Big Italian protest against arrest of pro-refugee mayor

This 6 October 2018 video says about itself:

Live: Demonstration in support of Riace’s arrested pro-migration mayor

A demonstration in support of the Mayor of Riace, Domenico Lucano, takes place in the south Italian village on Saturday, October 6 under the slogan ‘We do not stop Riace’. Riace Mayor Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Lucano was put under house arrest on Tuesday, October 2 in relation to allegations of aiding illegal immigration. Riace administration has been frequently lauded as a ‘model’ for the way migrants were integrated into the local community and made a positive contribution to it giving a new life to a village, which was previously mostly abandoned.

By Allison Smith:

Italy: Arrest of Riace mayor sparks protests

10 October 2018

The arrest of Domenico Lucano, the mayor of Riace, a small town in the Calabria region of Italy dubbed “hospitality town”, sparked pro-immigrant protests across Italy this past weekend.

It is estimated that nearly 6,000 people demonstrated in Riace against Lucano’s arrest by the Italian tax police on charges of faking marriages of migrant workers and abusing public funds. Protests also took place in Milan and Rome. Many supporters took to Twitter to denounce his arrest and the “fascist” anti-immigrant policies of the coalition government.

According to authorities, in a wiretapped conversation Lucano and his partner Tesfahun Lemlem admitted to arranging the marriage of a Nigerian woman to avoid her deportation. Lucano also allegedly … awarded rubbish collection contracts to companies that support immigrant workers, which angered the local Mafia.

In 1998, Lucano welcomed the first immigrants and asylum seekers to Riace—a boatload of Kurdish immigrants that washed up on its shores—to save the town from total economic collapse and save the immigrants from deportation. Since then, the town’s population has grown to 1,500, including 400 immigrants from 20 countries. Migrants are given housing and jobs repairing roads and houses, baking bread, reopening cafes, or setting up shops for local crafts. His policies have attracted international attention and the ire of the Italian authorities.

Lucano’s arrest occurs in the wake of a European Union (EU) immigration summit accord in Brussels this past June where the Italian coalition government of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League (Lega) insisted on provisions for EU funding for refugee prison camps in Turkey and North Africa. They called as well for building closed detention camps in Europe for those seeking asylum and the construction of more such camps, named “regional disembarkation platforms”, along shipping lanes for migrant vessels.

The EU accord also agrees to block refugee movement between EU countries. Finally, the plan calls for rewriting the so-called Dublin Accords on EU asylum law, which mandate that refugees apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach. Italy is a first destination country for thousands of immigrants, and the Italian government is working to prevent migrants from seeking asylum when they reach the Italian border.

In recent years, the government has enacted laws to criminalize immigration. In 2002, then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his coalition partners, Gianfranco Fini of the neo-fascist National Alliance and Umberto Bossi of the far-right Northern League (predecessor of Lega), launched a joint attack on poor immigrants, passing the “Bossi-Fini Law,” which introduced criminal sanctions for persons caught illegally entering the country or who return after being expelled.

Under the law, an immigrant who is stopped without a residence permit is expelled immediately. Immigrants are also subject to arrest and detention of six to 12 months, followed by immediate deportation, if caught attempting to re-enter Italy before the expiry of a re-entry ban. A second offence is punishable by up to four years imprisonment. The law also increases the time limit for seclusion in detention centers whilst waiting for extradition. This was extended from 30 days to 60 days and asylum seekers are placed in detention while awaiting asylum review, in contravention of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.”

Subsequent administrations, including center-left, have never acted to repeal this draconian measure.

While the bourgeois media have expressed a degree of sympathy for Lucano as well as their concern about Italy’s moves toward an authoritarian state, they speak for the same center- and pseudo-left forces that paved the way for the current government’s immigrant policies.

M5S, with its fake anti-establishment posture, is revealing its true colors. For all their criticism against Berlusconi and the Italian Democratic Party (PD), they are moving to the right of both and have no problem implementing and further elaborating the legal framework adopted by the PD against immigrant workers.

In fact, M5S is honoring their manifesto, which vows to do away with “the business” linked to illegal immigration and promises to boost border security by hiring 10,000 police officers and building new prisons.

An October 7 post on the blog of M5S is headlined, “Riace was not a model, the era of the immigration business is over.” The blog post, written by M5S undersecretary Carlo Sibilia, confirms the withdrawal of funds for the Calabrian city: “‘We have decided to reduce speculation on hospitality to zero. There are no coverages for Riace, and our government has set itself the goal of eliminating rainy day funding in terms of migration policies.’ These are my statements made during the visit in Calabria on August 6. Today, after the arrest of the mayor of Riace as part of the Xenia operation carried out by the Guardia di Finanza [Italian finance police], they are more understandable.”

M5S offers nothing progressive in their policies, including the proposed “Citizenship Wage,” which, even if enacted, comes with so many restrictions it will be rendered meaningless. They seek to agitate public opinion against immigrants and migrant workers to divert attention away from election promises and the real issues facing Italian society—poverty wages, crumbling infrastructure and the like.

There is widespread concern among Italians about immigration, but there is also mass sympathy for the plight of immigrants and an understanding that the significant increase in immigration is due to the unending wars and economic destruction abroad.

The current government is thoroughly right-wing. If this is what the Italian state is doing to a member of the political elite, workers should be warned that the true goal of this administration is draconian attacks on immigrants and workers alike. The only way forward for Italian workers and youth is the development of a socialist and internationalist movement in opposition to the government and the financial elite who control the levers of power in Italy.

Italian right-wing government deports all Riace immigrants to concentration camps: here.


German mass deportation of refugees to Afghan war

This video says about itself:

Afghanistan: Deported refugee commits suicide after return to Kabul

12 July 2018

Deported refugees and government officials lamented the suicide of a 23-year-old Afghan man who died six days after being deported from Germany, on a visit to a Kabul guesthouse on Thursday.

Returnees from Austria said they had been forced into a corner by European governments.

“I cannot live in Afghanistan and don’t know what to do? Where do I go? I want to survive and live in peace”, said Wazir Hussain.

While Sayed Kamal said he was deported “for no reason”.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, Hafiz Ahmad Maikhel, urged partners in Europe to show mercy to Afghan asylum seekers.

“We ask the European countries to consider violence in Afghanistan while they are processing the applications of Afghan asylum seekers”, he stated in a brief interview.

Jamal Nasser’s body was found at the Spinzar Hotel, temporary accommodation provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to returning migrants who have nowhere to go.

He was on a flight carrying 69 failed asylum seekers which left Munich on July 4. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer made a joke about celebrating his 69th birthday on the same date.

By Marianne Arens in Germany:

German government organises mass deportations of refugees to Kabul

9 October 2018

The louder the protests of working people, the more deliberate and mercilessly the government pursues its right-wing policies. The most recent collective deportations to Kabul in war-torn Afghanistan were carried out on “German Unity Day”, of all days.

On the same day, October 3, 40,000 people took to the streets in the Bavarian state capital to protest against increased police powers and the “politics of fear.” A few days earlier, more than 30,000 people had demonstrated in Hamburg. In September alone, mass demonstrations against racism and xenophobia took place in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt, Chemnitz and other cities.

Despite this, the grand coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) is accelerating the pace of its deportation operations. … Because they are preparing social attacks on all workers, the establishment politicians resort to crackdowns on refugees to divide and intimidate the population at large.

Seventeen people were flown to Afghanistan in the latest collective deportation. Eight of them came from Bavaria, the other nine from Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony. Sixty-three federal and four Bavarian state police officers are said to have accompanied them.

With this deportation to a war zone, the state and federal interior ministers are trampling on basic democratic rights, such as the right of asylum and the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Afghanistan is anything but a “safe country of origin”. On average, about 35 members of the security forces die there every day in fighting and attacks by radical Islamists, as the NGO International Crisis Group has reported. In the first half of 2017, almost 1,700 civilians died in violent conflicts, the highest number since 2009. Overall, the number of people killed through violence in Afghanistan in 2018 could reach a new high of well over 20,000.

Since the US and other NATO powers, including Germany, occupied the country 17 years ago, Afghanistan has been in a state of war. Just hours before the aircraft started its engines in Munich on October 3, there was another bloody attack on a public event in the province of Nangarhar. At least 13 people, including children, were killed and more than 30 injured.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the security situation in Afghanistan has recently deteriorated significantly. On August 30, in its latest guidelines, the UNHCR urgently called for a deportation ban to this country. Kabul cannot be a place of safety for those affected, according to UNHCR guidelines. “Members of the civilian population who participate in everyday economic and social life in Kabul are at risk of falling victim to the general violence affecting the city.”

Moreover, the population in Kabul is increasingly suffering from poverty and hunger. This reassessment by the UNHCR has already resulted in Finland suspending deportations until further notice. But not the German government.

On behalf of the minister of the interior, State Secretary Helmut Teichmann said that the directive of the High Commissioner for Refugees represents “a mere recommendation of the UNHCR, based on the evaluation of various sources. The BAMF [Federal Office for Migration and Refugees], however, continues to hold the view that Kabul is fundamentally eligible as a place of internal safety.”

The brutality and recklessness of the authorities are shown by the cases reported by the Bavarian Refugee Council and other bodies. Accordingly, in the early morning hours of October 2, a young Afghan man was arrested in Nuremberg. He had been living in Germany for eight years, had his own apartment and was in a steady relationship with a woman for seven years. “An apprenticeship as a gardener was terminated because he was constantly being called to the immigration office”, writes the Refugee Council. “A new job offer as a drywall constructor is available but has not been approved by the immigration authority. The potential employer would be happy to hire him because he desperately needs dedicated workers.”

In two other cases, deportation was aborted at the last minute due to protests. These cases only hint at what fate threatens those who are nevertheless deported.

Eighteen-year-old vocational student Ahmed A. was arrested in Passau on September 27 at his college and taken into deportation custody five days before the deportation flight. On October 1, he was to have started his training course. The young man is from Ghazni, a town taken by the Taliban a few weeks ago. Only when teachers, classmates and friends organised a public campaign for him was Ahmed released, shortly before the deportation was to take place.

It was a similar experience for Mujtaba A., a 22-year-old Afghan, also from Passau. He was arrested on September 18 and placed in deportation custody in Bremen. He too was only released due to widespread public protests. Mujtaba had successfully completed a year of vocational college and then completed a six-week internship as a cook in a restaurant. The company had agreed he could undertake his chef’s apprenticeship there. The only thing missing was a work permit from the Central Immigration Office.

The young man, who is not accused of any crime, lives in a committed relationship with a mother of two children. She had done everything in her power and successfully alerted the Bavarian media to save her partner from deportation at the last minute. However, these cases only show how arbitrarily the authorities act and that the officially claimed case-by-case examination is a fable.

The deportation of the 17 Afghans to Kabul on the night of October 3 brings the number of people expelled to the war zone to 383. There were 228 this year alone. The largest mass deportation to Afghanistan so far, some 69 people, took place at the beginning of July. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had celebrated this with downright sadistic satisfaction: “Precisely on my 69th birthday, 69 people—I didn’t plan it that way—were returned to Afghanistan. This is far above the usual number.” A few days later, it was announced that one of the deportees had taken his own life after his forcible return to Kabul.

Italian right-wing regime arrests mayor for anti-racism

This 2 October 2018 video says about itself:

Italy: Hundreds protest arrest of pro-refugee mayor

Several hundred people staged a protest in Rome on Tuesday to demonstrate their support for the arrested pro-refugee mayor of Riace, Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Lucano.

Lucano, who achieved worldwide fame for his role in welcoming refugees to his village in the south of Italy, was arrested on charges of aiding illegal immigration on Tuesday. The protesters vented their anger at what they believe was a calculated decision by Italy’s [right-wing] coalition government to target someone who is widely seen as a champion for the integration of migrants.

From Wikipedia:

Domenico Lucano is the mayor of Riace, in southern Italy. He gained worldwide attention through his innovative approach to dealing with refugees, in the context of the European migrant crisis. About 450 refugees have settled there among the 1,800 inhabitants of the village, revitalising it and preventing the closure of the village school.

Lucano came second runner-up in the 2010 World Mayor competition. …

Lucano was also listed by Fortune as one of the world’s greatest leaders in 2016; featuring at number 40 in the magazine’s listing.

By Ylenia Gostoli, 2 October 2018:

Italy’s pro-refugee mayor Domenico Lucano arrested

Domenico Lucano, known internationally for promoting migrant integration, charged with ‘aiding illegal migration’.

The mayor of an Italian town known around the world as a model of integration has been put under house arrest for ‘aiding illegal migration’.

Lucano’s partner, Tesfahun Lemlem, was banned from living in the town under the same charges.

And the right-wing regime of racist Deputy Prime Minister Salvini may try to deport her from Italy.

The arrest on Tuesday morning came amid a government inquiry into the allocation of funds for refugees in the town.

Italy’s … government has adopted a hardline stance on migration controls in recent months.

International plaudits

Lucano has won international acclaim for ‘repopulating’ Riace with migrants and successfully integrating the arrivals.

With a population of about 1,500, the town hosts around 500 migrants and refugees from more than 20 countries.

Like other small towns across Italy, it has witnessed the massive flight of young people in recent decades, who left looking for economic opportunities elsewhere.

Lucano’s model gained international attention at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015 and he made Fortune Magazine’s 50 greatest leaders list in 2016.

Refugees and migrants in Italy are usually hosted in reception centres, most of them privately run but publicly funded, with strict rules and timetables guests have to follow.

These rules and the centres’ locations, often far from city centres, have made it difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to integrate and hold down a job.

In Riace, they have been given homes left empty by former residents. They also have the opportunity to work through a programme that has created employment among both refugees and locals – the first focused on cultural mediation and local craftsmanship and the second on language teaching.

‘Civil disobedience’

Authorities wiretapped a conversation between the mayor and his partner where he talked about ways to help a Nigerian woman who had been denied a stay permit three times.

In a Facebook post after Lucano’s arrest on Tuesday, [anti-mafia, anti-Salvini, pro-Lucano author Roberto] Saviano wrote: “the goal of Mimmo [Domenico] Lucano’s actions is not profit, but civil disobedience.”

“Civil disobedience: this is the only weapon we have to defend not only the rights of migrants, but everyone’s”, argued the author, concluding that the investigation is “the first step towards Italy’s definitive transformation from democracy to an authoritarian state.”

A number of civil society organisations have expressed concern about the arrest, which they see as yet another attack by a government that has built its popularity partly on anti-migrant rhetoric.

“It started with NGOs saving lives at sea. Now it’s the turn of those who do it on land“, wrote Naples-based anti-racism group Associazione 3 Febbraio in a statement calling for solidarity with the mayor.

For Leonardo Neglia, the mayor of Petralia Sottana, a town near Palermo with less than 3,000 residents, Lucano’s reception model is one to replicate.

Neglia had considered starting a similar project in Petralia Sottana, although the idea has been put on hold after the government’s ‘migration and security’ decree.

“Beyond technical and juridical considerations, I think his reception model should be recreated in other municipalities,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We were looking for people who would be willing to make their empty homes in the city centre available for the project. There are many, due to the depopulation of our towns as many young people leave, creating a vicious circle of impoverishment”, Neglia added.

“But this [arrest] sends a message that times have changed.”

The arrest, according to British daily The Guardian:

the suspension by the public broadcaster, Rai, of a TV show about Riace, which had been lauded as an exemplary model for integration. …

Lucano received a show of support on his Facebook page, with Riace locals calling on each other to rally together in solidarity.

Dutch Wilders party politician advocates burning refugees

PVV local councillor Emil Smeding, photo PVV Delfzijl

This photo shows Emil Smeding, local councillor of Geert Wilders‘ xenophobic PVV party in Delfzijl town.

Last weekend, there was a fire in housing for refugees in Ter Apel. On the Facebook page of regional broadcaster RTV Noord, Mr Smeding reacted to that news item by advocating to throw petrol on the fire to make it worse.

RTV Noord removed that comment. Smeding got many angry reactions. He at first reacted to that by doubling down on his racist advocacy of arson.

However, after more upset reactions, Smeding decided to resign as council member.

Racist German policeman has access to refugees’ personal data

This 23 August 2013 German video says that the policeman and member of the racist Pegida organisation who caused the arrest of a ZDF TV team for filming a Pegida demonstration in Dresden, has access to many police personal data, eg, of refugees.

By Sven Heymann in Germany:

Growing links between German right-wing extremists, police and state government in Saxony

27 August 2018

More is becoming known about the background and political connections of the State Criminal Investigation Office (LKA) worker who staged a provocation against a ZDF television reporting team covering a far-right Pegida demonstration in Dresden last Thursday. The camera crew was detained and questioned by the police for 45 minutes following the confrontation, preventing them from reporting on the right-wing demonstration.

The incident throws a spotlight on the close links between the right-wing extremist scene, the police and the Saxony state government coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD).

As broadcaster MDR reports, in his capacity as an auditor for serious crimes, the Pegida supporter works on highly sensitive personal records at the Saxony LKA. He has access to the IVO electronic investigation system (Integrated Transaction Processing System), a computer system specially developed by the Saxony police. According to the Saxony police website, the handling of cases is “computer-aided throughout, from the initial police measures to the completion of the procedure and handing over to the competent prosecution agency.” The system was, “at the same time, the central database and offender photo record, as well as the interface to INPOL and the Schengen Information System.”

But that is not all: as MDR further reports, the man also has access rights to the so-called Central Aliens Register ZAR. There is a total of approximately 20 million personal records stored in this registry. According to the Federal Office of Administration website, this has also served as the core data system for refugee management since 2015.

According to MDR, the LKA is also examining possible links between its employee and the right-wing scene in Freital. Shortly after the start of the video showing the events at the demonstration, the LKA/Pegida man can be seen standing next to the well-known Freitaler right-wing extremist René Seyfried, who then also lodged a complaint against the journalists with the police. Seyfried is the initiator of the so-called “Freital Citizens Initiative”, which, under the name “Freital fights back—no to the hotel home”, demonstrated in 2015 against the establishment of a refugee home in a former hotel. Under the slogan “Education instead of Immigration”, Seyfried ran for the mayor’s office with the support of the initiative in June 2015.

In spring 2015, the right-wing extremist terrorist group know as the Freital Militia emerged. The group initially patrolled local buses to intimidate supposedly violent foreigners, then called for protests against pro-refugee demonstrations and eventually resorted to increasingly brutal methods.

In June 2015, members of the group pursued and harassed a car of pro-asylum activists and finally smashed the windshield with a baseball bat at a gas station, injuring one of the passengers. In addition, the group launched an attack on the house of an alternative housing project using explosives and butyric acid. It is also believed the group was responsible for an attack on the car of a local Left Party politician.

Police and establishment politicians have done everything possible to downplay the group’s terrorist activities; not least because there seem to be links between the police and the right-wing terrorists. For example, during the investigation for the subsequent trial of the group at the Dresden Higher Regional Court, it became known that one of the leaders was said to have received information from a member of the riot police. This had allowed the terrorists to avoid searches and raids. In addition, the group met regularly at a garage located directly opposite the police station.

In July 2015, after the first attacks, in a reply to a question tabled by the Left Party in the state parliament, the then Saxony State Interior Minister Markus Ulbig (CDU) had declared the Freital Group was not on any watch-list of the Saxony state secret service. The regional authorities had “no knowledge of actual evidence of extremist aspirations” by the group, it was said. Later, the secret service had to concede that it had had contact with at least one member of the terrorist group. In March, eight accused members of the terrorist group were sentenced to prison terms of between four and ten years.

As more and more details about the close links between right-wing extremism and the Saxony state come to light, the media and establishment politicians are playing down the recent events in Dresden, or openly defend the actions of the police. As the Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) had done before, the chairman of the German Police Union, Rainer Wendt, also backed the Saxony police. “The police officers behaved correctly”, said Wendt in the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. The television crew were held for 45 minutes because the journalists and camera operators “dragged things out and did not cooperate.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote provocatively, “A brief ID check of journalists is permitted, details must be taken by the police. State premier Kretschmer did well to support the Saxony police—what else should he do?” The newspaper railed against “all those so-called federal politicians who now pretended that Saxony was Sierra Leone.” The question remained, “who this nationwide outcry will benefit. Anyone who declares Saxony a police state, where freedom of the press counts for nothing, does not know what he is talking about.”

In fact, it is not only Saxony that increasingly resembles a police state. Throughout Germany, the respective state governments are developing reactionary new police laws that restrict basic democratic rights and strengthen the most right-wing forces in the state apparatus. Above all, the SPD, which now hypocritically criticizes the actions of the LKA man and the actions of the Saxony police at federal and state level, plays a central role.

By continuing the grand coalition with the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats have deliberately made the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which received just over 12 percent of the vote in the federal election, the official opposition in the Bundestag (parliament). Far from being an unwanted outcome, this disproportional role for a neo-facist party serves to create the political climate for the grand coalition’s policies of military rearmament, attacks on democratic rights and social austerity.

Only a few days ago, it became known that the head of the federal secret service, Hans-Georg Maaßen, had met AfD parliamentary deputy Stephan Brandner in June this year for a discussion in his office at the Bundestag. Brandner owes his office as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs to the Social Democratic Bundestag Vice-President Thomas Oppermann, who had proposed him for a secret election.

Xenophobic homophobia in Austria

This video says about itself:

Austria: ‘Let us stay!’ – Afghan asylum-seekers march against deportations in Vienna

20 May 2017

Hundreds marched against the deportation of asylum-seekers to Afghanistan, on the streets of Vienna on Saturday, under the motto “Afghanistan is not safe, let us stay.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

AUSTRIA: An immigration official has been disciplined for “linguistic lapses” after rejecting an Afghan man’s application for asylum on grounds of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan and those who murder gay people can use the victim’s sexuality as a mitigating factor, making it an “honour killing” with reduced penalties.

The Austrian official told the applicant that “neither the way you walk, nor your behaviour, nor your clothes even slightly suggested you might be homosexual.”

Right-wing Austrian bureaucrats may not know, but: LGBTQ people, like straight people, walk with two legs. Like with straight people, there are very big individual differences in behaviour among LGBTQ people. Like with straight people, there are big differences in ways LGBTQ people dress.

Dutch bureaucrat doubted whether gay refugee was gay, as ‘he had a beard’.

Austria calls on EU to get Egypt to block flow of refugees: here.