Saturday, December 31, 2005


A very Happy New Year to all of you. I hope 2006 will bring new energy and new hope to all of us. Whatever you are planning to do for the celebration, I hope you all have a fantastic time filled with love and laughter. See you all in 2006.

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Friday, December 30, 2005


I know Flux doesn't post very often but I always enjoy reading his take on stuff. Here's some new writing on statistics and assumptions at Fluxistan

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


This is the place to post random stories of your personal experiences of racism. You can post anonymously but I would rather you gave yourself a name, even a false one, so that people can respond to you directly if they wish. There is a permanant link in the sidebar too.

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Monday, December 26, 2005


We have been hearing and debating for quite a while about Greece being the most racist and xenophobic country in Europe. The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) that came up with this results posed a series of questions and statements. I thought it might be interesting to hear peoples answers to the questions rather than just the figures. RESISTANCE TO IMMIGRANTS Read the following questions and choose between many and few for each one: Allow many/few immigrants of different race/ethnic group from majority Allow many/few immigrants from poorer countries in Europe Allow many/few immigrants from poorer countries outside Europe Please take the time to write a bit about why you respond in the way you chose. I am not interested in repeating the original survey, so this is open to people of all nationalities, anywhere in the world. I would like to hear what people really feel about these issues. Not just a series of statistics.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I realised from the very scant response to the last post that everyone is far too busy shopping to blog. So, I better get started too. I will not be posting any new content until after the Christmas holidays. Please feel free to comment though, as I will still be checking my mail. A very, very Happy Christmas to everyone. I am wishing you all a peaceful and love-filled time with your family and friends. See you next week.

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Monday, December 19, 2005


We have been hearing and debating for quite a while about Greece being the most racist and xenophobic country in Europe. The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) that came up with this results posed a series of questions and statements. I thought it might be interesting to hear peoples answers to the questions rather than just the figures. CULTURAL DIVERSITY Read the following statements: It is better for a country if almost everyone share customs and traditions It is better for a country if there is a variety of different religions Which do you agree with and which do you disagree with? (You can agree or disagree with both) Please take the time to write a bit about why you respond in the way you chose. I am not interested in repeating the original survey, so this is open to people of all nationalities, anywhere in the world. I would like to hear what people really feel about these issues. Not just a series of statistics.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005


Today is International Migrants Day. Via Migrant Rights International The international community remembers the faces of the migrant workers and their families, who are the unrecognized, unappreciated, and undervalued force that now drives a significant part of the global economy. Find out more here

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The Holy Synod of the church of Greece has changed it's mind and said it will support the building of a muslim cemetery and mosque. From Kathimerini The decision was made out of respect for “the needs of these people, since this is what our Church teaches us; to show our love and help to all people — without discrimination — who are God’s creatures,” according to Father Chrysostomos, who read out the Synod’s statement.

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As many people have not been able to access the full article on the state of asylum in Britain, from the post "ASYLUM NIGHTMARES", here is the article in full. Asylum betrayed Peter Tatchell Monday 19th December 2005 The Home Office asylum system is corrupt, with applications prejudged and lawyers prevented from properly representing their clients. By Peter Tatchell Britain's asylum system is out of control and ministers preside over a regime of corrupt-ion and inhumanity. I know. Working with asylum applicants, I see the reality of an amoral, bungling policy at first hand. In the past few years, I have helped more than 100 would-be refugees, their cases a snapshot of a national disgrace. In my experience, most assumptions about "failed" asylum-seekers are nonsense. Some cases may be bogus, but many fail because of poor or non-existent legal representation. None of the asylum applicants I have dealt with was fraudulent. All were eventually able to corroborate their harrowing accounts of imprisonment, torture, rape and the murder of their loved ones. The majority of the asylum-seekers who contacted me had no legal help. Only one had a good lawyer, and that was because his family was well-off. The rest were dependent on legal aid solicitors, many of whom do a second-rate job, because they are incompetent, underfunded or overburdened. The Home Office has a list of solicitors it recommends to claimants: it just happens that most of these firms have a high failure rate - which is convenient for a government hell-bent on slashing asylum numbers. The talk on the asylum street is that shoddy solicitors gravitate to asylum work because it provides easy pickings, with little competition. From my experience, it certainly looks that way. Cuts in legal aid funding mean that many reputable solicitors no longer take on such cases. The number of hours paid by legal aid to prepare each application is usually insufficient. The standard contract gives solicitors a mere £286 per asylum client, which covers five hours' work at minimum rates. In five hours, lawyers are expected to take a statement from the applicant, get corroborating affidavits from witnesses (often on the other side of the world), obtain reports from human rights groups, organise medical examinations to confirm torture, and research the legal basis of the claim. Most times it is impossible. This leaves the field open to unscrupulous firms which see these cases as cash cows and are prepared to submit poorly prepared claims. The solicitor for one Palestinian claimant represented her after only a 20-minute interview. This was not long enough even to document her story. At the hearing, key aspects of her persecution were never heard and no corroborating evidence was presented. No wonder she failed. One Iranian I am assisting was represented by a firm of solicitors recommended by the Home Office. He was told that they did not "have time" to record his story of persecution and, anyway, it was "too complicated". The asylum process is rigged to fail as many applicants as possible. Under the "fast-track" system, a solicitor assigned to a new claimant usually gets less than 24 hours' notice of a client's Home Office hearing. If the claim is refused, the appeal is often scheduled a week or so later - rarely enough time to gather sufficient supportive evidence. Another inbuilt bias is the Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU) at the Home Office, which produces reports on human rights violations in the countries from which asylum-seekers flee. These reports are used by adjudicators to determine whether a person has a well-founded fear of persecution and, in my experience, they are often overly optimistic. For example, I have helped several refugees who fled Islamist state repression in Algeria. The CIPU report on Algeria that was in use until September 2004 played down the abuses and the likelihood of returnees being victimised. It was eventually withdrawn in embarrassment, having been exposed as out-of-date and riddled with unverified information from dubious sources. The notorious "white list" system is another ploy that allows the Home Office to declare that designated countries (currently there are 24) are free from serious human rights violations. The white list currently includes Sri Lanka, where a bloody civil war has led to widespread torture and assassination. Yet the Home Office says all asylum claims from Sri Lanka should be assumed to be bogus and the claimants deported. Applicants who have committed no crimes are held in detention centres such as Colnbrook and Harmondsworth in Middlesex. These are prisons in all but name. People are mostly put there if the Home Office thinks their claims are unfounded and/or if they come from a white-list country deemed to be safe. (In other words, the Home Office prejudges their application.) Minors sometimes get incarcerated, too, and not by accident. One 17-year-old told me that officials confiscated his original Home Office ID and issued him with a new one with a false date of birth, which made him 18, in order to permit his detention in Harmondsworth. Within detention centres, asylum claimants are at the mercy of the guards. In cases brought to my attention, abuse happens in "blind" areas, where there are no CCTV cameras. It also occurs in the internal prisons - the high-security segregation units - where "troublemakers" who try to assert their legal rights are sometimes punished. This abuse echoes the humiliations inflicted in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As well as racist and homophobic insults, it includes strip searches and internal genital examinations. There are no protections against these violations. Detainees are virtually powerless. In theory, asylum detainees have access to legal representation. In practice, many don't. Some claimants are deported illegally, without removal orders being served. Others get deported even though a judicial review is pending. I know of people served with deportation notices while waiting for medical examinations to confirm their claims of torture. One victim I am supporting was until recently held in detention for six months, without receiving any treatment or counselling. He says requests for medical treatment are frequently ignored and people suffering severe trauma are sometimes fobbed off with aspirin. It is not unknown for the Home Office to serve removal notices with no warning, perhaps an hour before asylum applicants are carted off to the airport. I know of detainees who have had phone access denied when they were due for removal, preventing them from contacting their solicitors. Last month, one applicant in a London detention centre was bussed to Scotland shortly before his order was served. His removal from English legal jurisdiction seemed designed to make it as difficult as possible for his solicitor to take action to halt him being sent back to Uganda. "Failed" asylum-seekers scheduled for deportation can be shackled, bound and forcibly injected with sedating medication, according to eyewitness accounts I have received. To stop them screaming en route to the plane, some escorts apply thumb pressure to the throat and twist handcuffs so tight that they pinch the wrist nerves and cut the flesh, leaving some victims with long-lasting nerve damage. Many human rights advocates working with asylum claimants, such as the Bail Circle and the London Detainee Support Group, tell similar stories. So when the Home Office talks about "failed" asylum-seekers, what this often means is claimants who have not succeeded in surmounting the shameless, devious obstacles - legal and illegal - designed to ensure the deportation of as many applicants as possible. Ministers cannot blithely claim that they are unaware of these abuses. If they don't know, they should. If they do know, why are they allowing it to continue?

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Friday, December 16, 2005


As a follow-up to the last post here ONE MAN'S STORY  I came across this article via Harry's Place  from the New Statesman on the nightmare situation for asylum seekers  in Britain entitled  ASYLUM BETRAYED Be warned: You can only access it once if you don't subscribe TO NS so I would suggest you copy it somewhere (I made the mistake of trying to go back and read it again).

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


One man seeking asylum in Europe. For me, reading a personal story highlights the issues more clearly. Please note, as stated in the article, this is not only happening in Greece or Britain. It is happening all over Europe. Via the United Nations Refugee Agency. Mohammad is from war-torn Darfur, often described as the scene of some of the worst violence in the world over the past two years. Hundreds of villages have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or injured, or have died of illness and disease linked to the fighting and scorched earth tactics of the infamous janjaweed militia. Large numbers of women and girls are believed to have been raped. More than 2 million people have been displaced. War crimes and crimes against humanity are widely believed to have been committed. Enough for an asylum claim by someone from Darfur to be taken seriously, one would think... Read the full story here

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


A letter printed in Cyprus Tales not written by me or any of my friends. "To complain about racism and human rights in this country may touch a raw nerve; nevertheless, Cyprus, in general, is a very racist country and treats immigrants extremely badly, especially if they have a different colour skin. There is little or no protection from the police and immigration bullies, when they pull someone off the streets because he has a dark skin. Am I a ‘whingeing Brit’ or have I just stated what is obvious to many people, who choose to turn a blind eye or are too apathetic to want to say anything? And, of course, the immigrants themselves, are very scared - I now this for a fact." Read the whole letter here

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Monday, December 12, 2005


This story from Cyprus Tales A Chinese man threatened a public suicide to protest his treatment at the hands of his Cypriot employer. Immigrant support group KISA head Doros Polycarpou said Monday’s incident was far from isolated, adding that his group was aware of dozens of foreign workers in the same position... “The only difference is, this man couldn’t take it any more”

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Today, Monday, December 12, Unicef and ET1 call on all of us to actively participate in the telethon for the victims of the deadly earthquake on October 8, in Pakistan, which left behind it thousands of dead and million of homeless. The telethon will begin on 4pm and will be presented by journalists: Bilio Tsoukala, Prokopis Doukas, Giorgos Amyras and Renia Tsitsibikou. Many guests and popular artists will join them, while hundreds of radio and television networks will support the effort. In order to make your donation in the telethon please call 210-33 62 800. Via ERT

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Sunday, December 11, 2005


Celebrate International Human Rights Day by being part of the global launch of  Make Some Noise  Amnesty International’s new global campaign that is a mix of music and activism. Make Some Noise is about music with a message. This ground-breaking venture from Amnesty International mixes music, celebration and action to protect individuals wherever justice, freedom and equality are denied. With exclusive Lennon covers, artist videos and opportunities to make an impact, it's time to inspire a new generation to stand up for human rights. Via Amnesty International

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Saturday, December 10, 2005


Today is International Human Rights Day celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Via PanHellas

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Friday, December 09, 2005


Today, I am patting myself on the back and celebrating my first 10.000 hits on this blog. Thank you to everyone who has contributed. I hope you will keep coming back and keeping this place as lively as ever. I will be raising a glass to us all later this evening.

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On Saturday December 10th, there will be a demonstration marching from Omonia Square in Athens to the Greek Parliament starting at 3pm. The reason for the rally is to protest the new immigration law due to take effect on January 1st 2006. Critics of the new legislation have objected to the complicated bureaucracy, to the difficulty of obtaining the documents needed and to the expense. The government has said it will not consider any changes to the law.

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The EVA programme was started by the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Social Work Foundation, to help women seeking political asylum in Greece with the aim of assisting integration. It will close at the end of the month, partly due to lack of funding. Greece has an extremely low refugee recognition rate, standing at less than 2% at the moment. Via Athens News

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Thursday, December 08, 2005


Apologies from me. I think there was some misunderstanding of what I wrote in the previous post. Just to confirm: The shelters are not closed. They are empty. The trafficked people who are rescued from their captors are taken into detention rather than to these shelters. Also, people do not go to the shelters to seek help because they do not know that they exist. STOPNOW do not run the shelters. "The organisation worked on raising public awareness about trafficking, lobbying for a law to be passed, pushing for victim support and also importantly coordinated all organisations in Greece working on counter-trafficking. Also, it worked with Bulgaria, Albania, Georgia, Moldova etc to raise awareness so that women would be aware of the pitfalls of pormised-land jobs before they make the trip to Greece. It is all of this that cannot be continued without funds" (Thank you anonymous for putting this in a concise and clear way) I am in touch with people involved in this vital project and will post information as soon as I find out if anything effective can be done.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Last month I posted a link to STOPNOW, a project managed by the Centre of Research and Action on Peace (KEDE), set up to confront and combat human trafficking. Please go and read the FAQ's here. The organization has been successful in working raising awareness of human trafficking, working with the victims and trying to prevent more people being trapped in this modern-day slavery. I found out today from people working in this project that STOPNOW is no longer operational. Why? Because the government of Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy) refuses to fund it. Why? Because the government does not acknowledge that there are trafficked people in Greece. Why? Because the shelters that were set up to help the victims of trafficking are empty. Why? Because the people who are "rescued" from their captors are being held in detention centres instead of being taken to the shelters. They are held there (without access to the proper help they need) until they are deported . Many of the victims of this hideous exploitation have their bail posted BY THEIR CAPTORS and they are taken back into slavery. As soon as I get any information on what action can be taken to help this vital project, I will post it.

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Monday, December 05, 2005


I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE POOR. I came here to Greece from a wealthy  European country. I came here through choice. I came with money to support myself. I was not leaving England due to unemployment. I came here of my own free will,  in search of adventure, to discover something different, to experience life in another country. I have had the pleasure of working in my professional field here. I have never had to take a low paid menial job without insurance. I am privileged I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO LIVE UNDER PERSECUTION. I did not flee England fearing for my life or for the lives of my children. I have never lived in a war-zone. I have never been attacked because of my religion, my beliefs or my ideas. I do not know what it is like to lose family members or limbs or my sanity because of war, bombings, massacres or ethnic cleansing. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE ENSLAVED I have never been held against my will. I have never been forced into prostitution or  the pornography industry. I have never been trafficked into a country to work as a slave in any capacity. I have never had my passport taken away from me. I have never been beaten, locked up or restrained. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE HUNGRY I have not fled famine and starvation. I have never known anyone die of hunger. I do not know how it feels to walk across entire countries in search of food and shelter for myself or my family. I do not know what it is like to uproot from my country of birth and go in search of a better life for my children. I find myself free to live where I choose and to live without hassle.  I am incredibly privileged.  All the people who read this are. It is easy for me to sit here in judgment. Me with my access to everything I require. Food, housing, education, health and freedom. It is easy for me to blame my woes on the poor and the most vulnerable. So as I sit back and enjoy my coffee, my evening meal, my warm clothes and house, my processions,  my lifestyle; I remind myself that  it was all brought to me on the backs of other people. People  poorer and less privileged than me. People who will never enjoy the things I enjoy. People who will never have the things I take for granted.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005


Sorry for the late notice of this event. I completely forgot to post it yesterday. I must be 'blogged out". Tonight there will be a huge Gospel choir performance in Klafthmonos Square in Athens from 8pm onwards. Always good to hear voices raised in love and hope for a change.


I feel that just adding migrants to the police force will not reduce problems by itself. There also needs to be education on the issues. A very good friend of mine used to work with the Metropolitan police on race issues and race relations. She ran workshops and held discussion groups. This was found to be a much more effective way of combatting the racism that exists in the police force. From Kathimerini (Friday) Enlisting migrants into the police force will help law enforcers fight their own racist attitude toward foreigners, the Panhellenic Confederation of Police Officers (POASY) said yesterday. At a conference held by the policemen’s union yesterday, POASY President Dimitris Kyriazidis put forward the proposal as part of a 10-point plan that could help Greece reduce problems with migrants and avoid possible incidents of urban unrest similar to those seen recently in France.

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Friday, December 02, 2005


Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE) and the Committee for Workers International (CWI) are holding a rally on Dec 3rd at the Polytechnic (Patission and Stournari Street) at 6pm. One of the speakers will be Timothy Abdul, one of the survivors of the racist shooting which happened here in Athens in 1999. The book about Timothy and Tommy was the inspiration for starting this blog. Today is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

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To all of you who took part in Blog against Racism Day here and elsewhere, a big THANK YOU.  It's after 12 here. I know there are many hours, in other parts of the world, before the end of this day, but I'm out of here.. Please feel free to contribute and add for as long as you like. Racism has not ended. It will not end in a day.  I love and leave you with this... "An nice lady in the back…asked what I thought about how we begin to move forward. I think it is up to each individual, which then moves to your family, which moves to your community. Each person, in their own life, let your life be a light for peace, for justice, for all that is good. Just let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." Oprah Winfrey

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