An English flag flew above a migrant camp in Calais, France, on Friday, after Britain voted to leave the European Union. Photo credit: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

A Lesson from ‘Brexit’: On Immigration, Feelings Trumps Facts

27 June, 2016

“The progress of the last 50 years, particularly in Europe, has made it easy to buy into the idea that the forces of nationalism, xenophobia and prejudice are mere irrationalities, market distortions that will naturally fade away in the long arc of history.

Last week’s vote highlighted — not for the first time, but with unusual clarity — the hole in that theory. For many people, identity trumps economics. They will pay a high price (literally, in this case) to preserve a social order that makes them feel safe and powerful.”

This perceptive analysis teaches us that only allowing migrants to participate in political debates could stem the flow of fantasies and stereotypes which feed the populist fears – just as only women’s participation in political debates stemmed the flow of sexist prejudice over time – and offer mainstream politicians the space and tools to create a pro-migration, pro-mobility and pro-diversity discourse which would sound convincing during electoral campaign.

To read the full article by Amanda Taub in the NY Times, please click here.

  Some Muslim women in Belgium have protested against restrictions on wearing headscarves. Photo credit: BBC/Getty images

Top EU court adviser backs workplace Muslim headscarf ban – yet another intolerant opinion

31 May, 2016

In a controversial opinion issued to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), an Advocate General to the ECJ, Julianne Kokott, agreed that employers in the EU may be able to ban Muslim staff from wearing headscarves to work as long as it is part of a general prohibition on all religious symbols.

While this legal opinion is not binding, nor is it a final ruling of the ECJ, it is quite authoritative and once again sends an utterly wrong message. Instead of sending a message of openness and freedom first, with only individually and restrictively justified limitations, it sends out a message of religious intolerance aimed at only one religion, Islam. Because, frankly, who cares about small crosses on a chain or kipas? Sikh turbans however will be collateral damage to this ban.

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  La file d'attente pour le renouvellement des permis de séjour devant la préfecture de Lyon, le 16 février 2015. Crédit photo JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

Défenseur des droits report finds discrimination toward foreigners in France

28 May, 2016

An article in Le Monde reports that Le Défenseur des droits in France, in its last report, finds that foreigners, particularly refugees, are vulnerable to systemic discrimination in accessing their rights. The report is particularly relevant since it shows us that national human rights institutions and ombudspersons can document migrants’ rights violations. Their thorough investigations, detailed reporting and authoritative analysis add considerably to our common knowledge base and participate in changing the perceptions towards migrants.

For the report and its executive summary of Le Défenseur des droits (available in French only), please click here.

  Turkish soldiers patrol in Hatay province along Turkey's new border wall with Syria in February 2016. Photo credit: 2016 Anadolu Agency

Turkish border guards are shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers

28 May, 2016

Turkish border guards are shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkish authorities should stop pushing Syrian asylum seekers back at the border and should investigate all use of excessive force by border guards.”

This should be an extremely serious concern in view of the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement and of the position taken by the EU and Greece that Turkey is a “safe third country” where Syrians asylum seekers can be automatically sent back without substantial analysis of the conditions of their return.

To read the whole report on Human Rights Watch, please click here.

  The pupils said that shaking hands with a woman who was not related to them would go against their religious beliefs. Photo credit: Science photo library.

Switzerland: Muslim students must shake teacher’s hand

Article by BBC
25 May, 2016

Muslim students in Switzerland must shake their teacher’s hand at the beginning and end of lessons, a regional authority has ruled.

A controversial exemption from the tradition had been granted for two teenage brothers whose interpretation of the Koran meant they were unwilling to touch a member of the opposite sex.

If they continue to refuse, their parents could face a fine.

The regional authority said teachers “had the right” to demand handshakes.

Shaking teachers’ hands as a sign of respect is a longstanding tradition in Switzerland.

When it emerged last month that a middle school had allowed two Syrian brothers aged 14 and 15 to avoid the tradition due to their religious beliefs, it sparked a national controversy.

The boys, whose father is an imam, said their faith did not allow them to shake hands with a woman who was not related to them.”

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