Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110429

Financial Crisis
»EU: Italy’s Draghi Would be ‘Excellent’ ECB Chief, Spanish Finance Minsiter Says
»Poles Going Bust in Britain
»‘A Slippery Character’: President Obama’s Father Was a Serial Womaniser Who Had to be Warned to Stop His ‘Playboy Ways’
»Black Chamber of Commerce President Blasts “Marxist,” “Brownshirt” Obama
»Frank Gaffney: Obama’s ‘Anti-Missilephobia’
»New Sheriff in Town Ann Barnhardt: Fearless Against Islam and the Obama Syndicate
Europe and the EU
»Abu Shabak Seeks Political Asylum in Belgium
»Berlusconi — Referendum Would Have Blocked Atomic Energy
»Cities Against Islamisation Satisfied With Burka Ban in Belgium
»French Air Traffic Controller Stabbed to Death in Secure Area of Airport Tower
»Germany: Lock Up Leftist May Day Troublemakers, Conservatives Say
»Netherlands: Teachers Say Schools Succumb to Violent Pupils
»The Nordic Food Revolution: Foraging in the Forest With the World’s Best Chef
North Africa
»Briton ‘Among 14 Tourists Killed by Suicide Bomber’ In Explosion at Popular Marrakesh Cafe
»Egypt: Poll: Majority in Favour of Ending Peace With Israel
»Italian Planes Make First Strikes on Libya
»Libya: Pro-Gaddafi Forces Cross Into Tunisia
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Time to Choose
»‘Nothing But Bad News for the Middle East Peace Process’
Middle East
»Post-Revolution Egypt Backs Syrian Regime, Says Rights Advocate
»Saudi Arabia: 30 Shiite Demonstrators Arrested, 2 Are Bloggers
»Syria: Islamist Party in Jordan Protest Against Assad Regime
»Syria: Thousands Flee to Lebanon, Today ‘Friday of Rage’
South Asia
»Indonesia: Java Pentecostal Church Firebombed
»Pakistan: Cleric Charged With Pressuring 9-Year-Old to Become Bomber
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Sudan’s Bashir Refuses Abyei Compromise
Latin America
»Gulf: Press: Iran Trains Fighters in Colombia
»178 Left Libya and Land at Lampedusa
»Belgium: Fraudsters From East Caught Red-Handed
»Boat Carrying 300 Immigrants Rescued Off Lampedusa
»EU Court Rejects Italy’s Criminal Migrant Rule
»Italy and France Seek Changes to Schengen Accord
»Maltese Minister: Italian Policy ‘Rubbish’
»Netherlands: Who Will Pick Your Tulips?
»Netherlands: No Work, No Home
»Putting a Price on Foreigners: Strict Immigration Laws ‘Save Denmark Billions’
»Ultrafast Fibre Optics Set New Speed Record

Financial Crisis

EU: Italy’s Draghi Would be ‘Excellent’ ECB Chief, Spanish Finance Minsiter Says

Madrid, 28 April (AKI/Bloomberg) — Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado called Mario Draghi an “excellent” choice as the next European Central Bank president, leaving Germany as the only one of the four biggest euro countries that has yet to endorse the Bank of Italy governor.

“Spain’s position is that we think he is an excellent candidate,” Salgado told reporters late yesterday in Madrid hours after her ministry had declined to comment.

The Spanish praise came a day after French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s endorsement of the Italian candidate, whose campaign gathered momentum with subsequent backing from Portugal and Belgium. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who oversees the biggest European economy, has declined to indicate a preference and her spokesman yesterday asserted her right to block any successor to the ECB’s current chief, Jean-Claude Trichet.

“There will be no appointment to the ECB presidency without German approval,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Merkel. Under EU voting rules, Germany wouldn’t be able to veto Draghi, 63. It would need anywhere from one to five other countries to amass enough votes to block a candidate.

Seibert today said the German position was unchanged and an announcement would be made in due course. Merkel was on vacation last week and has no public appointments this week.

While Seibert said Germany would cooperate with France in the appointment, Merkel faces the choice of following or rankling her main European partners. Germany, France, Italy and Spain contribute about two-thirds of the 17-nation euro economy.

The pick may become tied up in German opposition to bailouts. With Portugal’s rescue set to push the cost of aid to euro states past 250 billion euros, Merkel may face domestic criticism for choosing a southern European from a country with a legacy of inflation and debt.

Draghi emerged as the front-runner after Germany’s Axel Weber withdrew from the race in February. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sees Draghi as likeliest to be appointed as the ECB’s next president, people close to him say. Trichet’s non-renewable eight-year term ends on Oct. 31.

Spokesmen for euro-region governments including Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands have declined to comment on ECB succession this week.

Draghi, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist, has worked at the World Bank and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. He is also chairman of the Financial Stability Board, which was established by the Group of 20 nations in 2009 to oversee development of standards to strengthen global regulation.

Other candidates include Yves Mersch of Luxembourg, Erkki Liikanen of Finland and Nout Wellink of the Netherlands. Klaus Regling, a German who runs the bailout facility, has never been a central banker.

The euro-area leaders may make their choice at a June summit and nominations will probably be formally made next month.

“The period for candidacies hasn’t opened yet,” Salgado said when asked about Draghi. “And when we know who the candidates are we will be able to give an opinion, but of course we think he is a person of great worth.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Poles Going Bust in Britain

Rzeczpospolita, 21 April 2011

“Polish bankrupts of the islands,” headlines Rzeczpospolita. Living beyond one’s means or a decision to return home debt-free are the main reasons why several thousand Polish immigrants in the UK have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, the Warsaw daily reveals. In 2010, British companies offering bankruptcy counselling in Polish recorded a 20 percent increase in the number of cases. According to Andrzej Jaworski, owner of the Zadluzona Wyspa [Indebted Island] agency, the majority of his Polish clients faced bankruptcy having lost their jobs. “Poles did not expect the labour market to crash and bought expensive cars, equipment, holidays, and designer clothes on credit,” Jaworski says. With record debts hitting the £350,000 [€395,000] mark, one Polish entrepreneur blames the banks. “Had it not been so easy to get more and more new loans, I would probably still be running a successful shop,” he says.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


‘A Slippery Character’: President Obama’s Father Was a Serial Womaniser Who Had to be Warned to Stop His ‘Playboy Ways’

With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate.

Though the proof that he was actually born in Hawaii may silence some critics, a new, rather more interesting side of his life has emerged — that his father Barack Obama senior was a serial womaniser and polygamist who government and university officials were trying to force out of the country.

Obama senior married Stanley Ann Dunham, a white student from Kansas, not only when he was said to have already been married to a woman in Kenya, but at a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in many parts of the U.S.

Documents obtained from the U.S. immigration service paint a picture of a man who ‘had an eye for the ladies’ and, according to his file, had to be warned several times to stay away from girls at the university.

Heather Smathers, a investigative journalist with the Arizona Independent, obtained the files through a Freedom of Information request.

A memo from a University of Hawaii foreign student advisor said that Obama senior had ‘been running around with several girls since he first arrived here and last summer she cautioned him about his playboy ways. Subject replied that he would “try” to stay away from the girls.’

It also considered his earlier Kenya marriage as a grounds to deny him a visa extension but concluded that ‘polygamy was not an excludable or deportation charge’.

He is further described as ‘a slippery character’, and his relationships with ‘several women’ are discussed and investigated, while questions about his ‘marital problems’ are repeatedly raised.

Another immigration memo, from June 1964, records that Harvard officials were trying ‘to get rid of him’ and ‘couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had’.

The documents also specify that he had a child — Barack Obama junior — while he was at the university on August 4, 1961.

The memo also notes that he be ‘closely questioned before another extension is granted — and denial be considered’.

Other notes make reference to some kind of campaign to drive Obama senior out of the country and back to Kenya. The memo advised officials to withdraw his funding.

It said: ‘Obama has passed his general exams, which indicates that on academic grounds he is entitled to stay around here and write his thesis; however [Harvard] are going to try to cook something up to ease him out…. They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home.’

President Obama’s mother met his father at a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii in 1960. At the time he was the first and only African student at the university.

When they married, she did not realise that he had a wife and child in Kenya. The couple divorced in 1963 and Ann Dunham struggled as a single mother to bring up her child, just as her estranged husband was at studying at Harvard and reportedly carousing after women.

Meanwhile a collection of pictures collected in Punahou show President Obama with family and friends, depicting a regular childhood in the 60s and 70s as he was looked after by his grandparents, oblivious to his real father’s womanising ways.

The President was raised with help from his grandfather, a soldier, and grandmother who worked in a bank.

The last time President Obama saw his father was in 1971 when he was ten years old. Obama Sr was killed 11 years later in a car accident in 1982.

Of his early childhood, President Obama has said ‘That my father looked nothing like the people around me — that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk — barely registered in my mind.’

Longtime residents in the Punahou Circle Apartment block have put up the display to honour their former neighbour, who they remember as a ‘sweet’ child.

They said it was set up to honour the resident turned president and pay homage to his grandparents Madelyn and Stanley.

The pictures show Mr Obama as a little boy with his family, later as a student receiving an honour and ultimately his official presidential picture and one with his wife Michelle and their two children.

The pictures emerged after Mr Obama was forced to publish his full birth certificate in a bid to quash rumours about his nationality.

The U.S. President said he made the document available because America ‘does not have time for this kind of silliness’ and has to move on.

His intervention came after the ‘birther’ debate about his origins and religion had moved from the political fringes to take centre stage.

His birth certificate shows he was born at the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynaecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mr Obama has been dogged by persistent questions about his citizenship since the election more than two years ago. More than 60 per cent of Americans have told pollsters they are not convinced he was born in the U.S.

If true, this would make the politician constitutionally ineligible to occupy the White House.

Many senior Republicans have tried to distance themselves from the birther movement and some suspect it has been encouraged by the White House in order to discredit the opposition party.

One tenant of Ponahue said of the President: ‘He was a great kid and obviously his grandparents did an amazing job of raising him. All we have are fond memories, his grandparents were wonderful people and Barry was a sweet and respectful child.

‘Our little lobby tribute has become a must-see tourist destination. It shows a family-oriented Barack surround by love. Who knew that little Barry would become president of the United States?’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Black Chamber of Commerce President Blasts “Marxist,” “Brownshirt” Obama

Today on The Laura Ingraham Show, Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, blasted President Obama’s anti-business administration in an explosive interview. Alford, a 2008 Obama supporter, labeled the administration “Marxist” and “fanatical.” “They might as well put on the brown shirts and swastikas,” he said.

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Obama’s ‘Anti-Missilephobia’

What are we to make of Barack Obama’s attitude towards U.S. missile defenses? His past positions, his actions as president to date and the secret negotiations his administration currently has underway with Russia bespeak an alarming, ideologically driven hostility to the idea of protecting the American people and their allies from ballistic missile-delivered threats.

Given the irrationality of such an attitude in light of the intensifying dangers such threats represent, the Obama attitude might best be described as “anti-missilephobia.” Will Congress accommodate or counteract this potentially suicidal disorder?

The problem predates Mr. Obama’s election in 2008. He campaigned on a platform that conformed to the Left’s historic hostility towards missile defenses. Candidate Obama promised not to deploy anti-missile systems that are “less than fully effective.” That is code for opposing just about any defense since critics invariably contend that some real or imagined threat could not be countered with 100% confidence. This ignores the deterring effect of uncertainty that even-less-than-perfect anti-missile technologies introduce in the minds of attackers, especially if differing technologies are used in a layered and synergistic approach.

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

New Sheriff in Town Ann Barnhardt: Fearless Against Islam and the Obama Syndicate

A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a video of a lady who not only speaks up against the oppression of Islam and the Obama syndicate but, is not afraid to have her singularly articulate views placed before the entire world. Therefore, I contacted her. As you will see below, Ann is fearless.

The Interview

Sher: Ann, I first want to thank you for your courage in openly speaking about those who would destroy us, while most of our elected officials seem to immediately flee and then hide from the issue. I have to say that I, along with others, was amazed and thankful at the honesty of your videos denigrating the true malevolence of radical Islam.

When we spoke, this week, you indicated that 9/11/2001 was the initial reason for your videos. But, was there anything else that spurred you on toward creating and bringing them out now?

Ann: The process of watching my country and Western Civilization go down in flames has certainly been cumulative, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was hearing Lindsey Graham proclaim his ardent desire to eviscerate the Constitution in the hopes of appeasing Muslims. In the April 3 interview on Face The Nation, Graham advocated shredding the Establishment Clause, freedom of speech, religion and assembly in the First Amendment, the right to due process in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments by saying that he wanted to “hold people accountable” and “push back” without any law to back those government actions up, and dispense with the Equal Protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment by holding Muslims to a different standard than non-Muslims in the United States. Enough is enough. Now we box.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Abu Shabak Seeks Political Asylum in Belgium

RAMALLAH, (PIC)— Rashid Abu Shabak and Sami Abu Samhadana, two chief figures in the security forces of Mohammed Dahlan, have submitted requests for political asylum in Belgium. The men are wanted by the Palestinian Authority for involvement in a large-scale corruption ring. Sources told the PIC that Abu Samhadana landed in Belgium some time back and is now seeking political asylum. Abu Shabak arrived Monday and has since been trapped at the airport amid a bid to get political asylum. The PA has placed Abu Shabak under investigation and is demanding that he pay seven million dollars amid current investigations to find laundered public funds. Abu Shabak handed in $150,000 and managed to flee the country to Belgium.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi — Referendum Would Have Blocked Atomic Energy

Prime minister on moratorium: “Public opinion can now calm down”. Referendum supporters: “It’s a stitch-up, and he’s bragging about it”

MILAN — What convinced the government to put nuclear energy on hold? The need to avoid a referendum that, on the back of reaction to recent events in Japan, would have halted Italy’s advance towards atomic power. For the government is firmly convinced that nuclear energy is “the future”. Silvio Berlusconi laid out his government’s position at the media briefing with French president Nicolas Sarkozy at Villa Madama. “What happened in Japan scared a lot of people in Italy”, said Mr Berlusconi. The prime minister said that in these circumstances, “if we had held a referendum, the nuclear option would not have been possible for many years”. Hence the decision to declare a moratorium, he added, because “in one or two years’ time, public opinion could be more favourable”…

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Cities Against Islamisation Satisfied With Burka Ban in Belgium

[Press release on behalf of MP Filip Dewinter, chairman of Cities Against Islamisation]

Filip Dewinter: “Burka ban is just the first step, the recognition and subsidising of Islam in Belgium has to be revoked. Islam doesn’t belong on European soil.”

The burka ban, which was voted on yesterday in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, is a strong message against Islam. The burka is indeed like a sarcophagus of textiles on the women who wear it and thus depriving them of their liberty. The inequality between men and women and the discrimination against women forms part of the essence of Islam itself. Banning the burka also means rejecting Islam as a misogynistic religion and ideology.

The vote also illustrates once again the pioneering role that parties like the Vlaams Belang and others play. Cities Against Islamisation hopes the burka ban in Belgium may lead to the reduction and forcing back of Islam. After this first symbolic victory the next step is to undo the recognition and subsidizing of Islam. Islam is a totalitarian conquestial religion, a threat to our European values and our western way of life.

Filip Dewinter

Chairman Cities against Islamisation

[Return to headlines]

French Air Traffic Controller Stabbed to Death in Secure Area of Airport Tower

An air traffic controller has been found dead in a pool of blood in the control tower of a French airport this morning.

The 34-year-old was found by an airport employee in an office adjoining the control room on the tenth floor of the tower shortly after 8am at the EuroAirport outside Mulhouse, France, near the Swiss and German borders.

Police sources said the married father-of-one, who has not been named yet, had been stabbed three times in the throat, lung and chest.

A murder investigation has been launched.

The attack took place in the airport’s secure zone only accessible with an identity badge, according to reporters in France.

No one has been arrested yet and know knives or weapons have been recovered.

Air traffic at the airport was not affected whilst the investigation got underway.

The victim was a senior controller at the airport and was in charge of the tower.

The airport in eastern France serves Basel, Switzerland, Mulhouse, France, and Freiburg, Germany.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Germany: Lock Up Leftist May Day Troublemakers, Conservatives Say

In the face of anticipated leftist violence at Sunday’s May Day demonstrations in Berlin, members of Angela Merkel’s conservatives have called for known anarchist troublemakers to be taken into custody as a preventive measure.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Teachers Say Schools Succumb to Violent Pupils

THE HAGUE, 29/04/11 — Schools are putting teachers under pressure to keep silent if they receive death threats from pupils. Teachers are advised against going to the police and sometimes even offered hush-money, according to TV programme EenVandaag.

A teacher recounted on EenVandaag how the school management instructed her to give a higher mark to an aggresive pupil for fear he would turn to violence if he did not receive this. This pupil had at that time already made death threats to six teachers.

There was reason to assume that the pupil was dangerous because he was a friend of the Turkish boy who shot a teacher through the head in a school in The Hague in 2008. But instead of informing the police, the school management tried to please him.

Another teacher recounted how schools sometimes dismiss teachers when they go to the police to make a report against a violent pupil. One teacher even had to promise as a condition for her severance pay that she would never discuss the threats made against her with anyone. Another teacher, whose exam questions were stolen by a pupil, was advised by the school management to buy the questions back from the thief.

One school allowed pupils to put up pornographic posters on which the faces of their teachers were used. These were only removed for the periodical parents evenings, when parents come to discuss the performance of their children with the teachers.

According to a poll by EenVandaag, 10 percent of the secondary school teachers say they have experienced physical violence in the past three years. Sometimes the perpetrator was a parent, but mostly a pupil. Some 24 percent say they receive threats of violence or death threats. The problems are worst in schools with many immigrant pupils, and at the lower educational levels.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

The Nordic Food Revolution: Foraging in the Forest With the World’s Best Chef

The appetizer consists of juniper twigs in a flower vase, and a main dish of elk tongue comes to the table with a sheath knife. Copenhagen’s Noma is one of the world’s most unusual restaurants. For many gourmets, it’s also the world’s best.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Briton ‘Among 14 Tourists Killed by Suicide Bomber’ In Explosion at Popular Marrakesh Cafe

A British tourist was believed to be among 15 killed yesterday in a terrorist attack in Marrakesh, Morocco’s most popular holiday destination.

Up to 80 victims were injured after a suicide bomber dressed in a Real Madrid shirt set off what is believed to have been a massive nail bomb.

The attack happened after the man ordered a drink in a cafe overlooking the Djemma el-Fna Square in the heart of the ancient city.

The Argana restaurant is hugely popular with British tourists, who used its terrace as a vantage spot to watch snake-charmers, fire-breathers and dancers.

Scroll down for our video report…

Officials have confirmed up to 11 foreign tourists and several Moroccans were killed. Local detectives said five of the 11 dead were women. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has ordered an immediate investigation into the blast, although Islamic fundamentalists are widely suspected to be responsible.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was ‘shocked and saddened’ by the ‘reprehensible’ attack.

A Foreign Office spokesman said consular staff were ‘urgently trying to establish whether any British nationals are involved’.

A couple from Marseille are thought to have been among those killed, with Moroccan state TV claiming a total of six French tourists had died. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office condemned the attack as ‘cruel and cowardly’.

Andy Birnie, from North London, who is on his honeymoon, said: ‘There was a huge bang, and lots of smoke went up. There was debris raining down from the sky. Hundreds of people were running in panic, some towards the cafe, some away from the square. The whole front of the cafe is blown away.

‘It was lunchtime so the square was very busy. We had just walked into the square, but were shielded by some stalls.’

A customer said the bomber had ordered an orange juice minutes before setting off the bomb.

The injured were taken to hospital but a doctor said the bodies of the dead were so badly damaged it was difficult to identify them.

If the bombing is the work of Islamist militants, it will be their first major attack in Morocco since 2003, when a series of suicide bombings killed more than 45.

Earlier this month King Mohammed released a number of political prisoners, including Islamist leaders, in a bid to head off popular uprisings inspired by events across the Arab world.

Last week, men claiming to be Moroccan members of Al Qaeda’s north African wing appeared in a video posted on YouTube threatening to attack Moroccan interests to avenge the detention of Islamists.

The Foreign Office announced they had set up a helpline for anyone concerned about family or friends who may have been caught up in the incident: 0207 008 5355.

Portuguese tourist Alexandre Carvalho, a 34 year-old call-centre worker, said, ‘I had just arrived at the square, the area where most cafes are located.

Suddenly I heard this massive explosion, I had my back turned to it, I turned around to see it the explosion had happened on the veranda of a cafe.

‘I saw people in a panic running towards the area with fire extinguishers, some people being carried away.

‘I believe the injured were mostly tourists, judging by what they were wearing.’

A local police spokesman said: ‘The canisters may have been set on fire deliberately and terrorism cannot be ruled out.

‘This atrocity is currently being viewed as a criminal act. Evidence is being collected at the scene and survivors interviewed.

‘We do not know victims’ nationalities yet, but there are certainly foreigners among them.’

Cafe Argana is mentioned in tourist travel guides as a place where locals rub shoulders with holidaymakers.

The upper terrace is regarded as one of the best places to see the sun set over the city.

Despite being a hugely popular tourist destination, Morocco has a history of Islamic terrorism, with western visitors warned to be on their guard at all times.

Officials did not say if they suspected the involvement of Islamist militants.

The militants’ last big attack was a series of suicide bombings in Morocco’s commercial capital, Casablanca, in 2003 in which more than 45 people were killed.

The Casablanca stock exchange was down 0.41 percent on news of the explosion in Marrakech. Before reports emerged of the blast it has been trading up 0.13 percent.

Describing this morning’s explosion, eye witness Andy Birnie, from north London, told the Associated Press: ‘There was a huge bang, and lots of smoke went up, there was debris raining down from the sky.

‘Hundreds of people were running in panic, some towards the cafe, some away from the square. The whole front of the cafe is blown away.’ Mr Birnie, who was enjoying a honeymoon in Marrakech with his new wife, added: ‘It was lunchtime so the square was very busy. We had just walked into the square, but were shielded by some stalls.

‘The locals are telling us it was gas bottles exploding.’

A spokesman for Morocco’s Interior Ministry confirmed that the explosion appeared to be a ‘criminal act’.

Abdul Dabi, a 32-year-old Moroccan witness, said: ‘The explosion was huge — it ripped throughout the square sending debris everywhere.

‘A number of us were able to run for cover. I managed to get behind a market stall. The café’s entire second floor was destroyed.

‘Police arrived very quickly and then there was panic.’

As well as Islamic terrorism, Morocco has also been affected by recent protests connected with the Arab Spring calls for democracy.

Protestors object to the country being run by Hassan VI, accusing him of being an autocratic who uses his army to carry out human rights abuses.

Tourism is one of Morocco’s biggest industries, and those who oppose the regime frequently threaten to disrupt it.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Poll: Majority in Favour of Ending Peace With Israel

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 27 — A recent opinion poll conducted in Egypt showed that 54% of the people who were interviewed are in favour of repealing the peace treaty with Israel, while only 36% were opposed. The survey, conducted by an American research institute on a sample of 1,000 Egyptians (the margin of error is around 4%) indicates that 30 years after the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, it is still highly unpopular in broad segments of the Egyptian population, especially in the low income bracket. The story was given ample space in Israeli daily Haaretz, which dedicated almost the entire third page to the issue with an alarm-raising headline: “Large-scale poll in Egypt: majority wants to repeal peace treaty with Israel”. The headlines in the other major Israeli dailies, Yedioth Aharonoth and Maariv, were basically the same. Until now the presidential candidates in Egypt appear to be openly hostile to Israel, even though, at least for some, they are not necessarily in favour of revoking the peace treaty, mainly for economic reasons.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Planes Make First Strikes on Libya

Move has split governing coalition

(ANSA) — Rome, April 28 — Italian warplanes carried out their first air strikes on Libya Thursday in accordance with new rules of engagement agreed with NATO.

Defence ministry sources told ANSA that “at least a couple” of Tornadoes out of Trapani in Sicily hit “selected targets”. Premier Silvio Berlusconi agreed with US President Barack Obama earlier this week that Italian planes — until now not involved in bombing because of sensitivities linked to Italy’s colonial past in Libya — would start using their weapons.

The move has split Italy’s governing centre-right coalition with the regionalist Northern League voicing discontent and demanding the government report to parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Pro-Gaddafi Forces Cross Into Tunisia

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi crossed into neighbouring Tunisia and fought a gun battle with Tunisian troops in a frontier town as Libya’s conflict spilt beyond its borders.

Pro-Gaddafi forces fired shells into the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and injuring at least one resident, and a group of them drove into the town in a truck, local people and a Reuters photographer in the town said.

The Libyan government troops were pursuing anti-Gaddafi rebels from the restive Western Mountains region of Libya who fled into Tunisia in the past few days after Gaddafi forces overran the border post the rebels had earlier seized.

“There were lots of clashes in the town this morning. Lots of gunshots. The Tunisian military clashed with Gaddafi’s forces … Some of Gaddafi’s people were killed,” said Reuters photographer Zoubeir Souissi from the town.

“There are a lot of Gaddafi’s people who were injured. They are in the hospital in Dehiba,” he said.

Two residents also told Reuters that shells had fallen on the town from pro-Gaddafi positions across the border in Libya.

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“Rounds from the bombardment are falling on houses…. A Tunisian woman was injured,” one of the residents, called Ali, told Reuters by telephone.

He said later the fighting and shelling had stopped. “The Tunisian army is combing the town. We have no idea about the fate of Gaddafi’s forces there because the Tunisian army closed the gates to the town and nobody is allowed to enter.”

A Libyan rebel said anti-Gaddafi fighters had retaken control of the border crossing near Dehiba. The main crossing into Libya, two hours’ drive to the north, remains firmly under Libyan government control.

“Right here at this point I’m looking at the new (rebel) flag flying up there at the border. The rebels have got control of it, the freedom fighters. We’re just in the process of opening it up,” rebel Akram el Muradi said by telephone.

Tunisia’s government late on Thursday issued a statement condemning incursions by Libyan forces after shells fired by Gaddafi loyalists fell into the desert near the border.

“Given the gravity of what has happened … the Tunisian authorities have informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and demand measures to put an immediate stop to these violations,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.

Friday’s clashes marked the first time that Libyan government ground forces had crossed the border and entered a Tunisian town.

Residents said that a crowd of local people gathered in Dehiba on Friday morning to try to prevent pro-Gaddafi forces from entering the town.

They said the Tunisian military fired in the air to disperse them, and urged the demonstrators to seek shelter from the shelling inside their homes.

Tunisia toppled its own veteran leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in a revolution earlier this year and many people there are sympathetic to the rebels fighting Gaddafi’s forces.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Netanyahu’s Time to Choose

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s peace deal with Hamas would be funny if it weren’t tragic. Immediately after the news broke of the deal Netanyahu announced, “The PA must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both.”

Netanyahu’s statement is funny because it is completely absurd. The PA has chosen…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

‘Nothing But Bad News for the Middle East Peace Process’

The agreement between the radical Islamists of Hamas and the moderate Palestinian group Fatah to create a caretaker government has not been well received in the West. It could provide a necessary impetus in the Middle East peace process, say German commentators, but only if Hamas recognizes Israel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Post-Revolution Egypt Backs Syrian Regime, Says Rights Advocate

Syrian protesters chant angry slogans as they protest against the ongoing violence in Syria in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday. AP photo.

Egypt, which recently saw the overthrow of its longtime dictator, is now backing Syrian diplomatic efforts to block a proposed U.N. resolution condemning Damascus’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a human-rights advocate told Egyptian media.

“Egypt has introduced amendments to a proposed U.N. Human Rights Council [UNHRC] resolution, according to which the council should not condemn the bloody governmental crackdown on peaceful protesters in Syria,” Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human-rights activist, told Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm in an interview via telephone from Geneva on Thursday.

The Syrian unrest began in mid-March after a group of schoolchildren in the town of Daraa, bordering Jordan, were arrested for writing anti-government slogans. The people rushed to the streets demanding their release.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has launched a deadly campaign to quash the protests. The death toll is now more than 450, according to Ziadeh, who attended the special session of the Geneva-based UNHCR.

“I can’t believe that revolutionary Egypt is completely ignoring the massacres in Syria [and even] supporting the regime. Egypt shouldn’t support al-Assad,” said the Washington-based advocate. Rather, it “should look to the Syrian lives that are being lost because of the bloody crackdown,” he said.

The United States — along with Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Senegal, Zambia and 10 European states — managed to force a special session of the UNHRC on Friday to examine the crackdowns. It marks the first time a special session has been held on the human-rights situation in Syria, which has submitted a bid to become a UNHRC member. A draft proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, along with some African countries that opposed the idea of holding such a session.

On Thursday, two Egyptian rights watchdogs, along with two Syrian ones, issued a statement condemning the “shameful position” of the OIC toward the crackdown in Syria. According to the statement, the OIC’s proposed amendments “don’t only ignore the basic and recognized human rights,” but would also give “immunity to the crimes and massacres perpetrated by the Syrian authorities.”

The rights watchdog Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

“The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.

“I do think that the regime of [former President Hosni] Mubarak is still in place. Egypt’s foreign policy hasn’t changed at all,” said Ziadeh. “I expect tomorrow to be a fierce session, and we are working closely with the Latin American group in the UNHRC in order to ensure the required votes [of 24] for condemning the bloody crackdown on protesters.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: 30 Shiite Demonstrators Arrested, 2 Are Bloggers

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 28 — Saudi police arrested some thirty Shiite protesters, including two bloggers.Today a website run by militant Shiites stated that they have been accused of joining demonstrations in the Eastern province, which is oil rich.

The arrests were carried out during the last two days mainly in Al-Qatif and neighbouring cities where there have recently been demonstrations demanding the release of prisoners and solidarity for Bahrain’s Shiite people. Shiite website posted a list of 25 Shiite people arrested in recent days because they joined in the demonstrations, quoting Hussein al-Youssef and his sons.

According to the website at the start of the week bloggers Mustafa al-Mubarak and Hussein al-Hashem were arrested for their participation in the demonstrations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Islamist Party in Jordan Protest Against Assad Regime

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 27 — Scores of Islamist activists from al Wehdah party protested near the Syrian embassy in Amman in support of Syria’s popular uprising. Demonstrators held placards to condemn action by the Syrian army against civilians across Syria and chanted pro-freedom slogans. “Syria, we are with you and we are obliged to help you”, read one banner held by activists.

Activists accused the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity, and called for international intervention.

“The Syrian regime is committing a war crime against its people. Bashar al Assad and Moamar al Qadhafi are similar to rulers of Israel. They are all barbarics”, said Mamdouh Mahmoud, secretary general of the Islamist party Hizb al Tahrir, one of the most controversial Islamist parties in the region.

Jordanian authorities ban this party from operation due to its ideology of refusing to recognize regimes and call for revolt against what they believe tyrant rulers.

The embassy compound has witnessed a spat of protests during the past weeks, mostly from Syrians living in Jordan.

The kingdom is home to nearly 200,000 Syrian families that escaped repression and economic difficulties. Many have been naturalized as Jordanian citizens, but remain strongly attached to their country of origin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Thousands Flee to Lebanon, Today ‘Friday of Rage’

(ANSAmed) — TALL SAKHER (LEBANON, SYRIAN BORDER), APRIL 29 — The village of Tall Sahker, in the north of Lebanon, has become a symbol of hope, of rescue, for thousands of Syrians: many of them arrived in the village since yesterday night, crossing the small bridge on the Tall Sakher stream, which separates it from the Syrian Homs region and the tanks of the Syrian regime. “A river of desperate people. At first a few dozen during the night, but a river since daybreak. More than 2,500 people arrived in 24 hours, perhaps 3,000”, said the Muktar of Tall Sakher, ‘mayor’ Mashur Salim.

“And more are coming”, he continued pointing at the bridge, where the Lebanese army has erected a roadblock, manned by around ten soldiers. It is not a real border crossing, only an unofficial point where people cross. The location was abandoned the day before yesterday by the Syrian secret services, Mukhabarat, after shots were fired from the Lebanese side. Many people have taken advantage of this situation in a short matter of time, since the Lebanese have decided not to intervene “for humanitarian reasons”. Many families, elderly men and most of all many women, dressed in black and wearing Muslim veils, carrying children.

They pass in silence, unwilling to speak. They are afraid and one of them says: “The situation in Tall Khalakh is terrible”.

Tall Khalakh is the town on the other side of the border, where “tanks, security forces and Shabbiha”, supporters of the regime, “arrived in the past days”, doing the regime’s dirty work wearing civilian clothes, an old man says. A man of around forty who doesn’t want to say his name “because they will kill me when I return to Syria” described the explosions and shooting: “it all started after midnight.

First they cut off the city’s power supply and telephone lines and then they started firing their tanks, an infernal fire. I don’t know how many were killed or injured but certainly a lot.

But nobody goes to hospital, because the Mukhabarat, the regime’s agents, are there. And also on the streets nobody helps out people in need or buries the bodies, too dangerous”. The man has no doubts on the future: “the only way out is the fall of the regime. At first we only wanted reforms, but that’s not enough now. Too much blood has been shed”. The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah reports that at least 500 people have been killed since the start of the uprising, six weeks ago, and that thousands have been injured or arrested by the regime. But the uprising continues. Today thousands of people are expected “on the streets and squares” for another “Friday of rage”. The regime has issued a clear warning: Information Minister Adnan Mahmud said that “we are determined” to re-establish order.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Java Pentecostal Church Firebombed

Jakarta, 29 April (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Amid the massive police crackdown on terrorism, a Pentecostal church in Sleman, Yogyakarta, was targetted in a firebomb attack early on Friday morning.

Two molotov cocktails were hurled at the church on the island of Java by assailants riding a motorcycle, eyewitnesses said Friday, as reported by

The incident took place at 1 am local time.

“Eyewitnesses who live opposite the church said the church was cordoned off by police [following the attack],” church priest Rev. Nico Lomboan said.

“No deaths or injuries were reported.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Cleric Charged With Pressuring 9-Year-Old to Become Bomber

KARACHI — A Hyderabad judge April 23 ordered police to interrogate a madrassa cleric who allegedly tried to force a 9-year-old student to bomb a Shia place of worship.

The judge issued the order in response to a complaint by Abdul Ghani, uncle of a seminary student, Zubair, who was allegedly tortured by the cleric when he refused to carry out the suicide attack. The seminary is near Hyderabad, about 150km from Karachi.

Cleric Allah Noor pressured Zubair to blow up the Imambargah Moula Ali, Ghani said, adding that Noor beat the boy April 20 after he refused.

The Taliban and other Sunni extremists oppose the Shia and often attack their places of worship and religious celebrations.

Zubair ran away from the seminary and told Ghani about the cleric’s order to attack the imambargah and the torture, Ghani said.

Ghani said he approached the district co-ordination officer (DCO) of Hyderabad through a lawyer and to seek action.

The DCO referred the case to the Hyderabad district and sessions judge, who ordered a police investigation and prosecution if the accusation proves valid, Ghani said.

Promises of Paradise

Noor has contacts with terrorists and told Zubair that suicide bombing would win him a place in Paradise, Ghani said April 25.

Zubair had been studying the Koran in Noor’s madrassa for four years, Ghani added.

Ghani has demanded police protection for his family and nephew, fearing terrorist reprisals. Zubair is currently living with relatives for his safety, Ghani added.

Police will conduct a fair investigation of Noor, Sindh Provincial Police Chief Fayyaz Leghari told Central Asia Online. He expressed regret that terrorists were using children to attack houses of worship nationwide in an effort to divide people.

Police will tighten monitoring of madrassas throughout Sindh to prevent cleric and student involvement in terrorism, he added. They already have rounded up several Taliban activists in Karachi who had been planning to target sensitive installations and prominent figures, he said.

Central Asia Online reported earlier that the Taliban had gradually stepped up recruiting in Sindh seminaries. The insurgents previously concentrated on Karachi seminaries but have spread their net wider in recent months.

The government regularly monitors seminaries’ activity and will shut down those that promote terrorism, Waqar Mehdi, spokesman for the Sindh chief minister, said.

Militants recruit and coerce children and teenagers into becoming suicide bombers because they are seen as more pliable than adults. A number of recent bombings have been carried out by teenage suicide bombers.

Sindh has more than 1,270 madrassas, according to police.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan’s Bashir Refuses Abyei Compromise

(AGI) Khartoum — Khartoum’s government refuses to recognise the new State of South Sudan, retaining control over the Abyei oil region. The stance was outlined by president Omar al-Bashir after the release of a draft constitution for Soth Sudan in which the new state’s provisional authorities claimed the contested oil region as their own. An ICJ arbitration in 2009 had recognised South Sudan’s rights to the area. “If Abyei falls within the new constitution, we will not recognise the new state,” al-Bashir said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Gulf: Press: Iran Trains Fighters in Colombia

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, APRIL 28 — Iran’s revolutionary guards are training many citizens of the Gulf, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in a special camp locates in the Colombian province of Alwahira, a very remote area on the border with Venezuela. The report was made by Kuwait’s “Assiyasa” newspaper which quoted one of the fighters who abandoned training.

The newspaper stated that in recent months courses focused on the fabrication of explosives, lethal ambushes, hostage taking and moving the latter from one place to another.

According to the newspaper, in case of a war against Teheran the Iranian military instructors have plans to attack the embassies of Gulf countries in Latin America.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


178 Left Libya and Land at Lampedusa

(AGI) Palermo — A boat with 178 migrants from the sub-Saharan region was escorted by a GdF patrol boat into Lampedusa harbor.

The migrant group, reached offshore during the night, included nine women and two minors. This is the second landing at Lampedusa within few hours. Last evening, 77 Tunisians arrived from Sfax, after a 10-day stretch without illegal arrivals.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Fraudsters From East Caught Red-Handed

De Standaard, 21 April 2011

According to De Standaard, “the crackdown on fraud by eastern Europeans is bearing fruit.” Each month about 250 eastern Europeans, particularly Romanians, Poles and Bulgarians, are registering as “independent workers” with Belgium’s National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE). The status of independent worker gives them the right to stay in Belgium for more than three months. More importantly, according to the newspaper, it gives them the right to welfare. Since 1 October 2010, however, NISSE has been checking up on whether the registrants are actually active as independent workers. The check-ups “seem to be working”, the newspaper reports, as two-thirds of those registering have been revealed to be fraudsters. “They lost their residence permits and were ordered by the Immigration Office to leave the country,” the newspaper adds.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Boat Carrying 300 Immigrants Rescued Off Lampedusa

(AGI) Palermo — Another large vessel carrying about 300 immigrants has been rescued about 40 miles south of Lampedusa, where 178 refugees had arrived from Libya. There are about 300 people on the boat now assisted by Italian Coast Guard patrol boats. The exact number will only be known when the boat docks in the island’s harbour .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

EU Court Rejects Italy’s Criminal Migrant Rule

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 28 — The EU Court of Justice has rejected Italian regulations on immigration, which sees illegal migrants sent to prison. European judges say that the regulation does not comply with the European directive on the repatriation of illegal immigrants. The case study examined by the EU Court is that of Hassen El Dridi, an Algerian sentenced at the end of 2010 to a year in prison by a court in Trento for failing to respect his expulsion order. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said that “a penal sanction, such as that present in Italian legislation, can compromise the implementation of the target of instilling an effective policy of departure and repatriation that respects fundamental rights”. Member states, the ruling says, “cannot introduce, to remedy the failure of coercive measures adopted for forced deportation to be enforced, a prison sentence such as that presence in the national regulations, only because a third country national, who has been ordered to leave the country and for whom the deadline to do so has passed remains irregularly in the country”. The national judge, who is tasked with applying the rulings of EU law and to ensure their full efficiency, “must therefore remove any ruling that goes against the directive — especially the ruling that carries a prison sentence of one to four years — and must bear in mind the principle of retroactive application of the milder sentence, which is part of the constitutional traditions common to member states,” judges said.

Judicial illegality for illegal immigrants was introduced to the Italian legal system in 2009 as part of the so-called “security package”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy and France Seek Changes to Schengen Accord

‘Strong agreement’, says Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Rome, April 26 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have agreed to seek changes to the Schengen Treaty in a bid to resolve a diplomatic crisis over illegal immigration.

The two leaders met in Rome Tuesday for a bilateral summit and were to sign a joint letter to the European Commission asking for a “temporary reinstatement” of state borders in certain cases that are “precisely identified”.

The Schengen accord provides for a borderless zone between 25 European countries and affects a total 400 million people.

“The migration situation in the Mediterranean could rapidly be transformed into a real crisis that could undermine the faith our citizens have entrusted in free movement,” the leaders’ joint letter said. At a joint media conference after their meeting Tuesday, Berlusconi said neither Rome nor Paris wanted to abolish the Schengen agreement.

“But in exceptional circumstances we believe there should be changes and we have decided to work together,” Berlusconi said.

“Every year France welcomes 50,000 migrants, Italy an average of 10,000. So France’s commitment is five times greater.

We are aware of this and there is no desire on our part to accuse France.” In the document, Italy and France say they want the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, strengthened and are seeking greater support from Brussels for those states exposed to the immigration emergency.

More than 25,000 illegal immigrants — mostly Tunisians — have arrived in Italy from North Africa since the beginning of the year. The Italian government has begun issuing visas to many of them thereby allowing them to travel to other European countries including France.

Berlusconi described it as a “very positive summit” where there had been “strong agreement”.

“We want to see the Schengen Treaty survive, so in order to do that it must be amended,” President Sarkozy said. Italy’s centre-left opposition Democratic Party attacked the government for taking a “sensational step backwards” on the immigration issue.

“In a short time we have passed from accusing the French to applauding the closure of Ventimiglia,” said Sandro Gozi,the party’s spokesman for EU issues, in a reference to the decision by France a week ago to stop Italian trains carrying Tunisian migrants from entering the country. The government’s response should be less about free movement between European countries and about more controls on common borders as well as establishing a true European border police force, Gozi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maltese Minister: Italian Policy ‘Rubbish’

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), APRIL 27 — Malta’s Interior Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici has called Italy’s policy of granting temporary residence permits to migrants from Tunisia “rubbish”.

Talking during a conference in Valletta on “the Libyan migration crisis”, Bonnici used harsh words against italy’s choice, saying that “the decision is not at all in Italy’s national interest”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Who Will Pick Your Tulips?

The Dutch government wants to tighten up the rules on migrant workers from EU countries. The first victims: the many Poles already living in Holland. That could cost the local economy dear, warns Gazeta Wyborcza.

Jacek Pawlicki

Cheap labour from Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria makes the mills of Holland go round for thousands of companies and entire industries such as agriculture. Among the 160,000 to 200,000 immigrants who moved to the Netherlands after 2004, most were Polish. For the average Dutch person, Poles drink too much, park their cars badly, love partying late into the night, and — the last straw — speak no Dutch. The problem is that without them there would be no one to pick tomatoes, build houses or plant tulip bulbs.

The presence of our Polish compatriots is apparently a particular problem in big cities such as Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amsterdam and The Hague. Marnix Norder, one of the municipal councillors in The Hague, has used the term “Polish tsunami” to describe the Polish presence in the city, estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000. Despite the reaction of the Polish Embassy, the term has been taken up by politicians.

The campaign against migrants is in full swing under the leadership of the Party for Freedom, an anti-immigrant party led by Geert Wilders, which backs the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. That government is looking increasingly less favourably on European integration, and it has the consent of Dutch society.

Unfortunately, this xenophobic climate fanned by the media has reached the corridors of power. Last February, Henk Kamp, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, said in the Dutch daily De Telegraaf that immigrants from eastern Europe who are homeless and unemployed should be sent back home, or expelled if they refused to leave.

At the start of April the same minister presented to Parliament a list of sensible proposals to better regulate the situation in this sector of the labour market. Kamp says he wishes to do away with fraudulent employment agencies that flout the law and force migrants to work in substandard and exploitative conditions. The proposals are also aimed at what is known in Amsterdam and The Hague as “benefit tourism”, and would affect Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians who come to the Netherlands in search of a better life, but who, when they lose their jobs (or fail to find one), soon find themselves on the street, where they survive on social assistance.

The minister is thus proposing that migrants from EU countries without the means to support themselves would lose, after three months, the right to stay in the Netherlands. The Poles and Romanians — but Germans and French citizens too — who remain jobless for three months would have to say goodbye to the land of windmills and tulips.

In addition, all migrant workers from EU countries would have to register with the immigration offices. Local authorities would then be responsible for checking their housing conditions (cases are known of up to twenty Polish and Romanian migrants living crammed together in one apartment). For employers who defraud migrants with their offers of “food and housing” at inflated prices, punishments will be severe. Kamp also wants access to social benefits to be reserved for people who master the Dutch language.

The Polish government has been quick to react, declaring that many proposals of the Dutch minister border on discrimination. “We are disappointed, and we hope that discriminatory laws will not come into force in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We also expect the European Commission to look very carefully at this case,” the spokesman for the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Marcin Bosacki, said recently.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent to The Hague an official letter stating that the idea of deporting unemployed Poles from the Netherlands calls into question one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU, that of the free movement of people. On this point, Warsaw is counting on the support of Brussels. Moreover, in late February, Viviane Reding, the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, warned The Hague against any attempt to violate the community rules.

The attitude of the Dutch has angered Polish organisations inside the Netherlands. Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska, operator of the Polish community website portal and president of the Association of Polish Experts in the Netherlands (STEP), published a scathing article on the hypocrisy of the Dutch in the prestigious daily NRC Handelsblad. Entitling her paper “Work or down your tools!”, she advises Poles in the Netherlands to move to Germany, which will open up its labour market in May 2011.

Producers in the southern Netherlands are crying out in dismay. If the Poles leave, they warn, there will be nobody to pick strawberries and apples: just the Dutch, who are unwilling to “stick their hands in the dirt”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: No Work, No Home

De Volkskrant Amsterdam

Why should a country not have the right to reinforce its legislation on economic immigration? Even if it goes against European law, a columnist argues that this principle should apply in the context of the political row between the Hague and Warsaw over the fate of unemployed Polish migrants. Excerpts.

Nausicaa Marbe

When the Dutch Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, Henk Kamp, presented a “robust package of measures” on economic migration from Eastern Europe, I couldn’t help thinking of one professional group which seems to escape any control: Romanian women traffickers. I often come across bald-headed, tatoo and gold-jewelry sporting specimens of this particular mafia in the cities of the western Netherlands. And as they shamelessly shout into their mobile phones, I am also party to their conversations. Typically, they say things like: “Tell Gica that he’d better come through with the money tonight, or I’ll get rid of him and I’ll get rid of the girls too!” Or: “Gigi, come by with the guys, because I have a new shipment of…” — I will refrain from mentioning the Romanian word for female genitalia.

It is very discouraging to see this scum on parade. Considered in this context, some of the measures to control economic migration appear to be grandstanding. The package will directly affect honest seasonal workers from Romania and Bulgaria, who do an excellent and entirely legal job that is much to the satisfaction of the Dutch fruit growers who employ them. The pimps who are hard to tackle will continue to benefit from plenty of elbow room, while the strawberry pickers are victimised.

However, Henk Kamp’s hard line is certainly understandable. The considerable problems occasioned by unemployed Eastern Europeans and the prospect of waves migrants who would be entitled to welfare benefits will not resolve themselves. Of course, the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment realises that economic migration is here to stay, and his “package of measures” pays particular attention to proper living and working conditions — it really does aim to eradicate modern forms of slavery. But at the same time, Henk Kamp seems to believe that the VVD [the Prime Minister’s political party] election promise — to ensure that migrants are only entitled to welfare benefits after ten years — is unworkable.

The truth is that this is not an easy message to sell. Stef Blok and Klaas Dijkhoff, who are both members of the VVD, sparked an uproar when they published a call to restrict the authority of the European Court of Human rights (which had invalidated stricter asylum legislation). It goes without saying that human rights derive their power from the fact they are universal. But Stef Blok and Klaas Dijkhoff did have a point when they argued that the judges should take into account the context that is addressed by political decisions.

European legal experts have no difficulty with the idea of rewriting EU asylum policy in response to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, but judge it to be unacceptable if it is prompted by new migration trends. Obviously, it is normal to view migrant workers as victims of Western authorities. Protecting individuals against the arbitrariness of government is a constitutional and humane duty. But how can we expect to maintain a balance if we do not pay attention to the objective context? Because the issue of moral protection is problematised by the existence of groups of migrants who are averse to cultural ties and social responsibility, who move from one country to another to obtain welfare benefits and have no qualms about illegality and crime.

Not only does this place a heavy burden on the welfare state, but it also has an impact on social relations within individual countries. Every society is subject to tensions, and these need to be acknowledged. So it is perfectly legitimate for Stef Blok and Klaas Dijkhoff to question European norms, and for Henk Kamp to call for strict and realistic agreements on economic migration within the EU.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Putting a Price on Foreigners: Strict Immigration Laws ‘Save Denmark Billions’

Denmark’s strict immigration laws have saved the country 6.7 billion euros, a government report has claimed. Even though Denmark already has some of the toughest immigration laws in Europe, right-wing populist politicians are now trying to make them even more restrictive.

Denmark’s strict immigration laws have saved the country billions in benefits, a government report has claimed. The Integration Ministry report has now led to calls amongst right-wing populists to clamp down further on immigrants to increase the savings.

The extremely strict laws have dramatically reduced the flow of people into Denmark in recent years, and many government figures are delighted with the outcome. “Now that we can see that it does matter who comes into the country, I have no scruples in further restricting those who one can suspect will be a burden on Denmark,” the center-right liberal Integration Minister Søren Pind told the Jyllands Posten newspaper.

He was talking after the ministry’s report — initiated by the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party (DPP) — came to the conclusion that by tightening immigration laws, Denmark has saved €6.7 billion ($10 billion) over the last 10 years, money which otherwise would supposedly have been spent on social benefits or housing. According to the figures, migrants from non-Western countries who did manage to come to Denmark have cost the state €2.3 billion, while those from the West have actually contributed €295 million to government coffers.

‘Restrictions Pay Off’

The report has led to jubilation amongst right-wing politicians: “We now have it in black and white that restrictions (on immigrants) pay off,” said DPP finance spokesman Kristian Thulesen Dahl. The DPP will almost certainly exploit the figures in future negotiations over the Danish economy.

But the report has sparked outrage from opposition parties like the centrist Social Liberal Party, which dismissed it as undignified and discriminatory. The party’s integration spokeswoman Marianne Jelved said: “A certain group of people is being denounced and being blamed for our deficit, being made into whipping boys.” She added: “We cannot classify people depending on their value to the economy. That is degrading in a democracy that has a basic value of equality.”

The announcement has not come as surprise, however — the right-wing populist DPP, which has been working with the ruling center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen since 2001, has in the past made its aims very clear: a complete halt to immigration into Denmark from non-Western countries. “A Somali who is no good for anything, that is simply not acceptable,” said DPP leader Pia Kjærsgaard. Similarly, center-right liberal Prime Minister Rasmussen has also said anyone who would be a burden on Denmark is not welcome in the country.

Right-wing populists have even demanded a ban on satellite dishes so that TV stations like al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya cannot be beamed into Danish living rooms. There have also been suggestions to exempt migrants from the minimum wage — supposedly to make it easier for foreigners to gain access to the labor market.

The small Scandinavian country already has the strictest immigration and asylum laws in Europe. For example, foreign couples are only allowed to marry if both partners are at least 24 years old. The number of asylum seekers and relatives of immigrants seeking entry into Denmark dropped by more than two-thirds within nine years as a result of the tough laws.

A Decisive Issue in Denmark

But things may soon get pushed even further — elections are due to be held this fall, and the ruling parties apparently want to put forward even stricter rules, driven by the xenophobic rhetoric of the right-wing populists. In polls, the approval ratings of more liberal politicians have fallen, and the opposition center-left Social Democrats have promised not to change current immigration laws if they win the election. Immigration will always be a big issue in Denmark — almost 10 percent of Denmark’s 5.5 million people are migrants, and the issue was a decisive one in the last election, in 2007.

In November, the government agreed stricter laws and made the entry of immigrants’ spouses more difficult. Only those who collect enough “points” may come to Denmark in the future — points determined by factors such as academic qualifications and proof of language proficiency. In addition, the equivalent of €13,000 must be deposited with the state in the form of a bank guarantee, to cover any future public assistance. Socially deprived areas with a disproportionately high number of immigrants will be subject in future to a so-called “ghetto strategy” designed to prevent high concentrations of foreigners in public housing areas. Migrants will be assigned housing, and three-year-old children who do not speak Danish well enough will be required to attend state child care.

Some immigrants have already turned their back on Denmark voluntarily. Increasing numbers of Somalis are moving away, especially to the UK, the Jyllands Posten reported on Thursday, because of discrimination.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Ultrafast Fibre Optics Set New Speed Record

THINK your broadband internet connection is fast? Two separate research groups have just lapped the field, setting a world record by sending more than 100 terabits of information per second through a single optical fibre. That’s enough to deliver three solid months of HD video- or the contents of 250 double-sided Blu-ray discs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]