Friday, April 22, 2011

Russian immigration official sacked for promoting 'survival of white race'

Russian authorities have fired a top official for saying that the country's immigration policy was tailored to promote the "survival of the white race". Konstantin Poltoranin, the chief spokesman for Russia's Federal Migration Service, also said in televised comments that the "mixing of bloods" has to be managed carefully.

Xenophobia and racism flourish in Russia, and public officials often make statements that would land them in hot water elsewhere in Europe. But Mr Poltoranin crossed the line.

His interview with the BBC was aired on Wednesday and by the evening he had been fired. He was not caught out with a difficult question, but chose to launch into his thesis about the "white race" when asked if there was anything he would like to add at the end of the interview.

Mr Poltoranin was speaking about the poor conditions at a centre for asylum-seekers in Russia, where refugees from Ivory Coast and Ghana spoke of being subjected to racist attacks from local residents and the centre's administration.

Mr Poltoranin appeared to hint that Russia was deliberately unwelcoming to Africans and other asylum-seekers to avoid an influx of migrants as seen in western Europe. He said he did not understand the immigration policy of western European countries. "We want to make sure the mixing of blood happens in the right way here, and not the way it has happened in western Europe where the results have not been good," Mr Poltoranin said.

He added that Russia needed Slavic immigrants to counter its declining population. "What is at stake here is the survival of the white race, and we feel this in Russia," he said.

Moscow has several million migrants who come from the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, which is inside Russia, and from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Nearly one-fifth of Russia's 143 million people are Muslims, and the country prides itself on being home to over 100 nationalities.

But in Moscow and other big cities, racial tensions often cause violence. In December, ethnic Russian football fans rampaged in Moscow and attacked anyone with non-Slavic features.

Workers of Asian appearance from countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan complain of frequent racist abuse and attacks. Russia has only a small community of black Africans, but they also face racist attacks. Sova, a rights group that documents racial violence, said that at least 37 people were killed in hate crimes last year in Russia.

"Such remarks are inadmissible for any Russian official, particularly for a representative of the Federal Migration Service," Konstantin Romodanovsky, the service's head, said yesterday.

Mr Poltoranin had been the chief spokesman for the service, which implements immigration policy, since 2005. Yesterday he denied being a racist but stood by his comments.


Rioting illegal immigrants face prosecution after fires at Australian detention centre

TWENTY-TWO detainees at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre have been removed and are being questioned by police over this week's riot. The Villawood centre erupted in a riot on Wednesday night involving up to 100 detainees, leaving nine buildings gutted by fire.

A Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokeswoman said while a small number of detainees remained on a rooftop at the centre, there were no further reports of disturbances last night. "We can report that the centre has been calm throughout the night," she said.

She said that early today, 22 people of interest had been removed from Villawood and taken to Silverwater Correctional Centre in an operation by DIAC, NSW Police, Australian Federal Police and the centre manager Serco. She said they would be questioned in relation to the events of Wednesday and yesterday at the detention centre. No one had been arrested or charged at this stage, she said.

Social Justice Network member Jamal Daoud said detainees had told him overnight that Federal Police in full gear had entered Villawood, searched rooms, removed some detainees - mainly Kurdish and Afghani - and taken them away in a bus. He described the actions as insensitive and said they added tension to an already intense situation. "The detainees are demanding to know the destination their fellow detainees were taken to and on which basis they were identified," he said.

The protest was triggered after two men climbed onto the roof of the main centre early on Wednesday. They were soon joined by 11 others and, by midnight, up to 100 people were involved, vandalising and setting fire to buildings. An oxygen cylinder was torched, leading to an explosion shortly after 2am yesterday.

By yesterday afternoon, six protesters were left on the roof of one building.

The asylum seekers involved in the violent rampage at the Villawood Detention Centre face criminal charges and deportation to their country of origin.

An angry and hard-line Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, yesterday said while he understood the frustration, there was "no justification at all" for setting fire to nine buildings and hurling roof tiles at firefighters.

Mr Bowen said the group of men who took to the roof of the detention centre in Sydney's southwest, sparking the protest, had already had their refugee claims knocked back. Some of them were being readied for deportation to their country of origin.

"These are people in many instances who are not happy with that outcome but ... if they think they will change their visa outcome, if they think they will be accepted as refugees because of this sort of protest action, they've chosen the wrong government and the wrong minister, because that won't be happening."

With the damage bill to run into millions of dollars, Mr Bowen said protesters could potentially face criminal charges following an investigation by the Australian Federal Police.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Julia Gillard also took a tough stance, sending a message to those involved in the riot. "Violence is wrong and it doesn't help your claim," she said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Government should immediately suspend processing of refugee claims of people who were involved in the violent fracas. "If you're not a refugee then you shouldn't be here, and you should be returned," he said.

Mr Bowen said he would "vigorously" apply the character test to asylum seekers who had visa applications pending.

Reports that police were delayed from entering the burning detention centre compound on Wednesday night because of jurisdictional issues were vigorously denied by the Government.

However The Daily Telegraph understands police were called out at 11.20pm but it was 1am before they entered the compound. It is believed it took some time for the riot squad to be assembled.

Because only minor damage was done to accommodation blocks, detainees were able to remain at Villawood last night but Mr Bowen said that may change over the coming days. A temporary kitchen was last night being flown in from Melbourne.

The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is due to undergo a $187 million redevelopment.

Mr Bowen said the violence would be investigated as part of an existing independent review into the protests that occurred at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre last month.


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