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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 12:09 pm on July 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual and Ferrocarril Clandestino present a communication to the UN Commision on Women 

    Within the framework of our work on the rights of migrants in Spain, Pro Igual has cooperated with Ferrocarril Clandestino and prepared a joint communication to the UN Commission on Women on the Human Rights Violations of Migrant Women in Spain: Detention in CIEs.

    The communication draws the UN Comission´s attention to singling out of migrant women through ethnic profiling and disproportionate use of deprivation of liberty for migrant women for mere administrative infractions, such as not having paperwork in order. Migrant women in CIEs suffer a range of human rights abuses, ranging from absent due process or legal counsel to separation from families and small children and lack of healthcare even for pregnant women.

    Pro Igual and Ferrocarril Clandestino put forth recommendations to the Spanish authorities to remedy this situation.

    The text of the submission is available here.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 11:03 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Germany´s neo-Nazi terrorism: time for reflection 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In February 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had apologized to the families of the victims of apparent hate crimes for the failure of the German state to find and prosecute perpetrators. The so-called “döner murders” of mostly ethnic Turkish entrepreneurs had taken place between 2000 and 2007, but had remained unresolved until a recent and accidental discovery of the neo-Nazi link.

    “Most of you were abandoned in your time of need. Some relatives were themselves for years suspected of wrongdoing. That is particularly oppressive. For this, I ask for your forgiveness,” stated Ms. Merkel.

    Establishing the neo-Nazi connection to the murders had prompted soul-searching among the German authorities trying to understand how and why so many hate crimes against immigrants could have been overlooked for so long. The answer to this mystery may be closer than many think, as Ms. Merkel´s apology stands in a stark contrast with her earlier speech on the failure of multiculturalism in Germany. Then, in no uncertain terms, the German Chancellor suggested that the immigrants bore at least partial responsibility for failing to integrate… or to leave:

    “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality.”

    That is the crux of the problem, isn´t it? Immigrants would not leave. Immigrants would not put their lives on hold while giving their best years and energy working in host countries. Immigrants would go on to have families and children. Immigrants would not abandon their identity, culture, religion, food, or dress code. And so they are charged with being responsible for inspiring distrust, hate, or envy, or all of the above. The long tradition of xenophobia and blaming (perceived) outsiders for political, economic, or social failures of the country is carefully omitted.

    Of course, immigrants are still needed, just as they were needed after the WWII rebuilding their host country from the ruin in which extreme xenophobia and racism had left the entire continent. Today as ever Germany depends on the immigrant labor to power its economy. This is why Ms. Merkel´s belated apology, albeit welcome, seems somewhat disingenuous and self-serving. But genuine or calculated, this is a high time for reflection, in Germany and elsewhere, as to who their real enemies are.

    There is poignant symbolism in the “döner murders” affair. The law-abiding, entrepreneurial immigrants were slain by German criminals that hardly made any contribution to German society. However, even the reputably efficient German police could not escape the usual stereotyping and by default looked for perpetrators among the immigrant community. That, despite the growing evidence that the threat of violence emanates not only or not as much as from immigrants or minorities, as from poorly educated, disenfranchised, racist and increasingly extremist majority youths falling prey to clandestine yet highly organized right-wing organizations. Suffice it to mention the Breivik´s killing spree in Norway and his ideological influences to underscore the reality of the threat.

    While even mainstream politicians across Europe try to score cheap victories by engaging in demagogic populism and indulging public intolerance with myths about immigrants “stealing jobs,” “scamming welfare,” or “engaging in terrorism,” the much deadlier threat comes to fruition: the neo-Nazi terrorism.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:05 pm on August 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Right-wing terrorism and racial profiling 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    For quite some time now, the European police resort to techniques known as “racial profiling”: singling out and targeting for stops and searches non-Caucasian-looking men. Arrests and detentions, often without an objective need, of people of Mediterranean appearance have risen dramatically, even leading to a number of lawsuits and protests from the human rights community.

    In the wake of the terrorist attack in Norway carried out by a native Christian extremist violently opposed to immigration, Norway’s Prime Minister has warned his compatriots to exercise tolerance and restraint and avoid a “witch hunt.” However, the right-wing Progress Party – whose views are closest to the perpetrator of the Norway massacre – indicated that it would press for tougher judicial measures. That party´s MP was quick to promise a parliamentary discussion “about sentences, searches by the police and everything else” adding: “My party has always wanted that.” He forgot to mention his party always wanted tougher justice for foreigners par excellence.

    It is interesting how some forces are ever-ready to use even the national tragedy as an opportunity to pursue their goals – the goals that may be responsible for that tragedy in the first place. It will be also interesting to see how this would play out and what kind of a criminal profile the Norwegian police would use in the wake of the right-wing, extremist Christian, anti-Muslim terrorist attack.

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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:35 pm on September 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Flexible European values 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

    The actions of France expelling Roma received wide international resonance. Even Cuba´s Fidel Castro, not exactly the pioneer of human rights, issued harsh criticism of the French authorities, comparing current expulsions of Roma to deportations that took place under the pro-fascist Vichy government. However, France apparently does not enjoy to be on a receiving side of accusations of human rights violations.

    “The use of ‘holocaust’ by Mr. Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “Such words are unacceptable.” (Oh-la-a! The words kettle, pot and black spring to mind. Isn´t Mr. Valero who is somewhat ignorant of history and of Holocaust victims?)

    President Sarkozy aptly summed up the nature of the French objections to criticism: “That´s not how you deal with a great state.”

    Is it also, in a nutshell, the reason why the EU has been quite selective as to which countries it chides for their human rights record, while politely overlooking far worse violations elsewhere? Because Slovenia and Macedonia (for example) are not considered as great as China or Russia? Is it also the reason for a number of EU countries to allow secret CIA renditions? Because a great state can do no wrong?

    Evidently, the EU member states´s values and standards have been rather flexible throughout recent history. But there is a chance to finally demonstrate what the Union is really made of: by sanctioning the “great state” of France for violating fundamental rights of EU citizens.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:43 am on September 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Article “While France Deports Roma Gypsies, Spain Integrates Them” 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    An informative, if somewhat embellished, account of integration initiatives of Roma in Spain was presented in Time magazine in an article by Andres Cala “While France Deports Roma, Spain Integrates Them.”

    Some of the most relevant facts are as follows:

    • Spain spends c. €36 million a year on Roma integration, making good use of EU´s social funds.
    • About half of Spanish Roma are homeowners; only an estimated 5% still live in makeshift camps.
    • Practically all Roma in Spain have access to health care.
    • Practically all Roma children start elementary school (although only about one third actually finish it), and an estimated 85% of Spanish Roma are literate.

    Furthermore, the article notes:

    Spain’s two-pronged integration approach has been instrumental in those results, pairing access to mainstream social services with targeted inclusion programs. For example, Roma can have access to public housing and financial aid on the condition that they send their children to schools and health care facilities. Then there’s the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation Acceder program, which experts say is one of the best integration initiatives in Europe. The program takes young, unemployed Gypsies and teaches them technical skills and helps them earn the equivalent of a high school degree. At the end, they are placed in jobs through a series of agreements with private companies.

    While the Time article may gloss over some of rather serious issues, such as deeply rooted prejudices, discrimination and other racism-related problems Roma experience in Spain on a daily basis, the question posed by the article in the end appear a legitimate one: can the rest of Europe replicate Spain’s success?

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:29 am on May 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Eternal dilemmas of data collection 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    That the ethnic data is important has been said and written a lot. But in the end of the day, after another conference is finished, another publication´s ink dried off, and another set of recommendations is passed onto another set of key people, we all go home, and nothing changes. Privacy rights activists continue to call on states not to store our personal information. (Some) minority rights activists continue to appeal to disaggregate the official statistics so vulnerable groups become visible. And states continue to ignore either, still getting our emails, sms, and bank information, blatantly profiling undesirable, and still saying no ethnic data exist. Is there a solution?

    We, the people, we, the society, send conflicting messages to our states. We want this information, but we don´t want it collected. The states, on the other hand, behave very consistently. They collect the data they need, whether or not we like it, and they will always find a legal caveat to do it.

    Let´s face it: the states will never stop collecting our personal information. They need the data to protect us, to fight crime, and what not. But it may be very expensive to ask everyone´s permission. So, they don´t. And since formally the states don´t collect ethnic information, they don´t use it for things that might benefit us, the people, us, the society.

    The states do not use ethnic data to assess the true extent of social exclusion faced by most vulnerable groups of population (and let´s be clear — anyone of us can find oneself vulnerable at some point of life: falling ill, losing a job, or turning old).  And since the states do not base social policies on disaggregated data, even the most advanced policies usually keep the most vulnerable invisible. Logically, the success and impact of social programmes on the most vulnerable cannot be measured, either. Roma policies across Europe present a glaring example of how state policies can fail if they are not based on solid ethnic data.

    But there is another side to this. Information, including ethnic data, is power. As any power, when unchecked, it corrupts. The states´ ability to gather and use unfathomable amounts of personal information, without us even knowing it, can and does lead to excesses. Who at some point has not received communications from businesses offering personalised deals (unsolicited yet rather tailored)? Ever wondered how come they knew so much about you? It is open to speculation whether the states — or companies that help states acquire private data — sell or share our information, or whether they do not keep it secure enough and allow privacy breaches. But it is disconcerting in any scenario.

    Racial profiling is another example. Racial or ethnic profiling is categorising persons according to their perceived ability to commit specific crimes or behave in a particular way. And we are wrong if we believe it will always affect only others. Yesterday it affected Jews, Roma, disabled. Today it affects Muslims, Blacks, migrants. Tomorrow… who knows?

    If the states collect our personal information, no matter what, we might as well try to make them play by the rules, rather than passively waiving our rights. We can insist to access our private data (after all, it is not a state secret we are after). And we can insist that irrelevant data — most of it, for sure — be purged, and we should go to courts with this if necessary. And if enough people do it, it may finally become cheaper for the states to ask everyone´s permission in advance, than pay out afterwards.

    Now, can we do this bit?



  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:31 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Racially-motivated crimes are still uncounted in Spain 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    “We know how many women die every year from gender violence. We know how many young people die every weekend in road accidents. We know how many workers die in job accidents. We know how many prisoners commit suicides in jail. But we do not know how many racist crimes take place every year in Spain.” Esteban Beltran of Amnistia Internacional España, in España se niega contabilizar las agresiones racistas y xenofobas en su territorio.

    CIDH Pro Igual just submitted its contribution towards an annual OSCE-ODIHR Hate Crimes report. In its submission, CIDH ProIgual makes a recommendation addressed to the Spanish authorities to collect and make public the data on hate crimes.

    By refusing to collect data on racially-motivated crimes the Spanish state keeps these types of offences, and the scope of the problem, invisible. It is not just an affront to the victims. It is deficiency in Spain´s legal framework, which failed to have implemented the letter and spirit of its international human rights commitments and obligations, including the EU equality directives specifically prescribing that the data on racially-motivated cases be collected.

    Only when the state has the necessary data, will the true scope of the problem be understood. Only then can the state formulate a meaningful policy to deal with hate crimes. And only then will anti-racism efforts start genuinely to bear fruits.






  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 7:25 am on March 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    It is the race, stupid! 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CiDH ProIgual

    Academics, policy-makers and rights advocates often ponder which of the identity markers is decisive for measuring social disadvantage of minority groups: class, faith, sex, citizenship/nationality, disability, or race? The simplest thing to do to in order to find out, it appears, is to cross-compare each factor.

    Let´s start with disability and class. Who is more disadvantaged: a poor person with a disability or a rich person with disability? Clearly, money can buy many things. Although it may not be able to buy health, it can certainly buy healthcare. So, class would appear to easily trump disability.

    Now let´s compare religion with a few factors. Who is more disadvantaged: Christians or Muslims in Europe? Many may immediately answer — and there is sufficient research to support it — that Muslims are more disadvantaged. But then who is disadvantaged more: citizen (usually convert) Muslims, let´s say, in France, or immigrant Muslims in the same country? Or, to twist it a bit, who is more disadvantaged, a Muslim woman who is a citizen, or a Muslim woman who is an immigrant? The answer still seems rather obvious: immigrants are more disadvantaged.

    But are all immigrants disadvantaged in the same way? Do immigrants from, let´s say, Eastern Europe, which would be undoubtedly poorer in their majority than West Europeans, find themselves in the same disadvantage as migrants from Africa or Asia? Are immigrants from South America, let´s say in Spain, in the same place as Africans or Asians? For some reason, it seems like a resounding no.

    Now let´s pay a virtual visit to a country of immigrants, the USA. It is a widely held belief that immigrants can make it in America if they work hard. And perhaps more than any other place the USA boasts a number of prominent personalities who were born elsewhere but did very well for themselves in the new home country. So, let´s compare immigrants from Asia or Eastern Europe with citizens … of African-American descent. Who is more disadvantaged in the USA? For some reason, it feels that nationality does not play as decisive a role anymore.

    Now let´s go down the map, to South America. Technically, most countries there are poorer than countries in Europe or North America. They also have their own inequalities, quite possibly class-based. But which groups are still more disadvantaged, let´s say in Brazil: white (Hispanic) or black/mixed? The answer comes out almost automatically: black people. Some Brazilians even comment, informally, that everybody has a place in society strictly in accordance with his or her race. There are exceptions, obviously, like rich football players or movie stars, but they are what they are: exceptions.

    So, it seems rather obvious even to an unarmed (by scientific methodology) eye that race consistently comes first as a decisive factor of social disadvantage in society.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:05 am on March 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Time to close prisons for migrants 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Spanish Detention Centres for Foreigners, “Centros de Internamiento de Estranjeros” (CIEs), are prisons for people whose principal crime is being born in a wrong country. Conditions in many of those places are so precarious that even the police, an institution usually on the side of the authorities in such matters, has called for their closure.

    Amended Law on Foreigners 2/2009 envisions detention for up to 60 days for individuals found to be in the country illegally. That, for people who for the most part have no criminal history, their only offence being not having documents. The CIE inmates usually have no access to legal counsel. Often, they do not have  means even to make or receive a phone call (due to “high costs” for the system), and are effectively kept incommunicado. Some do not know if they see their families, or will be deported straight away. Needless to say they are not advised of their right to ask for asylum, to which according to NGO estimates more than 1 in 4 may be entitled, see: http://www.cear.es/informes/Informe-CEAR-situacion-CIE.pdf .

    Human rights NGOs, visiting the detention centres in Madrid, Malaga and Valencia, reported that CIE inmates were routinely subjected to racial harassment and even physical abuse. Guards allegedly tried to intimidate them and make an example of their situation to deter other illegal migrants, see: http://www.antifeixistes.org/3469_tortures-immigrants-valEncia-comissio-dajuda-refugiat-cear-destapa-abusos-contra-estrangers-reclosos-centres-dinternament.htm. Pushing, hitting, and insulting is allegedly very common. However, inmates are overwhelmingly unaware of their rights and procedures to complain about maltreatment. In some centres the guards allegedly do not wear any badges and cannot be identified by name in complaints.

    Inmates of the CIE in Valencia related to CEAR – Comision Española de Ayuda al refugiado – instances of physical and psychological abuse on the part of the guards.  Thus, one guard allegedly entered, intoxicated, in the middle of the night into a cell and challenged the inmates to wrestle him, taunting and racially abusing them. When nobody moved, he started battering everybody with a police bat during approximately 10 minutes, inflicting injuries on several inmates. CIE inmates maintain that they could not get medical attention to treat or ascertain their injuries. See: http://www.levante-emv.com/comunitat-valenciana/2009/12/10/comision-refugiado-destapa-casos-torturas-centro-extranjeros-valencia/659447.html

    Even those with serious  health problems reported not getting any medical assistance or relief. CEAR estimates that 97% of detainees do not receive medical examination within the first 24 hours of arrival, as stipulated in the law. That can pose life threatening risks for persons with chronic conditions, see: http://www.cear.es/informes/Informe-CEAR-situacion-CIE.pdf .

    After these events came to light, CEAR reports, inmates who talked to NGOs and whose testimonies were particularly damning, were quickly expelled from the country, and NGOs did not get another opportunity to interview them or initiate proceedings on their behalf.

    Physical conditions in many detention centres are deplorable. Thus, CIE in Malaga is deemed to be in a state of complete “ruin,” lacking elementary hygiene or safety, infested with fleas, and posing health risks for those who are detained there, as well as for those working there.

    Inmates in CIE in Valencia stated that because there are no toilets in the cells and no intercom through which they could request to be taken to the centre´s bathroom, they were forced to use empty water bottles. In some cases, inmates had no change of clothes and had to wear what they had on at the moment of arrest for the duration of their detention (it usually takes between 20 and 40 days to process deportation).

    Despite months of advocacy by NGOs and even recommendations by state inspectors, these detention centres are still being used. Not only that, their use is about to become even more intensive, unless the Independent Police Syndicate manages to get the Circular 1/2010 of the Spanish Ministry of Interior annulled though the courts. That Circular essentially orders the police to round-up and detain “preventively” anyone who cannot on spot show the proof of his or her lawful presence in Spain (see an earlier post by CIDH ProIgual: https://centrodeinvestigacionesenderechoshumanos.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/can-a-democratic-state%c2%b4s-institution-be-responsible-for-encouraging-hate-crimes/).

    Sadly, judging by conditions in various CIEs , the degree of Spanish civilisation appears to be declining rapidly.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 3:43 pm on March 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Can a democratic state´s institution be responsible for encouraging hate crimes? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    A hate crime is an offence where the perpetrator selects a victim because of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group (race, faith, gender, age, disability, opinions, etc.). Discrimination refers to an act of exclusion on the basis of the victim´s real or perceived belonging to a specific group. In plain language: some people do not like some other people for who they are and actively show it. Different states have different legal mechanisms to deal with them.  But it is important to remember that both phenomena — hate crimes and discrimination — are illegal.

    Using these tentative definitions, it can be concluded that an individual or an organisation, especially in the position of power, that orders to infringe, en mass, fundamental rights of a group of people on the basis of their skin color, commits if not a hate crime then at minimum an act of discrimination.

    In January 2010, the Spanish Ministry of Interior issued a secret Circular 1/2010 that essentially ordered the police to round up and detain “preventively” anyone who on spot could not prove their legal presence in Spain. So, basically, anybody who ran out of home to buy a soda without an ID could end up in a cell? Not quite anybody. The Circular clearly was not directed at the Spanish people. Nor was it directed at foreigners who were perceived to be in the country legally, i.e. Northern Europeans. Or any Europeans for that matter. It was most certainly directed at persons perceived as “non-Spanish,” that is, the Circular of the Ministry of Interior in essence ordered the police to racially profile people and deprive individuals of liberty, as well as due process guarantees, without as much as a reasonable suspicion. (Surely, a suspicion that every black person is in Spain illegally cannot be reasonable?!)

    Lawyers could not even begin to count how many things were wrong with this document (secret law?). Evidently, not just human rights champions, but the very recipients of the order – the police — were appalled. The Spanish police syndicate went to court asking it to annul the Circular 1/2010, See: http://www.sup.es/es/contenido.asp?id=C0BDFB0CA8B74E028DD53B9E8D868300.

    Perhaps, it is too far-fetched to suggest that the Spanish Ministry of Interior is guilty of inciting hate crimes, without the court decision at least. But this secret order to round up, incarcerate and deport non-Europeans certainly brings about some disturbing historic memories. And if the courts do not find this act illegal, then it may be high time to revise some of the laws and definitions.

    To follow on this issue, please visit the website of the CIDH Pro Igual.


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