Newsnews archives
Do You appreciate this service? HELP US to keep it going: transfer a financial contribution to:
Stichting Magenta Projects
IBAN NUMBER: NL09INGB0000189687
BIC: INGBNL2A
Name and address of bank:
ING BANK N.V. - P.O. BOX 1800, 1000 BV AMSTERDAM - THE NETHERLANDS

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

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

Headlines 3 June, 2016

Headlines 27 May, 2016

Headlines 20 May, 2016

Headlines 13 May, 2016

News from the UK & Germany - week 19

Headlines 3 June, 2016

Dalai Lama says there are 'too many' refugees in Europe

The Dalai Lama said in an interview published Thursday that Europe has accepted "too many" refugees, and that they should eventually return to help rebuild their home countries.

31/5/2016- "When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering," said the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has himself lived in exile for over half a century. "A human being who is a bit more fortunate has the duty to help them. On the other hand, there are too many now," he said, according to the German translation of the interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country," he added with a laugh, the daily reported. "Germany is Germany." "There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult." The Dalai Lama added that "from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily". "The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries."

Germany last year took in 1.1 million people fleeing war and misery in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, but the flow was reduced sharply by the decision of Balkan countries to close their borders to people travelling through Turkey and into northern Europe. The Dalai Lama also said in the interview, conducted in Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India, that he hopes to one day return to Tibet. "Maybe in a few years," said the 80-year-old. "If an opportunity for my return arises, or at least for a short visit, that would be a source of great joy." Thousands of Tibetans have fled their Himalayan homeland since China sent in troops in 1951, and many have settled in India.
© AFP

up  

UN: Death toll 'soars' among refugees and migrants crossing Mediterranean in 2016

Ban Ki-moon urges collective response to large refugee and migrant movements  

31/5/2016- At least 880 people appear to have died over the past week as their vessels capsized in the Mediterranean, bringing the total fatalities along the dangerous crossing route to 2,510 so far this year, the United Nations refugee agency said today, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a comprehensive and collective response to large movements of refugees and migrants. According to a statement issued later in the day by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “deeply saddened” that in the last few days, hundreds of men, women, and children have died in the Mediterranean Sea. The UN chief expressed his deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished. “While the Secretary-General commends the brave efforts of the joint Italian and European search and rescue operations, he calls on concerned Governments and organizations to redouble their efforts to save those at risk at sea and to counter the migrant smuggling and human trafficking networks in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas,” the statement continued.

At the global level, Mr. Ban in his statement called for a comprehensive and collective response to large movements of refugees and migrants, including expanded legal pathways. “The 19 September High-Level Meeting at the United Nations on this issue is a unique opportunity to agree on such a framework,” said the statement, adding that the meeting will also be an opportunity to demonstrate greater solidarity and shared responsibility with countries which host the vast majority of refugees. The UN refugee agency said that comparatively, some 1,855 died in the crossing in the same period in 2015 and 57 in the first five months of 2014. So far this year, 203,981 people have made the journey on the Mediterranean. “The odds of being among the dead are currently one in 81,” said William Spindler, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "This highlights the importance of rescue operations as part of the response to the movement of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean, and the need for real, safer alternatives for people needing international protection,” he added.

According to new information from people who landed in Augusta over the weekend, 47 people were missing after a raft carrying 125 people from Libya deflated. Eight others were reported separately to have been lost overboard from another boat, and four deaths were reported after fire aboard another. These figures bring last week's death toll to 880. The Turkey-Greece route accounted for three quarters of the nearly 204,000 people who made the journey prior to the end of March. Some 46,714 travelled to Italy. The North Africa-Italy route is dramatically dangerous: 2,119 people, or one in 23, died. UNHCR is working to better understand the possible reasons and dynamics behind these movements. The majority of boats departing Libya are at present reported to be leaving from the Sabratah area to the west of Tripoli. And as in the past they remain more crowded than those that have normally been seen on the Turkey-Greece route, often carrying 600 or more passengers, and sometimes being towed by larger fishing boats which in turn puts them at risk, Mr. Spindler said.

According to some unconfirmed accounts, the recent increase in numbers is linked to efforts by smugglers to maximize income before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, in the coming week, he said. Survivors told that smuggler hubs operating in locations including Niger remains active in feeding people from West Africa through to Libya, where many remain for many months before being put onto boats for the crossing to Europe. Nigerians and Gambians are the most prominent nationalities travelling from Libya to Italy so far this year. Somalis and Eritreans, who are among countries more commonly associated with refugee movements, accounted for nine per cent and eight per cent respectively. Reports of trauma from sexual and other forms of gender-based violence among women making the journey – or being trafficked – appear common. Some women have told they were subject to sexual slavery in Libya. Arrivals of unaccompanied children are on the rise.
© UN News Centre

up  

Turkey: No future for refugees (opinion)

Despite official claims, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country – neither for migrants nor for its own citizens, writes Hakan Ataman.

31/5/2016- Following the deal struck between the European Union and Turkey, Greece began deporting refugees and migrants to Turkey on April 4, 2016. A second group was expelled a few days later. Although Greece has postponed the next batch of deportations until an unknown date, Turkey has already taken a number of measures in anticipation of deportations from EU countries, including the preparation of three harbors for readmissions in Kusadasý (Aydýn), Gulluk (Muđla) and Dikili (Ýzmir), in the Aegean region. In accordance with the EU-Turkey agreement, Turkey changed its Temporary Protection Regulation. Prior to this amendment, any Syrian under the temporary protection regime, who left Turkey after registration, would not be entitled to re-apply for this status.

Now, temporary protection is granted to all Syrian refugees who are returned to Turkey from Greece. This provision does not cover non-Europeans and non-Syrians, including Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians. However, the refugees deported from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios thus far were primarily of Pakistani and Afghan origin. Others were from Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Congo, Somalia and the Ivory Coast. Only a small number were Syrians. Following a simple health examination, the Turkish government sent them to the deportation center in Kýrklareli, in the Thrace district, on the same day.

EU-Turkey deal undermines international protection of refugees
The EU and Turkey claim that the new agreement aims to provide “safe”, “legal” and “regular” migration for refugees and migrants. However, the deal has attracted heavy criticism from NGOs and activists, who believe that the process undermines the international protection of refugees, not just in Europe, but also around the world. Most critics are concerned about the lack of protection and practical difficulties encountered by refugees living or arriving in Turkey. The central question is whether Turkey can be considered a safe country.

In fact, it cannot be considered as such – neither for refugees and migrants nor for its own citizens. The latest edition of the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, BTI 2016, is very clear about this: Turkey “has left its path of democratization under President Recep Tayyip Erdođan. … Recently regarded as a positive example of transformation in part due to its prospects of EU membership, the tendency in recent years toward the concentration of ever-greater powers in government hands, to the detriment of regime-critical media and civil society, has threatened freedom and democracy.”

Refugees in Turkey face particular challenges in urban areas
Refugees and migrants face particular challenges regarding basic rights and livelihood support in Turkey. As of the beginning of April 2016, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey was around 3.5 million. The majority of them live in urban areas, including cities without refugee camps, such as Istanbul, Izmir and Bursa. Turkey’s efforts to ensure the rights of refugees living in urban area are particularly inadequate. There, refugees do not fully exercise their right to access health, education, housing and the job market. Furthermore, urban areas are affected by a range of problems concerning security conditions and specific needs and risks such as child protection and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

To begin with, unregistered refugees and irregular migrants – both Syrians and non-Syrians – are not entitled to access any public services in Turkey except emergency health services provided by public hospitals. Access to adequate housing is another big problem in metropolitan cities. The high rents charged there mean that many refugees are faced with eviction when their savings run out, or forced to live in poor conditions without privacy or hygiene.

When it comes to employment, the legal situation of refugees is improving but the actual situation is slow to follow suit. The Turkish government recently adopted a new regulation on work permits for refugees, with the result that there are now fewer legal restrictions stopping refugees from accessing the labor market. However, the process of obtaining work permits is very slow and difficult due to many bureaucratic obstacles and fees. Permits are also limited by quotas and restricted to certain industries. Therefore, most refugees are in irregular employment or work in the informal sector. Child labor remains another huge problem. Human Rights Watch and UNICEF have reported that over 400,000 Syrian refugee children living in Turkey do not attend school.

International protection system for refugees must be revised
To sum up, there are no adequate national structures for the provision of services to refugees in Turkey. Local social programs and community-based organizations lack the capacity to meet refugees’ needs, while the support provided by United Nations agencies, other development and humanitarian partners and the private sector is also limited. On several occasions, the European Court of Human Rights has found that the conditions in Turkish deportation and detention centers for migrants and refugees amount to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment.

There is no future for most refugees in Turkey. Without effective rights-based policies, issuing laws, regulations and agreements about refugees is of no practical consequence for refugees living in the country. While the international community must provide Turkey with financial assistance in this process, financial assistance alone will not solve the problem. The international community must call upon Turkey to seek solutions based on human rights. However, to suggest or expect this might well be naive or even irrelevant given that the international protection system for refugees is collapsing on a global scale. The Syria crisis – the worst crisis of its kind since Rwanda – is an important opportunity for the international community to begin reflecting on and taking the necessary steps to change its protection system.
Hakan Ataman is Psychosocial Support Project Coordinator for Refugees at the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey. This article is part of the “Migration & Transformation” series supported by the German Bertelsmann Foundation.
© EuroActiv

up  

Balkans Warned of Challenge of Integrating Migrants

Council of Europe’s Rights Commissioner says Balkan countries face major challenge as they change from transit routes to destination countries.

31/5/2016- Niels Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Right, on Tuesday issued a paper on the integration of migrants in Europe, mostly coming from the Middle East, such as Syria and Iraq. In the paper, he identified the main problems with the integration of migrants into European societies as lack of language courses within the receiving countries, non-adapted education systems for migrant children, over-complicated procedures of reunifying migrant families, long-lasting procedures of attaining citizenship and low employment rates for migrant workers.

Regarding Balkan countries, which in the past functioned solely as transit countries on the migrants’ route westwards, Muizienks told BIRN that the biggest challenge was that they were now becoming destination countries as well. “The Western Balkan countries have traditionally seen themselves as transit countries but they are slowly becoming destination countries ‘by default,’” he said. This means that integration policies and inclusive education in particular will have to be prioritised by governments in the region “to make it work,” he said. Muiznieks emphasised that integration in education is the outstanding challenge. Previously implemented towards “Roma and children with disabilities”, it will be a challenge to introduce inclusive education for migrant children as well, “taking care that they get the attention they need to thrive academically”, especially in those parts of the Balkans where school programs are divided on an ethnic or language basis.

Muiznieks explained that the process of integration of migrants is bound to be complicated in each country that founds itself in this position for the first time. “In the Western Balkans you have a combination of other factors. One is a kind of fragile ethnic relations, which can suffer from the rise of xenophobic movements or anti-migrant sentiment,” he said. “Also, you don’t have any experience in accepting a significant number of migrants and don’t have a lot of resources to do so,” he added. However, he underlined that integration can be introduced even in countries with limited resources, noting the case of Portugal, by applying good policies. In Croatia, an EU member state through which over 650,000 migrants have passed recently, he said migrant reception facilities were adequate. However, “a lot of work needs to be done in terms of coordinating between ministries to provide language training and integration,” he noted.

Regarding Bulgaria, Muiznieks, said that integration was slowly improving, describing it as a country “which was caught by surprise by a large influx of people coming”. Mentioning the vigilante groups that catch migrants and transfer them over the border in Bulgaria, he emphasised that the deputy minister for migration had condemned such acts, which undermine the work of the state. “But there are others who are either neutral or slightly positive about these vigilantes, and that’s quite a dangerous thing; no one should be encouraged to take the law in its own hands,” he said. Bulgaria, like other countries, needs to work on managing a crisis it had no prior experience of, he opined. “One of the factors feeding into the rise of far-right populist movements is the lack of integration policies,” he observed. “It feeds the electoral success of far-right political parties and movements… and it’s clear that one of the ways to ‘take away their thunder’ is to do integration right,” he said.

He further explained that the integration of migrants, enabling them to get to know the culture and language of the country in which they live, will take “away the arguments from xenophobes and the extremists”. In the Western Balkans, such programs are being developed for the first time. Muiznieks mentioned the case of Croatia, where there are no hard-copy or electronic publications from which migrants can inform themselves about the country and society. There are no free courses for learning Croatian, either, which is crucial for successful integration. In the end, he concluded that the new role of countries in Western Balkans, as they shift from transit routes to destination countries, will bring additional challenges that need to be closely monitored.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Dutch rapper’s colour, luxury car led to police questioning

31/5/2016- Police in Zwolle have admitted that Dutch rapper Typhoon was pulled over while driving and questioned because he was ‘young, was driving a brand new luxury car and because of his skin colour’. Typhoon, real name Glenn de Randamie, reported this incident on his Instagram account, saying it is not the first time he has been stopped by police while driving. ‘The duty officer (friendly chap, so that’s not an issue) admitted he had preconceptions and that drugs money could be involved,’ Typhoon said on Instagram. ‘Unfortunately this is the umpteenth time this has happened to me and I am a famous face. Others don’t have that advantage.’ The police later issued a statement saying they regretted the incident. Local police chief Arjan Mengerink said: ‘We consider it crucial that the police are always neutral. We must not select on the basis of appearance or origin, which is why we thought it important to deal with this immediately.’

Anger
The police officer involved is aware he made an error and had admitted this, Mengerink said. Labour leader Diederik Samsom said he was extremely angry about the case. ‘A famous Dutchman is stopped because of his skin colour,’ Samsom said. ‘We should realise this happens to dozens of unknown Dutch people with dark skin on a daily basis.’ Typhoon broke through in 2014 with the album Lobi Da Basi, which was declared the best record of the year by the Volkskrant. Last July he was co-signatory to an opinion piece in the paper calling for racism within the Dutch police force to be recognised.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: TV presenter takes action over ‘surge of racist comments’

31/5/2016- Television presenter turned political hopeful Sylvana Simons said on Tuesday she would make a formal police complaint about the ‘surge of racist, sexist and discriminatory reactions’ her decision to go into politics had generated. By making a complaint it would make clear that ‘demonstrable injustice should never go unpunished’, political party Denk, which Simons joined earlier this month, said in a statement. ‘It is time that the social discussion about racism took place in the political arena,’ Simons told reporters. ‘Combating injustice begins with registering it.’ The public prosecution department said last week it was looking into the comments directed at Simons to see if they were punishable by law. After going public with her decision to join Denk, Simons was dismissed on social media as a ‘Netherlander hater’, a ‘winging negro’ and an ‘Erdogan helpmate’. One PVV supporter also launched a Facebook campaign to have her ‘waved out’ of the Netherlands on December 6, alongside Sinterklaas.
© The Dutch News

up  

Dutch 'Zwarte Piet' debate starts early as celebrities call for change

30/5/2016- It may be only almost June, but the debate about Sinterklaas’ helper Zwarte Piet (black Pete) is already raging in the Netherlands, after a rebellion by Dutch celebrities and television personalities. Earlier this month comedian Erik van Muiswinkel, who has played the main Piet character on television for years, said he was quitting the role. And this weekend, his name is one of over 100 on an open letter to the public broadcasting umbrella group NTR calling for change. The Sinterklaas festivities on December 5 are always proceeded by weeks of special programming about the adventures of the saint and his sidekick in the Sinterklaasjournaal. But now the celebrities, including Van Muiswinkel, tv presenter Arie Boomsma, sax player Candy Dulfer and actress Halina Reijn, have written an open letter to the NTR urging programmers to modernise the television tradition and take a stand. ‘The NTR does not seem to be able to see that they are maintaining Zwarte Piet in its current form, despite the well-founded criticism and calls for change,’ the letter said. By not moving with the times and taking a moral standpoint, the NTR is ‘ditching its responsibilities,’ the signatories said.

New mood
The NTR hit back later on Monday, stating that Zwarte Piet is changing in the television show and that the Sinterklaasjournaal news show does reflect the new mood. The show first introduced different coloured Piets in 2014 and that shift is irreversible, NTR director Paul Roemer and media director Carel Kuyl said in their rebuttal. ‘Zwarte Piet is changing and that is self-evident,’ they said. ‘The question is really about how you do this, and how fast you should move. The makers of the Sinterklaasjournal are caught up in the middle of that complicated process.’

Reform
Meanwhile, Sinterklaasjournaal reporter Dolores Leeuwin on Monday afternoon said she was leaving the programme because not enough was being done to reform the character of Zwarte Piet. ‘I am going to miss it, but I can no longer sell it to myself,’ Leeuwin, who is black, told Joop.nl. ‘The NTR is not making a choice, and if it is, it is taking the easy way out.’ The character of Zwarte Piet is played by white people in blackface make up.
© The Dutch News

up  

More than 700 migrants feared dead in Mediterranean

30/5/2016- More than 700 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week, making it the deadliest seven days for Europe-bound asylum seekers in more than a year. Migrant boats capsized in three separate incidents last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after more than 13,000 people set sail from Libya for Italy in an eight-day period. The vessel that sank on Thursday – a single wooden fishing boat being towed by a smugglers' boat from the Libyan port of Sabratha – had between 400 and 550 people on board, survivors said. Humanitarian organisations say many boats sink without a trace, making it difficult to establish the exact number of dead. A member of the German NGO Sea Watch described the scenes at sea as "gruesome”. Giorgia Liardi was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “There were already many dead bodies floating in the sea. Some of them were between life and death because they weren’t reacting, but still breathing.”

Calmer waters and warmer weather increased migrants' attempts to reach Europe, with Italy's southern islands being the main destinations. Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman in Italy for UNHCR, put the number of migrants and refugees missing in Thursday's incident at 550. She said 15 bodies were recovered, while 70 survivors were taken from the sea and 25 swam to the other boat, AP reported. Save the Children said most of the people on board were from Eritrea and included many women and children. Sami said an estimated 100 people were missing from a smugglers' boat that capsized on Wednesday. In Friday's shipwreck, 135 people were rescued, while 45 bodies were recovered and an unknown numbers of migrants were still missing, she said.

In April 2015 a single ship sank with an estimated 800 people trapped on board, prompting EU leaders to gather in Brussels a few days later to deal with the migration crisis. According to sources, the EU Commission plans to launch a communication on a "new migration compact" in early June aimed at tackling establishing deals with African countries to stem the flow of people to Italy.
© The EUobserver

up  

Swiss village chooses to pay Ł200,000 fine instead of accepting 10 refugees

30/5/2016- One of Europe's wealthiest villages has decided to pay a £200,000 fine instead of accepting around 10 refugees under its country's newly imposed quota. Residents in the picturesque Swiss village of Oberwil-Lieli said they voted 'no' in a referendum on whether to accept the refugees because "they wouldn't fit in." It comes after the Swiss government announced a quota system to meet its promise of allowing 50,000 asylum seekers into the country. By rejecting the government's plans, the village - which counts 300 millionaires among its population of 22,000 - has sent shockwaves across the country, with some accusing the residents of racism. The villagers must now fork out 290,000 Swiss francs (£200,000) as a forfeit for refusing to welcome the asylum seekers. One of them, who asked not to be named, told the MailOnline: "We do not want them here, it is as simple as that. "We have worked hard all our lives and have a lovely village that we do not want spoiled." They added: "We are not suited to take in refugees, they would not fit in here."

But another resident, a mother-of-two who asked not to be identified, said it was regrettable that the row has led to claims the village is selfish and racist. "It is only right that we do something to help others who are less fortunate," she said. "It makes the village look like we all do not care what happens to others and only look after ourselves. That is not how it is." Andreas Glarner, the town's right-wing mayor, denies the vote was motivated by racism and said the town rejected the quota because it was not told whether the refugees were Syrians or "economic migrants from other countries." "Yes, the refugees from Syria have to be helped and they are better served by being helped in the camps nearer their home," he said. "Money could be sent to help them, but if we are housing them here it sends out the wrong message. "Others will come and risk their lives crossing the ocean and paying people smugglers to bring them."

© The Telegraph

up  

Paris plans to build migrant camp in north of city - mayor

31/5/2016- Municipal authorities in Paris plan to build a camp to house several hundred refugees in the French capital, the mayor said on Tuesday, criticising the dire living conditions for migrants who have fled to Europe. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said city services were looking for a site in the north of the city and that the camp could be built within two months. Hidalgo cited as a model a migrant camp made up of modular cabins housing about 2,500 people in Grand-Synthe on the northern French coast. Opened in March, that camp is run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres. "We cannot accept any longer the humanitarian situation, the sanitary situation that migrants have to put up with," Hidalgo told reporters, without elaborating. It would be the first refugee camp in the Paris area. France has been much less affected by the migrant crisis than, for example, neighbouring Germany, which has taken in more than a million migrants, many fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, since last summer. However, thousands have transited France to reach the Channel in the hope of crossing to Britain. Some 3,900 migrants currently live in squalid conditions in a camp outside the port of Calais.
© Reuters

up  

France: Vote Marine Le Pen, says top jihadist recruiter

30/5/2016- A top French jihadist recruiting sergeant has issued an unlikely endorsement of Marine Le Pen saying the far-Right Front National leader defends the “true values of France” because she is against military involvement in Syria.

Omar Diaby, 40, self-proclaimed French chief of al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, is reportedly thought to have persuaded around 80 would-be jihadists to leave France for Syria to join Islamist ranks via slickly-produced online propaganda films. Subject to an international arrest warrant, it was thought Diaby, who comes from Nice, had died last August. In fact, the French national of Senegalese origin had spread rumours of his death on jihadist websites as a smokescreen while he underwent serious surgery in a foreign “Arab country” undetected. To prove he was still alive, the Al Nosra recruiter recently invited a Syrian cameraman working for Complément d’Enquête, a programme on state channel France 2, to film him at his “katiba”, or fighting unit, in Syria.

During an accompanying Skype interview, Diaby reportedly urged the French to vote for the Ms Le Pen, despite the fact that the far-Right leader has controversially likened Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France and has warned that the country is in the grip of “creeping Islamisation”. Mr Deby, however, said: “If the French don’t want war, they should vote Marine Le Pen.” “OK, she’s a woman, and one can call her a racist,” he began – referring to two points apparently he considered undesirable. “But at least she defends the true values of France,” he went on, in extracts cited by Le Monde. “This woman has asked French troops to leave because this war doesn’t concern them. Well, she’s totally right.”

Diaby, who goes by the combat name of Omar Omsen, is above all notorious for making propaganda videos under the title 19 HH that mix Hollywood clips with footage on the ground to reel in young French would-be jihadists. These include titles such as “The truth about Ben Laden” and “The truth about Islam”. Some have been seen tens of thousands of times. Ms Le Pen has been previously accused by rivals and most recently terror expert Gilles Kepel, of being an objective ally of Isil and other violent Islamist groups because both thrive on the politics of exclusion. IS last year published its recruitment framework in its online magazine, Dabiq, in which it called for the destruction of the “grey zone” occupied by most Muslims tolerant of “infidels” and its plan to foster animosity towards Muslims in Western societies.

Scott Atran, a Franco-American expert on Islamism, said the text “conscientiously exploits the disheartening dynamic between the rise of radical Islamism and the revival of the xenophobic ethno-nationalist movements that are beginning to seriously undermine the middle class – the mainstay of stability and democracy – in Europe”. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Ms Le Pen called claims she was playing into Isil’s hands “insulting”, telling Muslims that their best bet not to be “lumped together” with Islamist fundamentalism was to “point the finger at who we are really fighting” by voting FN.

In his interview to be aired on Thursday, Diaby distanced himself from Isil, saying its propaganda films “only excited rage” while his group “ask real questions in a more lucid manner” and was against “immediately imposing laws that people don’t understand” in foreign lands. However, the French national, thought to have become radicalised during several spells in prison for armed robbery and murder, condoned the Paris attacks of November in which terrorists claiming allegiance to IS killed 130 as “reprisals to French airstrikes”. By coincidence, the trial in Strasbourg of seven would-be jihadists recruited by Diaby’s former lieutenant starts on Monday. Among the defendants is the brother of Foued Mohamed-Aggad, one of the Bataclan killers.
© The Telegraph

up  

Ukraine: Gay parade in Kiev to turn into bloodbath, nationalists promise

30/5/2016-

On June 12, the LGBT community of Ukraine is to hold of a gay parade in Kiev. The event will called "The - See more at: http://www.pravdareport.com/news/society/stories/30-05-2016/134567-gay_parade_kiev-0/#sthash.B2dD1uMO.dpuf


On June 12, the LGBT community of Ukraine is to hold of a gay parade in Kiev. The event will called "The March of Equality". The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) is ready to take part in the event as well. They have already pledged to brutally disperse all who come to the march, spokesperson for the Right Sector nationalist movement Artem Skoropadsky wrote on his Facebook page. "Our colleagues from the OUN movement have released a strong statement about the gay parade in Kiev. In short, on June 12, there will be a bloodbath in Kiev. The organizers of the march still have time not to hold the march," he wrote. "Today, we are forced to accept LGBT marches and festivals, and thus join the ranks of sinners and those who cover them. Who is going to be equated on this Sabbath? Immoral freaks, clowns and degenerates will be equated with those who have honor and dignity, respect and love for their neighbor, soldiers who gave their lives and health protecting peace in the country?" a statement from the OUN said. Last year, there was an attempt made to organize a gay parade in Kiev as well. The march ended as soon as it started as violent clashes erupted immediately.
© Pravda Report
up  

Georgian Far-Right Nationalist Group Attacks Tbilisi Cafe

A group from the radical ultra-nationalist Georgian Power attacked employees and guests Sunday evening at a vegan cafe located in Tbilisi’s bustling city center.

30/5/2016- Witnesses said at least 15 far-right extremists stormed into the small Kiwi Café and began hurling sausages and meat at both the staff and the cafe’s customers. One witness, Nono Antidze, wrote on his Facebook page that the staff calmly asked the group to leave the premises quietly, but were shouted down by members of the group before they began rampaging through the cafe and attacking several of the people inside. “As soon as they came into the cafe a terrible quarrel started. They were shouting at the staff and throwing things around. They made a huge mess and began attacking people who were there to eat and take part in a film screening that Kiwi was hosting. They beat one of my friends and gave him a big gash on his head. Soon as the police came the group left,” eyewitness Ana Gulisashvili wrote on her Facebook page.

According to witnesses, law enforcement officials failed to pursue the extremist group and instead turned their attention to the cafe’s staff and customers, many of whom had alternative clothing and hairstyles. “Because most of the staff, and a lot of the guests, have piercings and mohawk hairstyles, the police thought they were the ones responsible for the incident. We can only hope that there were some working surveillance cameras (in the area). When they see those videos, they will know what happened,” Antidze wrote in an online post. Other witnesses said the police seemed to openly mock those in the cafe and laughed at the victims’ accounts of the incident. “We are now living in a type of hell where people are insulted for their different style of dress. They are beaten for having piercings and mocked for not eating meat. What is worse is that the police laugh at us and further aggravate the situation instead of protecting the city's residents,” Gulisashvili said in her Facebook post.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement to local media outlets saying that at official investigation has yet to be launched but confirmed that the staff and several witnesses were questioned.
© Georgia Today

up  

Poland/Italy: Holocaust monuments vandalized

Far-right anti-Semites target memorial in Poland, while far-left vandals desecrate Holocaust memorial in Italy.

30/5/2916- Newly-erected Holocaust monuments in Poland and Italy were vandalized by individuals who wrote on them far-right and far-left slogans, respectively. The Polish monument, which was unveiled in 2014 in the country’s northeast, was hit for the second time in a little over a year by unidentified culprits who broke off part of its surface and spray-painted expletives and a neo-Nazi symbol on what remained. In Italy, the assailants wrote “Burn the banks” on a Holocaust monument that was erected in February. The Italian monument vandalized was the Shoah Memorial of Bologna, 190 miles northwest of Rome, that was inaugurated at a central square in February. “Extinguish your mortgage, burn your banks,” the culprits wrote on one of the monument’s walls. They added an Anarchist symbol to the graffiti. Police was handling the case as a possible hate crime, the Corriere di Bologna daily reported Thursday.

In Poland, the monument’s stone tablet, which resembles a headstone, was shattered where it used to feature a Start of David etching according to Radio Bialystok, which reported that the attack occurred in recent days in Raigrod and was discovered Friday. The assailants spray painted in red offensive slogans and Odin’s Cross – a White supremacist version of the Celtic Cross, which consists of a square cross interlocking with or surrounded by a circle. The monument was erected in September 2014 in Raigrod, 130 miles northeast of Warsaw, and vandalized for the first time approximately half a year later. “The vandalization of this monument twice in 13 months is doubly painful,” said Gideon Taylor, chair of operations of The World Jewish Restitution Organization.

Beyond the damage caused by the act itself, the destruction was an attack on the memory of the genocide, he wrote in a statement Monday. “The authorities must step forward and take serious measures to find the perpetrators and to protect this and other such monuments,” he added. Taylor’s organization and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland in 2002 set up the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, which erected the monument with help from the local Jewish community near a Jewish cemetery that was destroyed in World War II.

Some 750 Jews lives in Raigrod before the Holocaust, constituting a third of the town’s population. In October 1942, Polish and German police officers deported most of them to Grajewo. Four brothers from the Zuckerbraun family, all of them butchers, were killed while resisting the deportation. The rest stayed at Raigrod for six days before they were deported to the Bogusza internment camp and from there the Auschwitz and Treblinka death camps, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Of the handful of Jews who escaped the Raigrod deportation, only one survived. The rest were caught and murdered by Poles or delivered by them to the Germans.
© JTA News

up  

Germany: Discrimination a 'widely underestimated problem' in housing market

A right-wing politician's remarks about a soccer player have focused attention on discrimination in housing. DW found that Germany's antidiscrimination law allows property owners to discriminate against renters.

30/5/2016- The question of racial discrimination in Germany's housing market surfaced following controversial comments made on Sunday by Alexander Gauland, deputy chairman of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The right-wing politician told German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" (FAS) that Germans may appreciate soccer player Jerome Boateng's performance on the field, but they wouldn't want him as a neighbor. "People find him good as a footballer," Gauland said. "But they do not want a Boateng as their neighbor." While his comments were met with an outpouring of support for Boateng on and off the field, the reality of racial profiling for Germans with migrant backgrounds is widespread in the housing market. Christine Lüders, head of Germany's Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS), told DW that Gauland's comments are "quite clearly racist thinking." "These statements are typical of a right-wing party like the AfD," Lüders said. Gauland's remarks highlight the thought process behind "people who discriminate against others because of their background," she added.

'Blatant segregation'
The German federal government in 2015 submitted a report to a UN committee on discrimination, stipulating housing and education as the "two areas of blatant segregation" in Germany. The report showed that Germany's General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) offered few protections for victims of discrimination. It added that many people are reluctant to bring about a legal case in light of blatant discrimination, which was best exemplified in a case where a couple was "denied the right to visit an apartment on the grounds that the it could not be rented to black people." "In our experience, discrimination in the housing market, particularly for people with a migrant background, is a large and widely underestimated problem," Lüders told DW.  "People with a migrant background have a difficult time being invited to a house tour. In a recent study, we were also able to prove that women who wear a headscarf have significantly more difficulties securing an apartment - even if their financial circumstances are quite good," she added.

Avoiding 'ghetto-formation'?
According to the European Commission, the AGG contributes to the propagation of discriminatory practices when it comes to renting. In the third subsection of AGG's section 19, property owners may discriminate against potential renters "with a view to creating and maintaining socially stable residential structures and balanced housing estates and also balanced economic, social and cultural conditions." A report by the German Institute for Human Rights added that "unequal treatment, which the provision permits in strictly-defined cases, is justified in order to avoid ghetto-formation." "The fact that a law specifically targeted at discrimination contains a directly discriminatory provision is most disturbing," said Germany's Forum Menschenrechte, a network of over 50 non-governmental human rights groups.

Discrimination takes many forms
However, racial profiling is not the sole form of discrimination found on the housing market. "There is discrimination based on religious affiliation, and the number of children potentially living in the rental […] People experience discrimination on the grounds of a disability, even structurally, such as with the limited amount of accessible housing, and also based on specific allocations to certain types of disabilities, such as mental impairment," Daniel Bartel, managing director of Germany's Antidiscrimination Association, told DW. "People can be discriminated against due to income and social status, which is not protected in the General Equal Treatment Act," Bartel added. The government's 2015 report also found that discrimination in the housing market "particularly applied to people, who property owners perceive as being members of the Muslim community." Last year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination issued a damning report on the subject, saying "racism is not only found in extreme right-wing circles, but in all parts of society."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: Battle over Boateng unmasks the racism of the AfD (opinion)

Berlin-based journalist Musa Okwonga argues that the row over national footballer Jerome Boateng shows the AfD is a racist party - not the defenders of European culture they claim to be.
By Musa Okwonga

30/5/2016- Alexander Gauland, the deputy leader of German political party AfD (Alternative for Germany), has just remarked that Jérôme Boateng, a member of the national football team, is not the kind of person most Germans would like living next door to them. His precise words, as quoted by the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, were that “people like him as a football player. But they don’t want to have a Boateng as their neighbour.” As many media have pointed out, Boateng – a beloved Bayern Munich defender as well as national player – is the son of a German mother and a Ghanaian father, and grew up in Berlin. As well as being a teetotaller and practising Christian, Boateng is seen as enough of a role model to fill in for absent captain Bastian Schweinsteiger in a friendly against Slovakia on Sunday – a role he might reprise at the upcoming Euro championships in France.

Gauland, though he probably thought he was too smart to avoid saying so directly, is implying that “a Boateng” is a black person, and that most white Germans wouldn’t like to live next to one. His dog-whistle gives rise to an obvious question: if even Boateng, one of the most respected footballers in Germany, both on and off the pitch, is not a good enough black neighbour for the average white German, then which black person is? Presumably, in Gauland’s private and unguarded moments, the answer is: “Absolutely none of them”. Gauland has since apologised for his comments, stating that “I don’t know him [Boateng] and would never come up with the idea of denigrating his personality.” Here, at least, he was being honest: he doesn’t know Boateng, and he wasn’t interested in Boateng’s personality at all. Instead, he was interested in using Boateng as a prop to peddle the AfD’s latest brand of racial and social division, and the most intriguing thing about his comments is how bold his party is becoming.

Just a few weeks ago, its members met in Stuttgart to discuss the party’s new direction, deciding that a rejection of Islam would be the AfD’s main focus. Gauland’s remarks about Boateng seem to make clear that even Christians are incompatible with German culture, disqualified by virtue of being black. The response to Gauland’s comments, both from within his party and without, was swift. AfD leader Frauke Petry, tweeted that: “Jérôme Boateng is a great footballer and rightly part of the German national team. I am looking forward to the Euros. #Neighbours.” Yet, for all Petry’s conciliatory words, there appears to be no disciplinary action against Gauland. He remains deputy leader of the AfD, and one might wonder just how much Petry truly disapproves of his views: for everyone else, there has never been a better time to pay them close attention. The AfD has been making notable gains due to its critiques of Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, and has successfully positioned itself as an anti-immigration voice.

Yet it is one thing to be wary of the economic disadvantages of immigration, and quite another to say that white Germans shouldn’t be at ease with a dark-skinned man next door. n the space of just a few months, the AfD has taken aim at refugees, then at Islam, and now at black people. This is a position that has swiftly moved from apparently political, to supposedly cultural, to openly racist. For as long as Gauland remains as the deputy leader of his party, and possibly for long beyond that, the AfD are declaring precisely who and what they are. Time will tell how many new recruits they draw to their cause, and how many voters genuinely feel that Germany is not a place where a Boateng can belong.
Musa Okwonga is a Berlin-based British poet, journalist, musician and PR consultant.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Bulgaria Deports Migrants Back to Greece

A first for the country might become the norm if part of new route to Europe.

30/5/2016- Bulgaria has detained two groups of migrants totaling almost 100 people, and has deported more than half back to Greece, the previous stop on their journey, AFP writes. As part of the initiative, which is a first for the Balkan country, the rest of the migrants will also be returned to Greece in the following days. The Bulgarian police detained the two groups – the first consisting of 56 Afghans hiding in a freight train, and the other of around 40 Syrians and Iraqis – on 28 May. "We have sent a strong message to traffickers who are exploiting these unfortunates," Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said according to AFP. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (pictured) praised the swiftness of the process, which he dubbed one of the quickest re-admission of migrants ever carried out in Europe, Novinite notes. On 29 May, Borisov, Bachvarova, and other Bulgarian officials met in Blagoevgrad, in southwestern Bulgaria, in an extraordinary meeting meant to address growing concerns that migrants may be attempting to find another route to Europe through the country.

The numbers have already increased since the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greece-Macedonia border was shut down. More than 10,000 people were stranded in the Idomeni camp because most Balkan countries closed their borders to migrants and refugees in February.
# A group of soldiers was sent to assist the border police units guarding the country’s frontier with Greece, after the group of migrants was detained.
# A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report showed that migrants and asylum seekers have been frequently abused by the Bulgarian border police, and sometimes even subjected to attacks by police dogs.
# An exhibition by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on display in Athens featured several exhibits inspired by the migrant crisis, such as tear gas canisters used by the Macedonian police, and silver-and-gold flags resembling blankets given to refugees, AFP writes.
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
© Transitions Online.

up  

Greece: Ethnic tensions at migrant camps seen as potential risk

29/5/2016- Authorities in northern Greece are concerned that clashes may break out along ethnic lines at the new centers hosting migrants and refugees evacuated from the Idomeni border camp this week. Critics claim that migrants have been grouped together indiscriminately, without due consideration given to their age and ethnic backgrounds. According to reports, children form the majority at most camps, while there has been growing resentment among many migrants over what is perceived as favourable treatment for Syrians when it comes to asylum claims. Rights groups say conditions at the new camps – located in industrial areas near Thessaloniki – are poor and serve as fertile ground for tension among migrants. “Tension cannot be avoided and the safety of refugees cannot be guaranteed if Idomeni was evacuated only to create little Idomenis here and there,” Achilleas Tzemos, the deputy coordinator of the Doctors Without Borders team, told Kathimerini on Saturday.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

Greece: Protests grow as refugees are moved to warehouses ‘not fit for animals’

Closure of Idomeni sees families living in military-run accommodation blocks with no running water or electricity

28/5/2016- Conditions inside a network of new permanent refugee camps in Greece have been described as so bleak and lacking in basic amenities that they are “not fit for animals”. Around 3,000 refugees were last week transported to the sites after a vast makeshift camp at Idomeni, near Greece’s border with Macedonia, was finally cleared by police. Photographic evidence and the first accounts from volunteers allowed inside some of the military-run accommodation blocks reveal a dire lack of amenities such as running water, and filthy conditions in derelict warehouses that appear unfit for habitation.

The closure of Idomeni also means that 4,000 men, women and children remain unaccounted for following the demolition of what was Europe’s largest makeshift refugee camp. The missing refugees, including an undefined number of unaccompanied minors, are thought to be living on the streets of Greek cities such as Thessaloniki, hiding in forests near the Macedonian border or to have been taken by smugglers north into Europe. With the border now shut, refugees heading for Europe are continuing to make the fraught journey from north Africa across the Mediterranean. Two boats capsized in a 24-hour period off the coast of Libya last week. At least five people died, and the Italian navy rescued 562, taking the total transferred to the country this year to around 40,000.

On Thursday, as the Idomeni camp was officially closed, the Italian coast guard announced it had coordinated 22 separate rescue operations that had saved more than 4,000 lives, making it one of the busiest days of the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Initial reports from inside the Greek camps have prompted calls for action. Images taken inside one new camp, in an industrial zone at Sindos, on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, reveal dirt-strewn warehouses lined with tents pitched on filthy concrete floors  “There was no running water, no medical care, let alone translators, no provisions for infants, no environmental assessment, no evacuation plan,” said Phoebe Ramsay, a volunteer who has been helping refugees in northern Greece since the start of the year. “The conditions in the new army camps are abysmal, and range from depressing and sterile to actually unsafe and not fit for animals,” she said, suggesting that conditions were even worse than at Idomeni, 50 miles north.

Volunteer Alexandria South, who visited another camp set up in an old leather factory on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, described atrocious conditions including piles of broken glass, and warehouses with all windows smashed. She said: “There was no running water or showers or electricity or firewood. Mothers had no hot water for baby formula or to sanitise bottles, and had to use cold water.” She said that conditions deteriorated when the Greek military, who were overseeing the evacuation of Idomeni, ran out of water and began ordering volunteers who were providing food and water for refugees to feed the army first. “The first day the army was providing limited water bottles for families,” said South. “But on the second day there was absolutely no water left – even with new arrivals showing up, some reporting that they were held for three hours without water at the camp.”

She said there were just six chemical toilets for an estimated 1,000 refugees and that no Wi-Fi had been provided, so it was impossible for people to make asylum claims. Similarly, refugees had not even been told where in Greece they had been relocated. Greece’s migration spokesman, Giorgos Kyritsis, from the governing leftist Syriza party, rejected accusations that the camps lacked basic provisions. “There is water and electricity everywhere. One of the reasons why we chose ex-industrial buildings instead of open-air camps was for that very reason. “Every time a new site is opened there are shortages in the beginning but then we add amenities and in due process we resolve them. We’re not saying conditions are perfect, we want to improve them but there is absolutely no comparison between the new facilities and Idomeni. At least now they have a roof over their head. When it rains they don’t get wet and they’re not being forced to live in the mud. Surely that’s an improvement?” He denied that thousands of refugees had gone missing after the Idomeni camp had been closed.

Other charities, including Médecins Sans Frontières, have reported a number of tearful patients who had been asked to leave Idomeni without clear information on their destination. On Friday the UN urged Greece to rapidly improve “substandard” conditions in what it described as poorly ventilated derelict warehouses and factories with insufficient food, water and toilets. The International Rescue Committee has also expressed concerns. It called for immediate action to improve standards. Since the route north through the Balkans closed earlier this year, an estimated 54,000 people have been stranded in overcrowded camps in Greece. However, arrivals have fallen significantly since the European Union’s deal with Turkey came into effect two months ago.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Claims of mass refugee immigration to UK branded 'false and bogus'

Migration Watch report that free movement rules will allow up to 500,000 refugees into the UK from elsewhere in Europe is criticised by remain campaigner.

31/5/2016- A new report saying that up to half a million refugees and their relatives could move to Britain after 2020 because of free movement rules has been branded “false and bogus” by the campaign to stay in the EU. The Migration Watch study argues that those granted asylum in Germany, Greece and Italy could settle in the UK in the coming years after they have acquired EU citizenship. The group, which campaigns for tighter border controls, said an analysis of EU figures showed that hundreds of thousands of people could take this route into the UK. Andrew Green, the crossbench peer who chairs the group, said: “The UK could well face a significant secondary flow of refugees from Europe in the coming years adding to the already huge strain being placed on housing and public services. “While the UK has so far been largely shielded from the crisis in southern Europe, this potential flow can only add to the impact of migration which is already seriously affecting communities across the country.”

The report uses figures from Eurostat projecting that about 1 million migrants will have been granted asylum or humanitarian protection for 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. Migration Watch said that leaked documents from Germany suggested each person was likely to be followed by at least four family members, suggesting the minimum total inflow to Europe could amount to 4.8 million over a period of years. It estimated that 480,000 could come to the UK after 2020 if one in 10 decided to move to Britain after gaining EU citizenship. The study was cited as “more evidence of the uncontrollable scale of immigration to this country” by Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, who is campaigning for Brexit. However, Britain Stronger in Europe, the official campaign to stay in the EU, said the study was based on the “false and bogus” assumption that refugees would be granted EU citizenship.

Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East and former shadow communities secretary, said evidence showed the “overwhelming majority of refugees will never get the right to come to Britain”. The out campaign is focusing on the risks of staying in the EU, with a speech by Chris Grayling, the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the remain campaign is planning to emphasise the benefits of staying in the EU to small businesses. Sajid Javid, the business secretary, will appear in Birmingham alongside seven current and former members of the line-up of business experts from the BBC’s Dragons’ Den to argue that leaving the EU would be “a reckless risk”. While the out campaign has argued that the EU is only good for big corporations, Javid will claim that 1.2 million small and medium-sized businesses rely on trade with the EU. He will say that a quarter of them either export to Europe or supply firms that export to Europe, countering the common Vote Leave argument that only a very small number of British firms rely on trade with Europe.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: 'Brexit' debate heats up after Albanian migrant rescue

30/5/2016- Eighteen Albanian migrants rescued off Britain's southern coast over the weekend might have thought they were sailing to a new life of opportunity. Instead they have found themselves the latest political football in the debate over whether the UK should leave the European Union. Immigration has been a hot-button issue in discussions on the so-called Brexit, a term used to describe the June 23 referendum on whether Britain will exit the EU, and reports of migrants arriving on Britain's shores appear to have renewed calls for tighter immigration controls. A sea and helicopter rescue was launched off the coast of Kent to reach the migrants, who were traveling with two Britons in a dinghy, the UK Home Office said. They were taken to Dover for questioning by Border Force officers.

The two British men, Mark Stribling, 35, and Robert Stilwell, 33, have been charged under the Immigration Act of 1971 and appeared in a magistrate's court Monday morning, the Home Office told CNN. The rescue has raised concerns the English Channel may become the new Mediterranean Sea, which has seen the biggest movement of asylum seekers into Europe since World War II. At least 1,475 migrants have died this year making the perilous journey in the Mediterranean in crowded boats, according to the IOM. Three boats sank in the Mediterranean Sea within the past week, and officials fear the death toll could soar to more than 700. A recent refugee-swap deal between the EU and Turkey has dramatically slowed the flow of boats crossing the Mediterranean, and now there's concern migrants will make longer overland journeys to France and cross the English Channel, a busy shipping route that poses serious risks to the small dinghies used by refugees. It is unclear how such a small boat made it so close to the British coast. 

Politicians campaigning to leave the EU have been quick to renew their calls following the rescue. Nigel Farage, leader of the far-right UK Independence Party, said that Britain "must not make the same mistake as the EU has done over the Mediterranean situation" or "we are likely to find the English Channel becoming a mortuary." "We have all seen the horrors of the Mediterranean, with thousands crossing and hundreds dying, we cannot allow that to happen off the shores of Kent and Sussex," Farage said. He said it was important to make it clear migrants arriving by boat would not be allowed to remain in the country. The Vote Leave campaign tweeted quotes by politicians from more main-stream parties, such as Home Secretary Theresa May, who said free movement in the EU "makes it harder to control immigration." As a member of the EU, Britain must welcome citizens of other member nations as residents and allow them to work in the country. Another tweet cited Parliament member Iain Duncan-Smith, who says Britain is losing control of its borders.

Right-wing media also raised a red flag, with The Sun describing the English Channel as the "new front line" of the migrant crisis. But the National Crime Agency told CNN that people crossing the channel was nothing new, with numerous incidents of vessels being used to smuggle people and being intercepted. A representative said the Albanian case received more media attention because a rescue effort was involved. But the agency warned that there was a current threat of people using smaller ports to enter the country.
At a media briefing last month by the agency, the deputy director of border policing command said gangs are being paid as much as £12,000 (about $17,500) to smuggle people into the UK on inflatable boats. The agency could not confirm exact figures of migrants trying to cross the channel, but it said that rigid-hulled inflatable boats, known as RHIBs, have long been used to transport migrants across the narrow stretch of sea.
© CNN

up  

UK: The Guardian view on the counter-extremism bill(Editorial)

The government is struggling to produce its promised new bill against extremism. That’s because the plans in it may prove counter-productive.

30/5/2016- The government needs a strategy against violent extremism but the one it is lumbering towards is incoherent and liable to be profoundly counterproductive. The counter-extremism bill promised in the Queen’s speech is proving a nightmare to draft, but this is because it is difficult for even the most skilled lawyers to be clear when the underlying concept is as confused as the government’s idea of extremism.

Violence is easy enough to define. It may be legitimate or illegitimate, but it’s clear whether something is violent. Extremism, by contrast, is always relative to something that is not extreme, some mainstream opinion or practice. So what constitutes an extremist idea is partly defined by context – and this can shift between times and places. Fifty years ago, or even 20, anyone who campaigned for gay marriage would have been an extremist. A hundred years ago the racism of today’s far right would have been well within the mainstream of British discourse. Nor is it just ideas which can be extremist in this sense. There are some conservative cultural or religious practices which are right outside the mainstream of British practice, and some of those, such as FGM, are rightly illegal too.

Last year’s government counter-extremism strategy paper, which the upcoming bill will presumably reflect, laid much stress on the wickedness of FGM. And it is an evil, which the government should stamp out. But it is “extremist” only in the social sense. It has nothing to do with ideologies that can inspire or justify violence. Some Christians and animists practice it as well as some Muslims. For an ideology to be one of violent extremism, it needs to justify killing, and it needs to be held with such passion that its adherents are willing to die for it. What makes such ideas appear credible or convincing are not really their own intrinsic qualities: no one sane could now read Mein Kampf or Mao’s Little Red Book and take either seriously. But in the societies and at the times when they were influential they were very powerful indeed. This is why the government’s concentration on the intellectual content of jihadi ideologies is misplaced. The ideas they contain do need to be held up to ridicule but that is a job for civil society, rather than for government propaganda.

When the government talks about violent extremism, it is Muslims that it really worries about. That matters because the fear of terrorism is at least as damaging to society as the acts themselves. 9/11 did far less damage to America’s strength and interests than the subsequent invasion of Iraq. There is a danger of such a backlash on a much smaller scale here. David Anderson, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation, has said that “mistrust of Muslims is often linked to reports of terrorism and whipped up by mainstream media whose coverage can be grossly irresponsible”. But there is no danger of the government legislating against the rightwing press. Instead, we are offered a programme of legislation against those preachers cunning enough not to break the law as it presently stands, along with increased use of the NHS, the civil service, and institutions of higher education to be ideologically vigilant against perfectly legal ideas which the government finds repulsive.

This has to be wrong even if the ideas are repulsive. If free speech and tolerance are core British values, this is not the way to defend them. There are some dreadful things said in British mosques today. The widespread praise for the killer of Salman Taseer, a politician with the bravery to condemn Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, is very worrying. So is the hate speech against Ahmadiyya Muslims. But we don’t need new laws to deal with such problems. We need only greater openness, and more attention paid by the outside world to what is actually said in such places, and then the disinfectant of public scorn. The remedy for bad speech is good speech, not to turn large parts of the machinery of government into a sort of secret police force.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: Church Minister investigated over far-right and Islamophobic posts

Father David Lloyd, of the Newcastle parish in Bridgend, has since deleted his social media accounts.

30/5/2016- A minister is being investigated by the Church in Wales after posting on social media in support of far-right and Islamophobic groups. The Reverend Father David Lloyd, from Bridgend , posted on his Facebook page about “idiots” who dismissed the anti-Islam movement Pegida or Britain First video posts. The post read: “Those idiots who dismiss Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) or Britain First video posts, out of hand, should grow up, overcome their prejudices and WATCH the content before judging. “You might discover these groups are working hard for YOUR freedom and YOUR children’s future while you stand idly by.” Father Lloyd, who represents the Newcastle Parish (central Bridgend) in the Diocese of Llandaff , shared Facebook posts from groups such as Islam Exposed, and told his followers controversial figure Tommy Robinson of Pegida should be “applauded and supported”.

He also posted about comedian Lenny Henry who he claimed was “never happy”. he Reverend added: “BBC is “too white” for him now. He wanted to get rid of the Minstrels Show. Knight ‘em and they go political.” The posts drew criticism online with anti-hate group IRBF calling for his resignation. Father Lloyd has since deleted his social media accounts, but the IRBF have screen grabbed them and posted the messages from their own Twitter accounts. Before deleting his accounts, Father Lloyd posted on Facebook: “Due to abusive phone calls to my wife, me and now my superiors at The Church in Wales, I will no longer be posting as an individual. My parish page will still run. “Thanks for all the fun you’ve shared with me and for helping me through the dark, painful and sleep deprived times. “From an alleged ‘racist and Islamophobe’ and your friend David.”

A spokeswoman from the Church in Wales said Father Lloyd had “apologised” for the messages. She added: ““The Revd David Lloyd’s views expressed in his tweets were his personal ones and not those of the Church in Wales. “He has apologised for any offence they caused and has closed down his social media accounts.” Father Lloyd was approached for comment but has not responded.
© Wales Online

up  

UK: Five arrests after far right protest scuffle near York Minster

Five men were arrested after altercations broke out between members of a far right protest and the public near York Minster on Saturday afternoon.

29/5/2916- Around 30 to 40 protestors, who had travelled from various areas of the country, had gathered close to the Minster before the scuffle broke out just after 3pm. North Yorkshire Police, who were monitoring the protest, said they quickly brought the situation under control and arrested four of the protestors and one member of the public. The rest of the protest group were escorted back to York railway station by police officers to prevent any further disturbances. Superintendent Dave Hannan of North Yorkshire Police, said: “Everyone has a right to peaceful and lawful protest, however, the police will not tolerate racist, offensive or violent behaviour. “The situation was soon brought under control with offenders arrested and the remaining protestors escorted out of the city. “Detectives will continue to investigate the incident and will take action against any further offences they identify as a result of their enquiries.”

The arrested men include a 25-year-old man from Weymouth who was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace and for failing to supply his details. A 25-year-old man from West Bromwich on suspicions of racially aggravated public order offence. A 31-year-old man from Horley, Surrey on suspicion of using threatening words/behaviour. A 21-year-old man from Swansea on suspicious of a public order offence and a 27-year-old man from York on suspicion of using threatening words/behaviour. Separately, far-right demonstrators will take part in a second march in Dover, following arrests as protesters took to the street on Saturday. Two men were arrested in the town on suspicion of being involved in violence at a previous protest in January.

Saturday’s march, with counter-protests, passed peacefully following a large police presence in the town. Before the demonstration began, police detained the men, a 33-year-old from Margate and a 35-year-old from Dover, on suspicion of violent disorder in connection with a protest on January 30 which erupted into violence. A second march is set to take place later beginning at Dover Priory railway station. Following the January demonstration, in which smoke bombs were let off and bricks thrown at police, officers seized more than 20 weapons, including a knuckle duster, and three people were arrested.
© The Yorkshire Post

up  

Britain First leader Paul Golding arrested during party campaign in Leicester

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, said: 'This is a multi-racial city and you are not welcome here'

28/5/2016- The leader of Britain First, Paul Golding, has been arrested after the party were surrounded by protestors during a campaign in Leicester city centre. Golding and around 20 Britain First activists set up a stand handing out party leaflets in Gallowtree Gate on Saturday. Pictures uploaded on social media, as well as videos by Britain First, show angry crowds of protestors gathered near the stand chanting “losers”. Leicester City mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, reportedly confronted Golding during the demonstration saying: “This is a multi racial city and you are not welcome here. I have a mandate from 77,000 voters and I say on their behalf, leave Leicester," Leicester Mercury  reports. Golding, who turned his back Sadiq Khan during his announcement as London’s new mayor at City Hall earlier this month, was forced to abandon an anti-EU demonstration in Leicester last week after members of the party were escorted back to their vehicles by police.

Responding to Sir Peter’s remarks, Golding allegedly said: “We left because we were threatened with arrest if we did not go. We came back to disprove media statements that said we were driven out. We are here peacefully to hand out our leaflets.” Golding was later arrested by Leicestershire Police for breach of bail. A police spokeswoman said officers attended the demonstration in Leicester at 11:40am on Saturday in order to “facilitate a peaceful protest”. “A 34-year-old man was arrested for breach of bail and remains in police custody,” she added. Britain First confirmed the arrest on their Facebook page. Speaking in a video, Golding previously said: “We are not being moved today. The police can get stuffed as far as I’m concerned.” The far-right group were heckled by around 100 people as they flew two Union Flags and played martial music from their city centre stand. Golding accused the protestors of being traitors from outside of Leicester.
© The Independent

up  

Czech lawyer investigated over anti-Islam rhetoric

27/5/2016- The state attorney's office and the Czech Bar Association (CAK) have started dealing with lawyer Klara Samkova's statements about Islam against which the Turkish ambassador protested, state attorney Jan Lelek and CAK spokeswoman Iva Chaloupkova told journalists on Friday. Samkova, a former member of the Bloc Against Islam, said Islam was the same as Nazism, fascism and communism. "It is a state criminal ideology," she is quoted as having said at a seminar about Islam in the Chamber of Deputies. Islam must be dealt with just as all totalitarian regimes. It must be fought, it must be beaten and its spread must be prevented for once and all, she said. The Czech Foreign Ministry said such a comparison was unacceptable and called for an interreligious dialogue. Samkova's words were denounced by ambassador of Turkey Ahmet Bigali, who said she had offended Islam and state attorneys should start investigating it.

After Samkova's speech some of the invited diplomats, including Bigali, walked out of the room. The seminar called "Shall We Be Afraid of Islam?" was held on May 18. "I think that the Czech Republic's representatives should expel the ambassador because he is interfering in the affairs of a different country," Samkova said in reaction to the criticism. Justice Minister Robert Pelikan (ANO) said Samkova's statements disgraced the Czech Republic. "People who speak in the parliament building ought to be aware that their statements go beyond the Czech borders," he told CTK. Pelikan said the Austrian ambassador to Prague whom he met on the day after the seminar was absolutely shocked by Samkova's words.

Pelikan said previously on Twitter that hate speeches aimed against any religion can be qualified as inciting to hatred against a group, which may be punished with imprisonment. "We have been dealing with the statements in our own right since the moment they were made," Lelek said, adding that he had passed the case to the police. The CAK reacted to Samkova's rhetoric, too. "Based on the media information, the CAK secretary has asked the CAK disciplinary body to check Samkova's words, whether they are in keeping with the code of ethics defining lawyers' behaviour," Chaloupkova said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Czech Rep: Bloc Against Islam dissolved, new movement established

28/5/2016- The national congress dissolved the Czech Bloc against Islam (BPI) movement and a new movement called the Initiative of Martin Konvicka was established, BPI chairman Konvicka has told CTK. A group of delegates from several regions, who complained about "Bolshevik-like practices" and manipulations by the leadership, left the congress earlier on Saturday. Konvicka denied manipulations connected with letting people in to attend the congress negotiations and called the dissatisfied delegates liars. The movement, which criticises Islamisation of Europe and the flow of refugees, has a crossed-out mosque in its logo. The group that left the meeting says the dissolving of the Bloc was part of the plan of Konvicka and deputy chairman Petr Hampl to avoid paying a contractual fine to the Dawn-National Coalition, an opposition party it the lower house.

The party is entitled to the fine after the Bloc withdrew from the agreement on cooperation in the autumn regional and Senate elections. Dawn-National Coalition deputy chairman Marek Cernoch confirmed that his party demanded some 9.5 million crowns from the BPI. Dawn wants to get the money it spent on promotion and other costs, for instance, on Konvicka's lawyer, back as a matter of principle and donate it to a fund of children in need, Cernoch told CTK. He added that the party would even turn to a court to claim the fine. Daily Pravo wrote in March that the BPI would have to pay Dawn 60 million crowns if it ended cooperation. The sum is to cover the supposed costs of the election campaigns this and next years. This is why the real fine is lower and corresponds to the spent costs. Despite it, it would completely damage the BPI. Konvicka withdrew from the agreement with Dawn at the end of April. Hampl agreed with the step, but the third member of the executive committee, Jana Volfova, was against it.

Though the action council of the movement confirmed the decision in early May, the Bloc split because of it. The new movement also elected its leadership on Saturday. It should cooperate with the prepared Alternative for the Czech Republic in the next elections, Konvicka said. However, different people should be at the helm of both groupings, Hampl, who is a member of the Alternative's preparatory committee, told CTK. He also dismissed the speculations that the name, referring to the German Alternative for Germany (AfD), had been "taken" by someone else, which some media reported on Saturday. The dissatisfied delegates complained that the BPI had been damaged by fraudsters and lobbyists. They called on its members, including Konvicka, not to let themselves be manipulated and to actively participate in the regional polls. They would like to continue their work in the Bloc against Islamisation and plan to cooperate with Dawn as well.

The delegates, who left the congress in the morning, say the remaining number of delegates did not make the quorum to make decisions, such as to dissolve the Bloc. However, Prague BPI division deputy head Radek Novacek indicated that the group would not likely to challenge the decision to dissolve the BPI.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Austria: Freedom Party claims election fraud rife

Austria's far-right is probing "countless" cases of fraud in last week's presidential election that saw its candidate lose by a narrow margin, the party chief was quoted as saying on Sunday.

29/5/2016- "We are going to get the countless indications (of irregularities) looked at by an independent, neutral body and then decide" whether to challenge the result, Freedom Party (FPÖ) head Heinz-Christian Strache said. "There are lots of indications coming from voters, and so far five criminal complaints where the law was obviously broken," he told the populist Kronen-Zeitung daily in an interview published on Sunday. "The result of the election could change," Strache said. Last Sunday's election saw the FPÖ's candidate Norbert Hofer fail by just 31,026 votes to become the European Union's first president from the continent's increasingly popular anti-immigration far-right.

Prompting huge relief from Europe's centrist parties, former Green Party chief Alexander Van der Bellen was instead declared to have won the runoff for Austria's largely ceremonial but coveted presidency. Mirroring the rise of other populists in Europe and beyond, Hofer had tapped into unease about immigration and Austria's faltering economy to win support not just among poorer, less educated voters but across the board. Last week Austrian authorities said they were investigating several cases of alleged election irregularities. For the most part, however, the allegations concerned postal votes being opened for counting too early, which experts say is thought unlikely to change the overall result. Strache meanwhile has been forced to call for supporters to tone down their rhetoric after some fans called for violence against Van der Bellen and even published his address on Strache's popular Facebook page. According to press reports, this has prompted police to beef up security around Van der Bellen.

The FPÖ is now looking ahead to the next general elections, due in 2018. The party is leading the opinion polls with more than 30 percent, while the two centrist parties in the governing coalition look set to fall short of a majority. In a Gallup poll of 600 people published on Sunday by the Oesterreich daily newspaper, the FPÖ was in first place on 34 percent. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) of Chancellor Christian Kern were on 24 percent, and their centre-right coalition partners the People's Party (ÖVP) was on 21 percent.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria: Neo-Nazi arrested after asylum-seeker threats

Austrian police commandos have arrested a suspected neo-Nazi who allegedly threatened to massacre asylum-seekers, recovering several weapons and ammunition at his home, police said Sunday.

29/5/2016- The 20-year-old "repeatedly told friends that he wanted to 'shoot dead all asylum-seekers with his shotgun' at a refugee centre", police in Upper Austria state said in a statement. The man also used neo-Nazi language and sent a friend two text messages that included "National Socialist ideology," police said. In a raid on his home in the Linz-Land district on Thursday, police also found wartime Nazi memorabilia. Elite "Cobra" commandos arrested him near his home in the early hours on Friday. Austria last year received some 90,000 asylum requests, the second highest per capita in the European Union, and saw around 10 times that number pass through towards Germany and Scandinavia. The influx has boosted the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) -- which says it rejects all violence -- but Austria has largely been spared the attacks against refugees seen in neighbouring Germany.

Last Sunday a man with neo-Nazi links opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle at a concert in Vorarlberg state in western Austria, killing two people and injuring 12 before shooting himself. Police said the man, who until 2013 was active in the local skinhead scene, had several assault convictions and was banned from owning weapons, had had an argument with his girlfriend shortly beforehand. On Friday evening some 1,500 motorbikes -- the concert was organised by local biker gang "The Lords" -- drove in a huge convoy past the venue in memory of those killed and against violence.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Latvia: Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage request will be considered

28/5/2016- Latvia's Supreme Court on Friday overturned an administrative court decision to refuse an application to register a same-sex marriage, reported LSM via LETA. Supreme Court press spokeswoman Baiba Kataja said that the court agrees with the administrative court decision that current regulations do not allow registering same-sex marriages in Latvia. The matter however should have been considered in a context not of marriage, but of registering familial partnership, and it should be established whether the refusal does not contravene the Latvian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. That means, continues the Supreme Court, that it's impossible to conclude whether the applicants' rights weren't violated unless their claim is accepted and reviewed in a proper manner.
© Public broadcasting of Latvia

up  

Headlines 27 May, 2016

Bosnia War Victims Slate Call to Release Karadzic

Representatives of Bosnian victims' associations have condemned reports that the Hague tribunal is considering temporarily releasing the former Bosnian Serb leader.

27/5/2016- Radovan Karadzic’s lawyer told the media on Thursday that Karadzic has requested temporary release to attend a commemoration ceremony of his brother’s death. Petronijevic added that the Serbian government had provided guarantees that Karadzic will not flee justice. Hatidza Mehmedovic, president of the “Srebrenica mothers” association, told BIRN that she was shocked the proposal was not immediately rejected. “I am gutted. We believe in this court, but it has turned into a market. If this happens, that will be a stain on the international community. We hoped for justice, but without justice there is no better future,” Mehmedovic said.

Fikret Grabovica, president of the association of parents of children killed in the Bosnian Serb siege of Sarajevo, said that this would be another failure of the Hague court. “The Tribunal is making one mistake after another. This would be the biggest yet. It is surreal to release Karadzic for a minute, especially to [release him to] Serbia,” Grabovica whose daughter was killed by a Bosnian Serb sniper in Sarajevo, said. Nihad Kljucanic, president of the association of former camp detainees in Sanski Most, also said that Karadzic should not be released. “I am shocked this is being discussed. How can be he released to a commemoration for his brother’s death, when so many were killed and have no commemoration?” Kljucanin asked. Petronijevic said that the decision on whether Karadzic will be released will be made by Tuesday.

Karadzic previously asked to be granted temporary release in April, pending a decision on his appeal to the verdict which sentenced him to 40 years in prison for genocide in Srebrenica, crimes in Sarajevo, persecution of non-Serbs and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. A decision regarding this request has still not been made.
© Balkan Insight

up  

EU: Headache for Brussels as Slovakian leader declares 'no place' for Islam

Islam has “no place” in Slovakia, the country's prime minister has declared, weeks before he is due to take over the rotating presidency of the EU.

27/5/2015- Slovakia is a fierce opponent of the European Commission’s plans to enforce migrant quotas, and is taking legal action to halt the scheme. As such, Slovakia’s chairmanship of the bloc for six months from July presents a major headache for Brussels. The country has boycotted Mr Juncker’s quotas scheme for 160,000 refugees – which he wants to make a permanent system of handling asylum crises, backed up with fines of €250,000 for each refugee a state refuses to take. “This may be seem strange…but I’m sorry Islam has no place in Slovakia,” Robert Fico said. “I think it is the duty of politicians to talk about this openly and clearly.  “I do not wish tens of thousands of Muslims coming here and promoting their own stuff,” he continued, adding that taking in Muslims would threaten Slovakian traditions that “go back centuries”.

Mr Fico’s comments dispelled speculation that he might tone down his anti-Islamic immigration rhetoric ahead of Slovakia taking over the presidency. The position plays a major role in chairing the meeting of national ministers and tabling proposals, and requires close co-operation with the Commission, the EU’s full-time executive. The post also provides a major platform for Slovakian leaders to hold forth. The post is currently held by the Netherlands. Official papers reveal that Mr Juncker expects countries such as Slovakia to be stripped of billions of pounds in EU infrastructure funding as punishment for their refusal to take part in the quotas scheme. The "solidarity" that rich countries show former communist countries is not a "one way street", Mr Juncker warned at a recent meeting. Commissioners are recorded as saying that “there was a danger that the EU’s solidarity towards Member States that were net beneficiaries of cohesion funds would be called into question if there were no reciprocal solidarity in the management of refugees.”

“If the allocation of cohesion funds were to be called into question, this would have a considerable impact both on the EU’s internal affairs and on its fundamental values, particularly with regard to solidarity between Member States.” Mr Juncker is recorded as saying there is a “real risk that the principle of solidarity could be called into question in all EU policy areas if it were not also applied in the reception of asylum seekers.” Earlier this year Mr Fico pledged that “will never - under a quota system - bring one single Muslim to Slovakia”, saying that they represented a security risk. Mr Fico has also said that it “is impossible to integrate Muslims”, and on his watch Slovakia has even filed a law suit against the EU over its quota policy. The country has said it wants to promote a “sustainable” migration policy that will protect the EU’s external borders during its six months in control of the presidency. It also wants the EU to become “more attractive for highly qualified migrants”.
© The Telegraph

up  

Meet the Soldiers of Odin USA (Report)

The Extreme European Anti-Refugee Group Comes to America

27/5/2016- Only months after its formation in Finland, a controversial anti-refugee vigilante group known as the Soldiers of Odin has already found a welcome home in the United States. Its new American chapter, known as Soldiers of Odin USA, has —just since February —already amassed thousands of American members and cheerleaders ready and eager to support the group’s chapters in Finland and other countries — and to bring its anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and refugee-hating ideology to American shores. Moreover, Soldiers
of Odin USA is attracting adherents from both of the two largest segments of the American extreme right—white supremacists and the anti-government extremist “Patriot”
movement — and may be the most significant coalition of such extremists in the U.S. since the early 1990s. Soldiers of Odin USA held its first formal “patrol” in a Denver suburb in March and more are on the way, raising the specter of a new wave of vigilante activity like the anti-immigrant Minutemen of a decade ago. Read full report.
© Anti-Defamation League

up  

Growing anti-immigrant and Islamophobia among key trends 2015, says ECRI

26/5/2016- The ongoing migration crisis and the terror attacks were the key factors that influenced public debate and policies in Europe in 2015, said the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its annual report published today. With Europe is witnessing an unprecedentedly high number of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war, persecution and poverty, the commitment of many European countries to human rights-oriented migration policies was brought to the test.

Some governments resorted to restrictive border crossing measures, deterring migrants and asylum seekers from staying on their territories and criminalising the provision of aid to irregular migrants thus needlessly blurring the legal boundaries between abetting human trafficking or migrants’ smuggling and providing humanitarian assistance, the report says. In other countries, however, a “welcome culture” developed, where authorities and local volunteers dedicated their time and resources to assist the arriving people. In the second half of 2015, scepticism about the local ability to cope with the increasing number of migrants and asylum-seekers was voiced, against the background of openly xenophobic and islamophobic public debate and a number of attacks against reception centres.

“Countries need to combat racist violence and implement integration policies for migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees”, said Christian Ahlund, Chairperson of ECRI. “The principle of fair distribution is a key element for the development of effective policies in this delicate area.” The terror attacks in Paris in January and November, and in Copenhagen in February further added to the islamophobic sentiment and were misused by populist political parties to stir up prejudice and hatred against Muslims in general. Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland warned against this trend: “In some places we see the mainstream chasing after populists, and they are playing a dangerous game. We must be unapologetic in our efforts to fight hate speech, promote tolerance and inclusion to help our societies stand together through these difficult times.”

Another trend noted by ECRI is antisemitism, which increased further in 2015, after levels had already peaked in many countries in the preceding year. ECRI also observed continued discrimination against Black persons, Roma and Travellers, and LGBT persons, even though the situation of these groups and the success of policies aimed at assisting them varies considerably across the continent. Austerity measures exacerbated the situation of vulnerable groups in many countries in Europe; the budget cuts also affected institutions working to prevent and combat racism and intolerance, and undermined their effectiveness, ECRI notes.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

up  

Turkish LGBT group releases annual report on hate crimes

26/5/2016- The Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (Kaos GL) has published an annual report monitoring human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, calling on the Turkish state to adopt anti-discriminatory measures to prevent hate crimes against LGBT individuals that remain largely unreported by media and security authorities. Noting that the findings of the report were based on crimes that were only reported in local media, Kaos GL announced that five hate murders, 32 hate attacks, two cyber-attacks and three suicide cases were reflected in the press in 2015. Fifteen of the hate attacks were committed by more than one person while there was alleged police involvement in two of the attacks. Twelve were committed with sharp objects, two involved the use of firearms and one featured arson.

The report criticized discriminatory rhetoric and practices adopted by politicians and state institutions, calling on the Turkish Republic to implement the necessary regulations to fulfill its international responsibilities on human rights. Accordingly, four of the nine cases of hate speech that were reported in the media were uttered by political figures, namely, President Recep Tayyip Erdođan, then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutođlu, then-Deputy PM Yalçýn Akdođan and Interior Minister Efkan Ala. In their remarks, the aforementioned politicians targeted an LGBT deputy candidate from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Barýţ Sulu, and slammed the same party’s political promises on LGBT rights and the legalization of gay marriages.

The report also slammed a crackdown by Istanbul police on the LGBT Pride Parade in June 2015 with tear gas and water cannon, saying it transformed the hatred against LGBTs into a “call for massacre,” as politicians also added fuel to the flames. The violent crackdown was preceded by an Islamist group called the “Young Islamic Defense” which pinned posters to walls and lamp posts in Ankara, threatening gays with death. “Should those who engage in ugly behavior and adhere to the practice of the people of Lot be killed?” read posters that appeared in the Turkish capital overnight, referring to Lot, who features in the Old Testament and the Quran. Many Muslims believe that the decline of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stemmed from the sexual preferences of their inhabitants.

Kaos GL concluded the report by listing its legal demands, including the implementation of constitutional guarantees against hate crimes, the launch of an efficient campaign against the use of hate speech by politicians, the clarification of “infamous crimes” to strictly inhibit its anti-LGBT interpretation and an end to the Turkish Armed Forces’ categorization of prospective LGBT soldiers as people with a “gender identity disorder.” The association also urged the introduction of training schemes prepared in collaboration with civil society organizations to ensure that members of the security forces do not resort to homophobic, transphobic and discriminatory practices.
© The Hurriyet Daily News

up  

Italy plans a cemetery for refugees drowned at sea

A field beside a former fascist concentration camp could soon become the final resting place for hundreds of refugees.

27/5/2016- Few refugees imagine ending up in a field in the toe of Italy's boot. But this rural slope between Tarsia, a hilltop town in the Calabria region, and the remains of the country's largest fascist concentration camp, may soon become the final resting place for those who lose their lives en route to Italian shores. "Dedicating a part of our territory to the burial of these victims is simply an act of great humanity," says the town's mayor, Roberto Amerusa, who is spearheading a campaign to build the first cemetery for victims of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. Amerusa governs a community of just 2,000 people in Tarsia - a "land of peace and solidarity", according to a sign at the top of the windy road into town. While rural Calabria may appear an unusual location for such a project, the mayor insists such a gesture is in the "cultural DNA" of a town living with the legacy of the Ferramonti concentration camp.

Refugees from another time
Established by fascist leader Benito Mussolini in 1940, the camp housed more than 3,000 people, mostly foreign Jews who the Italians interned there with the intention of later moving them to Nazi Germany. The transfer never happened, and Ferramonti was liberated by British forces in 1943. Among those freed were survivors from a shipwreck. Around 500 Jews had been picked up by an Italian warship in 1940 after their boat, the SS Pentcho, was shipwrecked in the Aegean Sea. They had attempted a dramatic escape down the Danube River from Bratislava. "The story of these people that were saved from the water, moreover in the Aegean Sea, today the theatre of this migratory wave ... makes this history ever more current," says Amerusa.

'Dignity at least in death'
A total of 8,632 people have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe by sea since the start of 2014, according to UN figures. While many of the bodies are never recovered, those brought ashore have in the past been buried in various cemeteries in southern Italy. It was one particular shipwreck - when 360 people drowned on October 3, 2013 - that prompted a Calabrian activist to call for a rethink of the somewhat haphazard burial practice. "Seeing those coffins and those people without a name, because they were buried and almost all continue to be buried with a number, is inhuman," says Franco Corbelli, who approached various town halls before his idea was accepted in Tarsia. "We must give [them] dignity at least in death ... Each one has a relative; each one has a mother, a brother, a sister. If one day they want to go and bring a flower or say a prayer, where will they go?" he asks.

A refugee cemetery
Putting the plans for a refugee graveyard into motion has fallen to Francesco Sansone, Tarsia's technical officer, who has spent more than 30 years working at the town hall. Surrounded by project diagrams and maps, he outlines the cemetery design, which includes a memorial and a chapel. "You need to take account of the religions, because they're very important," Sansone says, explaining the different burial options, including space for funeral urns. "No one knows which religion these poor people are from. It's thought the majority would be Muslim, but not only ... also Christians, so we've prepared for a bit of everything." The one-hectare Tarsia site also fills a local need, as there is no space left in the town's nearby graveyard. Sansone's plans, therefore, include a large section dedicated to Italians, separated from the refugee cemetery by Purgatory Street. Amerusa says citizens were initially sceptical about the idea, but have come round to it. The mayor is also aware a refugee cemetery could have financial benefits for his town, likely drawing visitors and creating jobs, although he says such an evaluation was not a motivation.


A signal of unity
On the streets of Tarsia, one local describes the project as "a beautiful thing, to do this for the migrants". Joining the debate outside a cafe, where most conversation is conducted in thick Calabrian dialect, another man says the cemetery is "the right thing to do". But elsewhere one business owner says he doubts the government will pay for the project, reflecting on the high costs of sea rescue operations which he has heard about on TV. A detailed outline of figures puts the projected costs at 4.3 million euros ($4.8m), with Tarsia seeking co-financing from the Calabria region and Italy's interior ministry. Neither office was immediately available to discuss the plans, which were submitted earlier this year, leaving Sansone awaiting a response on works which he says can begin as soon as funds are allocated. "Unfortunately, [it's] the bureaucracy in Italy. It doesn't depend on us sometimes but we are, in this way, accomplices but also victims," he muses.

There are hopes in Tarsia that the cemetery could host many of the victims of the worst shipwreck in recent decades. On April 18, 2015, at least 800 people were killed when their boat capsized. The few bodies that were recovered at the time were buried in Sicilian graves, while an Italian exercise is currently under way to raise the wreck, within which are the remains of hundreds more victims. But the head of Italy's missing persons commission, Prefect Vittorio Piscitelli, who is involved in the operation, says under current plans the remaining April 18 victims will be buried in cemeteries across Sicily. Reflecting on the Tarsia plans, Piscitelli is positive about the concept but says it seems officials running the region of Calabria have not been very active in pursuing the project. "It could be good to give the image of our country as a welcoming country and the gate to Europe. A signal that migrants are welcome," he says, likening the cemetery to those for fallen US and UK soldiers in Italy.

Piscitelli has also heard suggestions that a refugee graveyard be built on land seized from the Calabrian mafia - the vastly wealthy Ndrangheta, which wields huge power over the impoverished region. But such an idea has not made it to the planning stages and so the Tarsia site, which would take up to a year to build, seems the most likely option. Carlotta Sami, a Rome-based spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, says dedicating a place to shipwreck victims is good, although another priority in dealing with the dead must also be addressed. "The important thing is that real support is put in place for the identification of victims and the possibility to put in place contact with relatives," she says. "This should be the priority. Then if there is the possibility to remember and give a place for these people to be buried that is positive and commendable."


One of the few victims to have been identified is Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body on a Turkish beach prompted a massive outpouring of sympathy for refugees fleeing to Europe. Amerusa says the Tarsia project will be named after the Syrian toddler, with hopes that the new cemetery will serve as both a memorial to the victims and a political message in Europe. "Through this cemetery we want to give an important signal to civil society. A signal of unity, a signal of humanity, a signal of civility," says the mayor. "Today there is perhaps the need for great courage, which those who represent states must have. To not think of the next elections, but the next generations."
© Al Jazeera

up  

Italy says second migrant boat capsized

26/5/2016- A migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Thursday and while about 100 passengers were rescued, an unknown number are feared dead, officials said. All told, the Italian coastguard said it had helped save 4,000 migrants today, in 22 operations. That brings the total number Italy has helped rescue since Monday to more than 10,000 - a sign that Europe's immigration crisis is far from over. Separately, Libya's coastguard said it had stopped six boats carrying more than 750 migrants off the country's western coast, and had recovered four bodies. Thursday's shipwreck was the second in two days as sea crossings accelerate amid good weather. Five people were confirmed to have died when a large fishing boat flipped over in the sea on Wednesday. Europe's worst immigration crisis since World War Two has led to more than 8,000 deaths in 2 1/2 years, the International Organization for Migration estimates.

Boat arrivals in Italy have risen sharply this week with warm weather and calm seas, and about 20 rescue operations are currently under way, a coastguard spokesman said. Based on initial pictures from the aircraft that spotted the boat that overturned on Thursday, 20 to 30 people are feared to have died in the shipwreck, a spokesman for European Union's Sophia naval mission said. Italy's coastguard declined to estimate how many may have died. "We don't know how many people were on board," the coastguard spokesman said. The non-profit organization Sea-Watch, which has a rescue ship in the area, said it was about to recover one body from the sea following a shipwreck and that it had picked up 115 migrants from a rubber boat. "Aboard the boats are many Syrian and Iraqi people," Sea-Watch said on Facebook. A European Union agreement to send migrants back to Turkey from Greece is forcing refugees to travel from North Africa to Europe, the group said.

So far, migrants from the Middle East have mostly traveled through Turkey to Greece. Most migrants who came to Italy by boat came from Africa. Libya's coastguard has blocked more than 2,000 migrants trying to leave Libyan waters for Europe this week. On Thursday, it intercepted four boats early in the morning carrying about 550 people near the western port of Sabratha, Tripoli coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said. Hours later, another 216 migrants were picked up from two boats off Zuwara, and the bodies of four migrants were found in the area, he said. Through Tuesday, total sea arrivals in Italy had fallen by 9 percent this year to 37,743, according to the Interior Ministry. The country's migrant shelters are under pressure to house 115,507 migrants, about twice as many as two years ago. Some 650 migrants and the five dead bodies picked up by the Italian navy arrived at the Sicilian city of Porto Empedocle, where the migrants will get food and clothing. Officials will try to identify them before sending them to shelters.
© Reuters

up  

Denmark: creating a hostile environment

Nearly 300 people face criminal charges for aiding refugees in Denmark in September 2015, and the government continues to create a hostile environment by cracking down on migration.
By Reem Abu-Hayyeh


26/5/2016- The rise in humanitarian and political initiatives in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees that we have seen across Europe in the past year has been reflected in Denmark, in contrast with the government’s defensive response (Denmark, along with the governments of Belgium, Austria, Sweden, France and Germany, has demanded an extension of temporary controls at the internal borders of the Schengen area). In September last year, as images of thousands of refugees walking along the Rødby highway towards Sweden were splashed across national newspapers and television channels, some citizens, influenced by the political response, saw the images as indicative of a threat to Denmark, but many others, such as the ex-head of Denmark’s National Council for Children Lisbeth Zornig, went to aid the refugees. It is those who have now been charged with ‘human trafficking’ amongst other things, for assisting refugees with travel, crossing the border, or simply for providing them with food or clothing. The charges are under section 59(8) of the Danish Alien Act, which criminalises ‘assist[ing] an alien with travelling into or through the country or … with an unlawful stay in the country’.

Restricting access to support – and to citizenship
Denmark is often viewed as a model social democracy, but its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers has exposed the limits of these claims. In the country’s July 2015 national elections, the nativist Danish People’s Party (DPP) won over 21 per cent of the vote, making them the second largest party after the Social Democrats, momentarily looking as though they might form a right-wing coalition government. As it currently stands, Venstre (Denmark’s Liberal Party) leads a minority government, influenced by the DPP on a vote-by-vote basis. In October 2015, the new conservative-liberal government, with support from the Social Democrats, Liberal Alliance, Conservatives and the DPP, passed legislation severely restricting migrants’ access to public funds (with cuts to ‘integration benefit payments’) and services, as well as demanding a whole host of new requirements for citizenship, with retrospective effect, including higher language and income thresholds and the cancellation of the Social Democrats’ 2014 reform which gave easier access to citizenship for children born and raised in Denmark (children over the age of 12 now have to meet the same criteria as adults).

Refugees.dk, an information site analyzing the situation for refugees, writes that ‘The new requirements, especially the demand for passing PD3 [Danish language assessment], will exclude a large part of the people living in Denmark from ever acquiring a Danish passport … The high requirements for self support is also a hindrance to many, especially for women … and for refugees … [who] have more difficulties entering the labour market than other groups.’ But for the non-citizens among the new humanitarian ‘smugglers’, it is the provisions making citizenship more difficult for those with a criminal conviction that are the most worrying.

Creating a hostile environment
Among the new measures is the now infamous law allowing authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and valuables over the 10,000 kroner (£1,000) threshold, to pay for their support. While evidence suggests that the ‘jewellery law’ is more symbolic than practical, this measure, together with tougher family reunification provisions, has created a climate of fear amongst those seeking asylum. Refugee.dk’s Michala Clante Bendixen told the IRR that there is a ‘bad rumour, as everybody thinks the three-year waiting period on family reunification is for all refugees (it is actually only for 20 per cent) and that refugees are not welcome here.’ She sees them as part of a government ‘movement towards criminalising refugees as “illegal migrants”, for instance using detention as a rule and not as an exception’. These measures have led to what the researcher Martin Lemberg-Pedersen calls ‘the devaluation of human life’, with people facing intensified borders upon entering Denmark to claim asylum. If they are successful in their claims, recent laws serve to make life in Denmark for refugees difficult, with hurdles to accessing both welfare services and citizenship.

Forging solidarity
Despite government attempts to make things worse for refugees in the past year, Bendixen maintains that Denmark remains one of the most welcoming countries in Europe for asylum seekers. The government’s creation of an increasingly hostile environment for refugees and non-Danish citizens has been the catalyst for a group of people now willing to act in solidarity with refugees, regardless of the legal consequences they face.
© The Institute of Race Relations

up  

Women are the first to pay the price of Islamophobia in Europe

26/5/2016- Muslim wommen experience the same inequalities as other women in employment and in relation to verbal and physical violence, but they are compounded by additional factors of (perceived) religion and/or ethnicity. However, very little is done to collect comprehensive data and tackle this intersectional form of racism. This is the conclusion of the European Network Against Racism’s new report “Forgotten Women: the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim Women”, covering eight European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Muslim women are subject to three types of penalties in employment: gender penalties, ethnic penalties and religious penalties. Discrimination in the labour market is often related to perceptions of “Muslimness”, and especially the clothing of Muslim women. For example, in the United Kingdom, 12.5% of Pakistani women are asked about marriage and family aspirations in job interviews whereas 3.3% of white women are asked such a question, i.e. nearly four times more. The headscarf is an additional obstacle in finding and keeping a job. In Germany, 18% of the companies invited applicants with German sounding names to an interview, while only 13 % invited applicants with Turkish sounding names. For applications from Muslim women with a headscarf in the CV photo, only 3 % of the companies invited them to an interview. In Belgium, 44% of employers agree that wearing a headscarf can negatively influence the selection of candidates.

In most countries, Muslim women are more likely to be victims of hate crime and speech than Muslim men, especially if they wear a headscarf. Muslim women are targeted by threats and hate speech, violence and assault, and online hate. For example, in the Netherlands, over 90% of the victims of Islamophobic incidents reported to the organisation Meld Islamofobie in 2015 were Muslim women. In France, 81.5% of Islamophobic violence recorded by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France in 2014 targeted women, most of them wearing a visible religious symbol. The organisation Tell MAMA in the UK reports that 54% of the off-line victims of threats and verbal abuse were women. Verbal and physical violence often mix, as well as racist and sexist insults or gestures, and incidents mainly occur in public spaces.

The report shows that prejudices and stereotypical representations of Muslim women are spread by media and public discourse, including some politicians. This negative attention to Muslim women in media and political discourse also contributes to creating a fertile ground for discriminatory practices and violence on the ground. “Muslim women are the targets of discrimination and violence because they are women and Muslim, but nothing is done to address the multiple discrimination they face”, said ENAR Chair Sarah Isal. “The European Union can’t afford to exclude and forget about Muslim women if it stands up for gender equality and the fight against racism. EU laws protecting against discrimination in the labour market and hate crime must effectively protect them.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

Netherlands: Minister has no plans to relax child refugee amnesty rules

26/5/2016- Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff said on Thursday he has no intention of relaxing the terms of an amnesty for child refugees despite claims the current rules are ‘a serious infringement of children’s rights’. Dijkhoff said the current rules are well balanced and that the discretion he has to allow children to stay after all should be seen as an exception, not the rule. Since 2013, 1,300 applications for residency permits under the terms of the amnesty have been made to the minister but just 100 have been granted, RTL news reported. Children can qualify for the amnesty if they have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years, have been under the supervision of an official organisation and are under the age of 18.

School
However, hundreds of children still face deportation because they were not under official supervision. Being in touch with local councils and going to school is not sufficient to qualify for the amnesty because these bodies do not have a role in law in immigration policy, the Council of State said last year. The amnesty was agreed by Labour and the right-wing VVD as part of their coalition deal but has been heavily criticised by aid group Defence for Children and the UN’s children’s rights group Unicef.

Deportation
Among the children currently scheduled for deportation is 13-year-old Tri Pam who was born in Arnhem and has lived all his life in the Netherlands. Broadcaster Nos spoke to two Egyptian Christian children on Thursday who also face deportation to Egypt after seven years. Maryam, 15, told the broadcaster she has nothing in the country where she was born. ‘This is where my friends are, this is where I go to school,’ she said. ‘In Egypt I have nothing.’ Maryam lives with her father and two brothers at a refugee centre in Amersfoort. According to the family’s lawyer, they fled after Maryam’s mother was taken by the Muslim Brotherhood because she refused to convert to Islam. She has not been heard of since. According to broadcaster NOS, most of the children and their families scheduled for deportation are still in the Netherlands. Just 80 people have been deported and 320 left voluntarily, although officials do not know if they actually left the country.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: Anti-Muslim abuse, attacks more common than thought

25/5/2015- The amount of violence and threats made against Muslims in the Netherlands is far higher than official figures would indicate, according to a new report published on Wednesday. The research was carried out by the Spior foundation which counts over 60 Muslim organisations in Rotterdam and its surrounding towns among its supporters. In total, the organisation received 231 reports of discrimination and violence in 2015 and the first three months of 2016. The figures would indicate that discrimination is more widespread than thought. For example, the Radar anti-discrimination platform received reports of 240 anti-islamic incidents throughout the entire country last year, of which just 44 were made in the Rotterdam region. Rotterdam police received just 41 reports over the same period. ‘The [Spior] research is not meant to be a representative sample,’ said professor Han Entzinger, who supervised the project. ‘We thought it important that people who would not normally report discrimination were encouraged to do so.’ In total 174 reports had enough supporting evidence to be verified. Half of them covered verbal abuse in the street, often directed at women wearing headscarves. One in five covered discrimination at work or in education and 14% actual physical violence.

Women
Spior director Marianne Vorthoren said the report is not about religious criticism. ‘It is about protecting people from discrimination and exclusion,’ she said in a statement. ‘Everyone in our society has the right to protection, whatever their social or religious background.’ Four in 10 of the incidents took place in a shop or public space. Seven in 10 of the reports were made to Spior by women and in six out of 10 cases, the perpetrator was male. The survey also looked at the experiences of 28 Muslim organisations and institutions in the region. Of them, 60% said they were confronted with incidents such as vandalism and threats every quarter.

Mayor
Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said in a reaction that racism and discrimination are like concrete rot. ‘You don’t notice it until the balcony falls off and that is extremely dangerous,’ he said. ‘The debate about the role of Muslims and Islam in relation to terrorism has become a licence to swear and make discriminatory comments,’ he said. ‘No incidents a year is the only acceptable result.’
© The Dutch News

up  

Romania: Three Million Back Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign

Campaigners supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church want the constitution to be amended to expressly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

24/5/2016- Over three million Romanians have signed up in support of an initiative to amend the constitution to only allow marriage between men and women, outlawing gay unions. “I decided to sign to support this initiative because I believe that the country's constitution should be in accordance with our values, our principles and our traditions,” one of those who signed, Laura Sturzu, aged 39, from Bucharest, told BIRN. She said she was not a religious person abut there was a moral need for the constitutional change. “I recently visited Spain and I was outraged about seeing gay couples walking hand-in-hand or kissing each other ostentatiously on the streets or in front of little children,” Sturzu said. “I do respect everyone's sexual choice and behaviour, as long as it is expressed in a private manner. I don't want our traditional values to be replaced by this kind of behaviour,” she added.

The three million signatures were filed at the Romanian parliament on Monday by a campaign group called the Coalition for the Family. “We are all witnessing a historical first, both at the national and European level: three million Romanian citizens, in an enormous effort of solidarity, have signed the initiative for the amendment of the constitution,” said Mihai Gheorghiu, president of the Coalition for Family. “Moreover, Romania is thus part of an European trend. There is a European initiative to define marriage in these terms and we have the examples of Croatia and Slovenia last year, which have already resulted in successful referendums for including this definition in their constitutions,” Gheorghiu added. Gay rights group said however that the move was intended to stoke up prejudice. "This initiative's only goal is to incite public opinion against LGBT people," said LGBT campaign group Accept, AFP news agency reported.

A similar proposed amendment to the Romanian constitution was defeated in 2013, according to AFP. At the moment, the constitution defines the marriage as a union between two spouses. According to Romanian law, the constitution can be amended if an initiative is supported by at least 500,000 citizens who have the right to vote and whose signatures are collected within a period of six months. The Romanian Orthodox Church has also rallied to the initiative and took part in the campaign to gather the signatures. “We have to support the Church’s effort to protect the natural, traditional and universal family, and to resist some new so-called family models which consider that the natural woman-man union would be just one model among others,” Romanian Patriarch Daniel said at the beginning of this year.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Ireland: Islamophobia on rise in State, claim monitoring groups

Latest data from Immigrant Council of Ireland reveals incidents up by 35% in 2015

24/5/2016- Islamophobia in Ireland has significantly increased over the past year while incidences of racism towards ethnic minorities continue to rise across the State, NGOs and anti-racism monitoring groups have warned. The latest statistics from the Immigrant Council of Ireland reveal that reports of Islamophobia rose by 35 per cent in 2015 after the council began reaching out to Ireland’s Muslim community for more information on racist abuse. “People from Muslim communities had already been contacting us about racism, but they weren’t identifying religion as the reason. It was more skin colour or being an immigrant,” said Teresa Buczkowska from the Immigrant Council of Ireland. “Then last year something changed. People began contacting us with incidences based on the fact they were Muslims and religion started playing a bigger role in harassment and abuse.”

Despite the introduction of a Garda pulse system last December to record instances of racism and hate crime, Ms Buczkowska says many people are uncomfortable contacting the gardaí and lack confidence in the Irish justice system. The latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded 103 incidences of racism in Ireland in 2015. These statistics are considerably lower than findings from the iReport human rights monitoring tool which tracks racist incidents in Ireland and found 148 reports of racism from January to June, 2015, dropping slightly from the 182 reports recorded from June to December, 2014.

Shane O’Curry, director of European Network Against Racism Ireland (Enar) – the national network of anti-racism civil society organisations – says the drop in reports of hate crime is not an accurate reflection of the prevalence of racism in Irish society, adding that more than three-quarters of racist incidences go unreported. “We suspect that’s because there was a certain amount of fatigue among people from ethnic minority backgrounds in reporting,” said Mr O’Curry. “People think there’s no point, that they won’t be believed and in some cases they will be treated inappropriately.”

‘Drop in the ocean’
Enar’s iReport system of tracking racist and hate crime is “only picking up a drop in the ocean compared to real incidences”, says Mr O’Curry, adding that only 20 per cent of the incidences recorded by Enar will also be reported to an Garda Síochána. “Ireland is out of step with the rest of the western world in not having hate crime legislation. We need a criminal justice system fit for the diverse and multicultural reality that we have today.” Mr O’Curry also claimed Islamophobic language, and references to Muslims as terrorists, bomb makers and members of Islamic State, is becoming increasingly apparent in Irish society, adding much of the rhetoric used oversees towards Islam is being “recycled in Ireland. It’s as if the language of islamophobia is international but being spoken with an Irish accent.”

Dr James Carr, a sociologist at the University of Limerick, reported a rise in anti-Muslim hostility and discrimination earlier this year, with Muslim women twice as likely to experience anti-Muslim abuse compared to Muslim men. Dr Carr found that one-in-three Muslim men and women experience racist hostility and that Muslim women are often targeted for wearing the hijab, niqab and other items of female clothing. Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, Imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown, says any fear or phobia towards members of Ireland’s Muslim community is due to “ignorance”. “People need to understand that the vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with Isis,” said Dr Umar Al-Qadri. “We are victims of these extremists as well. Muslims are not enemies, they are allies in the fight against terrorism.”

Dr Umar Al-Qadri agrees that many Muslim women suffer high levels of racism due to their dress. “On public transport, if a woman is wearing a hijab, someone will shout at her, ‘are you being oppressed?’ I spoke to one lady studying in Dublin who says because of her hijab she feels people judge her on her looks rather than her educational experience.” He says most Muslims have grown accustomed to being referred to as terrorists and members of extremist groups, but warns that an acceptance of this terminology can lead to deeper societal divides. “We get used to these names but it should not happen because it’s the first step towards extremism and marginalising a community. These people – those responsible for racist attacks – do not represent the overwhelming majority in Ireland. But, if we don’t address it, this problem will become worse.”
© The Irish Times.

up  

Austria: Concert killer was neo-Nazi 'Blood and Honour' member

The gunman who opened fire with a Kalashnikov at a rock concert leaving three people including the attacker dead and 11 hospitalised was a skinhead member of extremist neo-Nazi group "Blood and Honour".

24/5/2016- The far-right have been gaining in popularity in Austria after mass immigration and the country almost voted in a far-right president Norbert Hofer who was only narrowly defeated in yesterday's election. Police have released further details yesterday of the killings that happened in a field on the outskirts of the town of Nenzing in the western Austrian state of Vorarlberg. The 27-year-old fired more than 40 shots into the crowd of concert-goers, and then ran to a car park where he killed himself. The concert had been organised by the local motorbike club "The Lords" to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and the lone gunmen, whose identity was confirmed by police as Gregor S., had turned up with his new girlfriend.

According to police, he had been a member of Blood and Honour since he was 17, but people who knew him hoped that his new relationship, which included a baby with his girlfriend, had mellowed him. However after arguing with her at the concert, he went home where his son was sleeping, grabbed the gun, and returned to the concert where he opened fire on other concert-goers at 3am. Eyewitnesses said people who had escaped the bullets ran screaming into the nearby woods, while others ran onto the motorway and tried to flag down cars to get away. The injured and the dead were left behind on the ground. In total about 150 people were at the concert at the time of the shooting. Police say that the young woman, who had an on-off relationship with her skinhead boyfriend, had been to a hen party with friends and had argued about what she had been up to when they met again at the concert.

One of the people the boyfriend shot and who died instantly was a 48-year-old social worker, and another was a 33-year-old member of the biker club. The injured include a 49-year-old Swiss woman and a 44-year-old man from Lichtenstein. Police spokesman Susanne Dilp said: "Some of the 11 injured are still in a critical condition, although two have since been released from hospital."  Gregor S. was described by school friends as a Nazi, and in 2005 was banned from owning guns. A short while later he was convicted of GBH and of making threats. In 2012 he was committed to a psychiatric institute. Regional governor Markus Wallner described the killings as a massive tragedy, saying that what had happened was almost inconceivable. Local mayor Florian Kasseroler said: "It was not very well lit, there were fires and a few cars had their lights switched on." He said this may have limited the gunmen's opportunity to target his victims before killing himself. He added that people had initially thought that fireworks were being let off when they heard the shots.
© Central European News

up  

Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right

Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader running as independent, pips the Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer

23/5/2016- A leftwing, independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat. Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, defeated Norbert Hofer, of the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic Freedom party, a day after polling closed and only once more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account. The Austrian presidency is a largely ceremonial role but the outcome became hugely symbolic. Mirroring the rise of populist parties across Europe, the Freedom party exploited anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of the continent’s refugee crisis, and despite Hofer’s narrow defeat, the election has left a deep split over the direction Austria should now take.

The Austrian interior ministry confirmed that after postal votes were counted, Hofer’s final score was 49.7%, against 50.3% for Van der Bellen, the son of two refugees. In a post on Facebook, Hofer wrote: “Dear friends, I thank you for your fantastic support. Of course today I am sad. I would have liked to have watched out for you as president of our wonderful country.” Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Green party who announced after the result that he would put his party membership on hold during his presidency, is the EU’s second head of state with a Green party background after Latvia last year elected Green politician Raimonds Vçjonis as president. In a speech in the gardens of Vienna’s Palais Schönburg, Van der Bellen said the tight results put “even greater responsibility on me, but also on Mr Hofer”. The outcome showed the country was made up of two halves that were equally important. He added: “Together we make up this beautiful Austria.”

While the elections had revealed a great rift running through Austrian society, the 72-year-old said, “this rift has existed for some time, though perhaps we didn’t look at it that closely in the past”. The fact that people had debated the presidency so intensely was a positive sign that “people are not left cold by politics – they want to actively shape it”. Hofer and Van der Bellen were separated by just 31,000 votes out of more than 4.6m ballots cast. Before postal votes were counted, they were neck and neck, with Van der Bellen on 48.1% of direct votes and Hofer on 51.9%. Many Austrian websites were down under the weight of traffic as the country waited with bated breath for news of the final result of Sunday’s vote.

Hofer urged his supporters not to be discouraged but to see the campaign as “an investment in the future”. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom party, wrote on his Facebook page: “This is just the beginning. The start of a new era in our democracy, towards more direct democracy and binding referenda.” The chancellor, Christian Kern – a Social Democrat who had endorsed Van der Bellen – said the challenge for the new president was to ensure that no voter was left feeling like they had ended up on the losing side. “We have understood the protest and will orient our political course accordingly,” said Kern, whose own SPÖ suffered dismal losses in the election’s first round. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said: “While we are certainly satisfied with the result, there is little room to celebrate the high level of support for someone with such extremist views.”

In a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, the candidates of both the centre-left Social Democrats and conservative People’s party, which have dominated Austria’s politics since the second world war, were eliminated in the first round of voting in late April. Werner Faymann, the social democratic chancellor, then resigned earlier this month. After coming second in the first round in the presidential elections in April, Van der Bellen had not only managed to hold on to his voters but mobilised non-voters and gained the support of those who had previously backed the candidates of the centre-left SPÖ and centre-right ÖVP. For the election, Viennese coffee houses reportedly set aside separate areas for supporters of the rival candidates over fears of clashes.

Van der Bellen’s father was born in Russia to a family descended from Dutch immigrants and his mother was born in Estonia, from where the family fled when the former Soviet Union invaded in 1940. They eventually settled in Austria. A Vienna city councillor since leaving parliament in 2012, the staunchly pro-European Van der Bellen led the Austrian Greens from 1997 to 2008. In contrast, Hofer, whose cultivated, smooth-talking image has led to him being hailed “the friendly face” of the Freedom party, has said “Islam has no place in Austria” and warned that if he was elected he would not hesitate to dissolve the government if it did not act against immigration.

Florian Klenk, a leading Austrian commentator and editor of the weekly magazine Falter, said he could understand why the international media in particular had focused on Hofer’s stellar rise on an anti-immigrant ticket. “He has a sect-like following and a way of communicating that is quite disturbing. Then there’s his desire to win back South Tyrol, his Islamophobia,” he said. “But I’m interested to know, will there be as much focus and astonishment now that Van der Bellen, a candidate who is in favour of keeping Austria’s borders open, has won? I think probably not.”
© The Guardian.

up  

Serbia’s Nazi-Backed Leader ‘Did Not Kill Jews’

A historian who testified at a rehabilitation hearing for Milan Nedic argued that the Nazi-backed WWII-era puppet government leader was not directly involved in killing Jews.

23/5/2016- Historian Bojan Dimitrijevic told the Belgrade-based Higher Court on Monday that the Nazi backed WWII-era puppet government led by Nedic never physically murdered any Jews, as killings were only carried out by German occupation troops in the country at the time. “The Jewish question was not within the competence of Nedic’s government, but rather the German forces. In implementing this policy, Nedic’s government merely made statistical records of the Jews in Serbia,” Dimitrijevic said. “All the activities of arresting [people], putting [them] in concentration camps and killings were carried out exclusively by German forces,” he added. Asked by the judge whether the Nedic government published anti-Semitic posters, Dimitrijevic admitted that it did use propaganda against Serbia’s Jewish community. “There were some elements of that, but that is not the same as killing people,” Dimitrijevic said.

According to Dimitrijevic, Nedic’s government was only focused on fighting against Communist Partisan forces and the Chetnik Ravna Gora movement. “Nedic’s government did not had a political programme or democratic legitimacy, it only served to fight against the rebels,” he told the court. The only ideology that Nedic and the Nazis was shared was anti-communism, added the historian, who was expelled from the Democratic Party at the end of last year because of his support for the WWII prime minister. Nedic, who was prime minister from 1941 to 1944, was declared a war criminal by the Yugoslav Communist authorities after the Nazi occupation of the country ended, but his great-grandson and his allies are hoping that the court will posthumously clear his name.

They argue that the Nazi-backed Serbian premier gave refuge to 600,000 Serbs from across the Balkan region who fled to Serbian territory during WWII, thus ensuring their safety. They also claim that Nedic was actually a victim of persecution that his suicide in 1946 was murder. The Communist authorities said that he died after throwing himself out of a window. At the previous hearing on March 14, a former detainee of a WWII concentration camp said that Nedic’s government helped to free her and her family after the Germans transported them and other Serbs from Sarajevo to Belgrade in 1941. Monday’s hearing again attracted both opponents and supporters of Nedic’s rehabilitation to protest outside the court. People opposing his rehabilitation, such as women’s rights group Women in Black, the LGBT Movement and several anti-fascist groups carried banners with slogans like “Death to fascism, freedom to the people”. Nedic’s supporters gathered on another part of the street, chanting his name and waving flags with pictures of the WWII leader.

Decades after his death, historians and the Serbian public remain split over his role during the Nazi occupation of the country. Some believe that he took the role of prime minister in a bid to ensure that he was in position to help people and prevent German reprisals in retaliation for an uprising in Serbia. Others believe however that there is no excuse for a man who collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces in any way and presided over a regime that helped impose repressive rule over the country. The next hearing is scheduled for September 19, when Dimitrijevic's testimony will continue.

Serbia's Controversial WWII Premier
Milan Nedic headed the so-called Government of National Salvation, a puppet government in Serbia during World War II that operated from August 1941 until October 1944. Previously he had fought in the Balkan Wars and then in WWI, when he became the youngest colonel on the Serbian General Staff. After Germany took over, Nedic was appointed as the leader of the country. He made a speech on the radio claiming that he wants to save Serbians’ lives by accepting occupation and called on people not to resist, as the Nazis would kill 100 Serbs for each German soldier's death. During his rule, Belgrade was the first city in Europe to be declared 'Judenfrei' - free of Jews. By the end of the war, about 90 per cent of the Jewish population in Serbia had been murdered. In addition, about 80,000 Serbs were killed in concentration camps. About 300,000 people were killed in the country in all.

However, Nedic’s government accepted many refugees from the Balkan region, mostly of Serb descent. At the end of the war, he fled to Austria. The Yugoslav Communist authorities who took over after WWII charged him with collaborating with the Germans and with committing treachery, but the case was cut short when he committed suicide in a prison cell in February 1946.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Too fat for Facebook: photo banned for depicting body in 'undesirable manner'

Facebook has apologized for wrongly banning a photo of plus-sized model Tess Holliday for violating its ‘health and fitness’ advertising policy

23/5/2016- Facebook has apologized for banning a photo of a plus-sized model and telling the feminist group that posted the image that it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”. Cherchez la Femme, an Australian group that hosts popular culture talkshows with “an unapologetically feminist angle”, said Facebook rejected an advert featuring Tess Holliday, a plus-sized model wearing a bikini, telling the group it violated the company’s “ad guidelines”. After the group appealed the rejection, Facebook’s ad team initially defended the decision, writing that the photo failed to comply with the social networking site’s “health and fitness policy”. “Ads may not depict a state of health or body weight as being perfect or extremely undesirable,” Facebook wrote. “Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves. Instead, we recommend using an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike.”

In a statement Monday, Facebook apologized for its original stance and said it had determined that the photo does comply with its guidelines. “Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads,” the statement said. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.” The photo – for an event called Cherchez La Femme: Feminism and Fat – features a smiling Holliday wearing a standard bikini. Facebook had originally allowed the event page to remain, but refused to approve the group’s advert, which would have boosted the post.

The policy in question is aimed at blocking content that encourages unhealthy weight loss – the opposite intent of Cherchez la Femme, which was promoting body positivity. This is not the first time Facebook has come under fire for its censorship of photos. In March, the site faced backlash when it concluded that a photograph of topless Aboriginal women in ceremonial paint as part of a protest violated “community standards”. Critics said that ban was an obvious double standard, noting that Facebook allows celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to pose with body paint covering her nipples. Instagram and Facebook also have faced opposition for policies banning women from exposing their nipples, with critics arguing that the guidelines are prejudiced against women and transgender users.

Cherchez la Femme did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but has been venting its frustrations on its Facebook page. “Facebook has ignored the fact that our event is going to be discussing body positivity (which comes in all shapes and sizes, but in the particular case of our event, fat bodies), and has instead come to the conclusion that we’ve set out to make women feel bad about themselves by posting an image of a wonderful plus sized woman,” the group said. “We’re raging pretty hard over here.”
© The Guardian.

up  

Spain: Fearless gay couple stand up to neo-Nazis... with a kiss

A gay couple stood up to the homophopic and racist chants at a Madrid neo-Nazi rally in the bravest way imaginable.

23/5/2016- The two men showed their disdain for a far-right protest in Madrid on Saturday by kissing in front of the angry crowd, who were cheering for Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and chanting "Spain yes, refugees no!" Tensions were fraught between the neo-Nazi protestors from far-right group Hogar Social Madrid and local people as the protest got underway on Plaza del Dos de Mayo in Malasaña, one of Madrid hippest and most bohemian neighbourhoods. David Fernández and Gregor Eistert were just out for a Saturday stroll when they stumbled upon the demo. "We completely forgot the demonstration was taking place and just like any other Saturday we were looking for a terrace in the centre of Madrid when we stumbled across a huge political rally," Fernández told El Español.

The angry crowd started shouting homophobic abuse at the couple, such as "maricón!" (a derogatory Spanish word for a gay man similar to faggot) "You've got AIDS!" and "sickos" as they walked hand in hand. So they reacted in the best way they could think of, a way that was bound to rile the crowd even more: they began kissing. "It was completely spontaneous, it came from anger," David Fernández told Spanish newspaper El Español, adding that it was their way of showing their "repulsion" at the demo. A video taken at the protest shows the couple kissing until they are told "that´s enough" by a policeman and removed from the square. Fernández admitted to El Español it was easier to move them than a thousand neo-Nazis but said he could not comprehend the policeman’s actions at the time. "I couldn’t understand why they were kicking us out of the square when the ones committing a hate crime were them," he said.

Police had previously told locals to stay indoors and had warned local businesses to stay closed ahead of the demonstration. The kiss was met with widespread support on social media. "The best photo from the Hogar Social demo. Two men who love each other in front of nazis full of hate."
© The Local - Spain

up  

Greece: New migrant centers ‘substandard,’ UNHCR says

27/5/2016- Despite the evacuation of refugees from the sprawling makeshift border camp of Idomeni in northern Greece on Thursday, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed serious concern Friday over the “sub-standard” conditions at the new camps they have been relocated to. The new camps, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, “fall well below minimum standards,” and she appealed to Greek authorities to address the matter as soon as possible. “UNHCR is seriously concerned about the substandard conditions at several camps in northern Greece, where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly,” Fleming said during a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

She did, however, agree with Greece’s decision to evacuate Idomeni, where conditions “were abysmal,” adding that it was done “without the use of force.” The government’s spokesperson for the refugee issue, Giorgos Kyritsis, admitted on Friday that conditions at the new camp were not ideal but insisted that “they will soon be improved.” Meanwhile, in another indication of the poor living conditions at migrant camps and centers, some 80 migrants, including children, staying at makeshift accommodation at Piraeus port were rushed to hospital yesterday with acute symptoms of food poisoning. Kyritisis said the poisoning was caused by a batch of leftover food that was sent from the refugee camp at Elliniko that had not been properly stored and went bad because of the high temperatures. Most were discharged from hospital, but six adults and 13 children stayed in for treatment.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

The EU Has Turned Greece Into a Prison for Refugees

The grief, frustration, and need that have washed up on these shores is overwhelming.
By Maria Margaronis


27/5/2016- In the port-side café before the sun comes up, a group of men are talking. “In the beginning, when there were maybe 40 of them in the boats, all wet, we helped them. Now they’re too many. They steal chickens. They shit in the fields. They threw stones at a woman.” “Do you think it’s chance that they’re all coming here? The NGOs, the whatever they’re called, are making money off it. It’s a plan. A racket.” “Eventually they’ll set off a bomb and sink the island.” “Sink or float, what difference does it make? Are we happy, now we’re floating?”

Chios, my grandfather’s island in the northeast Aegean Sea, has become an open-air prison for more than 2,000 refugees. Almost all of them arrived after the March 20 “statement” signed by the European Union and Turkey, designed to stop the flow of people from Turkey to the Greek islands and then to mainland Europe. The statement, which followed the unilateral closure by Central European countries of the western Balkans route, cut time and space like a guillotine, arbitrarily separating those who’d arrived before it from those who landed after, trapping more than 50,000 refugees and migrants in Greece.

These late arrivals can’t leave the islands until their cases have been decided by the Greek asylum system, which is overloaded to the point of paralysis. The refugees are supposed to prove not only that they’re at risk in their home country but that they’d be at risk in Turkey, which the EU (but not Greece) considers a “safe third country,” if they want to have their asylum claim heard in Greece. Otherwise, they will be returned to Turkey. Of the 8,500 women, children, and men who have landed on the islands since the agreement was signed, 400 have been returned so far, some to be detained for weeks without legal representation. About 200 have been granted asylum in Greece. The rest are rotting in overcrowded camps, “hot spots,” and locked detention centers, without information, adequate food, medical care, or security. And the boats from Turkey, though many fewer than before, continue to come in.

On Chios (population 52,000), already wounded by six years of deep economic crisis, wildly disparate worlds are haphazardly crammed together. Many locals have given their all to help the refugees; others have used their tractors to block the roads against them. The international volunteers include Basque cooks, Norwegian relief workers, Brooklyn doulas, Korean caterers, Greek firefighters, and a retired midwife from Bath. Among the refugees are Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, and Palestinians from Syria; Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis; a grandfather with Alzheimer’s, a child with hemiplegia, a 16-year-old mother. More than half are women and children—many, many children, who cling to your legs or take your hand and proudly count to 10 in English and in Greek.

Before the borders closed, Chios seemed to be coping, more or less, though more than 36,000 refugees and migrants passed through in 2016. Local people came through with lentils, rice, clothes, whatever they could spare. By August, an informal camp had sprung up in the public gardens. Kostas Tanainis, who runs a restaurant in the seaside town of Karfas, brought water every day from his small desalination plant; a friend offered an empty shop to collect donations. In October, the Norwegian Refugee Council set up the Souda camp on land provided by the municipality near the town’s medieval castle. In December, when the EU funded “hot spots” on the islands to register asylum seekers, the town bought Vial, a disused aluminum plant in the hills that Mayor Manolis Vournous had long had his eye on for a recycling facility.

Vournous, who belongs to an independent local party, says the government in Athens arrogantly disregarded plans drawn up with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, for a humane registration center, complete with a dining area, playground, mini-market, and transportation to town. On March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal forced Greece to detain new arrivals, Vial became a locked prison. UNHCR and many mainstream NGOs won’t work in closed detention centers; other volunteers aren’t allowed to enter. Food is now provided by military caterers and generally consists, the inmates say, of “macaroni, potatoes, macaroni, potatoes.” Some of the portions had maggots. Babies received just one serving of powdered formula a day, until media coverage caused a scandal. Tanainis says that when he went to Vial to deliver extra milk, he was kept waiting at the gate by guards for more than two hours.

Boredom, frustration, and uncertainty gnaw at people like hunger. Some detainees made a hole in the back fence, trampling crops and stealing chickens, eggs, and beans from nearby villages. A sheep was reportedly slaughtered and roasted on a spit. Fights broke out between Afghans and Syrians armed with stones, bottles, and razor blades; the police let it rage for an hour before intervening. Rami Halevi, a Palestinian refugee from Syria, likened it to a war: “That violence I escaped from [in] Syria—I don’t want to see it again.” On March 31, a protest against the conditions at Vial by local people, volunteers, and activists brought the refugees out to meet them, shouting “Freedom,” “Asylo,” and “No Tourkia.” The next day, Halevi joined 400 or 500 others who broke out of Vial for good: They walked the two hours to town and sat down at the port, refusing to be moved.

 That’s when the atmosphere on Chios definitively changed. As the mayor puts it, “The local society felt suffocated. If you occupy the harbor of an island, you occupy part of the lungs.” Halevi, who moved to Souda camp after a couple of days on the dock, now says, “I think it was a good and bad idea. At the port, we make the authorities listen to us—there were TV cameras, interviews. At the same time, we don’t want to make trouble for the island. We are guests, and guests have to be respect[ful]. But we have rights also.” On April 6, with the refugees now confined to one end of the port, protesters (apparently led by the island’s small contingent of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn supporters) invaded the town hall and disrupted a council meeting. The next day, a mob attacked solidarity activists and refugees at the port. The police did nothing to stop it, instead arresting several activists and refugees.

When I arrive on the island on Orthodox Good Friday, a cold truce is in effect. In town I meet Shouaib, who’s walked the two hours from Vial (unlocked since the breakout) to buy tomatoes and onions for his wife, who misses them terribly. During the war in Afghanistan, Shouaib worked as a contractor for British and US forces. He left with his wife and four children (the youngest now 5 months old) after two men shot at him with a Kalashnikov. He paid traffickers $750 a person to guide the family on the 16-hour walk over the mountains from Iran to Turkey, and $1,000 to take them from Istanbul to Izmir and then by boat to Chios. In his wallet, Shouaib keeps a little wad of papers, which he unfolds carefully, reading me the numbers that prove he lodged an asylum claim when the family reached Chios on March 21, one day after the EU-Turkey deal went into effect. Claims are supposed to be heard within two weeks, but 40 days later he’s had no news, let alone an interview.

Driving back to Vial through fields and olive groves, Shouaib and I pick up two women with four small children making the journey on foot. One of the kids broke his arm falling off a top bunk; an ambulance took them to a hospital, but nobody considered how they would get back. Shouaib is calm as he tells me about conditions in the camp, the bad food and unmet needs (“child’s needs, women’s secret needs”), about the young single men who drink and fight or steal food from the farmers, about the terrible uncertainty, the waiting, the lack of information, “the nothing, nothing, thinking, thinking, ‘When can we go to Athens?’” But when he talks about his wife, Shouaib’s voice breaks. He’s worried that she’s losing weight, that there’s no blood in her hands; he’s terrified that she will die.

Even unlocked, Vial feels like a prison. It’s a bleak, rectilinear camp made of white shipping containers furnished with bunk beds but nothing else, and not a leaf for shade. One man has made a lethal-looking immersion heater out of nails, wood splinters, and bare wires stuck in a wall socket because there’s no hot water. The showers have no doors; the toilets overflow; there’s nowhere for children to play. Women lean out of the windows to show me the small, squashed rolls that accompany that night’s meal of peas, carrots, and oranges. A young wife pushes her husband toward me in a wheelchair; like Shouaib, he has papers that show he worked for the US government. Someone warns me to be careful: The man behind me, he says, is an informer for the guards.

Farida asks me to drive her and her two girls down to the Souda camp in town, where some of the Syrians from Vial have moved. She’s from Damascus: “Syria, boom,” she says. Her husband and other children are already in Germany, but, she tells me, an Afghan stole her passport, ID card, and phone. When I ask about her parents, she drops her head to one side and starts to cry. On the road, we meet the candlelit Good Friday procession from the village: Christ’s flower-covered bier followed by priest and congregation, chanting the sorrowful Byzantine liturgy. I stop the car out of respect, but one man glares at the hijab-wearing woman beside me. She looks at me questioningly. “Christ,” I explain. “Easter.” “Ah,” she says, “Isa… Eid al-Fasah,” and gestures that she’s sorry to be keeping me from church. How do I, an atheist, explain to her the arrogant thought filling me with shame: that if Christ were alive, he would be here with her?

The grief, frustration, need that’s washed up on these shores is overwhelming. It’s strange, on Easter Sunday, to watch Greek families tucking into their roast lamb a few hundred yards away from hungry refugees, but I understand them too. It’s not so different from the way most of us live in the insulated West, holding onto our comforts and our safety, shutting out the rest of the world for fear that if we open the door a crack, the flood will sweep us away. Now that the refugees are stuck here, not just passing through—now that Chios, like the other islands, is not the gateway to Europe but the rock on which hope breaks—refugees and locals are caught together in a trap built for them in Brussels. For the locals, it’s deeply disturbing—another blow after six hard years, another economic threat. But for the refugees, carrying lost lives, lost worlds, flashbacks of fear inside their heads, it can be catastrophic.

Since I left Chios, 28 people in Souda camp have gone on hunger strike. In Vial, two young men have tried to hang themselves. One almost succeeded.

On the other side of the guillotine, on the longed-for mainland, the roughly 46,000 refugees and migrants who arrived before the deal are also trapped. They’re spread across a chaotic network of formal and informal camps, which range from tolerable to grim to squalid and dangerous. Some are tent cities, some empty hotels, some built of containers like Vial. Most of the official ones are managed by the army, pending an (eventual) handover to the civilian authorities. Nobody seems to have a clue how the whole system works. Neither the refugees nor the Greek authorities appear to have acknowledged the fact that the border’s not going to open, that Europe’s “relocation” program is a sham (of the 63,302 places for refugees in Greece that the EU committed to offering last year, only 615 have materialized), that thousands of traumatized people will be living here for years.

Diavata, at an old barracks near Thessaloniki, is one of the gentler camps, alive with the sound of children playing on a dirt football pitch shaded by tall old pines. It’s managed by a young army major who obviously respects the people in his care; I follow him around as he sorts out a boy who’s lost his papers, a volunteer who wants space to start a school. Unaccompanied minors have tents in their own separate area, watched over by a guard. Elsewhere in Greece, they may be locked up in police cells or detention centers, or become prey to abusers, pimps, and traffickers; in an Athens square where migrants congregate, I see the small words “boy sex” scrawled with a phone number on a wall. But Diavata feels safe. Three sisters from Syria (a fourth was killed in Damascus) welcome me into their tent. It’s cold at night, and the ground is hard, and there are seven people sleeping there, including children. But they are soaking fava beans to cook in a blue plastic basin, and Amira, a lawyer, can smile as she points to the strange men’s clothes that are all she has to wear.

At Katsikas, in a disused airfield near Ioannina, the tents are pitched on sharp white gravel that lets snakes and scorpions in. Five soldiers in surgical masks are handing out today’s rations. “I have three kids at home—how do I know what I might catch from these people?” one says. “They don’t like it here? They can take a plane and go back where they came from. Or over the mountains to Albania. We don’t get paid extra for doing this. The people from the NGOs get paid.” Musab, a journalist from the Syrian city of Homs, did a year in Bashar al-Assad’s jails, some of it in a cramped, dark cell with seven other people, a toilet in the middle, the food thrown on the ground followed by a rain of blows. He’s charging his phone from a post set up in the middle of the camp. If you’re a refugee, your cell phone is your lifeline, your only link to home and your frustrated future. Musab would love to take a plane: If you have money, he tells me, you can buy false papers and fly to Germany.

Isidora, a chemistry teacher from Spain, doesn’t get paid either. She’s handing out bright plastic vegetables to children in a tepee, trying to get the Kurds and Arab Iraqis and Syrians to play together and share. What do they need the most? “Psychologists. We give them paper to draw and—wow. They’ve seen so much violence. They have stone wars out there, real wars, with blood. And their mothers hit them.” “This camp is shit,” says one of the volunteers in the airfield’s old Quonset hut, where a group from Spain has set up a clothes “shop” and a communal kitchen for the refugees. Jorge Martin-Garcia, an environmental engineer, is trying to sort out the water, sanitation, and hygiene. He explains that the drainage is bad and that children defecate outside, fouling the puddles where they play. The toilets are the wrong kind—sit-down Western ones rather than the hygienic squat variety used in the Middle East—so women get infections. A women’s space, a hamam, is needed: “We need to connect the culture with our actions. We need to make for them, with them.”

Fights break out regularly in Katsikas, too. The previous night, two men were attacked for allegedly being informers; others broke into the hut and stole 600 euros’ worth of food. “The camp is a little society,” says Pichel, a firefighter. “Like everywhere, there are good people, there is mafia. There’s always a minority who make trouble. Women without men—they have a problem.” As in Chios, the army and police don’t intervene: “They’re here to protect the Greeks.” And as in Chios, local politicians at the sharp end are incensed at the lack of consultation and planning by the Greek government. Pantelis Kolokas, deputy mayor of Ioannina, says the number of refugees isn’t overwhelming: “This thing could be managed to the benefit of local communities. We want to house people in empty buildings, to look at how they can be integrated. We knew this crisis was coming. But we’re always running behind the cart.”  

 Within the administrative chaos of the Greek polity, the camps look like a mad set of social experiments, with vulnerable people as their subjects (or victims). Vial is like a police state; Diavata could be a benevolent aristocracy; Katsikas is a military dictatorship where people’s basic needs are met by grassroots activists. The new order divides the refugees from Greek society. Throughout the autumn and winter, as the boats from Turkey kept coming, the solidarity movements from the economic crisis opened their arms to the visitors, collecting huge piles of clothes and shoes, diapers and strollers, tents and sleeping bags. The old informal networks, chaotic but human, kicked in. Many Greeks formed personal bonds with refugees. Now that a centralized, top-down system is being imposed, ineffectually and unwillingly, by a barely functioning state, unofficial helpers are being marginalized.

Outside the official network, a few local experiments in radical democracy are run (at least in theory) by refugees and Greeks together. The City Plaza Hotel in a run-down area of Athens, bankrupt and empty for seven years, was occupied this May by a group of activists over the objections of the owner, who risks losing it to the state for unpaid property taxes. The lobby is packed with young Greeks smoking and drinking coffee; two women on their hands and knees are scrubbing a blue tiled fountain. Loukia from the communications team tells me that hundreds of people have joined in the cleaning effort. Dimosthenis explains that the location is a political choice: “We were against state concentration camps—we don’t think refugees who come to Greece should be isolated from society. So we decided to make this in the middle of Athens.”

City Plaza currently has about 230 guests, 100 of them children; people are referred by word of mouth, and priority goes to vulnerable families. There’s a full-time nurse on the premises, a visiting doctor, and a psychologist. In the stainless-steel kitchen, Christian, a chef from Slovenia, is marinating 270 donated chicken breasts in honey and celery, assisted by volunteers and a few of the guests. Rima, with three small children, has recently arrived; she needs to join her husband in Germany but has no idea how to do it. She’s smiling, though: It’s clean here, and the people are so kind. Georgia, who’s showing me around, is in tears as we walk away: “They smile all the time, and they’re so grateful—for nothing. This country has had a lot of crises, and it’s been so difficult. Seeing all these people in solidarity, older people, everyone—it’s the only hopeful thing that’s happened in the last 10 years.”

Eidomeni, on the closed border with the Republic of Macedonia, is—or was—anarchy. When I visited there in early May, I found a vast tent city sprawled over fields edged with green wheat. Some 9,000 women, children, and men were surviving there. Many had come as the borders began to close; most had nowhere to go, either forward or back. Their tents blocked the railway track north from Thessaloniki—an artery for the Greek economy—and crowded the station platforms. Rain made pools and rivulets of mud. Nobody wanted to be there. And yet Eidomeni seemed to be turning into a town, with greengrocers, cigarette shops, barbers, falafel stands, even (reportedly) brothels in stranded railway cars. UNHCR was there, and Doctors Without Borders, who recently vaccinated several thousand children, as well as scores of solidarity activists and volunteers running a school, a cultural center, soup kitchens, giving asylum advice.

There were also fights at night; unaccompanied minors vanished; traffickers trawled for desperate people willing to risk the illegal journey north. “In the rain or when the wind comes, when you see the tents fly and the clothes are wet, your heart will be destroyed,” a student from Syria told me. “The people around the world who don’t want to help the people here, you will see them like animals, monsters. Everything you believed in before is different from this.” That morning Abu Mohammed, from Deir ez-Zor in Syria, had tried to hang himself. He sat hunched on a camp bed by his flapping tent, his wife rigid and upright on a straight chair opposite. The border had closed in front of him soon after he arrived. Europe, he said, had already taken in more than a million people. Why can’t it accept just 50,000 more? He said he would rather die than see his children living here. If he was dead, perhaps a charity would come and take them away.

Meanwhile, near the closed railway station, the flag of Greece’s 1967–74 dictatorship fluttered over a small house. Ioannis, the man in the bare front yard, told me he had it printed specially. He’d voted Pasok, the socialist party, all his life, as well as Syriza three times, but now he’s lost everything: his dairy business, the value of the house and car he went deep into debt to buy, his peace of mind, his safety. He has a 9-year-old son with special needs who’s terrified: The refugees “come out at night with axes, knives, they take drugs, they fight,” he told me. “They leaned over the wall there and said if I didn’t give them wood, they’d set the house on fire.” Next time around, he’s voting Golden Dawn, he added. “But I have a Kurd I’m taking care of. So don’t think…” The sentence hung unfinished.

In fact, the refugee crisis hasn’t pushed most Greeks to the right. Golden Dawn, which rode high in the early years of the crisis, isn’t seeing a big revival. That may be because, unlike the Central and Northern Europeans, who have slammed their shutters and closed their doors, the Greeks have already lived with these people, rescuing them from the waves; or because of the crisis they’re still in themselves; or because of the country’s refugee history and traditions of hospitality; or because they understand that the real responsibility lies with Europe, which, having tormented them with six years of austerity, is now displacing this burden onto them, too.

But as I write, the Greek state is clearing Eidomeni, removing people in buses (some hired from a company called Crazy Holidays) to bleak and barely ready official camps in the vicinity. The area is surrounded by riot police; all volunteers and journalists except Greek state TV have been shut out. So far, the evacuation has been peaceful. But some people I spoke to there said they didn’t want to leave; the place still represented a tattered kind of hope. At the border, they could still push, still believe that it might open. If they scattered, they said, they would be powerless.

The March deal, announced with so much fanfare by the EU and Turkey, is already fraying. It was a Band-Aid designed to buy Europe time and get German Chancellor Angela Merkel through another political crisis; nobody really believes in it. Turkey, under the increasingly autocratic Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won’t make the changes to its terrorism laws required to activate the European visa waiver for its citizens. European governments don’t want visa-free travel for 77 million Turks; nor do they want to take in the refugees they signed up to accept, who are still waiting in Greece and Turkey. The Syriza-ANEL government in Greece, which has just voted through the toughest austerity package yet to get another EU bailout, has neither the will nor the know-how to organize refugee camps for more than 50,000 people, let alone humane ones. Its commitment in theory to a notion of humanitarianism founders in practice on its failure to plan or organize, either within the camps or across the system.

But almost all of the refugees I met, however enraged they may be with the Greek authorities, understand where the deeper responsibility lies. “This is not Europe,” they kept saying. “This is not what we thought Europe would be.” Like the Greek government, but with fewer excuses and far worse consequences, the European Union has failed, again, to come up with a strategy for managing migration while protecting human rights. Sooner or later, the deal between the EU and Turkey will officially come unstuck; the refugees in Greece will realize that most of them are not going to Germany. Nobody seems to have a plan for what will happen next.
© The Nation

up  

Greece: Golden Dawn trial restarts, though most defendants absent

25/5/2016- After a hiatus of almost five months, the trial of senior members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party resumed on Wednesday, albeit before an almost empty courtroom as most of the defendants did not show up – just six of a total of 68 appeared – while most of their lawyers were absent. The trial held at Athens’s Korydallos Prison was initially billed as Greece’s “Trial of the Century,” but has suffered from repeated delays since it began last year and was suspended in January due to the ongoing lawyers’ strike. It resumed on Wednesday after prosecution attorneys received permission from their bar associations in Athens and Piraeus to attend. However, the absence of lawyers representing the defense – due to the strike – forced the court to appoint lawyers for some of the defendants as was the case with high-profile defendant Giorgos Roupakias, who murdered leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013. This could cause more delays as the newly appointed lawyers may ask for more time to brief themselves on the case.

Proceedings are scheduled to resume on Thursday – barring any other legal glitches. The much publicized trial began more than a year ago, with 68 members of the party, including its leader Nikos Michaloliakos, facing charges of running a criminal organization, including extortion, attempted murder and the killing of Fyssas, which essentially kick-started legal proceedings. All those charged were released from custody after completing a maximum of 18 months in pretrial detention and are now under house arrest. Most have opted not to appear in court during the trial. The neo-Nazi party swept into Parliament in 2012 on a wave of popular discontent bred by Greece’s financial crisis.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

Greece gets ready to move refugees from Idomeni

Police claim operation to transfer thousands of people will be smooth and gradual

23/5/2016- The transport of migrants from Idomeni in northern Greece to other facilities was announced by the authorities on Monday. In a statement to ANA-MPA news agency, Giorgos Kyritsis – a spokesman for the Greek refugee coordinating committee – estimated that all would be transferred over the next 10 days starting from Tuesday. More than 8,400 stranded migrants remain at a camp in Idomeni, hoping that they can make their way into northern Europe. However, Macedonia and other Balkan countries have shut their borders since the beginning of March. There have been frequent riots due to the ongoing uncertainty and bad living conditions at Idomeni in recent months. Migrants have repeatedly tried to cross the border and blocked a local railway line. The Greek government has received a lot of criticism from opposition parties and domestic media for allowing the frequent blocking of goods to Macedonia and the rest of Europe.

Police say the new transfers will be similar to an operation back in November, when around 2,500 people were moved. The security forces say the procedure will be gradual and smooth and not a sweeping operation. There will also be an effort to persuade migrants to move on to other accommodation facilities. There are already six former industrial premises which can accommodate between 6,500-7,000 migrants Kyritsis was reported as saying. More will be added in Thessaloniki and the nearby city of Katerini according to police. Over a million migrants have entered Greece since 2015 in the greatest immigration wave to hit Europe since World War II. More than 50,000 people have remained in the country due to border restrictions applied by its Balkan neighbors.
© Anadolu Agency

up  

Cyprus: Ultra-right group wins seats

23/5/2016- A ultra-right party has won seats for the first time in Cyprus following parliamentary elections on Sunday (22 May). The National Popular Front (ELAM), which styles itself after the Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, now has two seats after winning 3.7 percent of the votes. In 2011, the nationalist party won just over 1 percent. Reuters quoted Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos in Athens as saying that "for the first time, Cyprus will get nationalists in its parliament". The most recent election marks broader discontent with government policies after the financial meltdown in 2013, and, in part, on moves to reunite the island before the end of the year. Voter turnout hit historic lows with 67.3 percent. Cyprus, along with other EU states like Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, imposes compulsory voting. The ruling conservative Democratic Rally (DISY) still managed the most seats with 30.6 percent followed by the Communist AKEL with 25.6 percent.

But DISY will now have 18 seats, down from 20, in Cyprus’s 56-seat chamber. AKEL will have 15 down from 19. Other larger groups like the centrist Democratic Party DIKO and the Socialist EDEK also sustained losses. The DISY loss may make it more difficult for president Nicos Anastasiades to end the feud between the Greek and Turk Cypriots. Cyprus had split in two after Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974. In a joint statement released last week, Anastasiades and his Turkish counterpart Mustafa Akinci had vowed to reach an agreement before the end of the year. A reunified Cyprus would pave the way for Turkey's bid to one day join the European Union.

2013 financial crisis
The election results are largely attributed to the handling of the financial crisis imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. The island nation had requested a bailout after its banking sector was drained of cash follow huge losses on Greek loans. The sector was some seven times larger than the size of Cypriot economy. The conditions of the bailout were also sharpened following the banking sector's dubious ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and wider allegations of money laundering. Some 40 percent of the €68 billion in Cypriot banks in 2013 was Russian held. Cyprus was also the first ever eurozone country to impose temporary capital controls after banks had been shut down for a week.
© The EUobserver

up  

Bosnia Fines Football Clubs for Nationalist Chants

Over the 2015-16 Bosnian football league season, the country’s clubs had to pay a total of more than 140,000 euros in fines, many for their supporters’ use of nationalist chants and slogans.

23/5/2026- The Bosnian Football Federation’s disciplinary commission told BIRN that clubs have been punished during the recently-concluded 2015-16 season with fines totalling around 140,000 euros for offences including nationalist, racist and political chanting by fans. According to the Football Federation, the club that accumulated the most fines is was Sarajevo Football Club, which was ordered to pay 22,000 euros. Tuzla-based club Sloboda came in second place with total fines of 17,000 euros, followed closely by Zrinjski from Mostar, Zeljeznicar from Sarajevo and Banja Luka-based club Borac. The data is for all the fines imposed over the season, but the disciplinary commission said that it issued very serious fines for “nationalist, racist or political chants or messages”.

The clubs with the most fines for these violations are Rudar from Prijedor Celik from Zenica and Slavija from Eastern Sarajevo. Rudar was fined several times over the past 12 months for nationalist chanting by its fans. After two fines totally around 6,000 euros, the club was ordered to play two games behind closed doors, without fans. The punishments came after Rudar fans waved flags with political or nationalist messages and chanted the names of war crimes convicts or defendants. They also carried the flags of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska and of Serbia.

The Football Federation’s disciplinary commission said that from the start of the 2015-16 season, the carrying of flags was no longer considered a violation. “After a lot of problems, we agreed that flags are no longer to be sanctioned,” said a member of the disciplinary commission, Mehmed Spaho. “Republika Srpska clubs often objected to Federation fans coming with flags with lilies. However, carrying that flag cannot be sanctioned since that was the official flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. It should not be confused with the Bosnian Army flag, which is different,” Spaho said. “The same situation applies for flags of Serbia, Croatia or Republika Srpska. They are official flags, so are considered acceptable,” he added.

Spaho said that since the start of the 2015-16 season, there has been zero tolerance for political or nationalist messages. FC Celik from Zenica was punished twice over the past season for racist chants. Their fans abused Germain Kouadi from the Ivory Coast, who was playing for Travnik, and Harmony Ikande from Nigeria, who was playing for Sarajevo. The club was fined a total of around 5,000 euros. Slavija from Eastern Sarajevo was fined 1,750 euros for chants about war crimes during their game with Sarajevo club Zeljeznicar. However the biggest single fine this year was paid by the Bosnian Football Association, after European governing body UEFA ordered it to pay 18,000 euros because Bosnian fans sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a national team match against Israel in June 2015 in Zenica.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Czech Rep: Guide to help foreigners targeted by hate

21/5/2016- The foreigners who have become targets of hateful attacks in the Czech Republic can be helped by a new guide that was posted online, the organisation In Iustitia, that prepared it, has told CTK. The guide says where the foreigners are to announce the crime and how the investigation and trial looks like. Thanks to the guide, the foreigners may gain the necessary contacts. The guide is in Czech, English, Arabic, Russian and Vietnamese and it may be downloaded from the Internet, In Iustitia said. The group wants to facilitate access to justice to immigrants and asylum seekers and to help them gain the feeling of security.

In 2014, In Iustitia recorded 86 cases of hate-related violence. The incidents mainly occurred due to ethnic origin or religion. The number of attacks perpetrated by "ordinary people" who are not extremists have increased, the group said. A growing Islamophobia is among the most prominent trends. In 2011, the group registered 57 hate-related cases. They include verbal attacks, intimidation, threats, physical, sexual and online attacks, damage to things and buildings and even murders. They are motivated by the colour of skin, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, denomination, age, political conviction and homelessness.

"The readers will learn what to do in the given situations. They will learn how to file a criminal complaint, what is the course of questioning and the duties in such a case, the rights of the damaged parties," Aneta Dufkova, from In Iustitia, said. The guide was created thanks to the project called Safely In New Home. The organisation has informed migrants about their rights and provided them with consultancy services and possibly also a lawyers. Since 2009, In Iustitia has focused on the prevention of hate-related violence and help to the victims. Now it is active in Prague, Brno, Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, and Kladno, central Bohemia.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Germany probes neo-Nazi photo taken inside Buchenwald

A photo showing two presumed British neo-Nazis saluting inside a former crematorium cellar at Buchenwald near Weimar has prompted a major probe in Germany. More than 56,000 persons perished at the Nazi death camp.

26/5/2016- Police and intelligence agency officials in Germany's eastern state of Thuringia said Thursday they were treating "very seriously" the photo published last Friday via Twitter by the British neo-Nazi group "National Action." It showed two neo-Nazis, presumed to be British, with their facial features electronically masked, making a Hitler salute inside the cellar of Buchenwald's former crematorium. An arrow with the words "meat hook" points to a wall attachment. Built in 1940, Hitler's elite SS stacked bodies in the cellar and used an elevator to lift the dead into the cremation room above. Inside the cellar, some 1,100 men, women and youths were strangled to death. The SS hung them up on hooks. Displaying contempt for former victims of the Nazi regime, denying the Holocaust and displaying Nazi symbols are punishable crimes under post-war German law.

Adminstrators lodge charge
Reports on Thursday said a charge stemming from the photo was lodged by administrators of the memorial site, which yearly has half-a-million visitors and marked the 70th anniversary of its liberation last year. A memorial administration spokesman told eastern German public television MDR late Wednesday that a tip drew its attention to the offensive photo - one in an increasing series of recent provocations by neo-Nazis.MDR said Thuringia state's domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, was investigating whether the photo was the result of contacts between British and neo-Nazis in Thuringia.

'Criminal energy'
Germany's tabloid newspaper Bild quoted memorial site director Dr. Volkhard Knigge as saying the photo was the result of "very specific criminal, ideological energy." "The perpetrators identify themselves openly with National Socialism and its mass murder. This is severe denigration of all of the almost 280,000 inmates of the concentration camp Buchenwald; among them were also Britons. "It is therefore to be assumed that the perpetrators did not act spontaneously by proceeded deliberately and were well-prepared," Knigge told Bild.

Forced labor, mass deaths
Between 1937 and early 1945, Hitler's SS interned 278,000 persons, mainly Jews, Sinti and Roma, at Buchenwald and its outlying sites - until its liberation by horrified American troops. By April 1945, more than 56,000 inmates had died of torture, in "medical" experiments and from exhaustion, mainly as forced laborers for the Nazis' then armaments industry.

British group reminiscent
The British group "National Action" exists since 2013, according to its internet homepage, and has dozens of members, including many youths. At a rally in Newcastle in January, masked members displayed a banner worded "Hitler was right." Its logo resembles a Nazi signet.

Far-right rock concerts
Responding recently to a Left party question in the federal parliament, Verfassungsschutz officials said Thuringia was a neo-Nazi focal point. A far-right open-air rock concert at Hildburghausen, a small Thuringia town, drew 3,500 visitors on May 7. "It is sadly fact that Thuringia has become a preferred event location for the far-right music scene, the agency's chief Stephan Kramer told the newspaper Die Welt on May 12. Nationwide, intelligence staff had observed 15 far-right concerts in the first quarter of 2016, according to the reply in parliament in Berlin. Left party federal parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke said neo-Nazi groupings were using concerts as a "gateway drug" to recruit new "comrades."

'Social outsiders' also interned
Also interned by the Nazis at Buchenwald were homosexuals, members of the Jehovah's Witness faith as well as beggars, the homeless and prostitutes whom the Nazis regarded as "social outsiders."Buchenwald's toll also included 8,000 Soviet troops taken as prisoners of war in 1941 and murdered.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

German prosecutors investigate neo-Nazi edition of 'Mein Kampf'

A German paper has published an e-mail from a far-right group claiming it will publish a version of Hitler's book free of "tedious" scholarly commentary. This could possibly violate laws against spreading Nazi ideology.

25/5/2016- The fears many voiced about the republishing of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," namely that neo-Nazi groups would use it as propaganda, may indeed come to pass. According to a report published in the "Bild" newspaper on Wednesday, far-right extremists in Bavaria planned to do exactly that. For seven decades, Hitler's two-volume treatise of militaristic anti-Semitism was available in print in Germany only for research purposes. But the copyright, held by the state of Bavaria, expired in 2016, which prompted a fierce debate over the book's future. Some argued "Mein Kampf" was still dangerous and that the government should find a way to fight its publication. The solution offered by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich was to publish a critical, heavily annotated version of the text, and in this iteration the tome became available on German bookstore shelves for the first time since 1945.

An edition "without do-gooder commentary"
The "Bild" claimed to have discovered an e-mail sent around by the neo-Nazis in Bavaria where the publication of an "unabridged printing without tedious do-gooder commentary" was announced for the summer. According to the announcement, the book will be published by a Leipzig printing house called "Der Schelm," whose owner, Adrian Preisslinger, has been convicted on multiple counts of inciting racial hatred and the use of banned symbols since 2002. State attorneys in the city of Bamberg said they were "investigating whether or not charges could be brought" against the publication in order to block the printing. The dissemination of Nazi ideology remains illegal in Germany, and the printers of an edition free of annotation could theoretically be prosecuted under this law.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: Far-right leader Petry under investigation for perjury

Her right wing populist party’s electoral successes have struck the fear of God into the political mainstream. But Frauke Petry is now under investigation in Dresden for perjury.

25/5/2016- Dresden’s lead prosecutor, Lorenz Haase, confirmed on Wednesday that a perjury investigation has been opened against Petry, the co-leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The 40-year-old is accused of lying to the state electoral committee over financing for the party’s 2014 state election campaign in Saxony. The state parliament in Saxon capital Dresden, where Petry is an elected representative, has now been informed, said Haase.

Rising fortunes
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) have been stealing the headlines for much of 2016 in Germany. Riding on growing public anger over the huge refugee influx which saw over one million people arrive in Germany in 2015, their polling figures have increased steadily since the summer. After sexual assaults were reported on hundreds of women in Cologne over New Year, allegedly carried out by men of North African or Middle Eastern backgrounds, public faith in the pro-refugee stance of the mainstream parties was badly damaged - and the AfD were there to pick up the pieces. At state elections in March, they were the only party (aside from a fringe neo-Nazi one) to go against an open-door refugee policy, and stunned the political establishment, scoring over 20 percent in one state at their first time of trying.

Merkel mark two?
At the centre of this success stands the diminutive Frauke Petry. A daughter of former east Germany with short-cropped hair and a degree in science, in many ways she is not so different to the woman she hopes to rout from power, Chancellor Angela Merkel. But, the comparison only goes so far. Photogenic and sharp-tongued, she is always good for a fiery quote or a photo op - unlike the staid, reticent and sometimes awkward Chancellor.One of the founders of the party back in 2013, she took over leadership during a power struggle in the summer of 2015 and led it from its anti-Euro single currency roots to become best known for its rejection of Islam as a part of German life. In recent months she has been accused of bigotry and racism for suggesting border police could be permitted to shoot at refugees and for arguing that minarets should be banned in Germany. But this has done little to stem her popularity or shift attention away from her party.

Perjury charge
However, just as her star appears to be rising, Petry could be in very hot water with the judiciary. She stands accused of lying to a parliamentary electoral committee over donations made to the party during state elections in Saxony in 2014. An AfD candidate insisted that he had been forced to make a donation to the party in order to be able to stand. When he didn’t pay up his name was struck from the list, he claims. Petry told the parliamentary committee that the donations were purely voluntary. State prosecutors initially decided not to pursue the case, stating that a witness cannot commit perjury in front of a parliamentary committee, since one is not under oath.

General prosecutors disagreed, pointing to the electoral law of Saxony, which states that witnesses at an electoral examination committee can be examined and defended. “It is astonishing and very unusual that the general prosecutor has overturned a decision of the state prosecutor so quickly,” André Schollbach, a member of the state parliament for the Left Party, and one of the people who filed charges against Petry, told The Local. The chair of the parliamentary committee, Marko Schiemann, also expressed surprise at the original ruling, telling Die Zeit “our work on the committee is dependent on the constitution of Saxony and Saxon electoral law.”
© The Local - Germany

up  

German Pegida row over non-white photos on Kinder bars

Members of the anti-Islam protest group Pegida in Germany have complained about images of non-white children on Kinder chocolate bar packets.

24/5/2016- A Pegida Facebook page in Baden-Wuerttemberg asked: "Is this a joke?" But after being told the photos were childhood photos of Germany's footballers being used in Euro-2016-linked marketing, they admitted they had "dived into a wasps' nest". Kinder said it would not tolerate "xenophobia or discrimination". A photograph of two chocolate bars was circulated by the person behind the Bodensee Facebook group of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West). For decades, Kinder packaging has featured a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. But in a marketing campaign ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament, Kinder has started to use photographs of the German team's players when they were children.

'Is this a joke?'
The two that the Pegida group complained about were Ilkay Guendogan and Jerome Boateng, both German nationals who play in the Bundesliga as well as the national team. Seemingly without realising this, the group's admin wrote: "They'll stop at nothing. Can you really buy these? Or is it a joke?" One commenter responded: "Do the Turks and other countries use pictures of German children on their sweets or groceries? Surely not." Soon the comments filled with explanations of the marketing campaign, and a backlash against the Pegida group. One person wrote: "Close the borders and have no exports, no migration! Then you'll get unemployment and local league football." Another wrote: "If one of those men scores a goal he'll be celebrated." The negative reaction forced the original poster to write that it was "best not to respond" and that they had "really dived into a wasps' nest." After being alerted to the ongoing discussion on Facebook, Kinder's manufacturers Ferrero wrote: "We would like to explicitly distance ourselves from every kind of xenophobia and discrimination. We do not accept or tolerate these in our Facebook communities either."
© BBC News

up  

Germany: Refugee crisis sparks record year for political violence

Right-wing extremists have attacked refugee accomodation, while left-wing protesters have been arrested during clashes

24/5/2016- The number of attacks on asylum seekers and refugee accommodation is “exploding” in Germany after a record year for political violence in the country. Releasing national crime statistics for 2015, the interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, warned that violence by right and left-wing extremists was increasing at an unprecedented rate. “The increase in right-wing politically motivated crime (PMK) is seen particularly in xenophobic offences,” he said. “The number of attacks on asylum seekers’ accommodation has increased more than fivefold on last year. “This is unacceptable and will be strongly prosecuted by the police and judiciary.”

Political crime rose by almost a fifth in 2015 to a total of almost 39,000 recorded offences – 23,000 from the right-wing (up 35 per cent) and 9,600 on the left (up 17 per cent). The German interior ministry said the figures represented a “new high” since political crimes started being recorded separately in 2001, which it attributed mainly to a 44 per cent increase in violent crime by right-wing extremists. But the number of violent crimes committed by the left wing were even higher, rising 35 per cent to 2,246 incidents, largely directed against the police. “The sharp increase in politically motivated crime points to a dangerous development in society,” Mr de Maiziere said. “We are witnessing a growing and increasingly pronounced readiness to use violence, both by right and left-wing extremists.”

The surge has been attributed to the impact of the refugee crisis, with the far-right attacking migrant shelters and marching in waves of anti-immigration protests being met by attacks from left-wing activists. Attacks on asylum seekers have been reported, as well as efforts by vigilante mobs to “clean up” Cologne after a string of sexual assaults and robberies on New Year's Eve stoked tensions. As the number of homes for asylum-seekers swelled, so too did crimes targeting them, which more than quadrupled to 1,031, including four attempted murders, eight explosives offences, 60 assaults and 94 arsons. Vandalism including the spraying of swastikas and racist and neo-Nazi slogans on migrant accommodation was also included in the category, with only a quarter of the crimes being solved so far.

Mr de Maiziere said the figures for 2016 so far showed that attacks could rise further, with 350 offences recorded in the first three months of this year – triple the figure for the same period in 2016. Included in this category of crimes were the spraying of swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols on refugee centre walls, as well as arson attacks. Hate crime also soared by 77 per cent to 10,373 in 2015, mostly crimes motivated by xenophobia, followed by anti-Semitism, racism and religion. “The Federal Government is employing all means to use the rule of law to defend against racism, xenophobia and violence to defend,” Mr de Maiziere said. “But the whole of society is also called on to oppose this increasing radicalisation, both in deed and word.” The rise of the anti-Islam Pegida group and growing success of anti-immigration party the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have been seen as evidence of political polarization.

With the arrival of more than one million asylum seekers in Germany last year, around 150,000 cases of “unauthorised entry” were recorded and more than 230,000 of people overstaying. Germans committed three quarters of the offences recorded in 2015 but crimes by foreigners increased 13 per cent, including document forgery, pickpocketing and burglary. When immigration-related offences were removed from the figures, the number of offences in Germany was almost unchanged from 2014 at just under 6 million. The largest group of foreign-born offenders were from Turkey, followed by Romania, Poland, Serbia and Italy. Syrians were involved in 2.6 per cent of the crimes, Afghans 1.8 per cent and Iraqis 1.6 per cent.
© The Independent

up  

Germany: Cologne police plan 'protection zone' at New Year celebrations

Following the sexual assaults at last year's New Year's celebrations, Cologne police have said they're planning a "protection zone" at this year's festivities. Upcoming summer events will test the city's security.

21/5/2016- With more than half a year to go until Germany - like the rest of the world - welcomes in 2017, police in the western German city of Cologne are already planning extra security measures at this year's public party. The increased security comes in light of a series of attacks on New Year's Eve by gangs of young men outside the central railway station, in the shadow of the city's Medieval cathedral. Investigators in Cologne received 1,170 criminal complaints of attacks - 492 of them related to assaults of a sexual nature. Eye witnesses and victims described the perpetrators as being mainly from North Africa and the Arabian peninsula; some were claimed to be Arabic speakers. The attacks were met with shock across Germany and sparked a debate, particularly among far-right parties, over Berlin's decision to accept more than one million asylum-seekers during last year's unprecedented influx of refugees. The commission investigating the incidents at last year's New Year's celebrations have now heard one-third of 100 scheduled testimonies.

Cordon still in question
Under the new measures at this year's celebrations, head of Cologne police Jürgen Mathies has said a "protection zone" will be implemented around the city's world-famous cathedral. "The cathedral is an area that particularly needs protection," Mathies and city director Guido Kahlen told the "Kölner Rundschau." "I don't want any firecrackers or rockets at the cathedral and the square in front of the train station," Mathies said.

Vacation unlikely
In an effort to deploy more officers across the city, Mathies also said it's unlikely that the city's police will be able to take a holiday during the New Year celebrations. Last year just 22 officers reported for duty. "We will definitely be working with a clearly structured organization," Mathies said, adding that lessons learnt from previous events should "flow together."

Tighter security at Carnival
The city's security was already put to the test in February at Carnival, which attracts over a million people every year. Around 360,000 euros were invested into the extra security measures, which included an increased police presence, mobile lighting masts to illuminate dark, potentially dangerous corners, and a security point where women could report to in case of an emergency. Authorities received reports of 22 sexual offences on "Weiberfastnacht" (Women's Carnival Day), which is celebrated on the last Thursday before Lent. During last year's "Weiberfastnacht," only nine cases of sexual assault were reported, and 10 in the previous year. Two of the 22 offenses were deemed "serious," one of which involved a Belgian TV reporter who was groped by a reveler live on air.

'The whole world's going to be watching'
The next events come on July 3 at the Christopher Street Day parade, and on July 16, when hundreds of thousands of people are due to turn out for the "Kölner Lichter" - Cologne's annual fireworks and music festival on the Rhine. Following the event, huge crowds are expected at the Cologne central train station as well as the nearby Deutz station. City organizers said security measures are already in place, including extensive extra lighting, not only to increase the safety of revelers, but also to provide clearer CCTV footage, in case of an incident. The main measures for New Year should be decided upon by September. Cologne city director Kahlen said: "We know the whole world's going to be watching to see if we've learnt our lesson."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

UK: Islamophobic attacks surge by over 45% in London

27/5/2016- Islamophobic attacks against Muslims in London increased by over 45% in March, more than any other type of crime, according to the crime figures released by the Metropolitan Police this month. Total race and religious hate crimes increased by 9.7% [from 1,121 in March 2015 to 1,230 in March 2016]. Despite under reporting Islamophobic crimes increased by 45.3%, from 75 to 109, while anti-Semitic crimes went down by 31.7%, from 41 to 28 in the same period. Last November, Islamophobic hate crimes increased by 171% in the wake of Paris terrorist attacks. In the 12 months to November 2015, the number of Islamophobic crimes recorded was 818, 63.9% higher than the 499 crimes recorded in the year to November 2014.

“The soaring Islamophobia, which has risen by 45% despite significant under reporting, can no longer be ignored. Politicians need to acknowledge this real concern, and the Government needs to devote the same amount of time and money to tackle the growth in Islamophobia as it does with other forms of hate crime and bigotry. As equal citizens in this country, we want fairness not favours,” Secretary General of The Muslim Council of Britain, Shuja Shafi told The Muslim News. “The UK is a country that celebrates diversity, and where tolerance and respect underpin our values as a nation. In this light, it is hugely worrying to see how those who wish to sow division in our society, have to some extent succeeded,” he added.

A spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police said it was “committed to tackling hate crime in all its forms. We have long since recognised the impact of hate crime on communities and the hidden nature of this crime, which remains largely under reported. “We believe an increase in recorded hate crime offences in London is due to a range of factors. This includes a growing willingness of victims to report hate crime, an improved awareness of MPS staff in identifying these offences; and work with partners to support victims. “Specifically in terms of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic crimes, we recognise that world events can see a spike in reported hate crime. We work closely with community organisations to provide additional resources after such events to reassure local people and ensure we are able to act quickly and effectively when incidents take place.” Commander Mak Chishty, MPS hate crime lead, said: “We will not tolerate hate crime and take positive action to investigate all allegations, support victims and arrest offenders.”
© The Muslim News

up  

UK: London Mayor Sadiq Khan signs historic pledge to fight antisemitism

26/5/2016- Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush has welcomed Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s decision to join mayors from across Europe and the United States in signing an AJC pledge to take action against antisemitism in their communities. The Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust and the London Jewish Forum approached Mayor Khan to sign the pledge, which has been endorsed by more than 150 mayors from 30 European countries. The pledge is part of the Mayors United Against Antisemitism initiative, developed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in July 2015 and launched in Europe later that year. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was the first European Mayor to sign the pledge, followed by those from Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan and Copenhagen. More than 300 mayors from 50 American states also supported the project.

Jonathan Arkush, said: “Antisemitism is one of the greatest challenges facing Jews in London and across the country. Just two weeks into the job, Sadiq Khan has signed up to AJC’s campaign against antisemitism. Taken together with his attendance at the Yom HaShoah Holocaust commemoration event, this sets a very positive tone that we hope will be replicated throughout his mayoralty. We also thank Barnet and Camden Assembly Member Andrew Dismore for his particular role in championing this initiative in City Hall.”

Mayor Khan, said: “Sadly, for many Londoners, antisemitism is a very present problem. As a British Muslim, I am no stranger to discrimination and prejudice. That’s why, as Mayor for all Londoners, I am determined to fight racism in all its forms and will make challenging hate crime a priority. I am proud to sign the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism pledge and I will encourage other Mayors across the country and Europe to do the same, to help send the message far and wide that anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable and can never be justified.”

David Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the American Jewish Committee, said: “The Mayor’s support for this initiative is special for three reasons. First, as Mayor, he has demonstrated continuity in opposition to all forms of antisemitism, as his predecessor Boris Johnson was also a signatory. Second, with all the recent concerns expressed about currents within Britain’s Labour Party regarding antisemitism, this is a particularly welcome and important development, since he is such a prominent member of the Labour Party. And third, Sadiq Khan is the first mayor of the Muslim faith of a major Western capital. Thus, his signature sends a very powerful message not only to the London Jewish community, but well beyond, about potential friendship, support and cooperation.”
© The Board of Deputies

up  

Britain First has issued a worrying threat to London Mayor Sadiq Khan

The group say they consider all Muslim elected officials 'occupiers'

25/5/2016- The far-right group Britain First has threatened to target where Sadiq Khan “lives, works and prays” as part of their apparent organised action against British Muslim politicians. In a press release, the “loyalist” group claim they specialise in direct action which they will use against Mr Khan. The group's leader Paul Golding, who ran for Mayor of London and scored abysmally gaining 31,372 first preference votes compared to Mr Khan’s 1,148,716, has made his feelings clear about Mr Khan before, having been pictured with his back turned when the newly appointed Mayor gave his victory speech earlier this month. In the release, Mr Golding says: “Britain First specialises in militant direct action and has tracked down and confronted numerous hate preachers and terrorists. “Britain First now considers all Muslim elected officials as ‘occupiers’ and will start to oppose their strategy of entryism and take-over of our political system.”

Citing the apparent “intelligence” they receive, the group pledges to “focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives and official functions, including where they live, work, pray and so on”. The statement concludes by reminding readers of their “official” policy to ban Islam in the UK and say they will “not stop until all Islamist occupiers are driven out of politics completely”. The group’s “direct action” has previously included “invading” a Halal meat factory, the Islamic Sharia Council in east London and bombarding their way through a mosque. As well as Mr Khan, the group mentions fellow ‘targets’ Tory business minister Sajid Javid, the mayor of Oxford Mohammed Altaf-Khan, the mayor of Blackburn Hussain Akhtar and also Shafique Shah who they say is the mayor of Birmingham. However, Mr Shah is not the mayor of Birmingham anymore. Ray Hassall is. A representative for Mr Khan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
© The Independent

up  

UK: Parents' anger at refugee welcoming prompts council apology

Staff and parents at the Teesside primary school ‘shocked’ to see Syrian new arrivals given tea at council building on its grounds

25/5/2016- Council officials in Teesside have apologised after the arrival of a group of Syrian refugees was met with complaints from teachers and parents at a school. The staff and parents at Overfields primary school in Redcar and Cleveland were said to have been taken aback when the refugees arrived at an empty council building in the grounds of the school. The group had landed at Newcastle airport from Lebanon at lunchtime on Tuesday and were taken to the “welcome centre” where they were given cups of tea. The event was held to welcome 35 Syrian refugees to Redcar and Cleveland who have come under the Government’s resettlement scheme, half of whom were children. They were at the site for an hour. But parents who saw the Syrian families while picking up their children said they were “shocked”. One parent told the Gazette newspaper: “My kids attend Overfields primary school and within school grounds there is an unused building. As we picked our kids up you can imagine our surprise when we saw the full bus.”

The school’s headteacher, Tracy Watson, raised concerns that the school was not consulted prior to their arrival – meaning, she said, that she had to offer parents reassurances their children were safe and that nobody was being housed on the site. Watson said: “As headteacher I take my role seriously in ensuring the safety of the children at the school. I am disappointed that I was not consulted or informed about the use of the disused building yesterday as a temporary welcome centre for the Syrian refugee families and have raised this with the local authority.” The council has approved plans to allow 125 Syrian refugees a year move into the area. It forms part of wider proposals drawn up last year to welcome up to 500 Syrian families on Teesside.

Sue Jeffrey, the council leader, said she was not aware of the formal complaint and that the welcome was something to be proud of. She said: “It is a council building on the same site as the school but with a separate entrance. We were very proud to welcome our first Syrian families being resettled as part of the government programme. “They had a long journey to get here and we wanted them to feel welcome so they were given cups of tea and the children were given some colouring books. They were literally only here for an hour before they went off to their homes. This is something really positive for these families who have already been through so much.”
© The Guardian.

up  

UK attitudes towards Islam 'concerning' after survey of 2,000 people

The majority of Britons questioned in a survey believe Islam is not compatible with British values.

23/5/2016- The poll also found almost a third of those asked believe Islam is a violent religion and promotes acts of violence in the UK. However, it also suggests that younger people have a better understanding of Islam, compared to older people. Just over two thousand British adults were questioned online by ComRes for the charity Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. Asked about their understanding of the traditions and beliefs of Islam, 41% of 18 to 24-year olds said they had a good understanding compared to just 27% of those aged over 45. When asked if they felt Islam promotes peace in the UK, 42% of adults aged between 18 to 24 agreed, compared to an average of 30% of adults over 25. The 2,000 questioned were asked if they agreed with the statement 'Islam is compatible with British values', 43% of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed while it was less than 31% for all other age groups.

Farhad Ahmad, 24, is an Imam and member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. He said he found the results 'very concerning'. "I think these findings are based on ignorance," he said. "I know the teachings of Islam, and I know there is nothing in Islam which hinders anyone from becoming an integrated member of society, Islam teaches loyalty to one's country. "As a Muslim this gives us more motivation to promote the true teachings of Islam, we need to be more active," he added.

Here are some of the other questions asked by ComRes:
· Islam is compatible with British values - 28% agree
· Islam promotes acts of violence in the UK - 31% agree
· Islam is a negative force in the UK - 43% agree
· Most people in the UK have a negative view of Islam - 72% agree
· I have a good understanding of the traditions and beliefs of Islam - 32% agree
· Islam is a violent religion - 28% agree
· Islam is a negative force in the UK - 43% agree

At the London Mosque in Southfields, a group of Young Muslims are preparing for an evening of 'leafleting'. They knock on doors, handing out leaflets about the teachings of Islam to non-Muslims. One of them is Umar Nasser, 24, a medical student in London. "We are trying to dispel the false notions around Islam, if people are engaging with you and they are having dialogue, then that's progress," he said. "If you talk to people, it will humanise you and humanise your belief systems to them and slowly their misconceptions may start to fall away. "I think British values are about tolerance of different people of different faiths. "There doesn't need to be a clash between your religious values and the values of your country." Haroon Khan, 21, is an economics student at the University of Surrey, he said "I find it difficult that people are not accepting of Islam. "There are lots of misconceptions about the religion, people think ISIS represents Muslims, which definitely isn't the case, "I feel it's my duty to let people know what the true Islam is."

The poll was carried out between 22 - 24 April 2016. The data was weighted by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of adults in Great Britain, over 18.
© BBC Newsbeat

up  

UK: Traveller and Roma families rally outside Parliament to challenge new planning policy

21/5/2016- Gypsy, Traveller and Roma families from all over the UK gathered in Parliament Square on Saturday 21st May to challenge new housing and planning laws that threaten their legal ethnic identity and lifestyle. Many brought their horses, carts and caravan to the rally, which was called 'Dosta, Grinta, Enough!' (the Romany and Gammon words for 'enough'). Musicians and singers took part in the event in front of the Houses of Parliament. At the end of the rally, four organisers handed in a 5000 signatures into Downing Street. In a statement, the organisers said, the petition, "protests against new planning laws that are being introduced that redefine 'gypsy status' to only classify those of us who 'travel' for work purposes, removing any cultural or ethnic dimension. the rally. A spokesperson for the march organizers said: "These new laws will will limit the development of new Gypsy and Traveller sites and potentially threaten those of us living on existing public or private legal Traveller sites. Many of us will be forced back into the road either because we will be made homeless, or in order to 'prove' our ethnic identity and heritage to retain our homes."

A Church group representing all denominations has expressed grave concern over the new policy in the following statement:

The Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma notes with concern the distress caused to Gypsy and Traveller communities by the new Planning Policy for Traveller sites issued in August 2015. As Churches we have a responsibility to affirm, welcome and celebrate the many diverse ethnicities and cultures and challenge all forms of social exclusion and marginalisation, and we share the concern of Gypsies and Travellers about the impact this policy will have on their lives. Of all the guidance in the Planning Policy for Traveller Sites, the part that has caused greatest anxiety is the definition of Gypsies and Travellers which effectively removes Gypsy or Traveller status for people who have settled permanently. This denies to people in "bricks and mortar" (houses) the aspiration to live within the customs of their culture.

To people on private or council-run Traveller sites it raises fears about the security of their tenure. In particular, people with temporary planning permission for a Traveller site are fearful that their home will cease to attract planning permission when the period of the temporary permission has expired, and that they will then face eviction. Travellers have seen this measure in the context of other guidance and legislation which has impacted on their way of life, and have expressed deep concern that there appears to be a political agenda of forced assimilation which would result in the loss of their culture and identity. That is why the demonstrators In Parliament Square on Saturday will meet under the theme of "Dosta Grinta" - "Enough is Enough".

Yours truly,

Revd Martin Burrell, Chair, Churches Network for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma
Yogi Sutton, Chair, Catholic Association for Racial Justice
Dr Elizabeth Henry, National Adviser, Council for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns
Revd. Wale Hudson-Roberts, Racial Justice Advisor, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry, United Reformed Church
Lt-Col Melvin Fincham, Secretary for Communications, Salvation Army
© ICN

up  

Headlines 20 May, 2016

Greece: Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans

20/5/2016- Anwar Ismail Murad passed almost effortlessly along what has become known as the Balkan route, heading north from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through Serbia, Croatia and on to Slovenia. He reached there on February 14, when the border was still open, but that’s where his dream abruptly died. Slovenia denied the 19-year-old Yazidi from Sinjar in Iraq entry, citing a lack of documents even though four countries before had allowed him passage. Murad says authorities took him and others to a hotel near the border where they spent two days, before putting them onto a bus and sending them back to Croatia. From then on, against all expectations – and against official policy – Murad found himself kicked back across nearly all the borders he had passed through. “Just think that my friends passed a few hours earlier than me and now they’re in Germany,” he says wistfully, sitting in the sprawling refugee camp of Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, where thousands of refugees and other migrants have been stranded for at least two months since the borders definitively closed in early March.

As Balkan countries stopped accepting migrants crossing through their land borders, those who were on the route say they were the victims of countries desperate to get rid of those trapped by the new rules. Balkan countries along the route say they do not force potential asylum-seekers back across the border they just came from. But Murad’s case is by no means the only one. About 54,000 people are currently stranded in Greece, after the European Union and Turkey reached a deal designed to stem the flow of refugees into Europe’s prosperous heartland. Under the deal, new arrivals on Greek islands after March 20 face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. The vast majority of those in Idomeni and elsewhere in Greece never made it any further. But some say they were forced back, mainly through holes in the border fence with FYROM but also from further north – and show documents to back up their stories. Others even say they were sent to Greece despite bypassing it originally, having passed from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia.

Mohamad al-Baghdady, 33, from Syria’s contested town of Deir el-Zour, said he crossed the Greek-FYROM border with his wife and daughters, 3-year-old Line and 10-month old Bailsane, on March 3, just before the borders shut. They stayed in a FYROM refugee camp for just over a month, he said, before FYROM authorities destroyed their registration documents and pushed them back into Greece, through the fence FYROM erected along parts of its southern border. “We didn’t want to go back, but the police put us on a truck and drove us to the border with Greece. They opened a hole in the fence and pushed us through. It was 2:30 in the morning,” al-Baghdady said. To prove they were there, his wife, Kamar Darwish, 29, pulls out a handful of food coupons from the FYROM camp, notes with the names and telephone numbers of doctors there for their children, and FYROM currency. “If there was just one square meter that was safe in Syria, just one square meter, we would have stayed there, we wouldn’t have come here and gone through this hardship,” al-Baghdady said.

About another 30 Syrians who had been with the family that night were also in Idomeni, pitching their tents nearby. Darwish said the family told FYROM authorities they wanted to apply for asylum. “But they told us ‘there is no asylum in FYROM. This is not Europe.” She still doesn’t understand why they were returned to Greece. “Everything was OK, our papers and everything.” FYROM authorities denied claims that migrants have been forced back into Greece. “We categorically reject allegations that migrants have been pushed through the fence back to Greece,” FYROM police spokesman Toni Angelovski told the AP. “We also reject claims that migrants have not been allowed to apply for asylum.”
Further south, in the Petra refugee camp at the foot of Mount Olympus, a group of about 30 Yazidis say they had chosen an alternative route, using smugglers to get to Serbia through Bulgaria. They reached the Serbo-Croatian border in February, they say, but were denied entry. Then, inexplicably to them, Serb authorities sent them south to FYROM, from where they were pushed into Greece.

Serbia denies any organized attempts to send people back to FYROM. But officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said some individual cases could have happened. Dakhwas Al Hasan, 25, and Sarrad Shakir, 19, both from Mosul in Iraq, undertook the journey along with 14 others. Al Hasan said they crossed the Iraqi-Turkish border on January 23, staying in Turkey for about 25 days before crossing into Bulgaria. They walked for three days before reaching the capital, Sofia, and then heading into Serbia. Once in Serbia, they received registration documents and were put on a train to the Croatian border. But Al Hasan said Croatian authorities wouldn’t let them through without registration documents from Greece. They spent five days in a camp near the border, where they were beaten by Afghans and Iranians because they were Yazidi. “Then the Serb police put us onto buses and drove us to the Serbian-Macedonian border,” he said. After two days stuck in no-man’s land between Serbia and FYROM, FYROM authorities put them into a camp and a few days later “they led us to the fence near Idomeni, and pushed us through a hole into Greece.

Dilshad Omer, an 18-year-old from Dohuk, Iraq, now lives in the Petra camp with his mother, three sisters and four brothers. They also went through Bulgaria, he said, although his group of 23 people spent 11 days in jail there before reaching Serbia. He displays a photograph on his mobile phone of his Serbian registration document, which he says Serb authorities took off him and ripped up while sending the family back to the FYROM border, putting them on buses at 3 a.m. Eventually they too were taken to the border fence with Greece, Omer said. Al-Hasan still dreams of reaching Germany, where his sister and her family now live. While others have given up on the legal process and are seeking out smugglers to complete their journey, he still has hope. “We want to go to Germany legally,” he says. “And so, we wait.”
© The Kathimerini.

up  

Greek immigration tribunal: Turkey not safe country to send refugees back to

Turkey and the EU reached a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean Sea in March

20/5/2016- A Greek immigration tribunal has ruled that Turkey is not a safe country to send refugees back to – throwing an EU plan to return Syrians there en masse into jeopardy. The EU and Turkey reached a deal in March under which Turkey would close its internal border and prevent refugees from travelling to Europe under their own steam. Under the same plan, countries such as Greece that have borne the brunt of new arrivals would return refugees to Turkey, while asylum seekers in Turkey would be systematically found a home elsewhere in Europe – relieving pressure on the south of the continent. In exchange, the EU has offered Turkish people visa-free travel and an informally accelerated process of accession to the Union, which Turkey wants to join.

But Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that a secondary appeals panel on the Greek island of Lesbos found that Turkey was not a safe third country to send refugees back to, a decision it said was likely to set a precedent under the country’s legal system. More than a million refugees have travelled through Greece since 2015, according to UN estimates, and the country is one of the main spots on which Syrian refugees first make landfall in Europe. Repatriation from Greece was one of the main aims of the scheme, to relieve pressure on the already austerity-hit country. The EU is already likely to miss its June 2016 deadline of approving visa-free travel for Turkish citizens – meaning both sides of the deal are now in jeopardy.

The blow to the deal comes the same week as Conservative MP Peter Bone warned that a vote to stay in the EU would be a vote for “mass immigration” from Turkey. “The consequences [of Turkish accession to the EU] could be grave. We will open our borders to a rapidly growing Turkish population,” he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “It grew from under 50 million in 1985 to 77 million in 2015. It is projected to overtake Germany’s declining population by 2018 and reach over 95 million by 2050.” But asked on LBC Radio today about whether Turkey would join the EU, Boris Johnson said it was “not going to happen for the foreseeable future” – describing the odds as “between nil and 20 per cent”.
© The Independent

up  

Slovakia: Extremists behind teacher’s desks

Slovak teachers and lecturers more and more use vocabulary that seems to be taken from a neo-Nazi march.

19/5/2016- The State Inspectorate approached students of 160 elementary and secondary schools nationwide, with the goal of scrutinising the state of civic education concerning human rights. They found that around one-fifth of them experienced inadequate, or even extremist behaviour of teachers by their teachers. “Teachers with such opinions should not work in education system,” head of the New School Unions Ľudovít Sebelédi told the Sme daily. “If someone violates laws, they should not be teachers.” The situation is addressed also by the State Pedagogical Institute. In cooperation with the Education Ministry, they are preparing the Summer Academy on Human Rights and on Democratic Citizenship where they aim at further education of teachers.

There were several cases of teachers or lecturers openly promoting racist and anti-Semitic ideas, as well as homophobia and anti-democratic opinions. One of these was the secondary-school teacher at the Vocational School of St. Joseph the Labourer in Žilina. Tomáš Ondrovič openly wrote on his internet profile that “the World War II was caused by Anglo-Saxon and Jewish financiers”, called Jews names, and claimed that the Nuremberg trials were “a farce in history” while questioning the Holocaust. His ideas were stated also on the same page where he posted texts for students to study. Ondrovič’s case drew the attention of both police and State School Inspectorate, but immediately the profile and the website disappeared and the teacher denied ever having said or written these things.

Štefan Surmánek of the Political Science Institute of the Prešov University spread his extremist views, besides via internet, through his publications at the university. The lecturer who ran for the extremist ĽSNS party in recent election repeatedly cited “intolerable and alarming rise in Gypsy population” and “low quality of Gypsy teenagers”. His contract is up in August and the university will not prolong it.

Countryside is worse off
The enquiry of the inspectorate showed that it is more than just individual cases when teachers spread hatred and extremist views. They asked about 3,000 children of 81 elementary and 80 secondary schools. Almost 22 percent of pupils of elementary schools have an experience with inappropriate behaviour by at least one teachers. “More than one-fifth of the respondents said that some teachers tend to mock their performance during lessons, make shameful remarks about some students, and ridicule ethnic minorities,” according to the inspectorate. At secondary schools, around 17 percent of students met with such behaviour.

According to about 14 percent of elementary school pupils, teachers present themselves similarly also on Facebook. Pupils of schools in the countryside experienced this markedly more often, especially in the Košice region (12 percent and Trnava region (19 percent). Medical student Ingrid Szȕcsová complains about her elementary school teacher, a Slovak, who mocked her Hungarian accent. When talking about Roma children, teachers and headmasters rarely use the expression “our children”. The division into “us” and “them” is the prevalent perception of Roma/non-Roma world at schools, according to sociologist Elena Gallová Kriglerová. Roma children are often identified as those “others”, and are often defined as the opposite to “normal” children.

“To a great extent, this is subliminal; the border between open racism and mockery is very thin – and this is what happened in Slovakia, it got to the breaking point,” Gallová Kriglerová says, adding that teachers should be more sensitive and mindful also towards these more delicate shades of racism. “Students assume not just knowledge from the teachers but many of them also take on the manifestations of their behaviour,” Erich Mistrík of the Pedagogical faculty of Comenius University added. “Each and every teacher should bear that in mind.” A teacher who behaves in totalitarian way can talk about democracy for ages, but no-one will believe them.” Children’s psychologist Mária Tóthová Šimčáková notes that it is important for parents to encourage their children to compare data so that they learn at an early age to work with information. She stresses that children often let themselves be totally manipulated and can adapt easily.

Copy of society
The results of simulated students’ election also showed that students picked undemocratic parties. Part of secondary-school teachers ascribed this result also to the work of their colleagues who are close to these parties. A 2012 survey for the Open Society Foundation asked which public officials should leave office if it turns out they are supporters of the extreme right. According to respondents, a judge should definitely give up their job in such cases (70 percent) and police officer (67 percent). The teachers ended up just seventh (on 59 percent).
© The Slovak Spectator.

up  

Sweden: Is neo-Nazi activity decreasing?

Swedish neo-Nazi groups were less active in 2015, according to a new report. But it is getting more and more difficult to get a complete picture of the ideology, say the experts behind the new figures.

19/5/2016- According to an annual report by the Swedish anti-racism foundation Expo, neo-Nazi groups carried out 2,222 activities in 2015, down from a record 2,865 activities the year before. "The survey shows that the activity within the racist movement fell in 2015," Daniel Poohl, CEO of Expo Foundation, told Swedish Radio on Thursday. "It was primarily as a consequence of 'Svenskarnas parti' ('the party of the Swedes') – which mobilized massively during the election year [in 2014] and failed – closing down in 2015," he said. Instead the neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement ('Nordiska motståndsrörelsen') is growing, he said. The group was involved in attacks on an anti-racism protest in Kärrtorp in southern Stockholm in 2013.

“This is very much the most radical and violence-loving part of this environment,” said Poohl, adding that although neo-Nazi activities appear to be decreasing, the movement's operations have got more difficult to assess. “There are more small groups, and it is harder to get an overall picture of the political landscape. But perhaps the most interesting and alarming: the growing seed of vigilante movements connected to environments where there are extreme right-wing ideals,” said Poohl.

Sweden has been seeing increased tension after taking in an unprecedented number of refugees in the past year, including several dozens of asylum centres or future centres being set on fire. But the suspected arson attacks are not part of Expo's figures, because few people have been arrested. “This whole environment has partly praised but above all excused these attacks and seen them as legitimate means of opposing immigration. (…) The fact that many of these attacks are directed at planned accommodation indicates that there is a strategic awareness of when to hit. A kind of low-intensity terror,” said Poohl.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Serbian Court Refuses to Extradite Wanted Radicals

A Belgrade court decided not to extradite three members of Vojislav Seselj’s nationalist Serbian Radical Party to the Hague Tribunal, where they are wanted for alleged witness intimidation.

18/5/2016- The Higher Court in Belgrade decided on Wednesday that the three Radical Party members - Vjerica Radeta, Jovo Ostojic and Petar Jojic - cannot be arrested and transferred to The Hague for trial because this is not in line with the Serbian law on cooperation with the UN-backed war crimes court. Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic are accused of being in contempt of court for threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY. They are also accused of blackmailing protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj’s trial. But according to the Belgrade court, Serbia can only arrest people wanted by the ICTY who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

According to Serbia’s Law on Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Belgrade is not obliged to comply with all the ICTY’s requests. The government can deny any request if it believes that it violates Serbia’s sovereignty or national security. However, the Higher Court’s ruling on Wednesday was not final and a second-instance trial chamber can confirm, annul or overturn its decision. In February this year, the ICTY’s trial chamber accused Belgrade of failing to cooperate because it hasn’t arrested Radeta, Ostojic and Jojic. Presiding judge Alphons Orie ordered Belgrade to send “a report every two weeks describing in details the actions the government of Serbia is taking to fulfil its obligations and arrest the accused”.

But Belgrade reacted angrily to Orie’s statement, with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sending a letter of protest to the ICTY demanding that the UN court treat Belgrade with more respect. Seselj was acquitted of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia by the ICTY on March 31, but the prosecution has sought to appeal. The Radical Party leader was allowed to return to Belgrade in November 2014 after being granted temporary release by the ICTY on humanitarian grounds to undergo cancer treatment. The three wanted Radical Party officials have told media on several occasions that they will never go to The Hague court voluntarily. Seselj has also backed them, calling them “honourable citizens of Serbia”.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Bulgarian Racists Assault Iglesias Band Members

In an incident that has highlighted Bulgaria’s ongoing problem with hate crimes, band members say they were attacked because of their appearance on the eve of a concert in Sofia.

18/5/2016- Musicians from the band of pop star Enrique Iglesias say they suffered a racist attack in Sofia on May 14. Backing vocalist Celia Chavez and guitarist Sean Hurwitz said the incident took place in central Sofia late at night before Iglesias’s concert on May 14. Chavez reported the assault on Facebook, explaining that her friend, bass player Joe Ayoub, was “tackled... by two skinheads and subjected to a random beating”. When two other members of the band came to his aid, they were reportedly attacked, too. “The attackers clearly targeted my friend because of his appearance - the two men went swiftly and specifically to him at the start of the attack,” the singer wrote.

The news outraged Bulgarian fans of Iglesias who sent their apologies on social networks to the musicians and expressed their anger with the authorities for failing to tackle the problem of racially based aggression. “I am so sorry and ashamed this has happened to you here... Hate and racism are serious issues here... this is usually conveniently kicked under the carpet but the problems are glaringly obvious,” a Facebook user commented on Chavez’s page. The musicians explained that they managed to escape the attackers and made it safely to their hotel. On Tuesday, when the case gained publicity, Bulgarian police told BIRN that they had not started an investigation because the victims and their friends had not reported the incident.

Although racist violence is punishable as a hate crime under the Bulgarian penal code, rights groups complain that attacks are not adequately prosecuted and punished. In a report published in February 2015, Amnesty International accused Bulgaria of failing to adequately investigate and prosecute hate crimes, which it said was “fueling fear, discrimination and ultimately violence”. The latest year for which Bulgaria reported data on hate crimes to the OSCE was 2014, when 617 hate crimes were recorded by the police. Of that number, 114 cases resulted in court sentences. "I do not want to walk the streets of Sofia — or any city that invites me in the name of music — in fear, or resentment, or anger,” Chavez said, recalling the moment when she and her band found out that their manager had been killed in the Islamist attack on the Bataclan hall in Paris in 2015.

But she and her colleagues stressed that the latest incident would not change their attitude to Bulgaria and their Bulgarian fans. “ These things happen sometimes. They are senseless acts of violence and they unfortunately occur worldwide. They do not reflect my thoughts about Bulgaria in any way,” Sean Herwitz wrote on his website.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Netherlands: Empty Prisons Become Homes for Refugees

As plunging crime rates close prisons across the country, a government agency is using the space to house refugees.

17/5/2016- In an interesting take on reusing and recycling, a government agency in the Netherlands has opened empty prisons to accommodate the influx of migrants seeking asylum. As the country’s crime rate and prison population have steadily declined for years, dozens of correctional facilities have closed altogether. So when the number of migrants started to rise—more than 50,000 entered the Netherlands last year alone—the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) saw a solution. Photographer Muhammed Muheisen, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Associated Press chief photographer for the Middle East, has devoted the past few years to photographing the refugee crisis as people move across continents. “The question always in my head was, What happens next?” he says. “The journey doesn’t stop the moment they enter a country.”

Last fall, Muheisen started hearing rumors about the reuse of penitentiaries. “I didn’t exactly understand,” he says. “I thought they feel like they are in prisons.” It took six months to get permission to take photos inside of a prison. Eventually, Muheisen spent 40 days visiting three different facilities, getting to know residents and photographing their lives. “We’re talking about dozens of nationalities,” he says. “Dozens. The whole world is under this dome.” The refugees—who will live in the centers for at least six months while waiting to be granted asylum status—are free to come and go as they please. Muheisen says that some have forged friendships with their Dutch neighbors.

Refugees are not allowed to work, but they practice speaking the Dutch language and learn to ride bicycles (both skills are essential to life in the Netherlands). The fact that they do so inside a prison doesn’t faze most of the residents. Muheisen says when he asked what they thought about the arrangement, the typical response was, “We are here under a roof, in a shelter, and we feel safe.” One Syrian man told Muheisen that living in the prison gave him hope for his future. “If a country has no prisoners to put in jail,” he said, “it means this is the safest country that I want to be living in.”

© The Associated Press

up  

Czech Rep: ERTF supports NGOs seeking to fly rainbow and Roma flags at Terezín

18/5/2016- The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) has sent Jan Munk, the director of the Terezín Memorial who also chairs the Commission for the Preparation of the Terezín Commemoration, a letter expressing its agreement with the 14 nonprofit organizations who asked that both the LGBT community's rainbow flag and the international Romani flag be flown during the commemorative ceremony at Terezín this year. Munk rejected the request at the beginning of May for the flags to be included alongside state flags during the 15 May event. Agnes Daroczi, director of the ERTF and an expert on the Romani Holocaust, asks the following in her letter, which was sent on 11 May: "If victims from one particular state can be honoured by a flag why cannot half a million Roma from all over Europe not receive the same honour?" In his rejection letter, publicized on 5 May, Munk invited people to bring their own flags and fly them from the audience during the ceremony, which some did.

The commemorative ceremony at Terezín this year was also controversial because of the bigoted and politicized nature of the speeches given by two of the invited speakers. Jewish representatives from around the country protested those speeches and a member of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union issued a public statement rejecting the speech given by the national chair of that organization.
© Romea.

up  

Czech Rep: Number of displays of antisemitism high

17/5/2016- The number of displays of hatred for Jews remained as high in the Czech Republic in 2015 as in the preceding year, and reached 221, the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities (FZO) says in a report released to CTK on Tuesday. In 2014, the number reached 234. Hatred was mainly spread via the Internet, the annual report says. The rising number of issued books is dangerous, since the revenues from their sale may help finance extremist groups' activities, the report says. "Although the Jewish community in the Czech Republic was not a target of terrorist attacks...we view this threat as very serious in the world context and we have adjusted our security measures accordingly," FZO Secretary Tomas Kraus said.

Nevertheless, the report says the Czech Republic still ranks among the countries where anti-Semitism is present only marginally. It says anti-Semitic books have mainly been issued by the ABB publisher linked to Adam B. Bartos, chairman of the ultra-right extra-parliamentary National Democracy (ND), and also the Guidemedia etc publishing house that issues translations of Nazi texts. Last year, re-editions of older anti-Semitic books appeared as well as new texts focusing on conspiracy theories and the Holocaust denial, the report says. Conspiracy theories are a new phenomenon that has emerged in connection with the migrant crisis. Their main motif is the Jewish-organised refugee flow to Europe, the consequent destruction of Europe and its values, and the gradual taking of control of Europe, the FZO writes in the report.

In 2015, the FZO also registered attempts at the economic and cultural boycotting of Israel, which is a new form of anti-Semitism, the report says. The forms of displays of hatred to Jews in 2015 were similar to those in previous years, including letters, e-mails, verbal attacks, harassment in the vicinity of Jewish sites, desecration and vandalism. No physical attack on people was registered last year, compared to one in 2014. Five attacks on property were registered, the same number as in 2014. The number of threat cases dropped to three and of harassment rose to 31.

Displays of hatred on the Internet were the most frequent like in the previous years. They made up 182 (82 percent) of the total of 221 incidents, the report says. The articles and comments tend to be more and more often spread on social networks and blogs instead of traditional websites. For example, a community "We Don's Want Jews in the Czech Republic" appeared on Facebook, which Facebook eventually removed at the critics' request, the FZO writes. The FZO's data may differ from those released by other institutions, which limit displays of anti-Semitism to acts that can be qualified as crimes. According to the Interior Ministry's report, the police registered 47 crimes with anti-Semitic subtext, two more than in 2014. Most of them were displays of support for movements aimed to suppress human rights and freedoms.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Czech Rep: Activists ask EU to stop subsidising controversial pig farm

17/5/2016- Monday, 16 May was the International Day of Romani Resistance, a day to honor the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust and the heroic uprising of Romani people in the Auschwitz concentration camp. On that occasion the Konexe organization held a demonstration in front of the EU House, the headquarters of the representation of the European Commission and European Parliament in the Czech Republic. Representatives of Konexe delivered a message entitled "Europe, Stop Subsidizing the Pig Farm at Lety" to the EU House. News server Romea.cz broadcast audio and video of the demonstration live online. "We have nothing against the European Union per se, we are criticizing the state of affairs in which the European Structural Funds are subsidizing a specific agricultural enterprise located on places where genocide was perpetrated. In our view, this is absolutely incompatible with European values," Miroslav Brož of Konexe told news server Romea.cz prior to the demonstration.
© Romea.

up  

16 May 1944: Romani Resistance Day

16/5/2016- It seems that the denial of genocide and the denial of racism are communicating vessels. An ethnic group whose genocide is denied continues to be targeted with racism. Conversely, the recognition of genocide can start a healing process in society that can help it overcome racism. The Romani Holocaust, called the "porajmos" (destruction) in Romanes, is a part of history that is not only forgotten today, it is even denied. We do not know much about this aspect of the Holocaust. There are just a few books about it, and very little historical research. Be that as it may, some forgotten parts of the Romani Holocaust really deserve commemoration. Romani people did not always play the role of passive victims during that era.

What happened on 16 May 1944? In the extermination camp of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, section BIIe was called the "Gypsy Camp" (Zigeuner Lager). Some of the Romani people transported into the hell of Auschwitz by the Nazis were not gassed immediately upon arrival, but were placed in the Zigeuner Lager. BIIe was a "mixed" camp, which meant children, men and women were imprisoned there together. The Romani prisoners were forced into slave labor, observed and subjected to medical tests, and tortured. Dr Josef Mengele of the SS, a sadistic psychopath known as the "Angel of Death", chose Romani individuals, most of them children, to subject to perverse experiments.

During the night of 2 August and the early morning of 3 August 1944, all of the prisoners of the camp, without exception, were murdered in the gas chambers. Because of this known, official history, 2 August has been commemorated as Romani Holocaust Day. The Nazis had actually wanted to close BIIe and murder its Romani prisoners in the gas chambers earlier than that, on 16 May 1944. At the time there were more than 6 000 Romani prisoners there. On 15 May, the underground resistance movement in the camp warned the Roma of what the Nazis were planning. On the morning of 16 May, the Romani prisoners did not show up for the usual morning roll call and ceased cooperating with the SS guards. The Roma barricaded themselves into their shanties. They had broken into an equipment warehouse and armed themselves with hammers, pickaxes and shovels, taking apart the wooden sections of the bunks they slept on to make wooden stakes.

The children collected rocks. When the SS guards entered the camp in the late afternoon to take the Roma to the gas chambers, they began to fight for their lives. The Roma fought to the death. Children, men, and women all fought. Auschwitz had never experienced anything like it before and would not experience it again. There were losses on both sides. The SS were in shock because they had completely failed to anticipate this resistance. Concerned they might lose more men and that the uprising might spread to other parts of Auschwitz, they retreated from camp BIIe. No Roma died in the gas chambers that day. The Nazis subsequently put the prisoners of BIIe on a starvation diet.

On 23 May 1944, the Nazis moved 1 500 of the strongest Romani prisoners to Auschwitz I, many of whom were then sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. On 25 May 1944, 82 Romani men were transported to the Flossenburg concentration camp and 144 young Romani women were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Less than 3 000 Romani prisoners remained in the family camp at BIIe, most of them children. On 2 August 1944, the Nazis gassed them all to death in gas chamber V, although the Roma fought back on that dark night as well. Glory and honor to the memory of these Romani heroes!

You can find more information about 16 May 1944 on the following websites:
Documentation and Culture Center of the German Sinti and Roma
Everyone - Group for International Cooperation on Human Rights Culture 

Editors' Note: On the basis of our consultations with historians and our study of the expert sources on this issue, we have been informed that it is not actually possible to document any claims that what occurred between the guards and the prisoners of the camp on 16 May 1944 was a clash of the kind described here.
© Romea.

up  

Austria's far-right candidate softens EU views

17/5/2016- The far-right candidate for president in Austria has said he does not want an EU membership referendum and has no plans to exit the euro or Schengen areas. In an interview to Die Presse newspaper on Tuesday (17 May), Norbert Hofer tried to express moderate views on the EU and focused on migration. Hofer came top in the first round of the presidential election on 24 April, with 36 percent, and is the favourite to win the run-off on Sunday (22 May). According to the latest polls, voting intentions for Hofer are between 49 and 57 percent, with 43-51 percent for his opponent, Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. "Austria pronounced itself for [EU] accession. We have adapted our whole system to the EU. Therefore I am not for an EU exit,"Hofer told Die Presse.

Asked whether he shared the view of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen that the EU must be "destroyed", Hofer said he "didn't stand for that position". He said that he was against Austria's EU membership in 1995 because he wanted the country to "maintain its freedom". But now he had taken note of “the democratic result” and saw "no necessity" for an EU membership referendum. But Hofer said such a referendum would be "a last recourse" if the EU developed into a centralised state. He said he wanted a "subsidiary Europe" where more decisions could be taken at national or local level. "Should agricultural policy and aid be regulated at a European level? I think member states can do better," he said.

Migration limits
He did not say whether he supported the euro or not, but said that he would not support a unilateral Austrian exit from the single currency. "A euro exit cannot work if Austria is alone in doing it. If there is a problem with the euro, we could go only in unison with Germany," he said. A strong critic of EU refugee policies, Hofer said he did not want to abolish the Schengen free-travel area. "The model of Schengen with security at the external borders is the optimum. When it doesn't work we have to secure the borders," he said. At a domestic level, the far-right leader reaffirmed that he wanted to maintain the cap on the number of people allowed to file an asylum request imposed by the government of former social-democrat Werner Faymann.

Some 37,500 asylum requests will be accepted by Austrian authorities this year. "We cannot make it financially," he said, after more than 90,000 people applied for asylum in Austria in 2015. He said he wanted a "sectoral immigration break" that would also apply to EU citizens. "If a person can do something for which there is a demand, he can come. If someone has a job that offers him no chance, he cannot come," he said. Hofer said he doubted that integration could work in Austria and suggested he could organise a referendum to ban minarets in the country. But when asked whether people with origins outside the German cultural area could be Austrian, he said: “Of course.”
© The EUobserver

up  

Austria: Prosecution on cards for Islam comments

An Austrian middle school teacher may be facing criminal prosecution for comments which insult Islam as a religion.

16/5/2016- The female teacher from the Austrian town of Bregenz in Vorarlberg is alleged to have described Mohammed, the prophet and founder of the religion of Islam, as a child molestor, according to a report in Vorarlberg Online. Provincial education councillor Dr Bernadette Mennel said "yes, there is an allegation against the teacher." It was said that the comments came in a classroom, and were witnessed by the woman's students. The school forwarded the complaint officially to the local prosecutors for investigation. According to Mennel, further information would not be made available until the investigation was completed. "Such statements are unacceptable", she told local media. The woman's comments are frequently used by Islamophobes and right-wing activists, and are based on a tradition from some Hadiths that Mohammad consummated his marriage with his youngest wife, Aisha, when she was nine years old. Many contemporary Muslim scholars refute this, and claim that she was closer to 15 years old. In any case, marriage of underage woman was common during the Middle Ages. This is not the first time the accusations have been surfaced in Austria, as in 2009 a member of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), Susanne Winter, was convicted of religious incitement for making similar comments. Winter was officially expelled from the FPÖ in November for making anti-Semitic comments.
© The Local - Austria

up  

France: Taking on racism and hate speech

French authorities have rolled out their first campaigns to fight racism and anti-Semitism that offer hard-hitting messages against hate speech and workplace discrimination. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Paris.

19/5/2016- The only time Dieynaba Thioune usually wears a Muslim headscarf is during Friday prayers back in her home city of Dakar, Senegal. But on a recent sunny day in Paris, she donned one to make a point. "It feels very strange," said 19-year-old Thioune, who joined a 'hijab day' rally at France's elite Sciences Po University. "I have friends who wear the hijab here, and they sometimes get verbally attacked." A few miles north across the city limit, outside a state employment office, 29-year-old Yacouba Cisse describes the challenges of finding work as a restaurant cook. "When they see the color of my skin, they ask if I want to wash dishes," said Cisse, who is also from Senegal. Those are sentiments France's leftist government wants to change, under a massive, 100-million-euro ($113 million) bid to fight racism and discrimination, first announced a year ago.

In recent weeks, authorities have rolled out their first major communications campaigns: a pair of hard-hitting messages against hate speech and discrimination in hiring practices. "We cannot just sit and watch rising populism, extremism and radicalism in all its forms, to have this threat in the middle of our Republic," said Gilles Clavreul, head of DILCRA, a ministerial body overseeing the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. The three-year government plan includes an arsenal of proposals, from deepening sanctions and the Internet fight against hate speech, to launching school and citizen education programs.

Effort draws mixed reviews
France is hardly the only European country grappling with prejudice. Far-right groups are gaining ground across Europe, feeding on the immigration crisis and rising fears of militant Islam. Still, in March, the Council of Europe warned that hate speech in France has "become commonplace." In interviews with roughly a dozen anti-discrimination activists, experts and ordinary people, many applaud the campaign's overall intent, but give the communications campaigns mixed reviews. Some even suggested French authorities are part of the problem, pointing to the fractured political response to the Muslim veil as a leading example. Most observers, however, agree on one thing: it will take much more than a three-year crusade to bring about a more tolerant and egalitarian society. "There's a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success," said Christine Lazerges of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), a government advisory body. Major changes were needed in the country's educational system and in turning around France's disenfranchised suburbs, she added.

Government statistics also attest to a long road ahead. In 2015, hate offences overall jumped by more than one-fifth compared to the year before to more than 2,000. Anti-Muslim acts and threats alone tripled last year, while anti-Semitic ones remained high. Activists say the true figures are higher, since many acts go unrecorded. Despite an overall hike in hate acts in 2015, Clavreul cites signs of progress. New figures in May show a sharp drop in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts since a year ago. A study by the CNCDH found an increase in perceived French tolerance - a surprising fallout from a year bracketed by two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. "There is a need for fraternity and social cohesion that is making people open up to those who are different," the commission's president Lazerges said.

But other forms of discrimination are more subtle. A survey on French hiring by Paris think-tank Institut Montaigne found Christian men are four times more likely to get a callback from recruiters than Muslim ones - a discrepancy that actually increases among the more qualified. Jews also face discrimination, but to a lesser extent. "It's a very serious phenomenon," said Montaigne's deputy director Angele Malatre-Lansac, pointing to study estimates that discrimination against Muslims in France was far higher than against African-Americans in the United States. In many cases, she says, employers are fearful of flouting the country's staunchly secular laws, and are uncertain how to treat expressions of religiosity at work, like Muslim prayers. "It's not necessarily that racism is pervasive, but religious practice can make recruiters afraid," she said.

'Real life' hate acts
The French government has gone on the offensive. In March, it launched six 30-second TV spots re-enacting 'real life' racist and anti-Semitic acts: distraught Muslims finding a pig's head stuck to the mosque gate; a black man getting beaten up; 'death to Jews' scrawled on a synagogue door. "We had to create a shock, to say 'Hey, stop, we have to address these issues,'" said Clavreul of DILCRA, describing the publicity as a first, but crucial step. Still, some anti-discrimination groups criticize the spots for offering a narrow, overly violent take on discrimination. "It can be even counterproductive, because we've worked for years to show that racism is subtle, and even those who are not racist can have humiliating, wounding words," Lazerges of the rights body said. Others want results.

"Publicity spots are good, they can help educate people," said Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia. "But how many people were arrested, how many people were found guilty?" Officials argue all hate acts will be pursued and punished, and the campaign's sweep is both broad and local. The government has taken a different tack with its second campaign, rolled out in mid-April. Giant posters portray job seekers with their faces split in half - white and non-white - with the tagline "Skills First." Next to the white side are messages like, "You start Monday." On the non-white: "You don't have the right profile." Authorities also say they will test companies on their hiring practices, with plans to 'name and shame.' Some have said they find the posters unsettling rather than helpful.

What about veiled women?
The state's tough stance toward the Muslim headscarf also raises questions over whether its anti-discrimination drive will fairly defend veiled women, who are considered leading targets of anti-Muslim acts. Controversial remarks by top politicians - Women's Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol recently compared veiled women to "negroes" supporting slavery - have fuelled those doubts. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also takes a hard view, describing the veil as a sign of "enslavement" and criticizing the Science Po's recent hijab day, organized to protest Rossignol's remarks. "The number one culprit of Islamophobia in France is the state itself," said Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia. "If there's work to be done, it has to be done at the grassroots level." Sciences Po student Thioune is also skeptical. "I thought France was open-minded," she said, "but not when it comes to the hijab."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

French doctors charging migrants for medical certificates, charity alleges

16/5/2016- Doctors in France are illegally charging migrants hundreds of euros in return for certificates that state they suffer medical conditions entitling them to stay in the country, a charity alleged on Monday. The accusation came less than a week after a doctor at a leading Paris hospital was suspended and placed under investigation by public prosecutors for allegedly charging migrants for medical certificates. According to Cimade, one of the main agencies working with refugees, there is evidence that such practices are widespread. Some medical certificates are believed to state falsely that migrants have conditions that mean they cannot be deported under French law. Others are genuine, but charging for them is illegal under French law, which stipulates all migrants, including irregular migrants, should receive free treatment under the state medical aid system.

Last week a doctor at the largest public hospital in Paris, La Pitié Salpêtrière, was suspended after being accused of repeatedly taking money from migrants for such certificates. A charity volunteer informed hospital authorities, who referred the case to prosecutors. The hospital management said an internal investigation “led to the supposition that other patients in comparable situations may also have been induced to make such payments”. It did not specify the number of patients or doctors believed to be involved. Laura Petersell of Cimade told Le Parisien newspaper: “We’ve established that many doctors are extorting money from migrants. They demand that they pay several hundred euros for certificates stating that they have medical conditions that can give them the right to ask for legal residency in the country.”

Cimade has informed the Health Ministry of a number of cases and “expects a strong response,” Ms Petersell said. “The ministry has confirmed that it is unjustified for doctors to make these demands for fees.” She said the charity has obtained “numerous statements” from witnesses. Jean-Marie Faroudja, head of the ethics section of the French Medical Association, said doctors could face disciplinary procedures for charging "vulnerable patients". "These are intolerable practices.” A woman from Cameroon told Le Parisien she had been charged £70 by a doctor she found in a list provided by the authorities when she was applying for her residency permit to be extended to continue medical treatment in France. The woman, who requested anonymity, told the newspaper: “When I saw him, he just took my pulse and and my blood pressure, and asked me for €90. That’s a lot of money for me. I was very surprised.”

The free medical treatment accorded to migrants has been condemned by the far-Right leader Marine Le Pen, who has complained that the state “totally looks after them”. As well as medical care, asylum-seekers receive a daily allowance of €11.35, which amounts to an average of €340.50 (about £270) per month. Unlike other beneficiaries of free medical care, they do not have to prove they have resided in France for three months before making a claim. Even if their asylum applications are rejected, they can still obtain free medical treatment if they remain in the country illegally.

Refugee status
What makes someone a refugee?
A refugee is someone who has proven to authorities that "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country". (1951 Refugee Convention)

What is a migrant?
This broader term refers to someone who leaves their country for another one, to live for more than a year. Those leaving for work, or for a better life, are often called "economic migrants"

Is there a difference between the term 'asylum seeker' and 'refugee'?
'Asylum seeker' technically refers to a person who has applied for refugee status and is waiting to be assessed by the government. A refugee is a person who was an asylum seeker and has achieved refugee status

What happens when asylum seekers arrive in another country?
Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, those fleeing persecution are entitled to apply for refugee status and be given somewhere safe to live until their claim has been accepted or denied.

Why is the current situation different?
The UNHCR says that when there is a mass movement of refugees after war or conflict, big groups are often declared "prima facie" refugees and countries can decide to take them in automatically.
Source: Red Cross, UNHCR
© The Telegraph

up  

Croatian Journalist Sacked for Critiquing Nationalism

Tatjana Gromaca, a journalist for leftist Croatian daily Novi List, claims she has been fired for her 'criticism towards the nationalist point of view'.

16/5/2016- A well known journalist on cultural and social issues, Tatjana Gromaca, claims that her former employer, the Croatian leftist daily Novi List, has sacked her for opposing nationalism. “The rationale for my resignation, that they don’t need a correspondent from Istria [on the Croatian coast] is ridiculous," Gromaca told BIRN. Gromac explained that while she had been fired as a correspondent, her contract defined her as “a journalist-reporter and columnist”. Novi List disclosed on Thursday that it was ending cooperation with Gromaca, claiming it did not not need another journalist from the town of Pula in Istria, where Gromaca lives, since the new owner of the company also has a Pula-based daily newspaper, Glas Istre.

Before working for Novi List, Gromaca worked on topics of culture and social issues for the left-wing, anti-establishment satirical weekly newspaper, Feral Tribune. Gromaca insisted that her work was never locally oriented and that she had interviewed people from all over the region and the world. She believes she lost her job due to her “criticism of the nationalist point of view and because of the narrowness of people’s perception”. She further claimed that her writing had “unmasked” such views and showed them as “a sort of a fiction”, which was dangerous for the system. “Therefore, I am in fact a dangerous journalist, although someone maybe would not say so at first sight. But I am proud of it, as well as of the lay-off that I’ll soon get,” Gromaca concluded.

Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, HND, told BIRN that the reasons for firing Gromaca were far from logical. “They are firing her, saying they don’t need another person from Istria, although she’s not writing on Istrian issues and although she’s not a correspondent there,” he said. HND also sent a media release on Sunday, commenting on the spate of removals and lay-offs of journalists in Novi List, referring to them as degrading. The newspaper threatened to fire its journalist Boris Pavelic in June, after he published an interview with former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence officer and politician Josip Manolic. In it, he accused the Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko, also head of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, of having been a spy for the Yugoslav secret services in 1980s.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Scottish churches push forward on gay rights

Church of Scotland to decide on ministers and same-sex marriage, while Episcopal Church to vote on gay church weddings

20/5/2016- Scottish churches are pushing forward on gay rights, with the Church of Scotland to decide on Saturday whether to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages and the Scottish Episcopal Church likely to take a significant step next month towards permitting gay weddings in its churches. If approved, the changes will differentiate the two churches from the Church of England, which bans clergy from being married to partners of the same sex and has refused to allow gay church weddings. The Church of Scotland’s general assembly, which opens in Edinburgh on Saturday, is to vote on extending a law passed last May that permits ministers to be in same-sex civil partnerships. Over the past year, 29 presbyteries have approved such a move, and 19 opposed it. A vote by members of the church was closer: 1,207 approved the move with 1,096 against.

Saturday’s vote among the assembly’s 730 commissioners is also expected to be close, but church insiders suggested enough had been done to win over waverers. “A vote in favour is more likely than not,” said a source. A vote to allow ministers to be in gay marriages would not compromise the church’s traditional stance that marriage was a union of a man and a woman, the source said. Next year, the church’s Theological Forum is to complete a review of traditional church teaching on human sexuality and marriage. In an interim report to this year’s assembly, it said the issue had threatened to polarise the church. “Over the years we have come to see that it is unrealistic for either side to think that it can gain ‘absolute victory’,” it said. The Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to take the first step in a two-stage process at its synod next month towards changing church law to allow same-sex weddings in church. If passed, a second vote would be required next year. Such a move would invite de facto sanctions by the international Anglican Communion similar to the measures imposed on the US Episcopal Church earlier this year after it permitted clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

David Chillingworth, the primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “The canonical change would make it possible for our clergy to conduct same-sex marriages and to be in same-sex marriages – that’s the direction in which we’re moving.” However, he added, “there is also a significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church”. He said his job was “to preserve the unity of the church”. If the change to church law passed next year, he said, “we’re aware we will probably find ourselves in the same position as the US Episcopal Church. These are difficult issues; we are all in transition.” Same-sex marriage was legalised in Scotland in December 2014, with almost 500 gay couples getting married in the following three months. The Church of Scotland – known as the Kirk – is the largest church in Scotland with almost a third of the population claiming allegiance in the 2011 census. The Catholic church is the next biggest.
© The Guardian.

up  

UK: We must oppose the toxic far-right politics of fear (opinion)

By Phélim Mac Cafferty

20/5/2016- The lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community is still shaken following two violent homophobic attacks in the city in as many weeks. Such attacks are completely unacceptable and have no place in society. On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia this week it was heartening to hear the city’s most senior police officer, Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp, assure us that his officers take all forms of hate crime seriously. I was pleased to hear arrests had been made in these cases, but I share a sense of outrage with many residents that cowardly thugs have contributed to making many LGBT residents feeling less safe in their city. It is possibly tempting to see these as isolated incidents yet there were 175 homophobic incidents and crimes and 33 transphobic incidents and crimes in Brighton and Hove in the last year. The 2015 Crime Survey for England Wales revealed that 8 in 10 LGBT people reported being verbally abused or harassed, one in 10 suffered physical assault. Many more hate crimes go unreported.

What is sadly abundantly clear is that much still remains to be done to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and it is essential that we work together to stamp out hatred. As a Green, my vision is a city where our many diverse communities feel safe and welcome. Where no one need fear violent attacks due to their sexuality or because they don’t identify with the gender assigned at their birth. Greens have a long track record of tackling discrimination and promoting equality, and will continue to unapologetically support the right for all our residents to live free from hate and fear. This isn’t, actually, too much to ask. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we also have a tremendous amount to celebrate in our city. Our annual Pride celebrations are the biggest in the UK and support for the LGBT community can be found in all quarters and across the political spectrum. On 23 July, I will once again join in the city’s Trans Pride celebrations and stand with the Trans community.

Among the only people who shouldn’t feel welcome here are far-right protesters who on June 4 are descending once again on Brighton and Hove. Drawn by our rich heritage of proudly standing up for those on the margins, those fleeing asylum, their call to arms is ‘no more refugees.’ These are people who have historically had a problem with our city’s Jewish population, our LGBT population and our ethnic minorities. They have always had scapegoats for their toxic politics of fear. We must be clear: we can not allow openly racist organisations to hold demonstrations in our city unchallenged. Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear and that’s why we must counter their message of hate with one of hope. We must oppose those who seek to divide us. After all: an injury to any one of our city’s diverse communities is an injury to each and every one of us.
Councilor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convener of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.
© The Brighton and Hove Independant

up  

Italy: Beppe Grillo sparks outrage with terrorist joke about London mayor Sadiq Khan

Comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo has been highly criticised after making a terrorist joke about new London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

16/5/2016- The leader of Italy’s second-largest political party was performing at a show in Padua on Saturday when he praised the victory in the mayoral election of "Bangladeshi" Khan, who is British and whose family are originally from Pakistan. The comedian noted that London's first Muslim mayor is an example of what unthinkable surprises life can hold in store and as proof that one must never stop dreaming, only to proceed to joke: "Now I want to see when he blows himself up in Westminster." Mr Grillo's unwillingness to tune down his jokes could be detrimental to his populist M5S which he is trying to portray as a serious alternative to traditional parties, especially to the Democratic Party (PD), led by prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Racist and misogynist comments are not uncommon within extreme parties in Italian politics. In 2014, for example, Gianluca Buonanno, a Northern League MP, blacked up in Parliament, saying that all white Italians should do the same so as to receive benefits. The previous year a councillor, also belonging to the Northern League, called for the country's first black minister to be raped after reading an article about an alleged attempt by a Somali man to rape two Romanian girls. The remark by the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), an anti-establishment party founded by Mr Grillo in 2009, came at a sensitive time as his own party’s candidate, Virginia Raggi, is the leading contender to become the next mayor of Rome.

Stefano Esposito, a PD senator, demanded to know what the mayoral candidate Raggi thought of the joke: “What does Raggi think of the racist insult that her boss directed at the mayor of London? Pretends nothing is going on?” he asked on Twitter. Same question asked by Ettore Rosato, the PD's leader in Parliament: "Racism and generalisation by Beppe Grillo is not funny and offend integrated people and free voters. What does Virginia Raggi say about Westminster?" The PD’s candidate for mayor of Rome, Roberto Giachetti, also attacked the one-liner, saying on Twitter that “It didn’t make me laugh.” “The Five Star Movement is now distinguishing itself for its racism and xenophobia,” Andrea Romano, PD lawmaker, added on Sunday, according to Italian daily La Stampa.

Mr Romano said that he believes the remark was an attempt to distract the public from internal problems within the M5S, including a scandal involving the mayor of Parma, Federico Pizzarotti, a member of Grillo’s party who is under investigation for abuse of office. Filippo Nogarin, mayor of Livorno, is also M5S member under investigation, this time for fraud. Whilst both politicians denied any wrongdoing, the investigations are particularly painful for a party that rose to prominence partly thanks to its anti-corruption stance. The comment may also cause issues for Ukip as leader Nigel Farage has developed a close connection with Mr Gillo in the part few years. The Five Star Movement and Ukip share membership of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy bloc in the European Parliament. In March, Mr Farage said Mr Grillo was “doing amazingly well … here’s one of the great paradoxes: Eurosceptic parties across Europe are dominated by young people.”
© The Telegraph

up  

UK: Leading EDL figure says far-right group is protesting to ‘protect’ Coventry

20/5/2016- A leading figure in the English Defence League has told the Observer the far-right group will march this weekend ‘to protect the public’. Speaking ahead of their Coventry demonstration this weekend, national lead for the EDL, Ian Crossland, said the group were marching to force Coventry to recognise ‘serious issues’ in the city. The 42-year-old from Sheffield, who will join hundreds of far-right supporters in the city this weekend, claimed: “Coventry has gangs grooming youngsters and a high rate of young people being radicalised and sent to fight for jihad. “There are Muslim imams and clerics in the city who are actively preaching hate and recruiting for extremism. “This is a blatatent Muslim issue and an issue within Islam. “While not all Muslims are extremists, there are people that are.”

When asked about the group’s message potentially causing offence to Coventry’s diverse communities, Crossland claimed the EDL were doing a ‘service’ – helping bring the problems in particular problems areas including Foleshill, Radford, and Edgewick Park to the surface. He added: “Counter groups are just sticking their heads in the sand – what are they doing to combat the problem of extremism and the sexual exploitation of children? “They are living in ignorant bliss by simply spouting the politically correct line without actually broaching the issue. “Being politically correct does not help anyone – we are doing this to protect the public. “I’d happily meet with the Bishop of Coventry and the leading people from Unite Against Fascism to have a frank public debate on the matter.”

Mr Crossland also blamed the media for creating the EDL’s notorious reputation and fueling a ‘witch hunt’ against members. Claiming most people arrested at EDL demonstrations were actually from counter-protest groups, he argued the EDL had worked hard to move away from their murky, violent past. The group will meet at the Litten Tree pub where Mr Crossland said drinking will not be banned entirely – attendees instead encouraged to enjoy alcohol in moderation. “At the end of the day, we are in Coventry to do a job,” he said. “Yes, it is an emotive subject that people are passionate about, but we are standing up for a cause.”
© The Coventry Observer

up  

UK: The shocking reality of racist bullying in British schools

19/5/2916- This week, a 16-year-old girl was tragically found dead at her school in Cornwall. It's believed that Dagmara Przybysz, originally from Poland, had suffered racist bullying. Two years ago, she'd spoken about experiencing racism on social media site Ask.fm and after her death this week, her friends suggested that the bullying had continued:
"It is so sad what people do to make people do this stuff,” wrote one. "Such a beautiful girl, died a such a young age because of absolute p***ks,” said another. A coroner will look into Przybysz’s death at a later date and it is currently unclear whether racist bullying played a part. But the tragic case does shine a light on the torment that goes on everyday in British schools. “Even though we have made tremendous progress, bullying is still a major issue in schools and there’s still a lot around race,” says Anastasia de Waal, chair of Bullying UK. “Appearances and differences have always been an easy thing to latch onto.”

A recent survey from anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found 1.5 million young people have been bullied within the past year in the UK, and those who had an ethnic minority profile were at a much higher risk of being bullied than a young Caucasian person. This is something Billie Gianfrancesco has direct experience of. The 26-year-old PR manager is half-Caribbean, and when she was at school in rural Norfolk, found herself the target of bullies. “I experienced ignorant racism, which wasn't really an issue as I just ignored it," she says. "But then one of the senior girls at my private school started targeting me and calling me a 'Paki', telling me to go back to where I came from (which was Norwich). “Once she locked me in the changing rooms for the whole of a PE lesson because I was slow getting changed and a 'paki bitch'. I was 13 at the time.”

When she was 16, a boy in Gianfrancesco's school year began “a racist bullying campaign” against her after she rejected his advances. “My social media accounts were hacked and all my photos changed to pictures of monkeys, and there were messages talking about my mother as ‘having aids because she was a black monkey.’” What happened to Gianfrancesco is shocking, but it is by no means an anomaly. Liam Hackett, CEO of anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label, explains: “Young people are now being bullied in their safe spaces, like at home or at the dining table, because of online technology. It makes it more traumatic for young people because it’s overwhelming and they can’t escape it. “It’s often verbal but physical bullying is quite common as well. Guys are a lot more physical but girls are more verbal and indirect. It can be direct racist comments or taunts. It can be humiliating someone in a classroom or rejecting someone from social activities. One of the biggest issues is cultural differences.”

For Gianfrancesco, it was obvious that her bullying was rooted in racism. Her skin colour was targeted in direct ways, but other young people have more subtle experiences. De Waal says she has come across children and teenagers bullied for cultural clothing, habits and even the food they eat. “A lot of people might think it’s just about the skin colour but if a kid has an accent, the bullying might centre on that. It’s not always tangible - like being a different colour or having different hair. “We know if children use racist terms that schools react swiftly, but if they’re being teased for the food they bring to school – which we know in the past is a fairly common issue – then it’s much harder. Parents and schools need to work together to make sure it’s nipped in the bud.” Ultimately it comes down to adults to act – both guardians and those in schools – to ensure bullying ends immediately.

But Gianfrancesco says she felt let down by her teachers. When she reported the head girl calling her a ‘Paki’, she says “nobody took any action because she was senior”. “One teacher told me that I should just ignore it because I wasn't Asian and couldn't understand why I was bothered,” she says. When her social media account was hacked a few years later, the police became involved and confiscated her laptop but “nothing was ever done.” In the end, faced with a campaign of bullying at the hands of the male pupil she'd rejected, Gianfrancesco took action into her own hands, supported by her mother. “I started a petition and got people at school to sign it who had witnessed the racism or experienced bullying themselves. After collecting a page of signatures my head of year expelled him on the spot. I didn't take further action (even though my mum was pretty adamant that I did), because I actually felt very sorry for the boy in the end. He was clearly very sad and confused.”

Gianfrancesco’s determination meant she was able to stop the bullying and make sure the perpetrator was punished, but not every young person is capable of that. It’s why Hackett says they need the support of an adult. “It’s important to encourage the young person to talk about it and have an honest dialogue with them,” he stresses. “Be pro-active and don’t just wait for something to happen. Look out for behavioural changes, such as the child isolating themselves, losing their appetite or becoming aggressive. It’s important the young person understands they’re not being bullied because of the colour of their skin – it’s because the bullies have their own issues.” He says parents should speak to teachers to crack down on the bullying, but in the long term, the answer to prevention lies in education. De Waal agrees: “The main thing is continuing to make sure we’re educating young people about bullying being a problem and that they understand racism. "Young people need to recognise the impact it has and that attacking someone’s identity is harmful to them.”
© The Telegraph

up  

UK: Claims Cambridgeshire Tories have ‘ingrained racism’ towards gypsies & travellers

17/4/2016- A discrimination storm surrounding top Tory politicians will go under the spotlight amid claims the local party has an "ingrained racism" against gypsies and travellers. Lib Dem Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer is calling for answers at South Cambs District Council after two recent incidents that prompted allegations of discrimination against two senior Tories in the county. Former South Cambs leader Cllr Ray Manning is at the centre of one of these rows, where a long-running saga with a gypsy and traveller family in his village recently came to a head. There have been a number of clashes at parish council meetings in Willingham between Cllr Manning – also a parish councillor – and Phoebe Buckley, whose mum and dad Tom and Susan are facing eviction.

The couple are fighting the district council over their plans to stay at a site in Meadow Road, and could be forced to move from the village after 30 years if the council does not grant them planning permission. A planning appeal was heard by a government inspector last month and a decision is due by the end of May. But Phoebe Buckley – one of the country's top equestrian riders – has made a series of allegations against Cllr Manning, including over some speaking notes he passed to a fellow parish councillor making all sorts of claims about traveller families. These included the fact they had "a poor health record" and that these children only attended school regularly until the family got planning permission. Cllr Manning's conduct has recently been reported in satirical magazine Private Eye. He told the magazine he has both written and anecdotal evidence to back up the claims in the speaking notes from the likes of school governors. Cllr Manning announced he was standing down as leader last week.











This issue also reared its head recently when a Facebook post from 2010 resurfaced, where new Tory police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite used the word 'pikeys' in a comment on a photo. Mr Ablewhite has since faced calls to quit from gypsy and traveller groups, but defended the comment as private "light-hearted banter" between friends. "This seems to confirm the impression that the Conservative leadership in Cambridgeshire suffers from an ingrained racism, in particular towards gypsies and travellers," Cllr Van de Weyer says in a question to a meeting of South Cambs full council on Thursday. He goes on to call on the planning decisions to be made "on the basis of truth and evidence not prejudice and distortion", and that measures are taken to address public concern about racism in the council's leadership.

Cllr Van de Weyer told the News: "It is very frustrating that our council has once again featured in Private Eye, through the actions of our recently resigned leader Ray Manning. "At first sight, this appears to be an attempt to manipulate the planning appeals process by giving misleading or distorted information to an appeals inspector. "In the notes which, we are told, were written by Cllr Manning, a parish councillor was asked to suggest that the local school and surgery could not cope with the impact of this family being given permission. "In fact, there is no evidence for this. Also, the notes claim that traveller sites are about to become available in South Cambs. Again, it just isn't true that enough sites are in the pipeline to make a dent in the serious shortage.

"Many residents feel that the planning system allows gypsies and travellers to get permissions that others would not be able to get. Many gypsies and travellers find that all possible obstacles are put in their way when trying to find homes for their families and businesses. "The problems are made more acute by the general housing pressures and high property prices in the area. "It is therefore crucial that our political leaders take particular care when intervening in these issues. The language used by some of our leaders, as we saw last month in the PCC campaign, exacerbates tensions, whereas our role should be to work for the benefit of all residents. "The perception that councillor are not playing straight further undermines confidence in the planning process in the eyes of all residents, whether they are gypsies and travellers or not."









© The Cambridge News
up  

UK: New Mayor of London flies rainbow flag from City Hall

The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is flying the rainbow flag from City Hall today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).

17/5/2016- The annual event is observed on May 17 across the world, aiming to raise awareness of the discrimination that still faces LGBT people at home and around the world. Labour politician Mr Khan, who became the Mayor of London earlier this month, is one of the country’s most prominent pro-LGBT Muslim politicians. He has been candid about receiving death threats from some hardline Islamist preachers after voting in favour of same-sex marriage in 2013, and is a strong voice for tolerance. To mark IDAHOT, the politician today ordered the Pride flag be flown from City Hall today, alongside the Union Flag. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told PinkNews in a statement: “I could not be more proud to help celebrate IDAHOT 2016 by flying the Pride flag here at City Hall. “I was elected on a pledge to be Mayor for all Londoners and I will work with the LGBT+ community – as I will with all communities – to do everything I can to make London a more tolerant, fairer place to live. “This is personal to me because I have been on the receiving end of hate crime, which has no place in our city, and I know how devastating it can be.”

Speaking to PinkNews earlier this year, Mr Khan pledged to take a tough stance on homophobic hate crimes as Mayor. He said: “I’ve been the victim of hate crime – anybody who is a minority is potentially the victim of hate crime. “Whether you’re an ethnic minority, you’re lesbian gay, trans, religious minority, a woman, disabled, to me it’s personal because I have been on the receiving end.” He added: “It’s a badge of shame – that in spite of the progress that we have made over the last 20, 30 years if you’re a Londoner who happens to be LGBT, you make yourself vulnerable to hate crime. “It’s heartbreaking that as the father of two children, that almost half of LGBT young people have self harmed or tried to kill themselves, just think about that for a second.” Mr Khan also said he would restore the Mayor’s role attending Pride in London – which Boris Johnson has missed every year since 2010.
© The Pink News

up  

UK: Chakrabarti Hits Out At Tory 'Islamophobia'

‘I consider myself to be independent’

16/5/2016- Shami Chakrabarti has vowed to fast-track Labour’s inquiry into anti-semitism - and hit out at the Tories for not staging their own investigation into Islamophobia. The former director of civil liberties group Liberty dismissed claims that she was not fully independent, as she revealed that she had joined Labour on the same day she was appointed to review allegations of anti-Jewish conduct within the party. Formally launching the probe, she announced that it would be completed by the end of June, telling HuffPost UK that she didn’t want it to end up like the Chilcot report or other lengthy investigations. The inquiry will have just three weeks from its June 10 deadline for evidence submissions until it is completed. There will be no cross-examinations, no evidence sought from Ken Livingstone and just ‘two or three seminars’ for public discussion, she said.

Chakrabarti said she had joined Labour on April 29, to prove to party members that she had “their best interests and values at heart”. Asked if her party membership risked making the probe less impartial, she replied: “I’m not qualified to answer questions on the Warsi inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Is there one? No there isn’t. “I do hope that this inquiry and its findings set the kind of standard that all democratic parties might seek to follow.” Baroness Warsi has slammed her own party’s campaign against Sadiq Khan in the London Mayor race, claiming it undermined its emphasis on alleged links to ‘extremists’ was “dog-whistle, nasty politics”. Warsi had made clear her unease at the tactic of attacking Khan for sharing platforms with Muslim clerics and at the language used by Zac Goldsmith and others.

Chakrabarti was unabashed about having joined Labour just three hours before her appointment to chair the anti-semitism inquiry was announced last month. “I was appointed by the Leader of the Labour party. I consider myself to be working for, and in the best interests of, the Labour party,” she said. “I consider myself to be independent. I don’t think myself to be any less independent for making it absolutely clear that I share the values of the Labour party constitution. It’s a judgement call… I just wanted to be honest. “It was my judgement as a Labour supporter who had previously not been affiliated to any party.” Chakrabarti stressed that she did not want her inquiry - whose findings “will be mine and mine alone” - to cut across or interfere with separate investigations such as the NEC’s into the conduct of Ken Livingstone.

The former Mayor of London was suspended after he claimed Adolf Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad and murdered six million Jews”. Chakrabarti said: “I will not positively solicit a submission from him because I don’t think it’s fair given his position pending an investigation.” Jeremy Corbyn will, however, be invited to appear to give evidence. Pressed on why her inquiry would be so short, Chakrabarti made clear she did not want a repeat of the Chilcot Inquiry, which will only be published this summer, six years after its evidence sessions ended. “You can tell from the timescale that this is not comparable with some formal judicial inquiries of recent years…It will be interesting to see whether we can get ahead of some of those inquiries that are still pending. “It’s not a question of calling judicial hearings with people represented by counsel, examinations and cross-examinations and so on.

She added that the main work would consist of gathering material, rather than public hearings. “It is primarily an attempt to solicit submissions from members and supporters of the Labour party on the one hand, and members of the minority communities who are particularly affected. That evidence will will receive ideally by email. “In addition to that, we have a duty to follow up on particular submissions in writing and in person. Being sensitive to the material that comes in, we propose perhaps two or three seminars that allow for public discussion or debate around the issues.” One Labour MP today warned against the report being a rushed “whitewash” to protect Corbyn’s leadership. Inquiry vice chair Baroness Royall revealed that her separate report into allegations of antisemitism among Oxford University Labour Club members would be presented to party’s National Executive Committee on Tuesday and then made public.

Chakrabarti confirmed that Labour’s code of conduct was expected to be reformed by the NEC this week too, to provide tougher treatment of those with anti-semitic or other racist views. But she said that she hoped to further update the code once her report was ready by June 30. Chakrabarti announced a deadline of June 10 for submissions to her inquiry, meaning there will be only three weeks for any hearings or evidence sessions with witnesses. There have been claims of dozens of suspensions of party members for anti-Jewish conduct, from individual members to councillors and Ken Livingstone temporarily excluded from the party for remarks they have made. Asked by HuffPost UK if she was prepared to extend the deadline should there be an avalanche of material, Chakrabarti replied: “I think it would be very dangerous for me to talk about delaying the inquiry.

“The history of inquiries, public and others in this country is too often there has been an issue of delay. “I am ambitious and hope to report on time by the end of June.” When asked if she had been attracted to join Labour by Corbyn’s leadership, Chakrabarti said: “I joined a Labour party that has Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. I joined the party on the day that I accepted this chalice that may or may not contain…water. “Talk to me about that on the 1st of July”.
© The Huffington Post - UK

up  

UK: Far-right plan to stage rock concert in Dover

Far-right groups are planning to stage an anti-immigration rock concert in Dover this month, say Kent Police.

16/5/2016- Organisers refuse to reveal where the "Rock against Immigration" event will be held but claim it will go head on May 28. Facebook advertisements for the event reveal it will be headlined by extremist bands such as Redneck 28 and Gentleman Thugs. Redneck 28 has been linked to neo-Nazi organisation Blood and Honour which has been banned in Germany and Russia for its anti-democratic, and neo-Nazi ideology. Some of the band's toxic lyrics include: "This is our land in which we are proud, we will stand and fight and raise our right hand, Seig Heil, Seig Heil." A Kent Police spokesman said they have been notified of a planned concert but added: "The exact details including the location of the event are not yet known."

Fascist groups plan to stage the concert alongside a series of marches planned across Dover on May 28 and May 29. They also claim the event will bring "thousands and thousands of pounds" to local businesses and that they back regeneration in Dover. Past marches in January and April resulted in multiple arrests when far-right groups and anti-fascists clashed. The brutal marches in January also led to a seizure of weapons, broken bones and heavy damage to the town when paving slabs and bricks were torn up and lobbed. Town centre businesses have branded demonstrations by both the far-right and anti-fascists as "organised anarchy" and economically damaging to shops.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke blasted the planned concert and two days' worth of marches as "unacceptable". He said: "I met with the newly elected Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and asked him to use all his powers to limit this marches. "The people and businesses of Dover have the right to go about their daily lives without being disrupted by the selfish and uncaring actions of an extremist and violent minority." Kent Anti-racism Network told the Express it is planning to stage a counter-protest against the concert and far-right marches.
© The Dover Express

up  

UK: Two men taken off Rome flight for 'looking suspicious'

Two passengers were removed from a Rome-bound flight on Sunday after a couple complained that they “looked suspicious”.

16/5/2016- The Monarch flight, which had been due to leave the British city of Birmingham at 5.30pm GMT, was delayed for two hours as a result. The two men were taken off the jet after all the passengers had boarded. “It was crazy,” Marsha De Salvatore, an American who lives in Rome, told The Local. “Not only was the plane delayed but I witnessed the sad reality of racism as these men were escorted off a boarded plane because others suspected them to be terrorists. "The pilot told us 'what happened today was an act of total racism'."

De Salvatore explained that a British couple, who were standing in front of her in the queue to board the flight, became agitated. “The husband was anxious and kept saying to his wife, ‘I’m not getting on the plane’. I thought perhaps he had a fear of flying. But just as they were about to hand over their boarding pass, they stepped out of the queue.” About half an hour after the flight was due to leave, the pilot came out of the cockpit to explain to passengers the reasons for the delay. “He said that while he believed the accusations were totally wrong, the police were called and the two men, and their luggage, had to be taken off the plane because two other passengers, who refused to get on the plane, thought they looked suspicious.”

Monarch, a UK-based airline, confirmed that two passengers “voluntary offloaded” themselves from flight ZB5408 and that “police were in attendance for two further passengers, who subsequently chose to travel today [Monday]. “Following an additional security check, the flight left 90 minutes later,” the company added in a statement. De Salvatore said that while some other passengers became anxious, there was relatively little panic on board, and the air stewards were very reassuring. The captain told passengers that the two men would be travelling to Rome the next morning as it was too late for them to make Sunday's flight.  “The pilot was so lovely," she said. “While I’m happy that safety measures are in place, these people need to be careful about who they wrongly accuse.”

The incident came on the same day passengers on board a Ryanair flight from Norway to Manchester were evacuated after two men were acting suspiciously. Shortly before the flight was due to take off from Moss airport in Rygge, just outside the Norwegian capital Oslo, passengers were asked to disembark and police carried out a search of the aircraft. Two men were detained by police for suspicious behaviour but were later released. Police said that the two men, one British and one Sri Lankan, had been heard arguing loudly in the toilet, and some passengers thought they heard the word 'bomb', according to media reports. Meanwhile, a passenger was removed from an easyJet flight in Pisa in early April after another passenger complained of “suspicious behaviour”. On the same day, Meghary Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, from London, told Britain’s ITV news that he was the victim of racial profiling after being asked to leave an easyJet plane that was readying for take-off from Rome on March 29th because another passenger “felt uncomfortable”.
© The Local - Italy

up  

As Germany's far right rises, so does its radical left

In Leipzig's Connewitz neighborhood, hundreds of left-wing radicals try to live outside Germany's system, butting heads with both police and far-right extremists.

19/5/2016- Thomas Noack tells anybody that will listen that Connewitz, his neighborhood in this half-million-resident city, is a charming place with lots of ordinary taxpayers, traditional bakeries and butchers, and even a famous Catholic hospital. But Mr. Noack's vocal enthusiasm for his native home is rooted partially in his frustration with Connewitz's less conventional residents: far-left radicals, known as "autonomists," opposed to the government. Connewitz is an alternative society, a neighborhood that may be home to many ordinary Leipzigers but whose nationwide reputation is dominated by its many far-left residents. The latter have for years tried to turn Connewitz into an enclave free of government intervention. They have occupied buildings about to be taken over by developers, attacked the city’s administrative office in the neighborhood, and even assaulted its new police station.

And though small in number – just a few hundred by one count – their vocal presence has thrown them back into the political limelight, especially as far-right extremists have gotten louder in Germany amid the refugee crisis and reactionary movements like Pegida. The right-wing radicals take particular delight in squaring off with Connewitz-style extremists, who are themselves fervently anti-Nazi – resulting in street fights and riots, in a kind of microcosm of Western Europe’s political polarization. “A generation is growing up that has no appreciation of values,” he explains at a Connewitz fair-trade café. “[Connewitz radicals] get unemployment benefits from the government, and when something is stolen they report it to the police, and yet they attack the police station and the unemployment office.... It’s completely illogical.”

The radical left
Though it receives less media coverage than its far-right foe, Germany’s far left is remarkably widespread. According to a recent study by the Free University in Berlin, one sixth of all Germans – and 28 percent of those residing in the former East Germany – hold far-left opinions. And whereas seven percent of Germany’s population support politically motivated violence, 14 percent of far-left and extreme-left Germans do so, according to the Free University study. “They’re anti-capitalist, they have radical opinions on moral issues such as justice, individual liberty, solidarity, and anti-racism,” explains Dieter Rink, a professor of urban studies at the University of Leipzig and a leading expert on social movements. “In the past, they would have been called anarchists.” Today, however, they’re commonly referred to as extreme left, and their activities in Connewitz attest to their political opinions. Many live commune-style, in cheap, unrenovated buildings, while others squat in derelict properties to keep developers away.

They run Linxxnet, a bookstore and community center (Links is German for left), and its soccer enthusiasts of all ages play for the Roter Stern soccer club. (Roter Stern translates to "red star," a communist symbol.) Younger residents gather at Conne Island, a community center that features a library, sports facilities, and a practice room for female DJs. Connewitz’s autonomists have even declared an Autonomous Republic of Connewitz. Connewitz autonomists have long marked their domain by means of graffiti and political stickers, using public spaces to decry various practices. “Stop the Nazis,” one slogan declares, while another one advertises the “Anti-Fascist Street-Fighting Connection.” Yet another popular slogan is ACAB – "All cops are bastards." And recently autonomists have taken to attacking Connewitz’s two-year-old police station. A particularly vicious attack took place last year, when some 50 autonomists threw Molotov cocktails, rocks, and paint cans at the police station. Two officers doing the night shift narrowly escaped injury but were traumatized.

A foe for the far right
This air of radical-left power has made Connewitz Germany’s preeminent left-wing enclave. But even though they mostly stay in their neighborhood, their left-wing radicalism has made them a particular hate object for right-wing radicals – and made Connewitz a lawless bastion begging to be conquered. “For right-wing radicals, Connewitz has taken on mythical proportions,” says Sascha Lange, an independent historian in Leipzig who has written a book about Germany’s youth subcultures. In scenes resembling eastern Germany’s chaotic early 1990s, right-wing radicals rail against Connewitz and sometimes stage marches through the neighborhood. In January, some 250 far-right radicals marched into the neighborhood, smashing windows as they went along. Fortunately, many of the autonomists were in the city center, taking part in a protest against the far-right Pegida movement, so a direct confrontation was avoided.

“Far-right groups are willing to use violence as a political tool,” says Dr. Lange. “When the government doesn’t deal with the far right, the far left says, 'OK, we’ll do it.' That’s what’s happening now.” Connewitz radicals have also turned up as a volunteer protection force when far right protesters march on halls where asylum seekers live. And when they encounter far-right groups, they use violence. “The clashes have been going on for six years now, but recently they have become more violent," says Professor Rink. "It’s part of the political polarization in Germany. Pegida has created a pogrom-like atmosphere.” And when the far left and the far right clash, they beat each other up. “It’s man against man,” says Rink. “But unlike the far right, to date the far left hasn’t killed anybody.” Still, the escalation is alarming. What makes the left-right clash all the more serious is the fact that the radical right is also strong in Saxony, the state where Leipzig lies. And like the Connewitz scene, Saxony's far right attracts supporters from other parts of the country.

Community in Connewitz
For his part, Noack says he has seen far-left radicalism increase in Connewitz over the past several years. But he and other non-radical residents of the neighborhood still try to maintain a normal, convivial atmosphere there. For 24 years now, Connewitz’s churches and locals have organized a street party. Last year, he proudly reports, no less than 70 groups and companies participated. Noack does have some sympathy for Connewitz radicals worried about gentrification, and suggests a round table where people of all stripes can discuss problems facing Connewitz and Leipzig. But he has a clear message to the most radical of his neighbors: Anyone who isn't happy with Germany “should simply emigrate.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

up  

German AfD 'nationalistic, authoritarian, misogynist,' says justice minister

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called for a substantive debate with the right-wing Alternative for Germany. The Social Democrat warned that the AfD's manifesto is a road map to a "Germany of yesterday."

17/5/2016- In a guest commentary for "Spiegel Online" on Tuesday, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that instead of "demonizing the AfD, we must carry out a substantive examination of it." The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany has enjoyed a surge in support in recent months, with opinion polls suggesting that the AfD now holds 12 to 14 percent of public support nationwide. The AfD's strong gains have coincided with public debate over refugees, as well as with renewed discussion of Islam in Germany. The AfD now holds seats in eight of the country's 16 state parliaments - and looks on course to claim national representation in next year's general elections. Reflecting upon the AfD's first official manifesto, which was presented in the western city of Stuttgart earlier this month, Maas said the party must "be held to their word."

Anti-Islam manifesto
Included in the AfD's manifesto were calls for a ban on minarets, public calls to prayer and headscarves in public schools. AfD members also voted to include a position against the euro currency, the European Union as a political entity, the presence of nuclear weapons in Germany, and the deployment of soldiers overseas. "The AFD manifesto is the roadmap to another Germany, to a Germany of yesterday," the justice minister warned on Tuesday. "Our country has a murky past, but our parents' generation has created a modern Germany: cosmopolitan and liberal domestically, good neighbors and peaceful partners abroad," he wrote.

'Nationalism and isolationism'
The right-wing populists are "not a good alternative for Germany," Maas said, adding that the party's supporters were "spiritual brothers of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Nationalist, authoritarian and misogynist." Since 1949 the target of a "united Europe" has been firmly anchored in the German constitution, Maas wrote, adding that overcoming nationalism was the great lesson of two world wars on German soil. The AfD, on the other hand, is demanding the dissolution of the European Union or Germany's withdrawal from it, Maas wrote. "Nationalism, isolationism and new limits are their responses to globalization," Maas wrote. "That would not only be politically fatal for our export nation, but also economically, as 60 percent of German foreign trade goes to EU countries. It would cost many people their jobs."

A discriminatory manifesto
The justice minister wrote that the biggest problem with the AfD is the party's stance on religious freedom. "How else should the sentence 'Islam does not belong to Germany' be understood?" Maas wrote. "If there are claims of a 'below-average level of education' of Muslims and warnings of an 'ethnocultural change' as a result of a high Muslim birth rate, then the line to biologistic racism has clearly been overstepped," he added. Despite their controversial policies, AfD politicians and party members insist that they're not far-right, but merely injecting "healthy patriotism" into a political landscape that lacks it.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: Convicted neo-Nazi terrorist attends AfD Munich meeting

A convicted neo-Nazi terrorist was among the audience at a high-profile speech by Alternative For Germany (AfD) leader Frauke Petry on Sunday, with the right-wing populist party scrambling to distance itself.

17/5/2016- “AfD's Petry speaks in front of terrorist Nazi” was not the headline Alternative for Germany might have hoped for about their leader's appearance in the Hofbräukeller in Munich on Friday evening. But that was exactly the way mass-market tabloid Bild reported the story that Thomas Schatt - condemned to one-and-a-half years' jail in 2005 for planning to bomb a Jewish community centre – had attended the rally. The right-wing populists had already had to fight a legal battle against the renowned beer hall's owner after he attempted to cancel their booking, saying he feared violent counter-protests. But over the weekend Petry and her team found themselves fighting to distance themselves from Schatt and the clutch of far-right friends who joined him at the beer hall's tables. “People who represent such ideas don't have a political home with us,” Petry told Munich's Merkur newspaper on Monday. “As event organizers we'd love to do without these extremists,” agreed local AfD leader for eastern Munich Wilfried Biedermann. “They give a wholly false image of the event.” Local AfD leaders say that despite the fact that every guest had to register in advance by email and pay €18 for entry, they did not spot Schatt's name on the guest list. “We have no connection to any neo-Nazis,” said Petr Bystron, the chairman of AfD's Bavarian branch. “How should we know people like that?” Bystron added that far-left activists had often been present at AfD rallies without party leaders knowing of it in advance.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Proposed Erfurt mosque challenged by xenophobia (opinion)

Muslims want to build the first dedicated mosque in the state of Thuringia. PEGIDA and Alternative for Germany are rallying opposition to the project. They cannot be allowed to succeed, DW's Naomi Conrad writes.

17/5/2016- What exactly is the problem? A religious community wants to build a house of worship in an industrial park near Erfurt - miles from anywhere. The local press reports that the establishment's neighbors would be the Erfurt fire department, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the DEKRA technical inspection association. The 70 congregation members who would pray there would not likely cause traffic jams, take up public parking spaces or pick wildflowers from the farm field across the street. Nevertheless, Björn Höcke, the state parliament party leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Thuringia, suspects that the proposed building is simply a cover for a "long-term land grabbing project" and has ominously announced that he will present a "set of measures" to thwart the endeavor. Official opposition to the project will kick off with a concert this Wednesday. The motto is "Our Land, Our Culture, Our Decision." The event will feature a welcome speech by representatives of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement.

When such illustrious xenophobes stand arm in arm, one knows that the house of worship in question is not a Christian church or a local headquarters for Scientologists. The proposed development in Erfurt is, in fact, a relatively small mosque with a minaret; according to information provided by the Muslims who intend to build it, their modest place of worship will be about the size of a two-family house. The mosque would be the first constructed in Thuringia and, with the exception of Berlin, the third built in all of the former East Germany - the others being in Leipzig and Chemnitz. One should think that land-grabbing would look different. Nonetheless, AfD, PEGIDA and similar organizations would prefer that Muslims in the east continue to pray in apartments or former office buildings. But the worshippers complain that such spaces are often overcrowded.

Part of Germany
Why are Muslims treated like they should be ashamed of their religion or need to apologize for it? Some Germans act as if they were guests here and not neighbors and fellow citizens. One cannot prohibit people from being racists - or even from propagating the ridiculous prejudices against Islam and Muslims that often result in hate crimes and violence. But, thankfully, we - and, above all, our politicians - do not have to listen to them. Islam, Muslims and their houses of worship are part of Germany. Let's not allow AfD and others to convince us that they do not. If we do, the country will soon be a lot less livable for everybody - and that would be the real problem.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: More arson at refugee centers, police say

The chief of the Federal Police Office in Germany said growing numbers of xenophobic attacks on refugee centers is concerning as there have already been 45 arsons reported so far this year

16/5/2016- German authorities on Saturday reported an increase in the number of arsons at shelters for refugees who arrived in Germany last year, raising concerns about anti-migrant violence. "This year, there have already been 45 arsons," said Holger Muench, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). "What is particularly worrisome is the increasing scale of the violence," he said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group. In 2015, when Germany opened its doors to 1.1 million migrants mostly from war-torn Syria, 92 arsons at centers for asylum seekers were reported, compared with only six in 2014, according to BKA statistics published in late January. Muench said he did not have any knowledge of large-scale far-right groups being behind the fires, adding the majority were set by men from the areas near the torched shelters. He did however say he was worried about rising hate speech on the Internet about refugees, which could be a trigger for arson.

Several major German media outlets, including the online edition of the Der Spiegel magazine, have closed down their discussion forums related to the influx of refugees due to the flood of insults posted. The mass influx of migrants last year sparked a backlash in Germany, including the rise of the xenophobic and anti-Islam Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) movement, which bitterly opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal migration policy. This year Germany has seen a sharp drop in arrivals of new refugees since it reintroduced temporary border controls and took other steps to reduce numbers. The EU has also since agreed on a deal with Turkey to stop refugees crossing to Greece by boat.

Arsons at refugee shelters and xenophobic sentiment in the country are not new phenomena. According to government data released last summer, 150 arsons or other attacks have been recorded in the first six months of 2015, damaging or destroying newly renovated shelters for refugees, who are mostly from Syria and Iraq. The attacks, often erupting from local protests against the shelters before refugees arrive, have tarnished the image of a country that has done so much to atone for its Nazi past. They have also caused tensions as many Germans support the refugees. In February, a former hotel, which was being modified to be used as an accommodation for refugees, caught fire as a result of a suspected arson in the eastern German town of Bautzen in Saxony. A crowd reportedly cheered as the hotel was burning and the work of the fire brigade was massively hindered by a few, mostly drunk, onlookers. The officials said that they had to expel three people from the scene of the fire because of this. "Some people reacted to the arson with derogatory comments and undisguised joy," police said in a statement.

Despite warnings from political figures against xenophobia, the trend continues across the country. Critics assailed the government for failing to move quickly and decisively enough to counter the violence and of indirectly encouraging attacks through inaction or, worse, populist comments against foreigners who abuse asylum policies. In April, a German anti-terror unit carried out dawn raids to capture five far-right extremist suspects accused of attacking refugee shelters and political opponents, federal prosecutors said. The suspects, four men and a woman, are accused of belonging to a far-right terrorist organization called the Freital Group, named after an eastern town that has seen a rash of racist protests that have shocked the country. "According to preliminary investigations, the aim of the group was to carry out explosive attacks on homes for asylum seekers and political enemies," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement. It said the suspects stockpiled hundreds of fireworks from the Czech Republic to use in attacks. The assaults included using fireworks to blow out the windows of the kitchen of a refugee shelter in Freital in September 2015.

The far-right has benefited greatly from public discourse with a slant against Muslims. In recent days, support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as well as the xenophobic and PEGIDA movement has surged. Anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiments have become more visible in the country as a result of this. These sentiments have increased across Europe as well. There has been a shift toward right-wing parties, which have been gaining popularity amid rising public fears regarding the refugee influx. Recently, polls indicate a rise in support for right-wing populist parties in France, Austria, Poland and Switzerland.
© The Daily Sabah

up  

Germany: Brawl at migrant shelter leaves 14 injured

Fourteen people have been injured after two separate fights broke out at a migrant shelter. Police are investigating an attempted homicide after a 14-year-old Afghan boy was critically injured.

15/5/2016- The 14-year-old Afghan boy suffered severe head injuries after being punched and stomped on during a Saturday night brawl that involved at least 50 people, police said. The free-for-all followed a fight on Friday night at the same shelter in the northern German district of Verden, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) northwest of Hanover. The Friday night clash saw at least 30 Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish migrants going at each other with iron bars and fire extinguishers, police said. Police were able to put down the riot after a large deployment of officers. It is unclear what exactly triggered the second clash, but police said it was likely a continuation of Friday night's violence, which was allegedly caused by the theft of a speaker. Police said they had set up a commission to investigate the violence and attempted homicide. One 19-year-old suspect has been temporally detained. Germany took in nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, a number that has stressed resources and accommodations.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Finland says refugees can return to safe Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia

17/5/2016- Finland tightened restrictions on giving residence permits to asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia on Tuesday, saying it was now largely safe for them to return to their war-torn homes. Authorities in Helsinki, where anti-immigration political groups have been on the rise, said security had improved to such an extent that refugees would generally not be at risk in any parts of the three countries, despite the running conflicts. There was no immediate reaction from refugee agencies. But the statement by the Finnish Immigration Service came in the face of a string of international assessments of the scale of the ongoing bloodshed and refugee crisis. "It will be more difficult for applicants from these countries to be granted a residence permit," the immigration service said in a statement. "It is currently possible for asylum seekers to return to all areas in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia without the ongoing armed conflicts as such presenting a danger to them only because they are staying in the country."

Asylum seekers would now only be allowed to stay if they could prove that they were individually at risk. Somalia has been slowly recovering from more than two decades of war. But the government is still fighting an Islamist insurgency by the militant group al Shabaab, which regularly launches gun and bomb attacks in the capital Mogadishu and other cities. Islamic State still holds key cities and vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq which it seized in 2014. Despite battlefield setbacks over the past year, the militants have continued to attack civilians in areas under government control including a string of attacks last week in and around the capital that killed more than 100 people. The Taliban launched a spring offensive in Afghanistan last month, vowing to drive out the Western-backed government in Kabul and restore strict Islamic rule.

Finland's center-right coalition government – which includes nationalist Finns party – has tightened its immigration policies since the influx of asylum seekers last year. Groups of self-proclaimed patriots have launched regular patrols and marches, saying they want to protect locals from immigrants. Around 32,500 people applied for asylum in 2015 from 3,600 in 2014, with most of them coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Numbers have come down significantly this year.
© Reuters

up  

Finnish right-wing group dealt trademark blow

The name representing the anti-immigrant street patrol group Soldiers of Odin is now a registered trademark.

17/5/2016- The application was filed with the Finnish Patent and Registration Office PRH in February - the same month in which the group achieved association status - by the Finn Riikka Yrttiaho, who is currently studying in Sweden. The trademark application was approved just under one month ago. An Yle search of the PRH database revealed that the trademark was approved for garments, footwear and headgear. "There are plans underway to manufacture high quality local handicraft, and there’ll be no lack of unicorns and glitter," Yrttiaho said.

Trademark registration an anti-racism protest
It turns out that Yrttiaho is not a card-carrying member of the self-proclaimed security outfit, but has registered the trademark as an anti-racism protest. Yrttiaho said her move also aims to question the February decision by PRH officials to accept Soldiers of Odin as a legally-registered association. "As long as a racist street patrol group is allowed to operate in Finland as a registered organisation, there may also be room for harmless groups to register and organise," Yrttiaho declared. In February Yle reported that the PRH accepted the group’s application to become a registered association in February. The new status allows the organisation to legally engage in publishing activities, organise lotteries, run coffee shops and sell clothes. The former chair of the Kallio chapter of the Left Alliance said that she crowdsourced the 215 euros required for the trademark application.

The window for objections to the application is still open and during this time anyone may attempt to reverse the PRH trademark decision. Once the objection period ends however, requests for changes will have to go before the Market Court. Opposition to Soldiers of Odin has also spawned a clown-filled spoof group known as Loldiers of Odin. The far-right group formed under the guidance of truck driver Mika Ranta in Kemi last autumn after the arrival of asylum seekers in the northern town. At the time Ranta told Finnish media that concern for the community prompted him to round up like-minded individuals also professing a desire to protect locals. Local and international media have reported widely on the group's Nazi links and on Ranta's previous brushes with the law - in 2005 he was convicted of a racially-motivated attack against two immigrants.
© YLE News.

up  

Finland: Repentant Nazi: "What I was doing was crazy"

About two years ago the co-founder and leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM), Esa Holappa, quietly left Finland’s most militant neo-Nazi group. Explaining the reasons behind his departure for the very first time, he tells Yle’s Spotlight programme that he simply could not reconcile raising children while continuing to work for the hate group.

15/5/2016- "I thought about my time in the Nazi movement," the 31-year old Holappa says now. "And I suddenly realised that what I was doing was crazy." While he seems confident that it was the right decision to leave the racist group he helped establish, his departure has not been trouble-free. "Of course I cannot erase my past days as a neo-Nazi—even if I wanted to," Holappa says. "I can’t deny my past and say it never happened. On the other hand I can be proud that I grew up and left behind all the anger and distrust. I left once I took a long look at myself in the mirror; I was able to see how wrong racism and white power truly are." He says that he’d been exposed to those divisive ideals at a young age and that he freely allowed them to become part of his life. Until a couple of years ago he says he did not permit himself to consider questioning his overt nationalism and racist ideas.

Murderers and violent criminals
For years, he says, he believed what he was doing was right. During that time Holappa invested a lot of effort building a comprehensive international network in order to form the FRM, which was formally established in 2008. His list of international contacts included people from notorious neo-Nazi groups and scores of other racist and nationalist organisations. In his four years at the helm of the hate group Holappa says he kept company with murderers and violent criminals from around the world and that he even helped a wanted German neo-Nazi hide from authorities in his own home. Officially, Holappa was listed as the leader of the FRM but he now says that his position was mostly as a figurehead - the real leaders worked secretly behind the scenes. While the group still has only a few dozen active members and supporters, the group is an arm of the umbrella organisation the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM).

Based in Sweden, the NRM says its goal is to create a national socialist republic across the Nordic and Baltic countries. The group also has factions in Norway and Denmark but they are significantly less active than their Swedish and Finnish counterparts. The FRM is Finland’s most militant neo-Nazi group. Like their Nordic brothers, violence is a central part of FRM’s ideology. Finnish law enforcement is well aware of the FRM and keeps a close watch on the group. The number of FRM members has nearly doubled in the past few years. The group expanded from about 30 to 40 members only a few years ago to an estimated 60 to 70 activists, members and supporting members being involved today. Members of the Nordic Resistance keep in touch with each other, travel to meetings and participate in each other’s actions and activities.

"Patriots", not Nazis
But, unlike non-extremist groups, the NRM says that in order to achieve its goals, bloodshed and violence would likely be key ingredients. The group praises the likes of Adolf Hitler and the forefather of antisemitism Corneliu Codreanu. At this point, the number of neo-Nazi groups in Finland do not appear to be growing at an uncontrollable pace. But since the European refugee crisis began to unfold last summer, there has been a notable uptick in interest in racist and xenophobic notions and organisations across Europe and in Finland, too. The FRM promptly took note of this potential wave of new members and began softening its harsher image as a neo-Nazi group. Instead of neo-Nazis, members of the group now characterise themselves as "nationalists" or "patriots". Some members say they aren’t necessarily against the presence of foreigners in the country; instead they claim to be "defending Finns". Members of the FRM created a "Finns first" group called Finnish Aid Suomalaisapu. According to its own press releases and photos, members distributed food to needy Finns and carried out other apparently-benign services like cleaning up graffiti from a statue of national hero Carl Gustaf Mannerheim.

Not an imminent threat--but strengthening all the time
With only a few dozen members, law enforcement authorities say that FRM does not pose an imminent threat to Finnish society or democracy. But not for lack of trying. Through demonstrations, riots and spreading of propaganda and anti-immigrant stickers, the organisation continues to unite and strengthen the development right-wing nationalist and racist groups throughout the country. Not long after the first of more than 30 thousand asylum seekers began to arrive to Finland last year, an FRM member in the city of Kemi decided to start a citizen vigilante street patrol. After asking permission to start the patrol group, FRM member Mika Ranta founded the Soldiers of Odin. Their patrols of cities and towns across the country are carried out by black-jacketed volunteers, purportedly to keep the streets of Finland "safe".

During interviews with the media, Ranta has insisted the SOO is not a neo-Nazi group, but a nationalist one. However the two organisations appear to be at least casually intermingled. Each group refers to one another positively on their respective websites. The FRM called the street patrol group a "patriotic organisation."Additionally the SOO’s online videos often feature the FRM’s unmistakable logo of a green diamond and upwards-pointing black arrow.

Odd bedfellows - Russian allies
In recent years the Nordic Resistance Movement has grown friendlier towards Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In an internet radio interview Swedish Resistance Movement member Emil Hagberg said that he would rather see Sweden occupied by Russia rather than be under its current government. Klas Lund, the Swedish group’s leader at the time, agreed, dismissing the threat of Russia as nonsense, saying the real threat existed to the south and the west - rather than to the east. Holappa explains that members who criticised Putin and Russia - or those who defended the Ukraine - were branded as "Jews" or "Zionists," with the effect of silencing any dissent about the movement’s leadership.

Last year, members of the NRM attended the far right-wing International Russian Conservative Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The annual meeting was organised by the Russian political party Rodina, also known as the Motherland-National Patriotic Union, and during the conference participants adopted a resolution to coordinate what they characterised as "conservative forces" across Russia and Europe. Given Finland’s troubled history with its giant Russian neighbour, far-right groups in Finland have traditionally been hostile towards Russia, a situation that has caused the FRM to be more cautious in supporting Russian issues than their Swedish counterparts.

Holappa quietly leaves FRM in 2014
After about four years of being the co-founder, figurehead and ostensible leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement, Holappa quietly left the group in the year 2014. "I began to ask myself whether I really want to raise my children to become part of this movement," he says. "Did I want them to live a life as closed off as mine was; I saw enemies everywhere I looked. I thought about my time in the Nazi movement. And I suddenly realised that what I was doing was crazy." These days when he hears about new things his former colleagues have carried out, he says that he still feels somehow responsible. He says that he thinks about his past every single day, and that he is unable to just forget about it. "I was 13 or 14 years old when I became interested in national socialism. The more I read, the more ‘truths’ I found. My reading confirmed what I believed." "I became a Nazi wholeheartedly. Now I have to redefine my life and get to know myself again. Who and what am I?" Holappa says.

This story originally appeared in Swedish as part of a series of articles on Holappa's spell in the FRM by Marko Hietikko. You can read the originals here, and Finnish translations here.
© YLE News.

up  

Poland: Protesters call for near-total ban on abortions

Activists backed by Catholic church want parliament to allow terminations only when needed to save a woman’s life

15/5/2016- Anti-abortion groups have held marches across Poland in support of calls for a near-total ban on terminations in the staunchly Catholic country, where abortions are already heavily restricted. The current law adopted in 1993 bans all terminations except in pregnancies that result from rape or incest, pose a health risk to the mother, or where the fetus is severely deformed. Now activists backed by the Catholic church want to table a citizens’ bill in parliament that would allow abortions only when necessary to save a woman’s life. The proposal would also increase the maximum prison sentence for people who perform unauthorised abortions from two years to five. “Today we are calling on our state authorities to guarantee full legal protection of unborn children,” Paweł Kwaśniak, the head of the Warsaw-based anti-abortion NGO that organised the protests, told more than a thousand people at a rally in the capital. Organisers said similar rallies were held on Sunday in 140 towns across the country.

Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was elected in November, has endorsed the restrictive bill at the risk of alienating voters. The petition needs 100,000 signatures to be examined by parliament. The organisers have said they will continue trying to gather signatures until the end of June. However, an opinion poll published in March found that, far from supporting further restrictions, 51% of Poles want wider access to abortions. Thousands of people have attended protests against the proposed tightening of the law, with opponents launching their own plan to garner 100,000 signatures supporting a bill liberalising abortion. Three former Polish first ladies have denounced the citizen’s bill, insisting that making it harder to access abortions would only “aggravate women’s tragedy”. Fewer than 2,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. There are no official statistics on the number of illegal abortions performed, or on the number of women who travel abroad for the procedure to countries including Austria, Germany and Slovakia, which women’s rights organisations estimate to be between 100,000 and 150,000 a year.
© AFP

up  

Ukraine: Human rights festival carries on despite anti-gay threats

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Journalism of Tolerance project by the Kyiv Post and its affiliated non-profit organization, the Media Development Foundation. The project covers challenges faced by sexual, ethnic and other minorities in Ukraine, as well as people with physical disabilities and those living in poverty. This project is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development and Internews. Content is independent of the donors.

14/5/2016- The Equality Festival, an event focused on the rights of the minorities, took place in Kyiv on May 14 despite the anti-gay activists' attempts to disrupt the event.
The event was organized in support of the disrupted Equality Festival in Lviv. The Lviv festival was planned for March 19 but was stopped when some 150 radical anti-gay activists tried to attack the participants. Several participants were beaten but police made no arrests. The festival was paused because of the bomb threat call when about 70 participants were evacuated from the MediaHub, an event space in central Pechersk district. The festival resumed after the police checked the building and found no bombs.

Some 20 radical anti-gay protesters gathered near the festival place, but no violence has erupted. Police surrounded the place to keep the protesters out. More than 50 riot police officers and National Guard guarded the site of the festival. Soon after the festival started a man in a military uniform who called himself a member of the Azov volunteer battalion handed the participants a skin antiseptic, telling them to "treat their wounds," and a Vaseline lubricate, implying a sexual act between gay men. The festival participants included Norwegian Ambassador to Ukraine and Belarus Jon Elvedal Fredriksen and Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine Judith Gough, and activists of LGBT organizations, representatives of Ukraine's feminist movement, groups for ethnic minorities’ rights and the rights of the people with disabilities.

The festival program featured lectures, discussions, film screenings and music performances that were originally supposed to take place at the Lviv festival. “We speak out not only for the rights of the LGBT people, but for human rights in general,” said Olena Shevchenko, the head of Insight, the LGBT rights group behind the festival. The Kyiv authorities supported the festival, saying that "there is no place for any kind of discrimination in a developed democratic society," according to the website of Kyiv City Administration.
© The Kyiv Post

up  

World: Rape, murder and abuse: The penalty for being a gay woman today

14/5/2016- Despite a general global trend towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality, it is still illegal to be a lesbian or bisexual woman in almost a quarter of countries across the world today, according to a new report. Barbados, Morocco, Dominica, Maldives, Indonesia and Sri Lanka are just a few of the places where homosexuality is classified as a criminal act. A survey by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT), a charity that supports challenges to anti-gay laws worldwide, has revealed the devastating ways in which the laws against homosexuality impact millions of vulnerable homosexual women. In some countries, women had endured sexual and physical violence, rape and abuse from the police as well as state-sanctioned family and community abuse – all purely based on their sexual orientation or being a suspected homosexual.

Seventy-eight per cent of women surveyed in India said they had felt suicidal, or had experienced some form of violence, just for being gay. Lesbian and bisexual women are particularly vulnerable to violation of their human rights, a result of their sexual orientation and gender. Most have no option but to be forced into heterosexual marriages, meaning they may have little or no control over their sexual and reproductive choices – and resulting in a life time of undocumented and state-sanctioned rape. Economically, homosexual women are also disadvantaged as a result of their gender. In the majority of countries that still see homosexuality as a criminal offence, men are the breadwinners. They also tend to be limited when it comes to education - and even if they did earn money for themselves, the gender pay gap is incredibly restrictive. All these factors combined, see millions of homosexual women dependent on husbands they never wanted in the first place.

One woman in Cameroon described how she couldn't visit her children because she was a lesbian. “My brothers told my children’s fathers that I was a lesbian. Immediately a family meeting was convened, and it was decided that I should not bring the children up. I had no say, because I am a lesbian. I still try and contact my children to visit them, but the fathers deny me visits,” she said. Tea Braun, legal director of the HDT said women were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. "The point is that while a lot of the types of discrimination and abuse can happen to anybody in the LGBT community, often women are more vulnerable to sexual violence such as ‘corrective rape’ as well as family abuse and control. "Gay men may in some cases find it easier to have a sham marriage but still meet with other gay men. There is more control and restrictions over a woman’s freedom," Braun added.

Britain was originally responsible for criminalising homosexuality during the 19th century, enforcing the law upon the Commonwealth. While the UK has moved forward and laws have been changed, 80 per cent of Commonwealth countries still view homosexuality as a crime. 'Breaking the Silence', the report from HDT, aims to address this LGBTI persecution and cater to the specific needs of female homosexuality, with the aim of eradicating violence against women. Baroness Barker, a Liberal Democrat peer said: “There is not another document in existence that looks so comprehensively at the legal and social impact of anti-gay laws on women. The effects are heart-breaking.” The report contains harrowing accounts. One Burundian woman whose female lover, Mou, was killed by her husband said: “Mou was stabbed to death by some miscreant hired by my husband. That fateful night that Mou was killed, my husband raped me. During the forced intercourse, my husband depicted to me how Mou was killed.”

Justice Edwin Cameron, of the constitutional court of South Africa, said: “The HDT report reminds us that LGBT people are not a homogeneous group. Lesbians and bisexual women, as a sub-group experience distinct and additional human rights violations from those of gay men.”
© The Telegraph

up  

Headlines 13 May, 2016

Greece: Ex-aide to former PM forms far-right party

13/5/2016- Failos Kranidiotis, a lawyer and former aide to ex-prime minister Antonis Samaras, launched a political party called New Right Friday, aimed at drawing voters from the hard right of the political spectrum. Kranidiotis launched the new party a few weeks after he was ousted from conservative New Democracy by leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis over controversial online comments he posted in response to a diplomatic faux pas by Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. New Right is the second hard-right party to be launched in the past few weeks, following the announcement of National Unity, formed by former nationalist LAOS chief Giorgos Karatzaferis and ex-Samaras cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

Greece: Migrant arrivals drop amid EU-Turkey pact tensions

13/5/2016- The number of migrants arriving in Greece has plummeted thanks in part to the European Union’s pact with Turkey, the EU border agency said Friday, amid signs that the widely-criticized agreement to stop people heading to Europe could unravel. The Frontex border agency said fewer than 2,700 people had entered Greece in April, a 90 percent drop from the previous month. It attributed the decline to the effect of the EU-Turkey deal and tight border controls at the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which has been shut to migrants since early March. “The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic,” Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said, adding that April’s total was well below the daily figure arriving on the island of Lesvos alone during the peak months last year.

Officials say the agreement for Turkey to stop migrants heading to European shores and take back thousands who have arrived since March 20 is working, but the government in Ankara is opposing an EU demand that Turkey’s anti-terror law be modified. The demand is part of EU requirements to secure visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens. The visa waiver is an incentive – along with up to 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and fast-track EU membership talks – for Turkey to stop migrants reaching Europe and take back thousands more. But given the recent spate of suicide attacks, Turkey refuses to change the law. “If there is a difficulty in this particular element then perhaps all of the elements of the package we have discussed and decided in the last months will be at stake,” Turkish European Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said Thursday.

The aim of the deal, agreed on in March, was to stop the flow of hundreds of thousands of people from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, which had become by far the most popular route for refugees and migrants into Europe. Under the agreement, those arriving on Greek islands on or after March 20 faced deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully applied for asylum in Greece – something the vast majority are reluctant to do in a financially stricken country where about a quarter of the workforce is unemployed. On Friday, 118 people reached the islands of Chios and Kos, Greek government figures showed. The EU-Turkey deal and Balkan land border closures have left more than 54,700 people stranded in Greece, with the country scrambling to build enough refugee camps to house them all. More than 9,300 remain at the Greek-FYROM border near the village of Idomeni, in a makeshift unofficial camp, with most living in small donated tents pitched in fields and along railway tracks.

According to Frontex, most new arrivals on the Greek islands were from Syria, with far fewer numbers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency said the number of migrants along the Balkans route from Greece north toward preferred destinations in Austria, Germany and Scandinavia had also dropped as a result of the border closures. It also said that the number of people entering Italy from across the Mediterranean surpassed those arriving in Greece for the first time in almost a year.
© The Associated Press

up  

Bulgaria: Police Arrests Migrants and Smugglers Across the Country

Bulgarian police have captured 55 migrants and ten suspected smugglers in a large-scale operation against illegal migration carried out on Friday.

13/5/2016- Bulgarian police have detained 33 people for 24 hours in the operation, which is still ongoing in 11 cities and in border areas with Turkey and Serbia, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. Over 1,400 officers have been involved in checks on hostels, restaurants, shops, vehicles and other locations across the country. “This is a part of our approach for managing migration pressure – not only border protection, but checks and registration of the illegal immigrants inside the country”, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova told National Television. She added that it was a routine operation and of a kind are carried out regularly, “when a need is identified”. The largest action against illegal migration until now was undertaken in November 2015, when police arrested 320 people after raids across the whole country.

Bulgaria has applied tough measures to halt illegal migration, including allowing the army to participate in border patrols. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/police-arrests-migrants-and-smugglers-across-bulgaria-05-13-2016?utm_source=Balkan+Insight+Newsletters&utm_campaign=1aab073fcc-BI_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4027db42dc-1aab073fcc-308289045#sthash.DyJLDV8X.dpuf


Bulgaria has applied tough measures to halt illegal migration, including allowing the army to participate in border patrols. Since 2014, the authorities have been building a 132-km-long barbed wired fence along the border with Turkey, which is still incomplete. The construction of the so-called “temporary prevention facility” has been criticized by human rights groups and by the opposition in Bulgaria. One complaint is that the work has gone on for a long time and has already absorbed tens of millions leva from the budget. On Friday, the government announced that it has allocated new 6.2 million leva (around 3.1 million euros) for the fence in the area around the southeastern city of Burgas. At the end of January, another 34 million leva (around 17 million euros) were added up to the initially planned 30 million leva (around 15 million euros) for the facility.

The police added that on Friday charges were pressed against a man with criminal record, arrested with a group of 25 migrants, all from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including three children. They were captured in a village house near Dimovo, a town close to Bulgaria’s northeast border with Serbia, allegedly waiting for smugglers to transfer them across the border. Twelve of the migrants had documents from the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees, which means they had applied for asylum in Bulgaria, but decided to continue on their way to Western Europe. Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to ŕ protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on May 5.
© Balkan Insight
up  

Czech Rep: Pig farm at Lety will apparently remain on Romani Holocaust site, talks going nowhere

13/5/2016- The pig farm currently occupying the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety by Písek will apparently remain there. Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), who has led several negotiations with the owner, says no concrete conclusion has arisen from the dialogue. At the sites occupied by the pig farm today there was a camp during the Second World War in which more than 300 Romani people perished. The victims today were remembered at the nearby memorial by the surviving relatives and the public during a commemorative ceremony at Lety, which was attended by Dienstbier and by Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán (ANO). "We are acting on this matter, but at this moment there is no fundamental change to discuss. We want a dignified sacred site here. It is understandable that for the surviving relatives of the victims it is unacceptable that a pig farm is standing at such a place. Try to imagine something of the sort, for example, at Auschwitz," Dienstbier said.

The costs of buying the farm are estimated in the hundreds of millions of Czech crowns. The camp at Lety was opened in August 1940, first as a disciplinary labor camp. The same sort of facility also existed in Hodonín by Kunštát. In January 1942 both camps were changed into transit camps, and in August, "Gypsy camps" were established at both locations. From then until May 1943 a total of 1 308 Romani children, men and women passed through the Lety camp, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom were transport-ted to Auschwitz. Less than 600 Romani prisoners ever returned to the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from the concentration camps. According to estimates, 90 % of Czech Roma were murdered by the Nazis. Today the commemorative site at Lety is administered by the Lidice Memorial.

Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), which holds the commemorative ceremony every year, said he would welcome the appointment of a different entity to take care of the site. Last autumn he sent a letter to the Czech Government to that effect, stating that he would prefer the commemorative site be administered by the VPORH itself. "It is probably appropriate to respect the wishes of the relatives of the victims. I personally would consider it most logical if the administration of such a site were performed by the Museum of Romani Culture," Dienstbier said.
© Romea.

up  

Dutch Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding

13/5/2016- A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation. Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had per-mission to stay in the Netherlands. After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported. According to the NRC, the woman, her children and brother fled Syria while her hus-band was in prison. In Germany, the men were separated from the women and her brother made it clear he wanted to go the Netherlands. The woman, who is 24, was registered as a refugee in Germany but all five ended up at the refugee centre in Weert. Under EU law, refugees are supposed to go through the asylum procedure in the first country they reach. It is not clear how the family made it to Germany. The mayor said that separating the family would have serious consequences as the brother had taken on the role of father. But the Dutch Society of Mayors (NGB) said Heijmans had put himself ‘above the law’ through his actions.

Court
Heijmans, from the centrist-Liberal D66 party, said he had started new legal proceedings to keep the family in the Netherlands. ‘They would have been put on a train to Germany on May 3,’ he told reporters later on Friday. ‘I am 100% behind my actions and I have visited them in hiding a couple of times. They are doing well.’ The local branch of the right-wing Liberal VVD has criticised Heijmans, saying his actions are not in the interests of the family, Weert and its residents. ‘We want the mayor to explain himself,’ a spokesman said. Local party Weert Lokaal, which is the biggest party on the town council, said it understood the mayor’s actions. ‘From a human point of view, we can understand what he has done,’ party leader Leon Kusters said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Hungary's anti-migrant policies may violate international law: UNHCR

12/5/2016- Hungary's actions to keep out migrants, including fast-track trials to punish those who breach its border fence, may conflict with international refugee and human rights conventions, the United Nations said on Thursday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken an increasingly anti-foreigner stance since migrants began pouring into Europe last year, building a heavily guarded border fence and rejecting an EU quota system to share out migrants among member states. Despite strong criticism from EU headquarters in Brussels and some major EU members including Germany, the right-wing Orban's approach has gone down well in Hungary, a country with few immigrants and little experience of multiculturalism.

A new report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that legislation recently passed in Budapest has limited and deterred access to Hungary for those seeking refuge from war and persecution. "UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns regarding compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country's international and European obligations," it said. By "obligations", the UNHCR was referring to protection for people fleeing the threat of war or persecution in their home countries, and prompt processing of asylum applications.

The U.N. refugee agency criticized Hungary's fence and a procedure whereby migrants arriving at the frontier must submit their asylum requests in so-called "transit zones". "The asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union and international standards, in particular concerning procedural safeguards, judicial review and freedom of movement," the report said. A Hungarian government spokesman was not immediately reachable for comment on the UNHCR's remarks. Hungary also introduced legislation in September 2015 that allows courts to order the expulsion of migrants for illegally breaching the border fence.

The UNHCR said prison sentences had been "imposed following fast-tracked trials of questionable fairness, and (the sentences) are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application". The report said the UNHCR was also concerned about a number of migrants kept in detention without clear time limits pending expulsion to neighboring, non-EU Serbia, which had accepted only two people per week on average since January. Orban's government rejects a plan, agreed by a majority of EU governments last year, to redistribute 160,000 migrants around the 28-nation bloc to ease the burden on Greece and Italy, where most migrants first set foot on EU soil.

Hungary erected a steel fence along its border with Serbia and Croatia to bar migrants, many of whom have fled war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. After domino-like closures of borders across the Balkans between Greece and Hungary, the heavy northwards flow of migrants - most of them bound ultimately for wealthy western EU countries like Germany and Sweden rather than smaller central EU states like Hungary - seen in 2015 has since subsided. But Hungarian officials say migrant numbers have risen again somewhat with warmer summer weather arriving, with some trying to cut through the fence despite a heavy police presence.
© Reuters

up  

Iceland: Bookstores Hide controversial Book About Hatred Against Muslims

A former MP known for his anti-immigrant stance has accused a major book store of censorship for not shelving a controversial book he translated.

11/5/2016- Former MP of the Liberal Party Magnús Þór Hafsteinsson recently translated the book Islam. Den 11. landeplage, by Norwegian author Hege Storhaug, into Icelandic. This book – whose title means Islam, the 11th national plague – has sparked considerable criticism for being bigoted. Magnús Þór now accuses bookstores in Iceland of censorship. Stundin reports that bookstore Mál og menning – one of the two biggest in Iceland – kept the book under the counter and not visible for customers to see. According to the bookstore, the book spreads hate and is therefore not appropriate to put on the shelves. The back cover of the book reads: “Islam, the 11th national plague, is a book with educational material. In these threatening times, it carries an extremely urgent message for everyone. Do not miss it!” Furthermore, the book contends that Muslims and asylum seekers threaten the freedom of Western civilization. “It is absurd to call this book hate speech,” Magnús Þór told reporters. “Where is the freedom of printing if they do not want to sell your book?”

This is not the first time Magnús Þór has stated his opinion on asylum seekers. In 2008, he objected to Akranes welcoming 30 asylum seekers from Palestine. Furthermore, the Liberal Party was often accused of spreading Islamophobia and bigotry during the 2006-7 parliamentary election season. The Norwegian author Hege Storhaug has caused a lot of commotion in Norway as well, and not only because of this book. She is the head of Human Rights Service, an organisation that has been accused of Islamophobia and racism by Antirasistisk Senter in Norway and by author Sindre Bangstad, who wrote Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia. Magnús Þór and Hege Storhaug both state it is censorship not to have the books visible for the public in the bookshops. Due to complaints from the publisher, the book has been put onto the least visible shelves of the store.
© The Reykjavik Grapevine

up  

France: Rap star show at war centenary pulled after far right objects

13/5/2016- French authorities have pulled the plug on a popular rap star's show during war commemorations in the town of Verdun after a clamor of criticism, notably from far-rightists who said the singer's presence was inappropriate. The rapper, Black M, was to have performed after a late-May memorial ceremony where Germany leader Angela Merkel and French counterpart Francois Hollande are set to mark the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of World War One. Verdun Mayor Samuel Hazard told local newspaper l'Est Republican he was sorry to have canceled the concert on grounds of concerns for public order. "Kids love him ... it hurt to see our country riven by so many divisions," he said.

Florian Philippot, second in command to far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, said the decision to abandon the show was welcome, and that he failed to understand how it could ever have been programmed in the first place. Day's earlier, Marine Le Pen's niece Marion Marechal Le Pen, also a National Front politician, condemned the Black M concert plan, saying the singer had in the past sung songs that spoke of France as a country of infidels. "It's inadmissible to involve an 'artist' who has insulted France so violently in any official commemoration whatsoever of our history and homage to out fighters," she said earlier this week.

The rhetoric in question was reminiscent of terminology used by the Islamic State, she said, referring to the Islamic militant group that controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria and claimed responsibility for the attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers that killed 130 people in Paris last November. Public support for the anti-immigrant National Front has grown over recent years in France to the point where it garnered more votes than any other party in the first round of recent regional elections.
© Reuters UK.

up  

French Campaign Takes on Hate Speech, Discrimination

11/5/2016- First came the videos, half a dozen graphic spots re-enacting "real life" racist and anti-Semitic acts. Then giant posters appeared along roads and transportation hubs literally offering a black-and-white message about workplace discrimination. A year after France’s leftist government announced a three-year, $115 million plan to fight racism and anti-Semitism, a pair of national publicity campaigns are taking aim at the issue. “We had no choice but to act very thoroughly and effectively against increased threats,” notably far-right hate speech and virulent anti-Semitism from a “tiny minority” of radical Muslims, says Gilles Clavreul of DILCRA, an inter-ministerial office that works to counter racism and anti-Semitism in France. The government plan includes an array of proposals, from deepening sanctions and the Internet fight against hate speech, to launching school and citizen education programs.

Despite an overall increase in hate acts last year, Clavreul cites signs of progress. New figures in May show what he calls a "significant" drop in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts. A report released by France’s National Consultative Commission of Human Rights (CNCDH) also finds an increase in French tolerance of diversity, even after a year bracketed by two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. “There is a need for fraternity and social cohesion that is making people open up to those who are different,” says the commission president, Christine Lazerges. Looking more closely at last year’s figures, she adds, anti-Muslim acts peaked after each terrorist attack, but were generally on par with previous years.

Long road to tolerance
France is not the only European country grappling with intolerance. Far-right groups are gaining ground across Europe, feeding on the immigration crisis and rising fears of militant Islam. In March, the Council of Europe warned hate speech in France has “become commonplace.” The issue is all the more sensitive since France has the region’s largest commu-nities of Muslims and Jews, many of North African extraction. While the government's communications campaigns have drawn mixed reviews, most observers agree on one thing: it will take much more than a three-year crusade to bring about a more tolerant and egalitarian society. “There’s a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success,” Lazerges says, describing major changes needed in the educational system and in turning around France’s disenfranchised suburbs.

Backing her assessment are 2015 government statistics that show hate offenses jumped by more than one-fifth in 2015 to more than 2,000, compared to the year before. Anti-Muslim acts and threats tripled last year. Activists say the true figures are higher, since many acts go unrecorded. Other forms of discrimination are more subtle. An October survey on French hiring by the Montaigne Institute, a Paris-based research group, finds Christian men are four times more likely to get a call back from job recruiters than Muslims. Jews also face discrimination, but to a lesser extent. “It’s a very serious phenomenon,” said Montaigne’s deputy director, Angele Malatre-Lansac, pointing to study estimates showing discrimination against Muslims in France was far higher than against African-Americans in the United States. In many cases, she says, employers are fearful of the country’s staunchly secular laws, and uncertain how to treat religious expression, like Muslim prayers, at work. “It’s not necessarily that racism is pervasive, but religious practice can make recruiters afraid,” she said.

In March, the government launched six 30-second TV spots re-enacting "real life" racist and anti-Semitic acts including: distraught Muslims finding a pig’s head stuck to a mosque gate, a black man being beaten up, and “Death to Jews” scrawled on a synagogue door. “We had to create a shock, to say, ‘Hey, stop; we have to address these issues,’" said Clavreul. Nonetheless, some anti-discrimination groups have criticized the spots as offering a narrow, violent take on the subject. “It can be even counterproductive, because we’ve worked for years to show that racism is subtle, and even those who are not racist can have humiliating, wounding words,” adds Lazerges. “Publicity spots are good; they can help educate people,” says Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia. “But how many people were arrested; how many people were found guilty?”

Others look for results
Roger Cukierman, president of the Jewish umbrella group CRIF, says education is what’s needed must. “The task is immense, because the atmosphere is such that Jews are not sending their children to French public schools anymore,” he says, describing cases of Jewish students who do attend being insulted and beaten. “It’s impossible to change the atmosphere just by a ministerial decree.” The government has taken a different approach with its second campaign, rolled out in mid-April. Giant posters portray job seekers with their faces split in half, white and non-white, with the tagline, “Skills First.” Next to the white side are messages like, “You start Monday.” On the non-white: “You don’t have the profile.”

While awareness-raising efforts are “excellent,” Malatre-Lansac says, “The question is how will this action be followed in the long term?” “If there’s work to be done, it has to be done at the grassroots level,” says Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia, who believes state-organized campaigns to fight it cannot work. Clavreul notes efforts in southern France to get businesses to hire locally, and to harness volunteerism for school education and job mentoring programs. “We don’t have a one-sided strategy,” he adds. “We are very pragmatic. We have to be holistic in our approach.”
© VoA News.

up  

Spanish magazine boss punched over anti-Nazi cover

The editor of Spain's biggest satirical magazine was assaulted on Wednesday after the publication ran a front cover decrying the rise of far-right politics in Europe.

12/5/2016- Mayte Quílez, director of Spain’s El Jueves magazine, was punched by a hooded figure outside her home in Barcelona, Catalan news site El Nacional reports. Quílez received only light injuries and has since reported the incident to police. The attack came the day after the highly popular magazine shared images of the front cover of its latest issue on various social media platforms. That cover shows a mother and son watching on during a demonstration of neo-Nazis. “Why are all these men bald? Do they have cancer?” the boy asks his mother. “I hope so,” she replies. The cover created a stir in Spain after the magazine ran the image on Facebook with a message inviting “Nazis, idiots and/or voters of (political party) Vox” to send their complaints to a dedicated email address. The magazine received numerous threats after publishing the post, but Quílez said in a tweet on Wednesday that she refused to be intimidated by a “moron”.

El Jueves is not in the habit of shying away from controversy. It made headlines across Spain in 2014 after the company which owns it binned 60.000 copies at the last minute because their front cover showed Spain's King Juan Carlos putting a dung-filled crown on his heir Prince Felipe's head. A new version of the magazine carried a cover showing the image of the leader of Spain’s Podemos party Pablo Iglesias with the picture of the royals relegated to the inside of the publication. El Jueves was also forced to pull a front cover in 2007 which caricatured Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia having sexual intercourse as the image was deemed “disrespectful”.
© The Local - Spain

up  

Spain’s first openly gay referee walks away from football after abuse

Spain’s first openly gay referee has walked away from the game, insisting he “cannot take any more”.

10/5/2016- Jesús Tomillero, who has been a referee from the age of the 11 and was working near the foot of the Spanish football pyramid in the Andalucían regional league, took the decision after he was subjected to abuse following his decision to give a penalty during a match between Portuense and San Fernando Isleño on Saturday. Tomillero came out publicly last March as he presented a formal complaint against a kit man from Peña Madridista Linense in the under-19 league in Andalucía, which resulted in a nine-game ban and a €30 fine. He told the newspaper El Español he has been subjected to abuse since and that last weekend he reached breaking point. Soon after Tomillero gave a penalty, he says someone from among the visiting supporters shouted: “That’s that poof who was on the telly,” adding, “you can stick the goal up your arse, you fucking poof”. The referee said the worst thing was that “everyone in the crowd laughed”. He communicated his decision to quit football to the Andalucían football federation soon after.

Support has come from local political parties in La Línea, near Gibraltar, and Tomillero says he has been backed by first division referees, but lamented that officials from the Andalucían federation ignored him following his decision to come out publicly in March last year. He has presented a formal complaint about Saturday’s events, with the hope stiffer action will be taken this time. Tomillero described it as “absolutely incredible” that Peña Madridista Linense’s kit man got only a nine-game ban when “football is educating 14- and 15-year-olds”. The matchday delegate from San Fernando will testify on his behalf this time but that will not return him to the field.
© The Guardian.

up  

Italian right seeks referendum to overturn gay unions

A group of mostly right-wing Italian politicians announced on Thursday they will seek a referendum to overturn the introduction of gay civil unions, a day after parliament approved the landmark law.

12/5/2016- Lawmakers from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the far-right Northern League and various other factions told a press conference they would begin work to raise the 500,000 signatures required to force a referendum as soon as the new law is signed by President Sergio Mattarella. For a referendum to happen, the signatures have to be verified by the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court must then approve the validity of the proposed ballot question. If these obstacles are overcome, opponents of the law would then have to win a referendum in which at least 50 percent plus one of eligible voters cast a vote. If the quorum is not met, the referendum result is invalid.

Monica Cirinna, the Democratic Party senator who guided the legislation through parliament in the teeth of fierce opposition led by the Catholic Church, said she would welcome a popular vote. "Italian citizens have never voted for discrimination," she said. "They have always confirmed major civil rights advances which have already happened." Carlo Giovanardi, a member of the Italian senate who was one of the most prominent opponents of the unions bill, said the referendum move was a protest at the way the legislation was pushed through parliament, not motivated by homophobia. "We are not against the recognition of rights but we are resorting to a referendum because (Prime Minister Matteo) Renzi prevented us from amending and debating the law," he said.

To short-circuit blocking or delaying amendments Renzi ordered confidence votes on his government's stance on the bill in both the Senate and the lower house Chamber of Deputies, prompting accusations of authoritarianism.
© The Local - Italy

up  

Catholic Church says civil unions in Italy is ‘creeping fascism’

The Catholic Church is furious with Italy’s government after same-sex civil unions finally passed in the country.

12/5/2016- Yesterday, Italy’s Parliament finally passed a bill creating same-sex civil unions, in the face of strong opposition from the powerful Catholic church and rebellions from Catholic lawmakers. The law – which came about after the European Court of Human Rights upheld complaints of discrimination over the country’s lack of recognition for same-sex couples – was passed by votes of 369-193 and 372-51 – as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote in himself to force the issue through. Italy was the last country in Western Europe with no recognition for same-sex partnerships. The change only passed after Renzi made concessions, ditching proposals for same-sex adoption rights that were opposed by the church. The unions are also strictly civil – and same-sex religious unions remain banned, even for pro-LGBT denominations. However, despite the government going out of its way to appease the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church in Italy has attacked the decision.

Speaking to La Repubblica, Archbishop Michele Pennisi attacked the bill and the way it was passed. The Catholic leader said: “There is a big slice of the country that this law does not want it. I believe this way of doing is creeping fascism.” Meanwhile, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Bruno Forte, who headed the church’s ‘Synod on the Family’ rejecting LGBT rights, told a local newspaper: “It is certainly a defeat and also an impoverishment of democratic life on a question that can have an enormous impact on the future of society.” He added that all families need “the fundamental reciprocity between man and woman” at their core. Forte said: “On the Church’s part, there will always remain the proclaiming of the Gospel of the family as a fundamental institute of human, social and Christian life.”

The Pope himself has not directly addressed the issue happening directly outside his gates – with the Vatican news office prioritising a story about the Pontiff’s table tennis equipment. Pope Francis recently claimed that teaching kids about safe sex is “promoting narcissism” – and that transgender teens should be taught to “accept their own body as it was created”.
© Pink News

up  

Italy becomes 27th European country to legally recognise same-sex couples

11 May is now a significant date for the Italian LGBTI movement.

11/5/2016- Their persistent advocacy work was rewarded today as the Italian Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of a civil union bill in a final vote. This means that same-sex couples in Italy are legally recognised for the first time. ILGA-Europe warmly welcome this news and are looking forward to the imminent signature of the civil unions bill by President Mattarella. The news of the civil union vote comes only 24 hours after ILGA-Europe’s latest Rainbow Europe package was launched. Before the vote in the Chamber of Deputies today, Italy achieved a score of 20% (one of the lowest scores among the 28 EU members) when ranked on its legal and policy situation for LGBTI people.

The new legislation provides for equality in matters of tax, social security and inheritance. However, the situation of rainbow families in Italy was overlooked as proposals to include second-parent adoption in the civil union bill were removed prior to the Senate’s vote on 25 February. ILGA-Europe realise the significance of today’s vote but also urge Italian lawmakers to examine ways to protect rainbow families and their children without delay. As part of yesterday’s Rainbow Europe 2016 launch, ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis had stressed the need for European governments to guard against the ‘complacency curse’ and to keep working for greater equality for all LGBTI people.

Legal recognition for same-sex couples is a great step forward for Italian society – but it cannot be the final step. The Italian LGBTI community, their families and friends deserve to be fully protected and recognised by their state. Another point raised by ILGA-Europe in our Rainbow Europe 2016 package is the need for governments to ensure that laws actively improve the daily lives of LGBTI people. The true value of today’s vote will be found in how effectively this new legislation is implemented.
© ILGA Europe

up  

Growing EU-Turkey tensions fuel fears for migrant deal

11/5/2016- Concerns rose on Wednesday regarding the fate of a deal between the European Union and Turkey that has radically reduced the influx of migrants toward the bloc via Greece as a dispute over Ankara’s refusal to adopt EU anti-terrorism laws escalated. The migrant deal is facing “a very dangerous moment,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said at a news conference with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Strasbourg. Bozkir said Turkey had basically fulfilled the terms of the deal, even though Brussels is insisting that Turkey overhaul its anti-terrorist legislation before Turkish nationals can enjoy visa-free travel to Europe. Schulz expressed his conviction that the agreement between Turkey and the EU would hold.

However, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Burhan Kuzu, expressed Ankara’s impatience on his Twitter account, indicating that Turkish authorities would “send the refugees back” to Europe if Turkish citizens are not granted visa-free travel. In Athens, officials are concerned that a flow of migrants across the Aegean that has slowed in recent weeks may intensify again in view of the growing tensions between the EU and Turkey. The government also faces some internal dissent as regards the migration crisis as some cadres, particularly in leftist SYRIZA’s radical Group of 53 faction, are not happy about migrants being returned to Turkey from Greece as part of the Turkey-EU deal.

More than 50,000 migrants are currently living in reception centers across the country, with around 10,000 at a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni close to Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. With tensions often sparking brawls in the camp, local residents have started losing patience with the situation. On Wednesday, six local residents, including the leader of the local community, Xanthoula Soupli, brought a legal suit against Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, referring to “a complete absence of state control” at the camp and claiming that camp residents often vandalize homes in the broader community.

Also on Wednesday, Europe’s top human rights watchdog called for urgent action to address overcrowding and poor living conditions in refugee and migrant camps in Greece and called for the closure of the Idomeni camp. In its report, which was compiled following a visit by inspectors in March, the Council of Europe said some camps in Greece were “substandard” and provided only the most basic needs, such as food and blankets. It said migrants were detained, in violation of international human rights standards, and lacked access to legal advice. Separately on Wednesday, the Greek ambassador to Austria, Chryssoula Aliferi, returned to Vienna three months after being recalled to Athens following Austria’s decision to tighten its borders along with other countries on the so-called Balkan trail eyed by migrants seeing a better future in Western Europe.
© The Kathimerini.

up  

European Parliament poised to tackle racism, xenophobia against migrants

10/5/2016- European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) on 3 May 2016 launched a ‘Clinical Legal Education in Europe’, a forum to discuss issues of racism and xenophobia that faced migrants in Europe. The event, attended by various legal clinics in Europe, was on the theme ‘Creating a new generation of lawyers to promote equality and access to justice’. The panel discussion was led by Ms Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, ARDI co-president; Prof. Clelia Bartoli, University of Palermo; Maxim Tomoszek, presidentof the European Clinical and Legal Education (ENCLE); Ulrich Stege, executive secretary; and Alagie Jinkang of the Human Rights and Migration Clinic at the International University College of Turin, Italy.

Ms Kyenge said the European Parliament showed its commitment to fighting racism by selecting ARDI as one of the 28 inter-groups to promote racial equality, counter racism, and educate about non-discrimination in the work of the European Parliament. She called for more clinics to support the disadvantaged and underprivileged migrants, saying the clinic is the right source of justice to those in desperate need. Prof. Clelia Bartoli, University of Palermo, said although many clinical activities are doing well, many others are facing difficulties such administrative and funding challenges. ENCLE President Maxim Tomoszek said there is a need for a collective clinical and legal education in order to propel justice to those in need.

Ulrich Stege, executive secretary, said clinical and legal education is paramount in promoting racial equality and non-discrimination in Europe. Alagie Jinkang of the Human Rights and Migration Clinic at the International University College of Turin said clinical education is instrumental to the European society as it promotes social justice.It also builds the capacities of students who will most probably be lawyers in the nearest future. He said the clinic at their university has been in existence for more than five years working on topical issues such as supporting asylum seekers by preparing their asylum stories, searching for relevant information, and preparing them for the interviews in local courts.

Mr Jinkang said through the numerous ground breaking activities of the legal clinic, they were able to integrate, educate and provide asylum for many disadvantaged and underprivileged persons. Mr Jinkang also brought to fore the political atmosphere in The Gambia which he said is compelling many Gambians to seek for asylum. However, he lamented that the asylum procedures are not paying attention to situation at play in The Gambia as many Gambians are continuously denied asylum. During the different panels, speakers stressed that racism and xenophobia are direct violation of the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Many of the speakers alluded to the fact that terrorist attacks and the so called ‘refugee crisis’ have created new opportunities for xenophobic and racist groups, including political parties, to push racist and xenophobic agenda.
© The Point

up  

Danish far-right MEP ordered to return €400,000

10/5/2016- Danish nationalist MEP Morten Messerschmidt has been ordered to repay over €400,000 to the European Parliament. The move follows a unanimous decision on Monday (9 May) by the parliament's bureau, a body that oversees the assembly’s work. A 13-page internal report, seen by this website, accuses Messerschmidt's anti-immigrant and eurosceptic Danish Peoples Party of mismanaging parliament grants. But Messerschmidt, who is the party’s outspoken leader, has denied any wrongdoing and says the demand for a refund is politically motivated. The report, signed off by parliament secretary-general Klaus Welle and dated 26 April, says the Danish Peoples Party siphoned off money from EU grants for its own political ends last year.

The money had been awarded in 2015 to an alliance of far-right groups known as the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (MELD). Messerschmidt sat on its board. Funds were also given to its political affiliation, the Foundation for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (FELD). MELD disbanded near the end of last year. But at its height, it counted among its ranks former MEPs such as Belgian Flemish nationalist Frank Vanhecke from the Vlaams Belang party and Italian Claudio Morganti from the Lega Nord. Messerschmidt is accused of using some €296,679 given to MELD by the European Parliament to help finance a video, released in April last year, and a follow-up campaign asking the Danes to vote No in a December 2015 referendum on whether to join EU justice and home affairs policies.

The campaign included adverts with slogans like "Keep the opt-out - keep Denmark safe” and “Say no to EU parties' deceit on the Danish opt-out. More Denmark, less EU - it's possible." Messerschmidt himself and the president of the Danish People's Party Kristian Thulesen Dahl featured prominently in the adverts. "Such promotion is understood as an indirect support of a national party, which is forbidden," notes the bureau’s report. MELD, for its part, says the video was not linked to the referendum because it had been produced before the Danish government had set an official date. "It is our interpretation that there cannot be interference in a national election or a referendum that does not exist or is not yet scheduled," it said. The video had featured a MELD logo with a banner saying vote No in the referendum.

The parliament grant money to MELD had been used to finance boat trips and a €130,000 consultancy fee. MELD and FELD also helped pay an advertising campaign on EU social dumping, which also featured Messerschmidt and Dahl. Thulesen-Dahl told Danish radio the party was not subject to the same criteria as other parties because of its critical views of the EU. He also said the case would not have political consequences for Messerschmidt.
© The EUobserver

up  

Turkey: Syrian refugees beaten, shot by border guards

10/5/2016- Turkish border guards have beaten and shot Syrians trying to reach Turkey, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday, as fighting in the border province of Aleppo intensifies threatening to force more people to flee. HRW said in a report based on interviews with victims, witnesses and Syrian locals that in March and April 2016, five people, including a child were killed and 14 were seriously injured as a result of border guards' shootings and beatings. In response to the report, a senior Turkish presidency official said the authenticity of the video could not be verified. Reuters was not able to verify the report. A video released by HRW purporting to show the victims of the beatings and shootings depicted a bloodied body with bandages around his exposed torso. Another male corpse is shown with red and purple marks all over his back and arms.

A recent surge in fighting in Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war, wrecked a 10-week-old partial truce sponsored by Washington and Moscow that had allowed U.N.-brokered peace talks to convene in Geneva. Ankara says it keeps an "open door" policy for those fleeing the five-year conflict. For over a year, only those requiring emergency medical treatment not available on the Syrian side have been able to cross legally while others rely on expensive smugglers to guide them on the dangerous route. Tens of thousands are instead interned in camps on the Syrian side, a version of the "safe zone" policy long championed by Turkey, but one which is not internationally sanctioned or recognized. "Turkey admits refugees at designated points of entry if and when there is an imminent threat to civilian lives across the border," the official said.

Heavy Price
HRW published excerpts of interviews with four victims, five witnesses, and six local Syrian residents who described seven occasions in March and April in which Turkish border guards shot or assaulted 17 Syrian asylum seekers and two smugglers. Footage of some of the victims and bodies was taken by a security guard of a local internally displaced people camp, HRW said. In its press release, the rights group recognizes Turkey's right to protect its border, which includes the border town of Kilis increasingly targeted by rocket fire from Islamic State areas in recent weeks, but says it must respect international norms on use of lethal force as well as the right to life. Earlier this year, Turkey and Europe agreed on a plan to send back migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey from the Greek Islands, with Brussels committing six billion euros to help support refugees in Turkey. The legality of the deal, aimed to stem the flow of migrants to European shores, hinges on Turkey being a safe country of asylum, which rights groups and NGOs have said was not the case.

Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW said:
"EU officials should recognize that their red light for refugees to enter the EU gives Turkey a green light to close its border, exacting a heavy price on war-ravaged asylum seekers with nowhere else to go."
© Reuters

up  

EU proposes Minority Report-style facial recognition for refugees

In its attempts to bring the refugee crisis to heel, the European Commission wants to expand its fingerprint database, introduce facial recognition software, store the information for even longer than before and include minors in the process. EurActiv Germany reports.

9/5/2016- The EU is planning wholesale changes to the bloc’s asylum law. In addition to a “fairer” distribution system for refugees and an extension of border controls within the Schengen area, the Eurodac fingerprint database, which is currently used to identify asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is to be enlarged. The system is set to be supplemented with facial recognition software and personal data will be stored for a longer period of time, with the aim of ensuring that irregular migrants stay on the authorities’ radar; the information of underage refugees will also be kept. The upgrade will cost some €30 million. Eurodac was introduced at the turn of the millennium to support the Dublin System. The database is updated with the fingerprints of asylum seekers so that the relevant migration body can determine where an applicant first entered the EU and so that duplicate applications are not submitted.

In its plan, the Commission criticised the current rules for restricting the collection of asylum seeker data too much. Member states cannot check the fingerprints of apprehended migrants that have no residence status and have not submitted an application yet. The executive’s proposal states that an upgrade of the Eurodac database could be just what the member states need to bring irregular migration under control and increase “the effectiveness of the EU’s returns policy”. It is intended that the database be used as a centralised tool to collect the biometric data of all non-EU citizens on European soil. Besides increasing the amount of time data can be stored, from 18 months to five years, border authorities will be allowed to use facial recognition tools as well. The scheme insists that police and border guards will be able to establish the identity of people more efficiently and quickly using the specialist software.

In the Commission’s view, fingerprint collection is no longer sufficient, as third country nationals often use means “to deceive” the curent system. Biometric technology is therefore a “central component” of the new European asylum system. Fingerprint collection and facial recognition of minors will allegedly be “child-friendly” and “empathetic”, with special officers charged with carrying out the process. Literature will also be produced that will explain in “age-appropriate language” the process. To ensure that the data is collected, member states are also set to be authorised to use measures against non-compliant individuals. Penalties should be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”, as well as being in line with existing national laws. Detaining people should only be used as a “last resort” and only when all other means of identifying the individual have been exhausted. These sanctions will not apply to unaccompanied minors though.

It has also been proposed that the minimum age of refugees whose biometric data can be collected be lowered. Instead of the current rules, in which the minimum age is 14, unaccompanied minors as young as six years old will be eligible to be included, as research has now shown that fingerprint recognition of such young people can be carried out with a “satisfactory level of precision”. The Commission insisted that such a measure would improve the legal situation of the minors. Many unaccompanied child refugees that arrived in Europe over the last year have disappeared off the grid and have no access to utilities as a result. When facial recognition software will be rolled out on the borders remains unclear. According to research carried out by netzpolitik.org, the EU does not actually have the software necessary to process digital facial images and it will be 2020 at the earliest when the Commission will have a feasability study ready on which computer programmes are suitable for EU-wide rollout.

Security officials will be allowed to take photographs under the new amendment though. But until automated software is rolled out, border guards will have to rely exclusively on their own judgement when identifying individuals.
© EuroActiv

up  

EU blocks Austria on Italy border checks

12/5/2016- Austrian authorities pushed to extend their internal border control checks to include all of Italy but were shot down by other EU states. The Council, representing member states, on Thursday (12 May), agreed to extend existing border control checks in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway for another six months. Member states approved a recommendation by the EU commission to extend existing checks because of "deficiencies" in the protection of EU external borders in Greece. The recommendation authorised Austria to continue checks at its borders with Hungary and Slovenia. Two EU officials confirmed Vienna had at an EU ambassadors meeting on Wednesday attempted to expand the scope of its existing controls to also include Italy. "The question came from Austria: 'What about all of our borders, what about our border with Italy? Can we not use controls there?' The commission said ‘No' and the council said ‘No'," said the EU official. Another EU official said Austria had also attempted it "but didn't get support". A diplomat in Brussels said the Austrians had wanted to have some flexibility, but the EU commission insisted the extension would only apply to checks already in place.

Brenner Pass
Austria's interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka in April had threatened to seal the border at the Brenner Pass with Italy over fears refugees would seek to enter from Italy. Plans are in place to erect a 370 metre chain-link fence with four checkpoints on the Alpine highway that links the two nations. "The plan is to be ready to put into practice a border management like between Austria and Slovenia, if necessary," noted a diplomat. Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has critised any barrier along the pass by the Austrians as "flagrantly against European rules, as well as against history, against logic and against the future". But the move by Austria point to growing fears in Vienna that a sudden influx of people will cross from Libya into Italy over the summer months.

Austria can invoke a different set of rules under the Schengen Borders Code to impose controls with Italy, should it so choose. "They [Austria] can unilaterally introduce controls for eight months if they are proportionate and justified by the evidence," noted the EU official. EU law allows member states to impose a two-month control in unforeseen circumstances if there is an emergency. It can then impose another six months for foreseen circumstances. The EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos has no desire to see any controls at the Brenner pass. Last week, he sent a letter to the Austrian authorities outlining EU rules on the matter. "I have sent a letter that we do not agree with the introduction of border controls or border checks," Avramopoulos told euro-deputies in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Greek deficiencies
The existing internal controls in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway will be maintained despite a dramatic drop in the flow of refugees into Europe when compared to April and May last year. The move to extend the checks was launched following an unannounced visit by experts from the EU border agency Frontex to verify Greek border controls last November. They said Greece had "serious deficiencies" on how it manages its borders, posing a larger existential threat over the entire passport-free Schengen area. The threat gave the EU the legal basis to prolong the checks. Greece, for its part, denies that it cannot manage its own borders and notes it has met some 43 out of 50 recommendations from the EU commission to plug the gaps.
© The EUobserver

up  

Austrians urged to fight right-wing extremism

Events have been taking place in Austria to mark 71 years since the end of WWII in Europe, and liberation from the Nazi regime.

9/5/2016- On Sunday evening the Vienna Symphony Orchestra performed a free concert on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, as part of a “Festival of Joy” - including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) and Arnold Schönberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. Speakers at the event stressed that people must remain vigilant in the face of rising right-wing extremism - and made reference to Austria’s presidential election, in which the far-right Freedom Party’s candidate Norbert Hofer is the bookies’ favourite to be elected in the May 22nd run-off. Willi Mernyi, chairman of the Mauthausen Committee, criticised Hofer for saying that May 8th was not a day of joy, as so many people had died during the war. "For us, May 8th is a day of joy, because the killing stopped,” Mernyi said. Hofer has since clarified his statements, saying that he meant that the end of the war was a day of joy, but war itself was no cause for joy because of the suffering of its victims.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) said it was a day to remember when suffering and injustice came to an end in Austria, but that there are still people who have a different view on this and that a growing right-wing extremist movement must be “fought with great strength”. He added that in 1933 events had been kicked off with right-wing graffiti and that this could be seen today. Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser (SPÖ) said that Austria had given tens of thousands of people refuge from war and persecution last year and now the task was to enable people to live together with mutual respect and appreciation. Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, who is also the head of the ÖVP, emphasized the European Union’s peacemaking role and warned that “nationalism is dangerous, and is often the basis for conflict and war”. He said that member states must act in solidarity, and prevent Europe from breaking apart.

Holocaust survivor Rudolf Gelbard remembered the waves of arrests and killings as the Nazis took power in Austria and stressed the need to learn from history: "We survivors are not only committed to the dead, but also to future generations. We need to share our experience, so that they can learn from it… We cannot be wrong a second time and view as harmless what could end in catastrophe," he said. On May 8th, 1945 Germany’s armed forces surrendered unconditionally. A few days earlier, on May 5th, Allied troops liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp in Upper Austria.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austrian chancellor quits over far-right election triumph

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann quit Monday, bowing to intense pressure two weeks after the opposition anti-immigration far-right dealt his coalition a historic blow in the first round of presidential elections.

9/5/2016- The centre-left Faymann, 56, chancellor since 2008, said in a statement that he no longer had “strong backing” in his party, the Social Democrats (SPOe). “As a result of this insufficient support I am drawing the consequences and resign my functions as party leader and chancellor, effective today,” he said. The SPOe and its coalition partner since 2008, the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP), have dominated Austrian politics since World War II but their support has been sliding in recent years. At the last general election, in 2013, they only just scratched together a majority, and polls suggest doing so again at the next scheduled vote in 2018 will be difficult.

Mirroring similar trends across Europe, the two main parties have been bleeding support to fringe groups, in Austria’s case in particular to the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the former party of the controversial, late Joerg Haider. The far-right has tapped into growing unease about immigration after Austria last year saw 90,000 people claim asylum, and around 10 times that number pass through at the high point of Europe’s migrant crisis. But the two parties have also presided over a rise in unemployment, with Austria losing its crown as the EU member with the lowest unemployment. The coalition has also squabbled over structural reforms.

Far-right on the rise
The FPOe is leading national opinion polls and on April 24, in the first round of elections to the largely ceremonial post of president, the FPOe’s Norbert Hofer came a clear first with 35 percent. Hofer, 45, who presents himself as the friendly and reasonable face of the FPOe, will now face Alexander van der Bellen, a former head of the Greens who came second, in a runoff on May 22. The two hapless candidates from the ruling coalition parties were relegated into distant fourth and fifth places, failing to make it through to the runoff with just 11 percent of the vote each. This historic failure means that for the first time since 1945, there will not be a president from within these two parties in Vienna’s Hofburg palace. This in turn could mean that the new president might make use of some of the considerable powers afforded to the head of state under Austria’s constitution that until now have been not been used.

In theory the Austrian president can fire the government — as Hofer has threatened to do if elected — or dissolve parliament. It was unclear on Monday who would succeed Faymann, with the government in theory having two more years to govern. The popular mayor of Vienna, Michael Haeupl, will take over from Faymann on an interim basis as party chief, saying the SPOe needed a “phase of reflection”. Christian Kern, currently the head of the national railways company, and Gerhard Zeiler, former chief of national broadcaster ORF, have been touted as possible replacements.
© France 24.

up  

Slovakia: Roma Children becoming victims of discrimination

10/5/2016- Romani people originally belong to northern India but now are living in all continents mostly Europe, North Africa and North America. They are called ‘gypsies’ as they have migrated throughout the world. The Roma community makes up about 8% of Slovakia’s population. Being a minority community, they face lot of discrimination. Racial tensions continue to make their lives difficult. In the Ostrava town in eastern Slovakia where the Roma people reside; there is extreme poverty, life expectancy is below average and unemployment being 80% has made their lives worse. But besides all that, there is extensive racism and discrimination. Not just adults, but even the children are targeted. Walls have been built to separate the Roma kids to mingle with the white kids and to stop steal fruits from their neighbor’s gardens. Watch this video.

Even in schools, there is a sense of separateness. There are separate classroom and buildings for the Roma and white children. In 2004, a strong anti-discrimination law was passed in Slovakia but however there is reluctance to obey this law. The Education minister of Slovakia says that officials are working to eliminate discriminatory practices from schools. In 2013, schools were forced to conduct integrated classes for both Roma and white children but resistance still prevails among the people. A number of schools had pressure from the normal parents who don’t want their children to be together with Roma children. However, there are some schools that provide a positive model and have same classrooms for children.There is an opening of a new preschool for children so that social inclusion can be embedded from an early age. These schools provide a ray of hope for putting an end to segregation of Roma people in Slovakia.
© Newsgram

up  

Slovak customs officers shoot and injure Syrian migrant woman

9/5/2016- Slovak customs officers injured a Syrian woman on Monday when they shot at a car carrying migrants from Hungary into Slovakia, authorities said. Police in Europe have sometimes used water cannon and tear gas to prevent migrants from crossing borders but this may be the first reported incident inside the continent's passport-free Schengen zone where migrants have been shot at. The officers stopped four passenger cars entering Slovakia from Hungary in the early hours of Monday, the Financial Administration that runs the customs service said in a press release. Three cars complied with an order to stop but the fourth tried to escape and endangered three officers, it said. "The officers fired warning shots and when the car did not stop they fired at the car, injuring one person," it said, without further details.

A hospital in Dunajska Streda, southern Slovakia, said the injured person was a Syrian woman aged about 26 and that she was in a stable condition after undergoing surgery to remove a bullet from her back. The hospital said it had also treated two migrants suffering from dehydration. The cars and the passengers were handed over to the border police, the Financial Administration said. Slovakia has so far seen only a trickle of migrants trying to cross its territory to reach Germany, the favoured destination for people fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond. But the government fears tighter border controls by neighbouring Austria could prompt more migrants to use Slovakia as a stepping stone from Hungary as they head west.
© Reuters UK.

up  

Russia: Kyrgyz Leader Slams Russian Skinheads for Brutal Attack

Trend of attacks and killings by nationalists continues, rights groups say.

11/5/2016- Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambaev has urged Russia to respect the dignity of the large numbers of Kyrgyz migrants there. During World War II commemorations in Bishkek on 9 May, Atambaev said hundreds of thousands of Russian evacuees were welcomed in the then-Soviet republic during the war, while now Kyrgyz nationals face racially motivated assaults from nationalists in Russian cities. “Simple Kyrgyz families shared their last scraps of bread and clothes. Many evacuees remained in the country for good and became citizens of Kyrgyzstan. So today I would like for this to be remembered by citizens of our brotherly nation, Russia, where modern fascists – skinheads – are raising their heads,” Atambaev was quoted by EurasiaNet.org as saying. The statement comes after a group of assailants attacked Kyrgyz citizens in the Moscow metro earlier this month, which Russian state-run news agency RIA said was racially motivated.

# At least 18 people in Russia were hurt in attacks by nationalists this year, and one died, according to the human rights group Sova.
# Nine people died and 80 were hurt in attacks by skinheads and nationalists in 2015. In 2014, 36 deaths and 133 injuries were reported, according to Russian-language TV station 
Nastoyashchee Vremya (Current Time), a joint project of RFE/RL and Voice of America.
# For the past three years, more than half a million migrants have been deported from Russia, according to Civic Assistance Committee, a charitable organization aimed at helping refugees and migrants in Russia.
© Transitions Online.

up  

Russia: Who’s Killing Gay Journalists?

With two journalists dead at the hands of strange men—including a Hitler-loving ultranationalist—Russia’s LGBT community is worried about a string of possible hate crimes.

11/5/2016- Alexander Rubtsov was hip, talented, and handsome—a charismatic radio presenter and journalist well known around Moscow. Over the past two years, 1.5 million Russian radio listeners could hear his voice daily, presenting news on NASHI radio, Rock FM, Best FM, and Radio JAZZ. The 35-year-old was supposed to host his mother at his home during Russia’s May holidays last week. But when she arrived at his apartment, she found the door curiously unlocked—and Rubtsov on the floor inside, dead in a puddle of his own blood. His body was covered in at least seven stab wounds, mainly on his back. In the wake of the murder, Russia’s LGBT community has actively floated the theory that Rubtsov was the victim of a hate crime. “It looks like we have the second homophobic murder in recent times,” Igor Yesin, an LGBT activist, wrote in a Facebook post. “Four of his and my friends have confirmed that he [Rubtsov] was dating men but was hiding that from public circles (although some say he was not hiding it too hard).”

Tragically, Rubtsov’s murder is almost identical to another recent killing: A month ago, the well-known journalist Dmitriy Tsilikin was stabbed to death in St. Petersburg. His alleged murderer, a 21-year-old student named Sergey Kosyrev, was an ultra-nationalist; the attacker stabbed the 54-year-old Tsilikin at least 10 times in the back with a knife. Police detained Kosyrev on the night of April 6. Ominous details about Tsilikin’s murder were released by Human Rights Watch, which noted that “the attacker reportedly told the police he had met Tsilikin online and planned to blackmail the journalist about his homosexuality, but killed him after an argument.” Before the alleged murder, Kosyrev posted images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler on his social media accounts, according to a Fontanka.ru report.

Tsilikin and Rubtsov are just the latest in a long line of fatal attacks on journalists inside Russia—many of which remain unsolved. “Neither Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, nor the attack on Oleg Kashin, have been investigated, although everybody understands everything [about what happened to them]. But we still do not see public resistance in reaction to these attacks,” Stanislav Belkovskiy, a Moscow-based analyst, told The Daily Beast. “People have got used to journalists’ murders.” Earlier this spring, Russia was listed 148th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Boarders ranking of world press freedom. Russian journalists are frequently abused, attacked and beaten; at least 17 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2012. Reporters outside of Russia are often shocked to hear that these murders rarely cause a public outcry. “A gay reported stabbed to death would be all over the news for weeks—everybody would talk about it, it would be shocking [if it happened in the West],” noted Brad McEwan, a well-known sports presenter at Australia’s Channel Ten.

Yet many Russian journalists remain convinced that Rubtsov’s murder is not a big story. “The story is about what makes young men come from Ukraine or Central Asia to sell themselves for 2,000 rubles,” said Anton Krasovskiy, an openly gay activist and reporter. “The market of commercial sex has never looked as hellish as now—I have seen dozens of murders similar to Rubtsov.” “There is nothing to investigate,” added Alexander Raskin, a reporter at Lifenews. “Police have already investigated Rubtsov’s murder and arrested the suspect.”

Longtime Moscow radio presenter Sergey Dorenko believed that the motive for Rubtsov’s murder was a personal relationship gone sour. “These [gay] guys are insufficient girls,” he said. “Whereas girls would cry into their pillows, these [guys] jump around with knives.” Another radio presenter for Radio Echo of Moscow, Ksenia Larina, echoed this belief that Rubtsov was not assassinated for his journalism. “Judging by the modest information we have, the murder was connected to [Rubtsov’s] untraditional sexual orientation, not about our profession, so there is not much to say,” Larina told The Daily Beast. Meanwhile, Rubtsov’s former boss at the National News Service, managing editor Sergei Gorbachev, told Sobesednik.ru that reports connecting Rubtsov’s murder to his alleged sexual orientation were “insulting.” “Both my colleagues and I receive view such hints in a negative light,” he said.
© The Daily Beast

up  

Russia and 5 neighbors plagued by Violent homophobia

9/5/2016- Homophobia, often violent, is a problem in Russia and five nearby countries that have enacted or considered imposing anti-“gay propaganda” laws. None of these countries has a specific law against same-sex intimacy, with the exception of the internationally unrecognized Moldovan break-away territory of Transnistria. But each of them has prohibited or considered imposing prohibitions on positive depictions of LGBTI people. Two (Russia and Lithuania) have enacted anti-“gay propaganda” laws; two (Kazakhstan and Ukraine) seriously considered but ultimately rejected proposals for such laws; one (Moldava) enacted such a law but then repealed it, and one (Kygyzstan) is currently considering enacting such a law.

LGBTI rights in those six countries are the focus of the following excerpts from the 2015 edition of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The complete reports cover a variety of human-rights issues beyond those excerpted here, including workers’ rights; discrimination against women, children, minorities, indigenous people and others; torture; and civil liberties. They’re all written from the perspective of the United States, although the U.S. is far from blameless with regard to human rights. Among many current examples, at least 14 U.S. states keep unenforceable anti-gay laws on the books the United Kingdom has just issued a travel advisory warning about the discriminatory new laws imposed in North Carolina and Mississippi; and the U.S. still struggles to end its historic mistreatment of indigenous people and of racial, ethnic and other minorities.

This blog is reprinting LGBTI-focused excerpts about human rights in:

Asia # Sub-Saharan Africa # Middle East and North Africa # The Americas (Caribbean nations only) # Oceania, with a separate post about Indonesia, because of the length of the report. # Russia and nearby countries that have considered or adopted anti-“gay propaganda” laws.

Excerpts from the recently published U.S. State Department reports from 2015 begin here:
Kazakhstan 
While the law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, the government did not effectively enforce the law. There were reports of violence against women, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and LGBTI persons. According to the constitution, no one shall be subject to any discrimination for reasons of origin; occupational, social, or property status; sex; race; nationality; language; religion or belief; place of residence; or any other circumstances. The country does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. During the year a law on “protecting the child” that included a provision that would have prohibited “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” was discussed in the parliament. The Senate chairman sent the law to the Constitutional Council, which declared it unconstitutional.

Although gender-reassignment documentation exists, the law requires a transgender person to fulfill three steps before being able to receive identity documents that align with the person’s outward gender: 1) a month of inpatient psychiatric evaluation, 2) a course of hormone replacement therapy, and 3) approval and completion of gender-reassignment surgery. Those who receive gender-reassignment surgery outside of the country fall outside this process. Many individuals lived with nonconforming documents for years and reported problems with securing employment, housing, and health care. According to a survey conducted during the year, half of transgender persons indicated that they experienced physical abuse due to prejudice against transgender individuals or did not experience such abuse because their gender identity was unknown. The KIBHR [Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law] noted in a 2015 report, “To this date we have no knowledge of any court cases regarding discrimination [against] sexual minorities.”

Although there were no government statistics on discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were reports of such actions. According to representatives of international and local organizations, negative social attitudes towards members of marginalized groups, including LGBTI persons, impeded the willingness of the latter to come forward, organize, or seek access to HIV/AIDS programs. Hate crime legislation or other legal mechanisms do not exist to aid prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community. There were no prosecutions of anti-LGBTI violence. NGOs reported members of the LGBTI community seldom turned to law enforcement agencies to report violence against them because they feared hostility, ridicule, and occasionally violence. They were reluctant to use mechanisms such as the national commissioner for human rights to seek remedies for harms inflicted, because they did not trust these mechanisms to safeguard their identities, especially with regard to employment.

Kyrgyz Republic
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, ethnic origin, creed, age, political or other beliefs, education, background, property, or other status. The government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. Although women were active in government, education, civil society, the media, and small business, they encountered gender-based discrimination. Rights activists claimed authorities failed to investigate or punish perpetrators of crimes of discrimination during the year. Members of the LGBTI community reported systematic-police led harassment and beatings. NGOs reported ethnic Uzbeks were attacked by ethnic Kyrgyz because of their ethnicity.

LGBTI persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of jobs, and unwanted attention from police and other authorities. Inmates and officials often openly victimized incarcerated gay men. Doctors sometimes refused to treat LGBTI individuals. Members of the LGBTI community said their families ostracized them when they learned of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Forced marriages of lesbians and bisexual women to men also occurred. The Labrys Public Foundation noted the practice of “corrective rape” of lesbians to “cure” their homosexuality. The practice was underreported, and its extent was difficult to estimate.

Labrys, Kyrgyz Indigo, and Grace–three established LGBTI support NGOs–reported numerous acts of violence against members of the LGBTI community. For example, on April 3, unknown assailants threw three Molotov cocktails into the offices of the LGBTI rights organization Labrys. Two of the explosives ignited in the courtyard, while another that landed on the roof did not ignite. No one was injured in the attack. On May 17, 25 anti-gay protesters forcibly entered an event in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and assaulted and photographed attendees. Police arrested 20 of the attendees and five of the protesters. Police held the LGBTI attendees in the same cell as the protesters, who made offensive, anti-gay comments towards the LGBTI men and women in detention. All were released the same day. In the week following the attack, the newspaper Delo Nomer published an article with photographs of the event attendees.

Members of the LGBTI community reported an increase in attempts to forcibly “out” gays and lesbians on social media. In one widespread incident, police forced a transgender woman to undress on camera. The video was posted on the social media site Odnaklassniki.ru with the title “woman with a surprise.” In 2014, HRW [Human Rights Watch] released They Told Us We Deserved This: Police Violence against Gay and Bisexual Men in Kyrgyzstan, a 65-page report based on interviews with 40 LGBTI persons chronicling instances of extortion, beatings, and sexual assault on them. The report described in detail how police patrolling parks and bars frequented by gay men would threaten them with violence and arrest or threaten to reveal their homosexuality to their families if they did not pay bribes. These practices, according to representatives of the LGBTI community, continued. NGO leaders in the southern part of the country reported an even greater threat. High-level members of the government made public statements that dehumanized and degraded the LGBTI community.

Lithuania
Lithuania has banned the children's book "Gintarinë širdis" from anywhere it could be accessible to children under age 14. On the basis of its anti-“gay propaganda” law, Lithuania banned the children’s book “Gintarinë širdis” from anywhere it could be accessible to children under age 14. Among the forms of discrimination prohibited by the law are race, sex, gender, social status, age, ethnic background, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and disability. The antidiscrimination laws apply to LGBTI persons. Society’s attitude toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative, and LGBTI groups claimed that official bodies that govern publishing and broadcast media took prejudicial action against certain works with LGBT themes. The few NGOs focusing on LGBTI problems did not face legal impediments. The Lithuanian Gay League and Tolerant Youth Association continued to promote an inclusive social environment for LGBTI persons.

The media reported acts of violence against LGBTI persons. The Lithuanian Gay League reported that in the first eight months of the year, 18 persons claimed they experienced physical attacks because of their sexual orientation. An antipropaganda law enacted in 2009 served as a rationale for limiting LGBTI awareness-raising efforts. In July the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content, and Technology began a formal investigation of a 2014 ruling by the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics that blocked television broadcast during regular broadcast hours of an LGBTI awareness video produced by the Lithuanian Gay League. The office cited the law on protection of minors to block the broadcast. In June, when a prominent disk jockey posted homophobic messages on social media, President Dalia Grybauskaite stated, “the sooner Lithuania becomes more open and tolerant, the better it will be for the country.”

Moldova
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, language, religion, belief, age, opinion, political affiliation, or social status, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions effectively. The law prohibits discrimination on 11 characteristics, including gender, race, and disability, as well as employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity continued during the year. As of October the NGO Genderdoc-M reported nine cases of violations of the rights of the LGBTI persons examined in court, including three hate crimes, three cases of discrimination, two cases of instigation to hatred, and one case regarding the change of identity documents for transsexual persons. Three other cases were under investigation.

Most crimes were perpetrated against gay men, but verbal and physical abuse against lesbians was also reported. In most cases police officers were reluctant to open cases against the perpetrators. In one instance Genderdoc-M reported that it required intervention by its lawyer before police acted. In June a lesbian, who a neighbor had continually harassed, was beaten and insulted. The perpetrator allegedly stated that persons like her did not deserve to live and claimed that, even if he beat her up, authorities would not hold him accountable. The victim filed a complaint with police, who refused to accept it. According to Genderdoc-M, the intervention of their lawyer compelled police to accept the complaint. When the victim returned home, she was assaulted again. Police were alerted and detained the perpetrator. The case continued at year’s end.

Civil society organizations reported that transgender individuals were unable to change identity documents during or following gender reassignment, and they experienced employment discrimination. On May 17, more than 150 individuals attended the third officially sanctioned march for the rights of LGBTI persons in central Chisinau. There were no reports of significant incidents, but Orthodox Christian groups and Occupy Pedophilia members held a counterdemonstration close to the march’s perimeter. Heavy police presence prevented altercations. Counterdemonstrators, among them young men covering their faces, threw eggs at the marchers and set off firecrackers. Police detained at least six persons. Following the march a group from Occupy Pedophilia walked towards the Genderdoc-M premises, but police stopped them before they reached the building.

While authorities allowed individuals to change their names (for example, from a male to a female name), the government did not allow persons to change the gender listed on their identity cards or passports. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Justice issued a nonbinding recommendation to lower courts that transgender individuals be permitted to change the gender on their civil documents. In 2012 the Ministry of Health established a commission to determine gender identity and issue certificates that can be used to apply for new documents. In Transnistria consensual same-sex activity is illegal, and authorities subjected LGBTI persons to governmental and societal discrimination.

Russia
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property and official status, place of residence, religion, beliefs, membership of public associations, or other circumstances. The law also protects various rights of persons with disabilities. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, and HIV-status or other communicable diseases is not explicitly protected, although these categories could be construed as falling under “other circumstances.” The government did not universally enforce prohibitions on discrimination. During the year hostile rhetoric and propaganda against some groups disseminated through state-run media outlets contributed to discrimination and xenophobia.

A 2013 law criminalizes the “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. The law effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wish to advocate publicly for rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal. Examples of what the government considered LGBTI propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of persons who are in nontraditional sexual relationships.” Antidiscrimination laws exist but do not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. During the year there were reports of killings motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim. In one case two men confessed to killing a gay man in the Vsevolozhskiy district outside St. Petersburg on February 23. The two attackers reportedly stabbed the man repeatedly after he allegedly sexually harassed them. No information was available regarding any official action taken against the attackers.

Human rights groups reported continuing violence against LGBTI individuals. Openly gay men were particular targets of attacks, and police often failed to respond. In July several young men conducted a social experiment in which they secretly videotaped themselves walking around Moscow while holding hands. The publicly available video of the experiment showed the men being verbally and physically assaulted multiple times by passersby. LGBTI activists experienced threats and attacks in public. Police were often unwilling to assist, and victims sometimes chose not to report crimes for this reason as well as due to concerns about retaliation. On August 18, unknown assailants attacked LGBTI activist Irina Fedotova-Fet near her home in Moscow. The attackers shouted epithets referring to her sexuality during the attack, which left her cut and bruised.

On April 13, assailants sprayed an odorous gas into the Maximum Center for Social, Psychological, and Legal Assistance to Victims of Homophobia and Discrimination in Murmansk, causing choking and vomiting among those in the office. Police refused to open a criminal investigation. In July a lawyer for one of the victims filed a legal complaint of police inaction. There were reports that authorities targeted NGOs and activists representing the LGBTI community for retaliation. LGBTI rights activist Aleksandr Ermoshkin suffered a head injury during an assault in May at a LGBTI rights demonstration in Khabarovsk. According to HRW, Ermoshkin was also forced to resign from his position as a schoolteacher shortly after the country enacted the 2013 law banning propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors. In June a nationally televised story on the state-owned Russia-1 channel accused him of collaborating with foreign intelligence services during a meeting arranged by the television station with reporters posing as representatives of a foreign embassy in Moscow.

LGBTI persons reported heightened societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to increasing official promotion of intolerance and homophobia. Activists asserted that the majority of LGBTI persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear of losing their jobs or homes as well as the threat of violence. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBTI persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice. There were reports that employment discrimination against LGBTI persons increased and that LGBTI persons were increasingly seeking asylum abroad due to the domestic environment.

There were reports that authorities harassed venues frequented by LGBTI persons. On February 26, police raided the lesbian nightclub Infinity in St. Petersburg, purportedly due to reports of drug use and minors being present. Earlier in the month, Kseniya Infinity, one of the owners of the club, had intentionally taken a picture of herself kissing her partner with antigay St. Petersburg assemblyman in the background. After the picture was posted online, Milonov threatened to close the club. In Moscow authorities refused to allow a gay pride parade for the 10th consecutive year, despite a 2010 ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] ruling that the denial violated the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination, and otherwise violated free expression, association, and assembly rights of LGBTI persons.

On October 2, the LGBT Sports Federation, a nationwide network of organizations promoting athletic engagement for LGBTI individuals, held the opening of the fifth annual athletic event, Together in Sport, outside Moscow. In September, St. Petersburg’s seventh annual Queer Festival of Russia drew more than 2,500 live and online spectators. Despite last-minute venue cancellations prior to both of these events, they were allowed to proceed with far less outside interference than in 2014. Activists noted the government’s strategy involved limiting such events’ exposure to the broader public rather than banning or severely interfering with them.

Although the law allows transgender individuals to change their names and gender classifications on government documents, they faced difficulties because the government had not established standard procedures and many civil registry offices denied their requests. When their documents failed to reflect their gender accurately, transgender persons often faced discrimination in accessing health care, education, housing, and employment. A homophobic campaign continued in the state-controlled media, in which officials, journalists, and others called LGBTI persons “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal,” and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia.

Ukraine
While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases, the government lacked effective legal instruments to enforce the prohibitions, and both governmental and societal discrimination persisted. The law covers discrimination, although experts raised concerns the definition of discrimination was too narrow and the law lacked meaningful enforcement mechanisms. During the year the country updated its labor code to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No law, however, prohibits discrimination on this basis in other areas. LGBTI groups, along with international and domestic human rights organizations, criticized the lack of such language in the National Human Rights Strategy.

According to the LGBTI group Nash Mir (Our World), there were both positive and negative developments in the situation of the LGBTI community in the country. The group reported an improvement in social attitudes towards homosexuality and a decline in homophobic rhetoric from churches and leading political figures, and some members of the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] voiced their support for LGBTI rights. The group reported, however, that the level of homophobic aggression from right-wing nationalist groups increased, and government agencies consistently avoided any discussion of problems facing the LGBTI community. On June 6, several dozen men, including members of Right Sector, attacked the Equality March in Kyiv, beating protesters and police and throwing firecrackers laced with shrapnel. The attackers injured nine participants and 10 officers. While law enforcement authorities protected the march, the Kyiv City State Administration had initially discouraged march organizers from holding the event. Law enforcement authorities arrested more than a dozen persons on charges of hooliganism. In July several men attacked two LGBTI activists holding hands in central Kyiv.

On August 13, the district administrative court in Odesa prohibited a march supporting LGBTI rights at the request of the Odesa City Council. Our World stated that violence against LGBTI persons was underreported. During the year the group recorded 16 assaults and four killings related to the victims’ sexual orientation. Our World indicated that victims and families were reluctant to pursue hate crime charges in these cases due to homophobia. They reported an additional 52 cases of discrimination and abuse, mostly in the cities of Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, and Zhytomir. According to the Ukrainian Gay Alliance, an assailant killed a man in Odesa on December 12 due to his sexual orientation. The accused killer reportedly confessed to police that he killed his acquaintance due to his hatred for persons of a “nontraditional sexual orientation.”

LGBTI victims also suffered from discrimination in court proceedings. On November 11, a Kharkiv court handed down a sentence of only eight years to a man who murdered another person solely due to his homosexuality. According to HRW [Human Rights Watch], transgender persons in the country faced discrimination. They must undergo mandatory psychiatric treatment and an examination before a state medical board prior to receiving treatment for sexual reassignment. Transgender persons found the process humiliating and claimed to have difficulty obtaining official documents reflecting their gender. According to Our World, the situation of LGBTI persons continued to deteriorate in Russia-occupied Crimea and the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Crimea (Ukraine / Russia)
Occupying Russian forces created an atmosphere of impunity, creating a hostile environment for members of ethnic and religious minorities, and fostering discrimination and hostility against LGBTI persons. Human rights groups and local gay rights activists reported most of the LGBTI community fled Crimea after the Russian occupation began. LGBTI individuals were verbally and physically assaulted for their sexual orientation, and members of the LGBTI community reported that they were “completely underground.” Russian occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTI groups from holding public events in Crimea. LGBTI individuals faced increasing restrictions on their right to peaceful assembly as occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.
© Erasing 76 Crimes

up  

Netherlands: Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor more popular than Mark Rutte with PVV voters

8/5/2016- Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Abouteleb is more popular among supporters of the anti-Islam PVV than current prime minister Mark Rutte, according to a new Maurice de Hond opinion poll. The poll gave Aboutaleb, a Labour party member, a seven point lead over the VVD‘s Rutte among PVV voters when asked which of the two men they preferred as prime minister. Aboutaleb is also more popular among PVV voters than D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and Christian Democrat chief Sybrand Buma. Even 7% of the VVD back Aboutaleb over the prime minister and their own party leader. Aboutaleb, a Muslim, is known for his outspoken stance on radical Islam. In November he broke with the Labour party line and said Dutch nationals who have decided they want to travel to Syria to join Islamic militias should be allowed to go but should be banned from coming back to the Netherlands. And after last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris he said that the time is right to wipe out ISIS.

Trump
The poll also showed a majority of PVV voters back Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential elections – making the anti-Islam group the only Dutch party to favour the Republican candidate, by 49% to 40%. PVV leader Geert Wilders has said he plans to attend the Republican party convention to show his support for Trump, who he has declared to be ‘brave’ and ‘good for Europe’. Among all other major Dutch parties, Clinton is the clear favourite.

No change
The poll shows no change in support for the major Dutch political parties over the past week. The PVV remains the biggest with 37 seats in the 150 seat Dutch parliament, but this is five down on the party’s high point earlier this year. The VVD is in second place on 23. The next Dutch general election takes place in a year’s time.
© The Dutch News

up  

Ireland: Afghan family assaulted in apparent racist attack

Rathfarnham assault perpetrated by gang of five assailants who threatened to kill family

7/5/2016- An Afghan man fears for his family’s safety after his son (13) and two young brothers were punched in the face, kicked and beaten unconscious in an apparent racist attack near Marlay Park in Dublin. The assault, which was launched on the three by a gang of five men, occurred after the family had spent a few hours on Thursday evening in the Rathfarnham park enjoying the sunshine. The 32-year-old man, who moved to Ireland from Afghanistan six years ago when he was granted refugee status and became an Irish citizen in 2013. The man’s 18- and 20-year-old brothers, Naqeeb Ahmadzai and Fazalrahman Ahmadzai, decided to cycle home with the man’s 13-year-old son, while the rest of the family returned home, The Irish Times was told. As the three cycled along Nutgrove Way, a car with five adult men slow down beside them. “They rolled down the window and started shouting the F-word many times, swearing a lot and saying, ‘Why are you here? Go back to your country,’” he said. “The men drove the car across in front of them, blocked them in,” he said. “They didn’t check their pockets for money or take their bikes – they went straight to punch them. ”

Metal object
Some of the attackers used “a black metal object” to beat the men, the man said. “Both my brothers fell unconscious after they were punched in the face. “At the end of it, they punched my son in the face and head. Everything happened in four to five minutes.” The men then got back into their car. “They stuck up their finger saying, ‘We’ll see you again. Go back to your own country. This is a warning, next time we’ll kill you.’ They used the F-word about being Muslim too.” The family spoke to The Irish Times yesterday outside St James’s Hospital emergency department as the man’s brothers continued to receive medical treatment for their injuries.

‘This is my home’
“Irish people have been lovely. This is my home. I can’t believe this attack has happened. Why would people want to hurt my son like this? Nothing has ever happened like this,” he said. “From what the men said, I can see it’s racism.” He said that the family have not had any trouble with people in the area before. Gardaí arrived within minutes and all three victims were taken to hospital. “My son has bruising and cuts around his face and above his eye, but thankfully he seems to be okay,” he said. His brothers are still in hospital. “ They don’t feel very well,” he said. When asked if he and his family feel safe in Ireland, the man reluctantly shook his head and turned away to cry.  “I can’t believe this has happened. This is like a dream. I think it’s not happening but then I go to the hospital to my brothers, I see what they are going through, I see my son’s face and I know it’s real,” he said. “We’re speaking out so hopefully this will not happen again.” he said. “We were happy to be here... Now I don’t know what to do, should I leave or stay.” Gardaí are investigating the incident.
© The Irish Times.

up  

Poland will not accept refugees: ruling party leader

Poland will not accept refugees because they pose a threat to the country’s security, the head of the ruling, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party said on Saturday.

7/5/2016- Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński also said that Poland would oppose European Commission proposals that would see EU member states having to pay EUR 250,000 per refugee if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers. Answering questions from internet users, Kaczyński said: “After recent events connected with acts of terror will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security. “This is the position of the prime minister and the whole of PiS.” Kaczyński also addressed the migration crisis buffeting Europe in a Law and Justice broadcast on YouTube on Saturday entitled "A Strong Poland in Europe." He said: "As PiS, from the beginning we felt that this issue should be resolved, assisting refugees outside the EU. “Politicians from the current opposition not so long ago claimed that Poland is able to accept any number of refugees. Those who are marching today - supposedly in defence of democracy - wanted to impose on us the forced acceptance of immigrants," he added, referring to Saturday’s anti-government protest in Warsaw.

Kaczyński also referred to recent European Commission proposals that could see EU member states face huge fines if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers. He said: "Such a decision would abolish the sovereignty of EU member states - of course, the weaker ones. “We don’t agree to that, we have to oppose that, because we are and we will be in charge in our own country.” The Polish government has sent out various messages on the issue of taking in asylum-seekers in recent months, on one occasion stating that the intake of refugees would be stalled, and later appearing to indicate the process was open again.



Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński also said that Poland would oppose European Commission proposals that would see EU member states having to pay EUR 250,000 per refugee if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers.

Answering questions from internet users, Kaczyński said: “After recent events connected with acts of terror will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security.

“This is the position of the prime minister and the whole of PiS.”

Kaczyński also addressed the migration crisis buffeting Europe in a Law and Justice broadcast on YouTube on Saturday entitled "A Strong Poland in Europe."

He said: "As PiS, from the beginning we felt that this issue should be resolved, assisting refugees outside the EU.

“Politicians from the current opposition not so long ago claimed that Poland is able to accept any number of refugees. Those who are marching today - supposedly in defence of democracy - wanted to impose on us the forced acceptance of immigrants," he added, referring to Saturday’s anti-government protest in Warsaw.

Kaczyński also referred to recent European Commission proposals that could see EU member states face huge fines if they refuse to accept their share of asylum-seekers.

He said: "Such a decision would abolish the sovereignty of EU member states - of course, the weaker ones.

“We don’t agree to that, we have to oppose that, because we are and we will be in charge in our own country.”

The Polish government has sent out various messages on the issue of taking in asylum-seekers in recent months, on one occasion stating that the intake of refugees would be stalled, and later appearing to indicate the process was open again.

- See more at: http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/251850,Poland-will-not-accept-refugees-ruling-party-leader#sthash.9rgAgYrY.dpuf

© The News - Poland
up  

News from the UK & Germany - week 19

UK: Two brutal homophobic attacks on Brighton seafront in just seven days

The LGBT community in Brighton and Hove has spoken out after two violent homophobic attacks in the city.

13/5/2016- On bank holiday Monday (May 2), Dain Louis, 21, and his partner James Loxton, 23, were attacked on Kings Road, Brighton. Mr Louis suffered fractured eye sockets, cheeks and a broken nose, and is now recovering his sight despite initial fears that the attack may have blinded him. Two 18-year-old men from Crawley were arrested in connection with the incident. Just before 5am on Sunday (May 8), Aaron Carey, 26, was approached just outside Legends Bar in Marine Parade by a man using homophobic language, who punched him and broke his jaw. A 21-year-old man from London was arrested on suspicion of GBH with intent, and has been bailed until June 13. In both cases the victims have begun to recover, but the violent nature and timeline of the attacks have spurred a movement of support and awareness in Brighton’s LGBT community.

Rory Smith, Brighton LGBT liaison officer, said: “Incidents of this nature are very concerning for the local LGBT community and to visitors to the city. “While alarming, these recent incidents are thankfully not related and violent crime of this nature is relatively uncommon. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant to anti-gay sentiments by reporting incidents to police and our partners.” Sergeant Peter Allan, hate crime officer at Sussex Police, said: “While we have not seen an increase in homophobic hate crimes, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage those who have been victims of hate crime to report them to us by phoning 101 or, in an emergency, 999.”

According to Billie Lewis, chair of the Brighton and Hove LGBT Community Safety Forum, Sussex Police figures state the total number of all recorded hate crimes rose from 1,352 in 2014/15 to 1,728 in 2015/16, an increase of 28 per cent. He said: “It is important that the community stay vigilant and continue to report hate crime and anti-social behaviour. “Whether it’s name calling or physical abuse it must be reported and challenged. All forms of abuse including homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, HIV stigma, racism and disability hate crime cannot be tolerated.” The safety forum runs regular meetings, including an event next Tuesday at Old Steine Gardens to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
To find out more about the event, visit: www.lgbt-help.com
© The Brighton and Hove Independant

up  

UK: Man spent three days in hospital after homophobic attack

A man spent three days in hospital after he was beaten up with a knuckleduster in a homophobic attack in Brighton.

12/5/2016- Aaron Woods, 26, and his friend Katie Ripley, 21, were approached by a man hurling anti-gay abuse during a night out. Aaron tried to ignore the abuse but ‘within seconds’ he was attacked and knocked unconscious. Aaron’s jaw was broken in three places and he spent three days in hospital undergoing reconstructive surgery. ‘A guy started hurling homophobic comments towards me as I was walking to the train station and within seconds the guy ran up to me and punched me in the face with a knuckleduster,’ he said.‘The next thing I knew, I woke up in hospital covered in blood and felt as if my jaw was hanging off my face.’ The postman was taken to the Royal County Sussex Hospital following the attack, which took place just before 5am outside the Legends pub on Brighton’s promenade. He said he is now ‘absolutely terrified of leaving the house.’ Sussex Police said that a 21-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of assault and grievous bodily harm. ‘While we have not seen an increase in homophobic hate crimes, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage those who have been victims of hate crime to report them to us by phoning 101 or, in an emergency, 999,’ said Sergeant Peter Allan, the force’s hate crime officer.
© Metro UK

up  

UK: BBC omits refugee tribute from Eurovision

The BBC decided not to air a powerful Eurovision Song Contest intermission centred on the refugee crisis… in favour of a skit about eating meatballs.

10/5/2016- Tuning into the first Eurovision semi-final on Tuesday evening, millions of viewers from across Europe were treated to dance performance piece ‘The Grey People’ – designed as a tribute to the refugee crisis. However, viewers in the UK tuning into the BBC Four live show won’t know anything about it… as the UK feed instead cut away to a pre-recorded comedy segment featuring Mel Giedroyc cooking and eating meatballs. The BBC also filled time with an interview with UK act ‘Joe and Jake’, and did not reference the powerful intermission taking place.

To viewers outside the UK, hosts Petra Mede and Mans Zelmerlow explained: “Right now Europe is facing one of its most difficult challenges in a very long time. “Not only in Europe but around the world, 60 million people are at this moment refugees in search of a new home.” The moving segment included dozens of performers attempting to interpret the crisis through dance, conveying the powerful emotion and confusion involved in fleeing your home. A Eurovision statement explains: “With Europe going through its worst crisis in decades, we stop for a moment and think about that identity truly means. “What home truly means. This contemporary dance act tries to depict the people behind the tabloid statistics.

“The people that have left war torn countries behind in search for a brighter future. The people that risk everything to find a new home, on a new continent, with hope of restoring their identity. “The idea is from the choreographer Benke Rydman.” The BBC has frequently cut away from Eurovision intermission acts in the past, but the decision to not air the refugee segment is surprising due to praise heaped on it by those who did see it. Though under the Eurovision rules broadcasters must show all competing acts, intermissions are not covered – and are sometimes used for ad breaks or interviews in other countries.
© Pink News

up  

UK: The problem with racism that you won't hear Trevor Phillips

Britain is ‘sleepwalking to catastrophe’ over diversity; Phillips’ clumsy, top-down prescriptions seem out of touch with the reality we see on the ground’

10/5/2016- A leading anti-racism charity has rejected the “dire” claims made by the UK’s former equalities chief Trevor Phillips that Britain is sleepwalking towards catastrophe over complacency about diversity, countering that his views are “out of touch with what we see on the ground”. Mr Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, used his newly published essay ‘Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence’ to paint a grim picture of future community tensions and conflicts in Britain unless a “more muscular” approach to integration is adopted in place of the existing “laissez-faire” attitude.

Mr Phillips wrote in his essay: "In my view, squeamishness about addressing diversity and its discontents risks allowing our country to sleepwalk to a catastrophe that will set community against community, endorse sexist aggression, suppress freedom of expression, reverse hard-won civil liberties, and undermine the liberal democracy that has served this country so well for so long. "Worst of all it may destroy popular support for the values that have, in my opinion, characterised the greatest political advances in my lifetime: equality and solidarity." He adds: "Any attempt to ask whether aspects of minority disadvantage may be self-inflicted is denounced as 'blaming the victim'. Instead, we prefer to answer any difficult questions by focusing on the historic prejudices of the dominant majority. In short, it's all about white racism. "This stance just won't do any more. In fact, in today's superdiverse society, it is dangerously misguided."

But anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate has called Mr Phillips’ vision of diversity “dire” and called his “clumsy, top-down prescriptions” out of touch with the reality it sees on the UK’s streets and within the communities it engages with. The charity argues that its Fear and Hope 2016 report shows that young people are becoming increasingly tolerant about issues such as race and immigration, adding that in a study of over 5,000 people only eight per cent felt “strongly hostile” towards immigration – down from 13 per cent five years ago. A spokesperson for the charity said that it believes “the majority of people want to solve the problems our society faces constructively and peacefully, and the Muslim community – or rather, the Muslim communities – are also evolving rapidly”. “We work with Muslims across the country, including with many independent Muslim women. Even some conservative mosques are beginning to appoint women to management boards, and London now has a Muslim mayor – so things are changing.

The spokesperson added: “Attention does need to be paid to extremists on all sides, and also to the plight of the white working class in de-industrialised areas, who are often abandoned to the likes to UKIP. “But the picture is by no means as grim as Phillips paints and his clumsy, top-down prescriptions seem out of touch with the reality we see on the ground." Mr Phillips’ essay has been published by the right-wing think tank Civitas, in which he claims there is "no shortage of public condemnation of 'racism"', referring to complaints about discriminatory behaviour, the "alleged fear of backlash against Muslims after each terrorist incident", campaigns to remove symbols of colonialism, and social media campaigns against "supposedly offensive" language. But these are not the issues that generate public unease, he claims. "Rather it is the appearance of non-English names above the shop-fronts in the high street; the odd decision to provide only halal meat in some schools; evidence of corruption in municipal politics dominated by one ethnic group or another," he writes.

"Such headlines, frequently misreported, but often grounded in some real change, provoke muttering in the pub, or grumbling at the school gate. They become gathering straws in a stiffening breeze of nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment. "And still, our political and media elites appear not to have scented this new wind. We maintain a polite silence masked by noisily debated public fictions such as 'multiculturalism' and 'community cohesion'. "Rome may not yet be in flames, but I think I can smell the smouldering whilst we hum to the music of liberal self-delusion." He observes that Britain is changing at "an extraordinary pace", adding: "We are now remaking our nation at speed." Mr Phillips suggests a number of steps should be taken in the UK, including placing a duty on institutions to promote integration, ending the construction of production teams in factories by nationality and ensuring English is the standard working language.

He also believes that schools should be required to demonstrate they are making efforts to give their pupils a "real experience" of living in a diverse society - spelling an end to "the kind of ethnic takeover of state schools" seen in Birmingham during the "Trojan Horse" scandal, and that legal curbs on freedom of expression should be done away with and replaced with legislation ensuring only speech and gestures that directly encourage physical harm are restricted. A Government spokesman said: "This Government is committed to creating an integrated society. "The Prime Minister has commissioned a review to see what more we can do to create cohesive communities in England. "The review will look at how we integrate all communities in Britain around a common set of values."
© The Independent

up  

UK: Family threatened after Bath racism video goes viral

A mother and daughter claimed they have received online abuse after posting a video showing them confront a man about his racist comments.

12/5/2016- Sharon Forbes and her daughter Savannah filmed the man, Alex Davies, at a National Action rally in Bath. The video has been viewed thousands of times since they shared it. Mr Davies subsequently told the BBC that he did not condone intimidation but had a right to say his views in public. National Action is a far-right group that describes itself as fighting for a free white Britain. Ms Forbes said she felt she had to confront Mr Davies, who was speaking at the rally: "I was so incensed and so angry at the views that he was spouting that I thought I just have to get them on video." Since the video was posted on social media they have received abuse but Ms Forbes said the views of the people who had posted "are not going to intimidate us - not at all". Savannah, who is mixed race, said: "We feel too strongly to be scared of people with such a small-minded view." She added: "I didn't know that people like that still existed... and that people still had that mind set." Mr Davies said he accepted his group had racist views and the rally was "low-key" until Ms Forbes began filming.
© BBC News

up  

UK: Girl, 15, shuts down neo-Nazi protesters making 'bigoted' speeches

10/5/2016- Sharon Forbes and her daughter Savannah were shocked to see a group of men apparently making bigoted speeches using a megaphone on Saturday. A man wearing a baseball cap told Sharon he was advocating a ‘free, white Britain’, so the outraged mum replied: ‘My daughter’s mixed race – should she be booted out?’ The racist protester, in the centre of Bath, looks flummoxed and said: ”I don’t know, she looks white to me… you’re saying that (she’s mixed race) but you could be saying that for argument’s sake.’ Surrounded by shoppers and tourists, he continues to tell Savannah and Sharon that Britain has ‘always been a white country’. Savannah, 15, points out that times have moved on and ‘people have progressed so much since then’.

The man can think of little else to say and marches off with the rest of the group – to the jeers of the crowd. Sharon said she was ‘very proud of Savannah for ‘confronting the racists in Bath’. She said: ‘Savannah is mixed race and is so proud of her heritage. Her grandfather is Jamaican and works as a paediatrician in Africa. He’s an expert on treating malaria. ‘She’s a lovely person and a happy girl, but when we saw those men we had to act. ‘We were so shocked – it’s the first time we’ve ever witnesses directly racism. There were lots of tourists there from all over the world and I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking. ‘People were upset but weren’t doing anything. I think that happens more and more now – society tends to turn a blind eye.’

The men are believed to be from a group called National Action, a neo-Nazi British nationalist youth movement. Sharon said that Savannah, who is studying for her GCSEs, had a strong social conscious and cares deeply about LGBT rights, racism and animal rights. The post has been shared widely on social media and been watched nearly 100,000 times. People have congratulated the pair for their stance on Facebook and condemned the men. Colin Forbes said ‘Well done! What’s a bunch of mutants doing in Bath…must have come in through the sewers!’, while Andrew Bottomley commented: ‘You go girls, well done…sadly, you won’t change the mind of someone who doesn’t possess one but hats off anyway!’
© Metro UK

up  

UK: Devastating 'anti-Semitic' arson attack caught on CCTV

The footage was taken shortly before Ta’am Deli and Grill in Prestwich turned into a blazing inferno

10/5/2016- Callous arsonists have been caught on CCTV dousing a kosher restaurant dining room in petrol before setting it alight. The footage was taken shortly before Ta’am Deli and Grill in Prestwich turned into a blazing inferno. Its owners say the attack could be motivated by their Jewish heritage. Then as the footage continues a huge fireball erupts all around the restaurant as flames engulf the interior. The fire is spotted leaping out of the bathroom of the deli – which was due to reopen on Monday after a move to new premises – and then through the restaurant’s kitchen. As the clip continues the fire rages and at one point there seems to be an explosion, and smoke quickly fills the room, reports Manchester Evening News. But amazingly the attack only caused ‘minimal’ damage to Ta’am’s interior, says its owners, who say the fact the whole building didn’t burn down is a ‘miracle’.

They say they are now ‘terrified’ after being deliberately targeted by two men, who were also spotted on CCTV ‘casing’ the eatery an hour before the attack, as well as kicking the front window through to get in. They say that they could have been targeted because of their Jewish heritage. Martine Vaizman, one of the co-owners, said: “It is a miracle there wasn’t more damage done. “We were observing Shabbat and so our phone’s were off. When my husband Amos turned his back on we got a notification telling us that the alarm had gone off. “When we got to the restaurant we couldn’t work out what had happened, but then we looked at the CCTV. "It is horrific, we have no idea who could have done this." “The fire has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and we don’t know when we’re going to be able to relaunch now," she continued. "We just spent months and months getting set for the new opening – we’ve redeveloped the whole building. It’s just awful.”

Greater Manchester Police have launched an investigation into the incident, which took place between 10pm and 11pm on Friday, May 6, and are reviewing the CCTV from around the area. Martine said: “We don’t know if they are going to strike again or what’s going to happen. I just hope that whoever did this is caught as soon as possible.”
© The Mirror

up  

Britain will not accept child refugees for up to seven months, No. 10 admits

9/5/2016- Britain will not accept any refugee children from camps on the European mainland for up to another seven months, Number 10 has admitted. The news prompted an outcry from Conservative MPs who had campaigned for the Government to with one saying that public expected “an urgent response”. Last week David Cameron, the Prime Minister said the UK would accept unaccompanied child refugees from camps on the Continent in the face of a large scale rebellion by Conservative MPs. However Number 10 said on Monday that the Government’s “expectation” was that children from the camps would only be allowed come to the UK by the end of this year. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It is a new scheme so we need to work with councils to get it up and running and that is why we expect we will have the first children arriving by the end of this year.”

The delay was criticised by Conservative MPs who said the public “expects an urgent response”. David Burrowes, one of the left of centre Tory MPs who had helped force the Government to accept the children, said: “The PM's decision last week was a response to an urgent humanitarian need and demands and public expects an urgent response. “We were able to relocate 1000 vulnerable refugees from Syria in three months so it should not take seven months before we relocate vulnerable children from Europe.”


In numbers | Child refugees
3,000
The number of unaccompanied child refugees living in camps across Europe that David Cameron is being asked to consider allowing into the UK. The Prime Minister says he will take more but has not committed to a specific figure

157
The number of unaccompanied child refugees in Calais by the end of April 2016, waiting to cross the border , according to Citizens UK

20,000
The total number of refugees from Syria accepted by UK over the next five years

3,000
Additional refugees, mostly vulnerable children, who can come to UK from the Middle East and North Africa by 2020 after a concession by David Cameron in April 2016

185
The number of UK asylum applications by unaccompanied Syrian minors in 2015, according to Eurostat
© The Telegraph

up  

UK: London Mayor Bombarded by Anti-Semitic Abuse After Attending Holocaust Event

10/5/2016- London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s attendance at a Holocaust commemoration event last week inspired praise by many, but did not sit well with some in the Twittersphere, with some responding with virulently anti-Israel comments and even Holocaust denial. On Sunday, Mayor Khan, the London-born son of Pakistani immigrants and first Muslim mayor of London, tweeted: “So important to reflect, remember and educate about the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust,” referring to his visit to the Holocaust memorial event, his first official mayoral act. As of Monday evening, the post had attracted more than 1,500 “likes” and was shared 950 times, with responses such as: “Thank you for attending the Yom HaShoah event. The event made me proud to be British for so many reasons. We are all one.”

But among the other responses was blatant Holocaust denial, including a comment that “much of the so-called ‘holocaust’ has been faked, including the post-1945 Auschwitz construction,” suggesting that much of the Auschwitz site was built after World War II. Another commentators challenged Khan with: “Have you plucked that figure of 6 [million] out of thin air? What was the total population of Jews in 1940? Don’t distort history. Max 1 [million].” An anti-Muslim reaction was also among the Twitter barrage: “The cult followers of Muhammad have killed 270 million people in 1,400 years.”

Khan made Sunday’s appearance at a London ceremony following a racially charged election campaign during which Conservative Party opponents sought to portray him as an apologist for Islamic extremism and to highlight cases of alleged anti-Semitism within the ranks of the mayor’s Labour Party. The annual Holocaust commemoration, which was held in a rugby stadium, brought together thousands from London’s Jewish community, including more than 150 Holocaust survivors and a combined choir from five Jewish elementary schools. Khan attended alongside Lord Michael Levy, one of Labour’s most senior Jewish supporters and the party’s former lead fundraiser.
© JTA News

up  

UK: Nazi thug who chanted 'Allah is a paedo' is exposed as child sex pervert

Kristopher Allan, 32, is an active member of the Scottish defence league and it has now emerged that he was previously convicted for having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in 2006.

7/5/2016- A far-right thug who terrorised his former partner and mouths off about paedophiles at anti-Islamic rallies can today be exposed as a child sex offender. Kristopher Allan, 32, was last week sentenced after admitting behaving in a threatening and abusive manner towards his ex at her Edinburgh home. He is an active member of the Scottish Defence League and was pictured at a rally last October. Despite the council trying to put a ban on the march, Allan was one of a group of around 40 protesters who were reported to have chanted “f*** off refugees” and “Allah is a paedo” on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. But now it has emerged that lowlife Allan has a conviction for sending indecent messages and photos and having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl at his home 10 years ago. Allan admitted the offence in 2007 and was given a two-year probation order and had his name added to the sex offenders’ register for the same period. He was banned from having any contact with under 16s and ordered to carry out offence-focused work to address his sexual offending.

A source said: “This guy goes to rallies to sound off about Muslim paedo-philes. He’s a hypocrite.” Though Allan, of Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, was wearing a Union flag mask and hood at the rally in October, he has been identified by a source by his distinctive arm tattoo. Just three months later, he was arrested for causing fear or alarm to his partner by shouting and swearing and making threats of violence to a police officer. Allan was sentenced to a community payback order with two years’ supervision and a 30-month non-harassment order. He was also ordered to attend a programme for men who have abused their partners. A source said of his ex: “Her trust is shattered – she had no idea about his past. He has no shame.” Allan could not be contacted for comment yesterday. A neighbour said he had not been seen for weeks.
© The Daily Record

up  

Germany declares three countries that criminalize gay sex to be ‘safe’ for gay asylum seekers

The country's leading LGBTI organization called the decision a 'human rights-related declaration of bankruptcy'

13/5/2016- Germany has declared three homophobic North African countries to be safe, making it nearly impossible to claim asylum when fleeing from them. The government announced today (13 May) they would, from now on, consider the so-called Maghreb states of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to be safe countries of origin. ‘Helping also means being able to say no,’ Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thomas de Maziere, told BILD. Under German federal law, this means asylum seekers from these countries will see their applications rejected as ‘manifestly unfounded’ unless they produce facts or evidence proving they face persecution in their home country. ‘For a state to be declared a safe country of origin, there has to be nationwide safety from political persecution for all citizens and demographic groups,’ a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court states.

Homosexuality is illegal in all three countries and can be punished with prison sentences of up to three years. In Morocco, anyone found guilty also faces a fine of 120($18.25) – 1200 dirham ($124.38). In Algeria, the maximum sentence is two years also a fine of 500 ($4.56) – 2000 dinars ($18.25), but it increases to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dinars ($91.28) if one of the partners is under 18. The government’s decision was met with protests from both the opposition as well as LGBTI organizations. Volker Beck, part of the Green Party’s faction in the Bundestag and openly gay himself, published a statement on Facebook – signed by himself and other members of his party – condemning the decision and declaring they would not be voting in favor of the change. ‘Consensual same-sex actions come with the threat of high prison sentences,’ the statement reads. ‘Lesbians, gay men, bi, trans and intersex people are exposed to discrimination and violence in their everyday lives, without being able to rely on protection from the authorities.

Germany’s biggest LGBTI organization, the Lesben- und Schwulenverband Deutschland (LSVD)  called the government’s new stance a ‘human rights-related declaration of bankruptcy’ and called upon the Bundesrat (upper house) to stop the law. ‘Whoever declares Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to be safe countries of origin vindicates frequent human rights violations,’ said Henne Engels, the organization’s spokesperson. ‘[In doing so] they complicit with people falling victim to political persecution, incarceration and abuse just because they love differently. ‘ The LSVD also accused the government of being cynical after they advised LGBTIs in those countries to ‘lie low’. ‘Just two days ago, Minister of Justice Maas announced he’d present a proposed law outlining the rehabilitation of those charged under $175, rightly calling the former persecution of homosexuals “disgraceful deeds of the constitutional state”,’ Engels said. ‘Today, the black-red coalition (Conserative-Labour coalition government) issues the disgraceful deeds of the persecution of homosexuals in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia a certificate of non-objection.’

It’s partly influenced by what has become known as the Cologne attacks, where a group of 50 men – the majority allegedly from North Africa – sexually assaulted women in and around Cologne main station during the New Year celebrations.
© Gay Star News

up  

Germany: Unease as Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ back on best-seller list

Hybrid of memoir and political rant sells 70,000 copies, to historian publishers’ alarm

13/5/2016- It sounds like a remake of the Mel Brooks’s farce The Producers, but set in the publishing world. A group of historians republish Mein Kampf in Germany for the first time in 70 years and look on – first with pride, then with alarm – as the book sails to the top of Germany’s book charts. Five editions and 70,000 copies later, historian Christian Hartmann admits mixed feelings on turning the Nazi dictator into a posthumous best-selling author. “We couldn’t have imagined it would be this successful and are delighted, because it is an edition that is meant for all,” he said. “But some people have no end of difficulty with it because Mein Kampf is, in many ways, a relic from the Third Reich.” During Hitler’s lifetime Mein Kampf, a two-volume hybrid of memoir and political rant, sold 12 million copies in 18 languages. But after his suicide in in 1945, this Nazi relic was effectively banned in Germany.

With no heirs, Hitler’s German-language copyright was transferred to the Bavarian state government in Munich. It put the book in its poison cupboard and refused to issue publication licences. Bavaria had no influence on the trade in second-hand editions, e-book versions or English and other foreign language editions. As Bavaria’s copyright on Mein Kampf neared its end last January, seven decades after the author’s death, Dr Hartmann of Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History won approval for a team of historians to produce a scholarly edition. Their ambition was to demystify the book and, with research and reason, take apart the dictator’s rants. They also hoped to pre-empt any neo-Nazi groups producing tribute editions. The critical edition’s first print run of 5,000 copies sold out immediately – a surprise given the heavy, two-volume work costs €59. As it enters its sixth edition, does Dr Hartmann feel congratulations or commiserations are in order?

Reputation
The historian laughs nervously. He operates in the elitist world of German academia, where too much popular success can ruin a professional reputation. “The humanities are not normally showered with public attention, which makes some people suspicious of success, particularly of our project,” said Dr Hartmann. “But I hate an elitist approach to know-ledge, I find it extremely undemocratic – particularly knowledge financed by public money.” Dr Hartmann says his institute will make no profit from the book. Decontaminating the dictator’s poison took years of work; the €59 purchase price only covers the research, publishing and warehouse costs. The man behind the success of Mein Kampf has one regret – and it’s not bringing Hitler back to the bestseller lists. The project almost failed because Bavarian politicians pulled their funding. But the critical edition of Mein Kampf struggled on with other financing. “It is rather strange but we’ve heard nothing at all from the Bavarian state,” said Dr Hartmann. “For those people we solved a big problem.”
© The Irish Times.

up  

Germany: Far-right rock festivals are returning

12/5/2016- Far-right rock concerts are making a return in Germany, with one in the state of Thuringia on Saturday attracting around 3,500 people, according to German media. “Rock for Identity,” brought crowds of young right-wingers to the town of Hildburghausen to watch bands with names like “ Übermensch” and “Blitzkrieg,” Die Welt reported. According to a report seen by the paper, the popularity of such events is growing, with 15 concerts, attracting over 1,500 visitors, taking place in the first three months of this year, more than took place in the same period for the past three years. Left-wing MP Ulla Jelpke told Die Welt the concerts act as a “gateway drug,” leading people into more committed activism. Such events were popular in 1980s and 90s but were thought to have declined.
© Newsweek Europe

up  

Germany: 1,000s of gay men still live with criminal records

Homosexuality hasn’t been a crime for decades. But thousands of men still have criminal records based on a law that was wiped from the books in 1969.

11/5/2016- The head of the Federal Anti-discrimination Office, Christine Lüders, called on the government on Wednesday to repeal convictions made against gay men under paragraph 175 of the criminal code, a law which was lifted in 1969. “The law makers need to act,” Lüders told the Funke Media Group, explaining that over 50,000 men were prosecuted in the decades after the Second World War based on their sexuality. “The essence of their human dignity” was injured by the rulings, Lüders said, but still the men have to live with their criminal records. Lüders' words are backed up by a legal study published by her office which concluded that the government has a legally obliged to repeal the convictions.

The Gay and Lesbian Association (LSVD) welcomed the study's conclusions, saying that it shows the government “not only can but must clear the names of the men who were convicted under paragraph 175.” Calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet “to act against this injustice” before next year’s general election, the LSVD demanded that individual compensation be paid to victims as a collective settlement. Die Zeit reports that compensation could be made in the form of investment in educational projects which aim to explain and foster tolerance for sexual diversity, with individual claims for compensation unlikely to be successful. Paragraph 175 was part of the German legal code from 1872 onwards. Under Nazi rule the sentence was raised considerably, with men who were convicted sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

But after the war the government in the communist east and democratic west both took decades to wipe the law from their books. In East Germany the law was only annulled in 1968, after thousands of convictions. In West Germany police arrested gay men en masse. More than 50,000 were convicted, and Die Zeit reports that many of those convicted killed themselves, while others went to prison or lost their jobs. The law was annulled in 1969. In 2002 the government cleared all convictions dating back to the Nazi era. But men found guilty after that time have yet to see their names cleared.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Methods For Reforming Neo-Nazis Help Fight Radicalization Of Muslims

10/5/2016- Imagine this scenario: A young Muslim leaves home to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Thousands of young men from Europe have done exactly that in the past two years. But here's the twist: Imagine that just weeks after arriving, the young man realizes he's made a terrible mistake. What does he do now? If he's American, his options are few. Even attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS is considered providing support to a terrorist organization, a federal offense that carries a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison. But if the young Muslim is German, he might be in luck. The German government is looking at new ways to work with what are essentially ISIS dropouts, and it is drawing from its previous work with right-wing extremists. It appears many of the same methods used to reform neo-Nazis are directly applicable to young people who are taken in by violent Salafist groups like ISIS.

"We got a phone call from a family who told us their son had gone to ISIS, and after two weeks, he realized, 'OK, that's not for me, that is not what I expected, that is not what I wanted to do. I want to come home,' " says Julia Berczyk, a counselor at a Berlin-based rehabilitation program called Hayat-Germany. Hayat means "life" in Arabic, and in many ways, counselors at this program are trying to provide a new lease on life for young Muslims who radicalize and then regret it. The process usually begins with a phone call. In the case Berczyk cites of a young man who wanted to return, Hayat advised his family to contact German authorities. Parents are typically reluctant to do that, Bercyzk says, because reporting on their children could send them to jail. But given the alternative — the possible death of a relative on the battlefield — parents tend to follow Hayat's counsel.

"We've found that calling the authorities early can be quite an advantage in the court later on," says Berczyk. "Because the authorities see, OK, this guy was really trying to get out of there, and the family was willing to cooperate with us and they were open about it. That can actually have a very positive effect on sentencing later on." According to official tallies, some 700 Germans have traveled to Syria to join groups like ISIS since 2012; hundreds are believed to have returned. So it isn't surprising that German authorities are eager to use all means available — whether it is parents or hotline calls or friends and friends of friends — to identify ISIS followers in Germany and possibly de-radicalize them before they turn violent. Hayat-Germany is part of that official effort; it is funded by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Just this spring, an ISIS defector returned to Europe and turned over a thumb drive that contained thousands of the group's job applications. German authorities have the documents, and officials there tell NPR that the information has been very helpful in their effort to locate returnees in Germany. Similarly, an American ISIS defector from Virginia turned himself in to Iraqi Kurdish forces back in March. Officials expect such defections will only increase. Hayat says there could be more cases for leniency. If someone who traveled to Syria didn't fight, for example, but instead helped ISIS with IT or translated for the group, German authorities take that into account. (So far, U.S. authorities haven't made those kinds of distinctions.).

Hayat-Germany grew out of a program called Exit-Deutschland, which targeted neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, groups that German authorities have been working to de-radicalize and fold back into German society for years. Berczyk says the Hayat program is premised on the belief that the lessons from working with right-wing extremist programs can be applied to radical Islamists as well. "There is a commonality between extremist ideologies," she says. "But also, if we are talking about sects and cults, there are certain things that all these groups have in common." That's good news because it means authorities can mine their long experience with neo-Nazis and apply it to the relatively new problem they face with ISIS now. Of course, each case is different, which is what makes de-radicalization complicated.

But in a general way, Hayat-Germany says, the key component in these programs is family. Studies have shown that by strengthening family ties, parents and siblings end up providing the support young people were missing and subsequently sought and found in extremist groups. Among other things, Hayat counsels the families to avoid confrontation when they are trying to convince relatives to come back from Syria. Recruiters in the jihadist camps tell new arrivals that conflict with their families is inevitable. They warn them that if they reach out to those they have left at home, they'll be chastised and ordered to return. The problem with their families, the recruiters say, is they just don't understand ISIS followers and the depth of their faith. If families get angry — even if it comes from worry — this plays right into the recruiters' hands.

That's why Hayat tells parents not to demand a return, but instead to suggest their relatives leave Syria and settle in a third country, far away from the battlefield, and start a family and a new life. Once the young people are out from under ISIS' spell, families have a better chance of convincing them eventually to come home. Strategies to make this happen come from counselors at Hayat.  Quintan Wiktorowicz, an academic who did field studies on radicalization in Jordan and the U.K., now runs Affinis Labs, which tries to use innovation and entrepreneurship to solve community problems like radicalization. He was responsible for engagement programs at the White House and developed counter-radicalization initiatives for the State Department. He says Hayat's remedies — from hotlines people can call to engaging the families of radicalized youth in counseling sessions — are strategies that have been effective across ideologies. "Although there are different pathways to radicalization and the ideologies vary across extremists groups, the underlying drivers are very similar," he said.

The drivers usually come in three parts: an extreme level of frustration, a sense of powerlessness, and exposure to an ideology that not only resonates emotionally, but also offers a solution to the frustration. "The mechanics, whether you are a right-wing extremist or embracing ISIS, are very similar," he says. Wiktorowicz says the one constant in successful programs is that they are very individualized in order to address the grievances that drove someone to extremist groups in the first place. "It is incredibly labor intensive to do rehabilitation and de-radicalization because you have to take into account what experiences and psychological needs lead them down the path to extremism in the first place," he says. The bright spot in this is that not all of ISIS' followers are such hard cases. "For individuals who join for social reasons or because of an identity crisis, then you have a better chance of customizing the rehabilitation intervention," he says.

When it comes to ISIS followers, particularly those from the U.S., there's a general sense that young men and women have traveled to Syria as part of a group of friends. Or they think traveling to Syria will help them bear witness to history and be part of what ISIS has called a homeland for Muslims. Setting them straight on that is possible with counseling. Hayat's hotline for families and would-be returnees has become so popular, its reach has gone beyond Germany. Denmark has a hotline. The U.K. and France have been setting up something similar too. Hayat-Germany says it has counseled some 200 extremists from all over the world. Berczyk wouldn't say if any calls had come in from America.
© NPR

up  

German court tells Munich Hofbraeukeller to host right-wing AfD

12/5/2016- A Munich beer hall where Adolf Hitler launched his political career has been ordered to overturn a ban on a meeting by right-wing populist party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD). AfD had booked the Hofbraeukeller for an address by party leader Frauke Petry to hundreds of supporters. But the beer hall cancelled the booking after the party agreed a policy that Islam was "not part of Germany". Landlord Ricky Steinberg said he feared protests outside the venue. He said that under the terms of the contract he was entitled to call off Friday evening's meeting on grounds of security. "I could really do without the hullaballoo," he was quoted as saying. But the Munich district court ruled on Thursday that the beer hall was tied to the rental contract. AfD officials said they had already paid a €6,100 (£4,800; $7,000) deposit for the event. AfD officials have suggested that the beer hall was leant on by the mainstream political parties to ban the event. They argued that they had offered to provide the venue with security and insisted that no protest against the meeting had been planned.

Shooting migrants
Mr Steinberg has run the Hofbraeukeller for almost 20 years and it has been widely used by mainstream parties in the past, including Bavaria's centre-right CSU and the centre-left SPD. However, its historical connection to Adolf Hitler is particularly relevant in Germany now, with the AfD adopting policies that are synonymous with the far right. Hitler gave his first political speech at the Hofbraeukeller in September 1919. The AfD's founder, economics professor Bernd Lucke, resigned in July 2015 as the movement - originally focused on pulling Germany out of the euro - moved farther to the right. The new leader, Frauke Petry, said in January this year that police should have the right to shoot at migrants "if necessary", to prevent illegal border crossings. Then, on 1 May, an AfD conference adopted a ban on minarets, the Muslim call to prayer and the full-face veil, with a motion that said Islam was "not part of Germany". While the AfD has gradually embraced right-wing, populist policies, it is also forging ahead in opinion polls. Latest polls suggest it commands 15% of the vote, five points behind the centre-left SPD.
© BBC News

up  

Germany: AfD battles to use beer hall that launched Hitler's career

Right-wing populist party the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has refused to accept a ban from the Munich beer hall where Adolf Hitler gave one of his first political speeches.

9/5/2016- The AfD had booked the Hofbräukeller in the Bavarian capital for a meeting featuring party leader Frauke Petry on May 13th. But landlord Ricky Steinberg called off the event last week, saying that he feared the party might attract violent counter-protests outside his doors. “I fear for the reputation of the Hofbräukeller and its security,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday. Now the AfD's eastern Munich branch says that it will go to court, seeking either tens of thousands of Euros in damages or the right to go ahead with the party meeting, unless Steinberg backs down. They argue that they had already signed a contract and made an advance payment of €6,100 for the use of the venue. Other political parties including the traditionalist, conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) have regularly used the Hofbräukeller for meetings in the past. “I'll wait for the court case to come in,” landlord Steinberg said on Sunday, adding that “my decision is definitely final”.

Dark history
There is more than a touch of far-right history to the Munich beer institution, as it was the scene of Adolf Hitler's first speech as head of the German Workers' Party in 1919. It was a significant enough event to the future dictator that he later recalled it in his manifesto Mein Kampf. But the more famous of the dictator's beer hall speeches took place in the Bürgerbräukeller, since destroyed, where he launched the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" in 1923. The Bürgerbräukeller was also the scene of a 1939 attempt on Hitler's life using a bomb by Georg Elser, made famous in a 2015 film.
© The Local - Germany

up  

German activists decry attacks on Christian refugees in asylum centers

Muslim migrants discriminate against religious minorities in German refugee centers, a Christian group has said. According to their report, Christians refugees are being harassed, insulted and attacked.

9/5/2016- German refugee centers need to offer more protection to non-Muslims, Christian organization Open Doors Germany said on Monday, while presenting a new report in Berlin. The organization's head, Markus Rode, spoke of a rising climate of "fear and panic" among the newcomers. The group, which supports prosecuted Christians worldwide, interviewed 231 Christian migrants residing in Germany, most of them from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. According to survey, an overwhelming majority (88 percent) said they have been targeted by other migrants because of their religion. Additionally, almost one-half of survey participants accused guards of discriminating against religious minorities or harassing them. In Germany's refugee housing, both the migrants and the security personal are mostly Muslim. Out of 231 Christian migrants, 42 percent have reported insults, 37 percent said they suffered a physical injury, and 32 percent allegedly received death threats. The reports is only "the tip of the iceberg," said Open Doors' chief Rode.

Mandatory prayers
At the Monday press conference, Syrian refugee Fadi S. said he was "shocked" to meet Muslim fundamentalists in a German refugee home after fleeing his country to escape religious extremism. According to a Protestant minister from Berlin, Christian refugees had been threatened after refusing to take part in an Islamic prayer with other migrants. In the past, church and state officials have described attacks on Christians as an individual, and not a systemic problem. However, activist and preacher Gottfried Martens said this viewpoint is playing down the extent of the problem. Martens added he was "speechless, that people are still holding on to this 'individual' perspective," and asked if the "very last Christian needs to be attacked," before this position is abandoned.

Pushing for separation
Open Doors Germany and other activists groups urged politicians to protect religious minorities and lump non-Muslims in large groups. Others have suggested that Christians, Yezidis and other minorities should be housed separately from the Muslim refugees. Activists also suggested that the state hire more translators and security guards that are not Muslims, and to have mediators that would handle complaints from Christian refugees. In 2015, Germany received over one million immigrants, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East. The rate of influx has slowed down significantly since January.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

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