811 as a synonym for "volkstümlich" (popular), but, with the rise of ethnocentric political movements, the word had taken on racial connotations by the late 19th century. The völkisch movements from the 1890s through World War I were chauvinistically nationalist, anti-democratic, authoritarian, anti-Semitic, militaristic and racist. The ideology was a major source of inspiration for Adolf Hitler when he began his political career in the early 1920s, and it thoroughly informed National Socialism after Hitler came to power in 1933. After the war, the word fell out of use - for good reason. Even the French writer Guillaume Faye, himself a pioneer of the neo-right in Europe, acknowledged that there was no divorcing völkisch from racist.

"What does völkisch mean?" Faye wrote in 1980. "It derives from the word 'a people' and thus ought to mean: 'popular.' In fact, however, völkisch has ... come to occupy quite a different semantic position. ... Völkisch no longer means 'popular' but 'racist.'" More recently, the author Bastian Sick - the most popular authority on the German language - deemed the term "völkisch" "utterly discredited." Therefore, it is striking that Petry would choose to associate herself with it just one week after the AfD's breakthrough electoral triumph in a state election.

An emerging pattern
Though the party has never declared itself as explicitly racist, the AfD has increasingly aligned itself with the anti-immigration agenda of such right-wing groups as the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement. In January 2015, the government-sponsored German-language society GfdS criticized PEGIDA for using a number of terms associated with racism and National Socialism, including "Lügenpresse" (lying press) and "Volksverräter" (betrayer of the people). In May, AfD Vice-Chairman Alexander Gauland sparked controversy when he asserted that "people wouldn't want Boateng as a neighbor," referring to German national team defender Jerome Boateng, whose father is from Ghana. Petry distanced herself from that statement, but her latest interview with "Die Welt" may have opened her up to accusations of racism - perhaps even from within her own party. On Sunday, the editor-in-chief of "Die Welt," Ulf Porschardt, tweeted that the AfD's press secretary had wanted to withdraw the interview but that Petry had refused. A miscalculation on her part or a calculated risk?

Political shock waves
Last Sunday, the AfD polled over 20 percent in local elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The AfD took votes from parties all over the political spectrum, including some 3 percent from the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), which some observers consider neo-Nazi. Petry's flirting with such vocabulary could be interpreted as an attempt to appeal to voters on the extreme right of the political spectrum. "It's intended to create a fear that too many foreigners are coming here and could change everything established," Kai Biermann wrote in the online edition of the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit." "It's an attempt to portray fascist ideas as one opinion among many. It's an overture to the extreme right."

There's no denying that Petry ramped up the rhetoric in her interview with "Die Welt," warning of a possible "civil war" in Germany if the alleged negative effects of immigration continue. She also said she hoped to earn a Bundestag mandate in Germany's 2017 national elections. The next test of the AfD's appeal will come in a week's time, when the city-state of Berlin holds regional elections. Petry said she didn't expect the party to attract the same level of support as in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but added that she did anticipate a 10-percent or better showing. Recent opinion polls have put the level of support nationwide for the AfD at between 9 and 15 percent.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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UK: Neo-Nazis Are Using a White-Only Homeless Charity to Spread Race Hate

English neo-Nazis are conducting whites-only homeless outreach in order to spread their race hate.

15/9/2016- Hitler worshippers National Action have taken to the streets in Glasgow and Yorkshire in conjunction with Polish fascist party The National Revival of Poland, to give out tinned food to the homeless. Pictures show value bourbon creams, bananas and some kind of weird protein drink laying on a table covered with white-power flags. The National Revival of Poland campaign is dubbed "White Rescue: Charity Campaign for Europeans". NA's rationale for similar events is also explicitly racist. One of the reasons National Action wants to do this is for "the establishment of our brand of politics in areas it's been lacking". The "brand of politics" we're talking about here is Nazism, a brand that was somewhat tarnished by the fact that it started World War II and the worst genocide in all history.

National Action want to build a group capable of "ethnically cleansing Britain". They're part of Europe's "autonomist nationalist" subculture – Nazis who copy the aesthetics and tactics of the far left. For instance you're more likely to see them in "black bloc" type gear than fetishising military uniform. Their members have been attending Isis inspired "Sigurd" training camps, where young neo-Nazis from across the country gather to practice fighting in groups, use knives as weapons and learn about Nazi ideology. Zack Davies, who is serving a life sentence for the racist attempted murder of an Asian man in North Wales, claimed allegiance to the group. That's all pretty sinister, but on the other hand probably their most famous day was when they were utterly humiliated while trying to hold a "White Man March" in Liverpool, and hemmed into a corner of the station by anti-fascists and angry locals who pelted them with bananas, eggs and punches.

More recently they've made headlines by holding a flash-mob in Newcastle with a banner reading "Hitler was right", and by giving a Hitler salute while in Buchenwald concentration camp. They really like Hitler, and would love to see another Holocaust – but maybe homeless outreach makes them good guys really? The homeless outreach is described as "whites helping whites" and claimed to offer "a small glimmer of hope" to white homeless people. In a report from an undisclosed location in Yorkshire, NA describe "the rare sight of a Muslim homeless man" and claim that homelessness is a problem particular to white people. This is of course completely untrue. Nobody should be homeless, white or otherwise. But homelessness is more common among ethnic minorities and it's rising twice as fast among ethnic minority people as the population as a whole. To take one example, this year it was reported that ethnic minority people are four times more likely to be homeless in Birmingham.



Perhaps that's not the point. As Goebbels said, "hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good story?" In interviews on a Nazi podcasts about the action, National Action member Ben Raymond describes the outreach as "real propaganda of the deed". Another NA member, Alex Davies, explains on a podcast that NA has been inspired by the Greek Golden Dawn. The extreme-right party has the third largest number of MPs in the Greek parliament. Its leaders are currently on trail for a wave of violence against non-white people, left-wing opponents and LGBT people. "Their charity work, activism and social work has brought them a respect, some credibility in the eyes of the Greek people," says Davies. "...That's what gained them those seats in the Greek parliament. They used those resources then, that they gained from being elected to parliament, and they've put it back into the things that have gained them their credibility. And that's how they've gained some momentum." "We want to replicate what Golden Dawn were doing in Greece, here in the UK. That's exactly what we want to do."

But hold on – bummer ­– apparently some cynical Greeks thought there was something wrong with carrying out racist charity work for political gain. "Their outreaches were called 'soup-kitchens of hate'", laments Raymond. "You can't even open a soup kitchen without being attacked. But I think it's the right thing to do." Europe's neo-Nazis just can't catch a break! Ben Raymond encourages other members of the far-right to get involved in charity work: "This is a very good thing nationalists should be involved in, because even the existing charities that are already set up, they don't have enough people, there's an enormous space we can fill." Look forward to getting chugged by a guy with a swastika tattoo. The tactic of homeless outreach is common among European far-right groups. Dr J F Pollard, an expert on fascism at Cambridge University said, "It is a well-known fact that Casa Pound, and other neo-Fascist organisations in Italy, have put a lot of effort into 'social outreach', including helping homeless and unemployed people and also OAPs."

Casa Pound is a fascist group that has taken on some of the aesthetics and lifestyle of crusty squat-punks and the naughties anti-globalisation movement. "Their HQ in the centre of Rome is effectively a squat and I have visited it. It houses a number of hitherto homeless families. They have also followed this strategy in other Italian towns and cities. Like National Action, Casa Pound is a largely middle class/student based organisation." Dr Pollard continued: "Of course this is nothing new: the NSDAP/SA [the original Nazis] invested heavily in social outreach during the Great Depression in Weimar Germany and this was institutionalised into the Winterhilfe – literally, 'winter help' – after they came to power." And sure enough, National Action give a quote from a Herr Adolf Hitler in its report as a reason for helping the homeless. There are also similarities here with the mobile food banks used by the BNP to gain trust with voters before the 2014 local and European elections.

Back to NA, apparently locals near the outreach at Argyll Street in Glasgow "came by to enquire as to the nature of our charitable work and to applaud our efforts," although the racists were met with some resistance, or as NA put it: "there were a couple of leftists who were wailing uncontrollably." Not to worry. "Local police also intervened on our behalf". VICE contacted the Glasgow police for comment but did not receive a response. The Radical Housing Network is an organisation which campaigns around housing issues. We approached them with the news that some Nazis were trying to help the homeless. Perhaps they'd be pleased? Not really: "The absurdity of NA's logic is demonstrated in the fact that they believe multiculturalism is to blame for homelessness when there are over 800,000 empty homes in the UK, which is larger than the entire homeless population.

"The real problem with housing is not the colour of people's skin but the financialisation of housing by those seeking to profit from the fundamental need for shelter. It will not be petty racism, but mass collective action that will end the housing crisis." VICE reached out the National Action for comment but received no reply. National Action anticipated that their action might be controversial. They write, "It is highly likely we will be attacked for this over the coming month – the media will twist our messages to present us as ideological opportunists and call our kindness hatred." Mate, these journalists are so unfair. It's almost as if charitable actions for the homeless are somehow less kind if they're done with the massive ulterior motive of spreading race hate.


© The Vice
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UK: Polish man attacked by gang of 20 youths in suspected hate crime in Leeds

28-year-old seriously injured on same day Theresa May apologises for murder of Polish man in the UK.

12/9/2016- Police have launched an investigation after a Polish man was attacked by a gang of up to 20 youths in Leeds in a suspected racially motivated assault. The 28-year-old victim was left with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, after he was kicked and punched by the gang on the evening of 9 September. Police said that the Polish man and a friend had been confronted by the group and assaulted in Town Street shortly before the victim ran off along Wortley Road and was pursued by the group to Alliance Street, Armley, where the assault continued. The victim received a cut to his to head that required stitches and is continuing to receive treatment in hospital. The suspects are all described as white males aged between 16 and 18 and wearing hooded tops.

West Yorkshire Police said the incident is being treated as racially aggravated due to comments made to the victim and his friend. Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: "I want to reassure people, particularly the local Polish community, that we will not tolerate hate incidents of this nature and will do everything we can to ensure the people responsible are brought to justice. "Detectives from Leeds District CID are carrying out extensive enquiries into this incident and are checking CCTV in the area and speaking to witnesses. The victim is being supported by specialist officers. "It is vital that we hear from anyone who witnessed any part of this incident or who has any information that could assist us in tracing the people responsible. "Armley is an area with a strong sense of community across a population from a range of ethnicities and nationalities and I know that people living there will be as shocked and appalled as we are at this incident.

"I appreciate this attack will have understandably caused heightened concerns among eastern European communities but we are treating it as an isolated incident and not as an indicator of any ongoing hate issue in the area. "Officers from the local neighbourhood policing team increased their patrols in the area in response to this incident and will be maintaining and increased presence to reassure people. We will also continue to keep local councillors and other community representatives updated." The attacked occurred the same day that Theresa May expressed her "deep regret" to the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo over the recent high-profile attacks on Polish citizens in the UK, including the murder of a man in Harlow in late August.
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: ‘Kindertransport’ Britons help today’s child refugees in Calais

Their parents and grandparents were rescued from Nazi Germany, now they are raising money to rescue unaccompanied minors in ‘the Jungle’

11/9/2016- British beneficiaries of the Kinder-transport programme, the organised effort to rescue thousands of children from Nazi Germany, have begun raising funds to help the scores of unaccompanied refugee children stranded in Calais. Almost 80 years after Britain sanctioned a mission to help children escape the antisemitic aftermath of Kristallnacht, Britain’s Jewish community is raising funding to evacuate at least 120 child refugees identified as having the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK but who remain trapped in northern France. Campaigners said their predecessors had relied on Britain’s generosity to flee the Nazis and that a sense of gratitude had motivated them to help vulnerable unaccompanied child refugees, many of whom are fleeing persecution.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, whose parents fled Nazi-occupied Europe and who has been instrumental in galvanising support for modern child refugees, said: “Both my parents were refugees at the age of 16: both fled Germany. My mother is very conscious that were it not for the generosity of others, and a standing guarantor to enable her to enter Britain, she would be dead. I would not have been born.” His 93-year-old mother, Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg, who arrived in the UK months before the outbreak of the second world war, said: “I owe my survival to the generosity of those who gave the financial guarantees for me and my family to escape to Britain. I feel deeply concerned about refugees now, especially the children and young people.”

Within the Jungle camp in Calais, round 220 unaccompanied children have been identified as having the legal right to be reunited with families in the UK. Yet despite the UK government’s obligations under the EU Dublin Regulations, the Home Office has only rescued around 50, leaving 170 in limbo amid growing frustration over the government’s commitment to the issue. Human rights groups warn that the children are prey to traffickers, particularly as the camp is scheduled to be demolished this autumn, a move that will probably force many to simply go missing. Britain’s Jewish community now hopes to raise enough to rescue all the unaccompanied children there who have a right to enter the UK.
The campaign, launched last Sunday on Facebook, has raised more than £50,000, with £15,000 more pledged. The overall cost per child of the legal process, transport and support requirements for reuniting each refugee with their family in the UK is £2,000. The campaigners are confident they can raise the required amount through Safe Passage UK, the charity organising the entry of unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. One of the campaign organisers, Jude Oppenheimer from Finchley, north London, said the reponse from the Jewish community had been instant and unequivocal, with an initial proposal to raise money sent to her extended family raising £2,000 in “five minutes”.

Oppenheimer said: “My great uncle and aunt were refugees in 1934 from Germany and my father came over to Britain after the Holocaust. “So many have built a great life, amazing families and careers but for our parents and grandparents who came over as refugees it was Britain that gave them that opportunity and that made all the difference. It really does resonate.” Charlotte Fischer, senior organiser for Citizens UK, the charity which is sponsoring the Safe Passage UK initiative, said: “In the 1930s, 10,000 Jewish children crossed Europe and gained safety in the UK because families here raised the money to sponsor them. As Europe faces another child refugee crisis, it’s amazing to see the British Jewish community so passionate about sponsoring today’s generation of children in need of protection and sanctuary.”
© The Guardian.

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Czech Rep: Miloš Zeman: the hardline leader fanning hostility to refugees

President’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and criticism of EU has won him plaudits at home and in neighbouring countries, but raises questions for rest of Europe

14/9/2016- In Prague’s magnificent ninth-century castle, once the seat of power to Holy Roman emperors, Miloš Zeman has a mundane preoccupation sharply at odds with the grandeur of his surroundings. “Do you smoke?” asks the Czech Republic’s president, lighting the first of several cigarettes during an interview with the Guardian at his sumptuous official residence overlooking the city. “Unfortunately the smokers are a discriminated minority and we are persecuted in all hotels, all restaurants, everywhere,” he continues indignantly, defending a habit he once dismissed as harmless if not started before the age of 27. “It is like in the case of the [American] prohibition. Whiskey as a consequence was more expensive and very low quality. And now smoking is also nearly prohibited.” The contradiction of modern scientific orthodoxy seems a far cry from the moral authority exuded by one of his predecessors, the late Václav Havel, a former anti-communist dissident who was the Czech Republic’s first president following the 1992 breakup of Czechoslovakia.

Yet it is typical of the unabashed advocacy of traditional mores and popular pastimes that Zeman has made his trademark since becoming his country’s first directly elected head of state in 2013. Last year, the president – whose drinking exploits, including occasionally appearing to be inebriated in public, have become legendary – stirred controversy by wishing “death to abstainers and vegetarians” during a meeting with winemakers. His spokesman insisted he was referring to Adolf Hitler, a renowned teetotaller who did not eat meat. Whatever the truth, it was undoubtedly popular with Zeman’s working-class supporters, predominantly based in the provinces far removed from cultured, cosmopolitan Prague. Such earthy folksiness resonates even further, however – beyond the borders of the Czech Republic and with potentially important consequences for Europe’s future. It strikes a powerful chord in neighbouring Slovakia, Hungary and Poland which, together with the Czech Republic, make up the Visegrád group of countries.

This potent eastern European populism is likely to be on full display when the European Union’s members gather in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, on Friday for the first summit since Britain’s Brexit vote. For Zeman is most in his element when talking about his opposition to accepting Muslim refugees from Syria and elsewhere to ease Europe’s migration crisis. The Czech president has unleashed a rhetorical fusillade against Muslim incomers of such intensity that it makes the anti-Islamic sentiments of Robert Fico, the Slovakian prime minister, and even Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister – who is holding a referendum next month aimed at establishing public opposition to accepting migrants – seem mild in comparison.

Zeman has warned that the Czech Republic – home to only 3,500 Muslims out of a population of 10.5 million, according to official figures – could be targeted in a jihadi attack and urged Czechs to arm themselves against what he referred to as a possible “super-Holocaust”. The concern is believed to have prompted the unprecedented introduction of metal detectors to screen the crowds of foreign tourists that visit Prague castle each day. The alarmist message is particularly striking because unlike most anti-immigrant politicians in western Europe, Zeman, 71, is a social democrat (and former communist) rather than a rightwinger, and the Czech Republic has been largely spared the waves of refugees that have swept into neighbouring Austria and Hungary en route to Germany. The stridency has been lent greater urgency – and popularity – by Zeman’s hostility to proposed quotas that would disperse refugees across EU countries, a position he voiced forcefully to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, when she visited Prague last month.

“My first sentence in the meeting with Madam Chancellor was: ‘If you invite somebody to your homeland, you do not send them for a lunch to your neighbours.’ Very polite sentence, isn’t it?” says Zeman, speaking English in disarmingly avuncular tones belying his uncompromising opinions. The German leader merely smiled in response, he says. There is little to smile about, however, when Zeman sets out what he sees as the threat being posed by radical Islamists – and even “moderate” Muslims, who he says could be radicalised to commit terror attacks as ordinary Germans were once inspired to fanatically back Hitler. “In the 30s, the overwhelming majority of Germans were decent people, the nation of Goethe and Schiller and so on,” he says. “In a few years, they became Nazis, even fanatic Nazis. And the radicalisation of the – till these times – moderate Muslim population might be like the case of the German population. It might be easier than the German population, [because] you have a very radical ideology based on a religion.”

Challenged to justify applying this to secular, non-practising Muslims, Zeman invokes a former Czech education minister in calling Islam “a religion of death” and points to what he says are the teachings of the Qur’an. “You might say that Islamic migration is composed of peaceful people. Let me give you one example. The attitude of Islam – I do not speak about jihadists, I speak about Islam – towards women, half of the population. As you know, in the Qur’an, women is something like the inferior part of mankind.” Zeman’s intemperate and, to many, downright offensive language has drawn accusations of populism and inevitable comparisons with the US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. He counters by citing Winston Churchill. “Winston Churchill has been always a populist and he was right. And all who criticised him were wrong,” says Zeman. “What does it mean, a populist? It is a slogan, a label, nothing more.”

Criticism is also levelled at the president’s Euroscepticism, manifested in his denunciation of EU sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. Zeman has demanded referendums on the Czech Republic’s membership of the EU and Nato, while insisting he would advocate staying in each. The country’s need to remain in the EU, which it joined in 2004, is justified by “money, money, money”, he says, before launching into a brief and unmelodic rendition of Abba’s famous hit. “My cynical explanation is that we are not the net payer in the European Union. We get a huge amount of subsidies from European funds,” he says. “This is not the situation of British people, of course.” Still, he says, the EU is unlikely to survive Brexit without triggering further exits unless there is a change of leadership and radical reform to stem “nonsense directives”.

The union, he says, is like a broken-down train described in an old Soviet joke about the collapse of communism. “The third part of the joke has the train with Brezhnev on board,” he explains. “He says, ‘comrades, if the train stops, we shall close the curtain and imitate that the train is still going on’. The European Union is the third part of this joke. They simply close the curtains and simulate that without any change of strategy, the European Union is going on.” Then the president seeks to conclude the interview, only to have second thoughts on realising he has not finished his last cigarette, giving him time to contemplate the impact of Brexit on Britain. “Long live Great Britain. But I wonder whether Scotland will stay in Great Britain,” he muses. Does Czechoslovakia’s “velvet divorce” – producing the Czech Republic and Slovakia – hold any lessons for the UK and a possible independent Scotland? “I do not wish you your splendid isolation. Isolation is splendid in the long term but you know what Keynes said – in the long term we are all dead. Bye-bye.”
© The Guardian.

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Czech Rep: Hundreds of Roma preparing for pilgrimage

12/9/2016- Hundreds of Romanies from across the Czech Republic will take part in the traditional Romany pilgrimage to Svaty Kopecek (Holy Hill) near Olomouc on Saturday, Charity Olomouc spokeswoman Eva Stefkova told CTK yesterday. The aim of the Way to Oneself event is to allow Romanies from the whole country to meet, present their own culture and contribute to bringing the Romany minority and the majority society closer to one another, Stefkova said. "We invite to the pilgrimage not only all Romanies, but also those who are interested in Romany culture and want to learn more about Romany habits and traditions," Petr Macek, Charity Olomouc deputy director, said. At 11:00 CEST, Vojtech Vagai, the first Roman Catholic priest coming from the Romany community, will say a Mass in the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary basilica. "The pilgrimage is important by connecting people, not only Romany culture. The Romanies are very emotive people. People ask me for a prayer after the mass. This is something which I do not experience commonly," Vagai told CTK last year. The pilgrimage will be held for the 18th time this year. Whole Romany families take part in the event, the sole one with such a long tradition in the country.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Prague officials call for police to break up anti-Islamic meeting

11/9/2016- The police dispersed a demonstration held by Martin Konvicka's Initiative (IMK) anti-Islam group outside the Saudi Arabia embassy in Prague yesterday, due to defamation of religion, on call of the City Hall's officials. The clerks argued that the participants in the rally entitled "With Humour to Mecca" had downgraded religion and that they deviated from the originally announced programme. A few dozen supporters of the Konvicka group refused to leave the street, but around 15:00 only a small circle of debating people stayed there. The City Hall clerks left the rally with a police assistance, and some 20 police officers watching the rally left, too. No one was detained.
Konvicka's supporters were disguised like Muslims and they placed a mobile toilet outside the embassy that should stand for Kaaba, the most sacred mosque in Mecca. They planned to "stone" it with crumpled pieces of newspaper to mock the ritual that Muslims consider holy.

Exactly this performance was qualified as defamation of religion, and this is why the meeting was dispersed. The City Hall informed the organisers beforehand that their event would be dissolved in the case of downgrading religion. "I think that a court should decide on this. If it is up to the Prague City Hall to solve whether some religion is defamed or not, I can remember five or ten pictures displayed in Prague galleries that are defaming religion in some way," Konvicka told CTK before the meeting. The Czech Foreign Ministry called Konvicka's event provocative and a direct insult to a religious group. "The Foreign Ministry strictly condemns any similar activity that is spreading religious hatred, brings hostility into Czech society, and thereby harms the picture of the Czech Republic in the world," the ministry said on its website. In his speech at the meeting, Konvicka called Saudi Arabia the world's biggest exporter of terrorism and he called on the Czech government to expel its diplomats from the country.

Konvicka told reporters yesterday that he would discuss the City Hall's steps with his lawyers. The clerks referred to an official statement by the City Hall's spokesman. Police spokesman Tomas Hulan told CTK that no one had been detained and that the police had acted only on the basis of the City Hall clerks' request. The City Hall did not ban the rally at first saying there was no reason to do so, though the group's previous event in August when the IMK's played arrival of IS militants including a vehicle with gunmen shooting dummy weapons had caused panic among people in Prague's historical Old Town Square. It is being investigated on suspicion of rioting. Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova (ANO) then asked to punish the clerk who had permitted the ally. The Interior Ministry said there was no reason to ban the event. However, the announcement of the demonstration should have provoked alert, the ministry added.

The organisers did not cancel or move yesterday's event because of a sewage breakdown in the street either. Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolinek (Social Democrats, CSSD) called on the City Hall to cancel the rally due to it on Friday, but in vain. The IMK is considering filing a legal complaint against him. The IMK announced to stage the rally outside the Saudi Arabia embassy in Prague-Bubenec on the day marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the USA. Konvicka said the event would mock the culprits since mockery is what Islamists minded most of all. The annual great pilgrimage started in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, with almost two million Muslims from 150 countries participating in it.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Luxembourg says: Expel Hungary from EU for hostility to refugees

Luxembourg’s foreign minister says Hungary should be expelled for treating asylum seekers ‘worse than wild animals’

13/9/2016- Luxembourg’s foreign minister has called for Hungary to be thrown out of the European Union over its increasingly hostile approach to refugees, as campaigners accuse Viktor Orbán’s hardline government of whipping up xenophobia to block a European plan to relocate asylum seekers. Jean Asselborn said Hungary should be temporarily or even permanently expelled from the EU for treating asylum seekers “worse than wild animals”. In an interview with German daily Die Welt, he said: “Anyone who, like Hungary, builds fences against refugees from war or who violates press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU.” Asselborn called for EU rules to be changed to make it easier to expel Hungary as this was “the only way of preserving the cohesion and values of the European Union”. Hungary’s foreign affairs and trade minister Péter Szijjártó dismissed Asselborn as “an intellectual lightweight” and his comments as “sermonising, pompous and frustrated”.

He said only Hungarians have the right to decide who they wish to live with, adding that no Brussels bureaucrat can deprive them of this right. In a statement issued by the Hungarian government, Szijjártó added: “It is somewhat curious that Jean Asselborn and Jean-Claude Juncker – who both come from the country of tax optimisation – speak about jointly sharing burdens. But we understand what this really means: Hungary should take on the burden created by the mistakes of others.” Human Rights Watch also called on Europe to use its “enforcement powers” against Budapest after documenting abuse of asylum seekers that it says breaches Hungary’s legal obligations under European and international law. It is also alarmed by an anti-migrant campaign orchestrated by Orbán’s government to resist an attempt to impose binding quotas for resettling asylum seekers in member states.

On 2 October, Hungary is due to hold a controversial referendum on the relocation plan, which involves sending 1,294 asylum seekers to Hungary. Orbán’s government has sent an 18-page booklet to millions of Hungarian households urging citizens to reject the plan because it says “forced settlement endangers our culture and traditions”. Lydia Gall, HRW’s Budapest-based researcher on eastern Europe, dismissed the booklet as “government sponsored xenophobic anti-refugee propaganda rubbish”. She accused the EU of being “virtually silent” in the face of such rhetoric. But she said Asselborn’s call to expel Hungary from the EU would “probably do more harm than good”. In an email to the Guardian, Gall said Hungary should instead be prosecuted. She wrote: “The EU has good tools to address human rights problems in member states. The focus, rather, should be on generating the political will to use those mechanisms to hold Hungary to account including, if necessary, through the court of justice.”

Hungary’s booklet includes an image of migrants and asylum seekers queuing to enter Europe, similar to the much-criticised “Breaking Point” poster launched by former Ukip leader Nigel Farage during Britain’s EU referendum campaign. The headline above the image of the queue says: “We have a right to decide who we want to live with”, according to a translation by the Budapest Beacon. Gall said Hungary’s booklet was worse than the Ukip poster. She said: “While the Ukip poster was revolting, it doesn’t compare to the anti-migrant and anti-refugee campaign in Hungary in terms of scale.” In a blogpost, she added: “The booklet contains distorted facts about Europe’s refugee crisis, portraying asylum seekers and migrants as dangerous to Europe’s future. It links migration to increased terrorism and refers to non-existent ‘no-go’ areas in European cities with large migrant populations, including London, Paris and Berlin, where authorities have allegedly lost control and where law and order is absent.”

She added: “Sixty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians obtained sanctuary from persecution in other parts of Europe and North America. If the Hungarian government reminded itself and Hungarians about that history, it might help create a more positive and welcoming attitude towards those from Syria and elsewhere seeking safety in Hungary today.” Hungary’s hardline rhetoric on refugees left it isolated during the peak of the refugee crisis in September 2015, but in the year since, Orbán has become an increasingly pivotal figure in European policy. Austria, which initially followed Germany by responding compassionately to refugees, now stands with Hungary in calling for an Australian-style solution to the refugee crisis. “In September, Orbán was the bad guy,” Gerald Knaus, head of the Berlin-based thinktank the European Stability Initiative, told the Guardian earlier this month. “Yet by the end of the year he was the leader of a coalition of states. And with Austria now taking the lead on arguing for an Australian-style system, it’s now Germany that is isolated.”

But Orbán’s vision goes far beyond simply repelling immigrants. In a speech made last year, Orbán hailed what he saw as the demise of liberal Europe. “We are experiencing now the end of an era: a conceptual-ideological era,” Orbán told supporters last autumn. “Putting pretension aside, we can simply call this the era of liberal babble. This era is now at an end.” A week ago, Orbán continued this argument at a press conference with the rightwing Polish politician Jaros³aw Kaczyñski, in which he called for Europe and its institutions to be reworked in favour of a rightwing vision. “We are at a historic cultural moment,” said Orbán. “There is a possibility of a cultural counter-revolution right now.”
© The Guardian.

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Hungary Gears up to Build New Anti-Migrant Fence

15/9/2016- A new fence, electronic surveillance equipment and a paved road for police "border hunters" are all part of Hungary's continuing efforts to stop the flow of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Asia and Africa at its southern borders. The government has not yet announced a timetable for the reinforced border projects, but the mayor of Asotthalom, a village on the Serbian border, said the fence built last year had already made a difference. "Order has been practically restored in the village, which is a big achievement since migration had been causing problems for years," said Laszlo Toroczkai, recently elected as a vice-chairman of the far-right Jobbik party. "It was most unbearable in 2015, when thousands of migrants a day were marching through our village, but already from September 2014 hundreds of illegal migrants a day were arriving here."
Hungary's fences, its anti-migrant political campaigns and its grudging treatment of refugees have been harshly criticized by the United Nations' refugee agency and other rights organizations. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, however, remains unapologetic about his "self-defensive" migration policies and his opposition to greater acceptance of refugees. Nearly 400,000 people passed through Hungary last year, aiming to reach Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and other richer destinations in the European Union. Since fences protected with razor wire were completed on the border with Serbia in mid-September 2015 and on the Croatian border a month later, the number of migrants entering Hungary dropped from an average of 100 a day in the first half of 2016 to around a daily dozen in the past weeks.

Toroczkai set up a group of armed rangers to patrol the border and detain migrants long before migration through the Balkans gained national and international attention. He believes the upgraded infrastructure would increase the effectiveness of the barrier. Migrants "cut through the fence with tools and assistance from the Serbian human traffickers," Toroczkai said in an interview. "They will be confronted with a new, apparently much stronger fence which will take even longer to cut through, during which time the patrols will be able to quickly get there on the paved road and capture the trespassers." Announcing the new fence plan, Orban said last month that it would be strong enough to stop even large surges of people if, for example, Turkey allows the millions of refugees there to leave for Western Europe. "If we can't do it nicely, we have to hold them back by force," Orban said. "And we will do it, too."

Among the Asotthalom villagers, many of whom complained last year that migrants were damaging their crops as they hiked toward Budapest, there were mixed views about the fence. "If they come, they can still cut through," said Norbert Farkas, a younger, unemployed Asotthalom resident. "Maybe the solution would be if they'd just let them go wherever they want." Pensioner Rozalia Kovacs, however, wants the migrants stopped. "We're already too many here," she said. "I don't mistreat them because they don't hurt me either. It's only that there's already too many of us here."
© The Associated Press

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Hungary's far right vigilantes search the border for migrants and refugees

Mayor Laszlo Toroczkai's militia has risen from obscurity to nationwide acclaim.

15/9/2016- It is early morning as a beat-up Russian car struggles along a winding forest track, tracing the contours of the Hungarian-Serbian border. At the wheel, Shandor, 32-years-old with a blonde ponytail, moustache and camouflage fatigues, is scanning the darkness for moving shadows. The car comes to an abrupt stop. "I thought I saw someone moving down there," he whispers. We wait some minutes in eerie silence before moving off again. "If you want to meet migrants, you have to join my men at night," said Laszlo Toroczkai, speaking to IBTimes UK from Assotthalom, the Hungarian border town where he combines his duties as mayor with those of vice-deputy of the far-right Jobbik party. An unremarkable and charmless town of just 4,500 people, Assotthalom has found itself at the heart of the migrant crisis as thousands try to cross illegally from Serbia to Hungary, on their way to Europe.

'Migrant Hunting' is one of Toroczkai's favourite pastimes and Shandor, a former print-maker, is among his most faithful followers. "I can't say I get tired physically," says Shandor, who spends his 24-hour shift patrolling the border by car, "but chasing migrants affects me mentally and sometimes I get scared, too. You never know who you are going to meet in the forest, how dangerous he may be, and whether he is suffering from a contagious disease." Before the Hungarian government built a three-meter-high fence along its 175km southern border with Serbia in September 2015, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants were able to cross through Hungary on their way to Europe. After the fence, those numbers have dwindled to around 100 per day, said Toroczkai. When his men find migrants who have cut their way through the fence, they hand them over to the police.

Toroczkai's success has changed the way the Hungarian government has approached the migrant issue. Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to recruit 3,000 border-hunters to reinforce police and soldiers patrolling the fence. The move follows the deployment of an additional 1,500 soldiers and police officers to the Serbian border and a call for a referendum on the European Commission's proposal to relocate 160,000 refugees across EU member states. "Fidesz (the conservative ruling political party) and Orban gained popularity as a consequence of the refugee crisis," said Peter Krekó, an analyst at the think tank Political Capital Institute. "Because of the fence and the harsh rhetoric used by the government against refugees and migrants, most of the xenophobic voters turned towards the prime minister, making Hungary one of the few European exceptions."

Toroczkai, a stocky 38-year-old with a confident demeanour, has been involved in politics since the age of 18. As he emerged as a candidate for the far-right nationalistic Justice and Life Party (MIEP) he began leading debates on the anti-Semitic and xenophobic Magyar Forum. He later founded the ultranationalist 64 Counties Youth Movement in 2001, which fights for the reunification of the Hungarian minorities separated by the Trianon Treaty of 1920. In 2013 Toroczkai left both his hometown and the Movement, his nationalist faith having faltered, but he quickly found a calling in Assotthalom. "As soon as I settled here, I saw some fifty Africans breaking through the border fence. It was a sign," he said. Toroczkai, a complete unknown in the peripheral town, decided to challenge Assotthalom's long-standing mayor, a member of the centre-right Fidesz party. To his surprise, he won 71.5% of the vote.

Soon after the elections, 40,000 migrants entered the town illegally. The issue soon became the poster child of radical nationalist party Jobbik and a crusade for the newly elected mayor. For the first time, a politician was talking about constructing a border fence and organising a local militia to defend Hungary from external threats. Toroczkai started patrolling the border alone, and then recruited four other migrant hunters. "They are not voluntary vigilantes or members of the civil police but a well-trained force with the same powers of the civil police, as well as rifles, gas pistols and night vision goggles [that are] better than [those of] the normal police. Every mayor could have [this], if only the local governments could afford it," he said.

From the beginning, the migrant hunters have had much more success catching migrants than the border police, and have publicised their successes with photographs of men on their hands and knees after being caught getting through the fence. They hand the captured migrants over to the police, who then convict and deport them. Toroczkai says that unlike the badly-paid border police, his militia are locals protecting their town. Shandor and his four colleagues grew up in Assotthalom and when other residents see anything suspicious they are the first people they call. Before the government embraced Toroczkai's scheme, it was Assotthalom residents who supported the mayor through donations. "I chose this job to defend my people and my homeland from illegal mass migration. I've never felt moved by migrants, quite the opposite in fact. No one invited them here and, if I was in their shoes, I would try to solve the problems back home, instead of running away."
© The International Business Times

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Hungary's far right says PM should quit if migrant referendum invalid

12/9/2016- Hungary's radical nationalist Jobbik party told Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday he should resign if voters fail to turn out in sufficient numbers in a referendum next month to reject EU quotas for resettling refugees. Jobbik leader Gabor Vona is trying to increase pressure on Orban in the run-up to the vote, which will be invalid unless at least 50 percent of the electorate, or around 4 million voters, take part. "You hope to score political points with this game of hazard which could end up hurting the entire country," Vona told Orban in parliament. "If the October 2 referendum is invalid, you have to resign because you led Hungary into a battle you lost." He said the referendum would backfire on Hungary if it failed: "We will give Brussels a trump card as our weapon backfires: Hungarians will not have legally rejected the quotas." Orban has irked his European Union partners with his tough rhetoric on migrants and by building a razor wire fence along Hungary's southern border to keep them out.

He has mounted a vigorous campaign for Hungarians to reject future EU quotas stipulating how many refugees each country should take. He ignored the resignation demand, saying the vote was necessary to win political support in Hungary's battles against the EU. "We need a common basis... to challenge Brussels in conflicts that will indeed have grave legal ramifications," he said. "Without the people, that battle cannot be won. We need them, we need to involve them, and in a democracy a referendum is the only way to do that." Orban faces elections in 2018 and Jobbik will be his number one challenger, based on current poll standings. But his Fidesz party enjoys a commanding lead, which has widened in the course of the migration crisis. Vona accused Fidesz of trying to divert attention from endemic corruption he called "corruption terrorism". Orban rejected this, telling Vona to file charges in the courts if he knew of specific cases.
© Reuters

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Hungary: Holocaust memorial vandalised

11/9/2016- The Living Memorial, a grassroots monument in Budapest’s Liberty Square, in memory to the 600,000 victims of the Holocaust in Hungary, was vandalised this weekend, shortly after the neo-Nazi Kuruc.info website published an article threatening to destroy the monument. Photographs displayed at the site were torn and other items of remembrance added to the Living Memorial by survivors and descendants of survivors were shattered or removed. The Living Memorial was established in March 2014 by activists and ordinary Hungarian citizens, as a protest against the controversial German occupation monument erected by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The government monument served as a way to deflect responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary away from Hungarian authorities and onto the Germans. In contrast to the Living Memorial, which for more than two years has served as the site for regular talks, lectures, discussions groups, musical performances and commemorations, the government-erected monument was never so much as formally unveiled, was completed quietly in the dead of the night and remains entirely neglected.

“With the exception of a few smaller incidents, respect towards the victims of the Holocaust always protected the memorial from the worst attacks,” writes the Living Memorial group in their statement, which was also signed by two other partner groups, namely: the Szabadság Színpad (Freedom Stage) and TÉR-KÖZ Társaság. “But yesterday something happened, which until now nobody dared to commit”–added the activists. Unknown perpetrators vandalised the monument, a mere three weeks after the Kuruc.info website, the most vile neo-Nazi Hungarian publication, published the following:
“I promise that one night, in the beginning of September, I will walk by the Living Memorial and I will pack up four or five kilograms of the display, which legally is considered to be garbage, into a strong bag. And putting that into my car, I will take it to where it belongs. Naturally, I won’t dump it into the Danube, because that is already very polluted,” wrote someone using the alias of Alitea Guzmán on Kuruc.info.

The Kuruc.info article mentions our publication, the Hungarian Free Press, by name, for having published pieces on the Living Memorial. The Living Memorial group filed a police report immediately after the vandalism of the monument. The activists note that nearly the entire square is well-equipped with CCTV cameras, so the police should be able to identify the perpetrator(s). Yet they also add: “We do not expect any meaningful response from the state.” As such, the Living Memorial group, along with its partners in the community, is organizing a flash mob on September 18th, 2016 at 4:00 PM, in Liberty Square. Participants are asked to bring votive candles, rocks, photographs and other items used for commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. “Let’s show the provocateurs that we are not afraid,” notes the group’s statement.

The Kuruc.info website is registered in the United States, but it is widely believed to be affiliated with Jobbik. It has published daily hate speech since 2006. The editors and most authors publish pieces under pseudonyms. It is believed by many, however, that Elõd Novák, a former Jobbik politician, is among the editors. The website was launched by a Hungarian-Canadian–at the time living in California–by the name of Béla Varga. Mr. Varga appears to own the Kuruc.info domain and reportedly also controls Kuruc.info’s bank account. Mr. Varga, who owned a store called The Red Paprika in Healdsburg, California, had a $300,00 bench warrant issued for his arrest in 2014, after he did not show up at a San Francisco court for charges relating to uttering death threats, harassment and stalking. Mr. Varga, who is a Canadian citizen, fled California and according to reports ended up in Ontario. He is believed to be in hiding in Canada, along with his two sons and wife, to this very day.
© The Hungarian Free Press

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