Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Chechens in Poland

In this article, the Prague Watchdog covers the situation of Chechens in Poland.

There are some interesting interviews and some telling words from a social worker at one of the centres outside of Warsaw:

'I make €260 a month, which is very little, but I won’t find another job here in Moszna. I’m very tired. We haven’t had any NGO or humanitarian representatives, lawyers or psychologists visit the centre for a year.'

The facilities are simply not available to support the asylum process in Poland. The refugees are just not a political priority.

The interviews pick up on the current trend for heading to Austria. There is a real problem because the Chechens apply for asylum at the point of entry to the EU; Poland. They soon learn about the rare occasions Chechens are actually granted asylum here and then hear stories about generous provisions in countries further west (Austria seems to be the current favourite). Many leave illegally.

A couple of Chechens in my English classes have already been sent back from Austria (the Dublin agreement means that if found in another country you are deported to the place asylum was applied for initially). They have nowhere to go and little hope for the future.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"I'm a patient victim. I put up with everything. I sacrifice myself for everyone,"

Berlusconi has compared himself to Jesus. Do you think he's been any paying attention at all to all this talk of blasphemy recently?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I think these guys summed it up nicely.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I am not Muslim. I do not know how it feels to hold a strong religious belief because I am increasingly losing central beliefs my Protestant Christian upbringing taught me. Like the existence of God.

I'm on the fence, taking my time, weighing the options and seeing despair in the pointless violence that so many men justify through religion.

This cartoon thing has had me wondering. Yes, we everybody has the right of freedom of speech, yes we should be allowed to express our opinions openly and without fear of reprisals by those who hold different views. I listen to and read about people who hold different views from mine all the time. They challenge and jostle ideas, they forcefully encourage justifications and ensure consistency.

But can't we be a little sensitive about it all? Can't we foresee the potential for clumsy cartoons being highjacked by extremists with ulterior motives? Can't we decide that maybe this isn't the way to defend freedom of speech? That this isn't the path to follow towards a peaceful world?

This speech was written by a Christian Arab-American, and is very well worth reading. There's also a fascinating 'understanding Islam' forum which has a big section on inter-faith understanding and dedicated members trying to break through the barriers between stubbornly held positions.

I wouldn't class myself as Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist. I would rather not class others as anything more or less than human.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Before I came to Poland I knew very little about Belarus. In the time I've been here however, I've picked up quite a bit.

I've heard about Europe's last dictator Lukashenko and how he relies heavily on Russian support. I've read about his forceful way of governing, his fear of a Ukrainian style revolution, the human rights violations including restrictions on freedom of speech; and the recent struggles involving the Polish minority in Belarus.

Last week the opposition leader
Alexander Milinkevich was addressing the Polish parliament and this week he's been in Brussels. Whereas the Polish parliament is openly supporting his candidacy for President, and money is being channeled towards attempting to help the opposition win the upcoming elections, the European Parliament has to be more wary.

Individual MEPs have expressed concern about the current situation in Belarus but European institutions cannot be seen to be supporting individual candidates in national politics. Although Milinkevich met several very high profile European figures: Javier Solana, Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Josep Borrell as well as foreign ministers and NGO representatives, the visit was all kept rather quiet.

Common consensus seems to be that, despite the presence of OSCE election observers, the elections next month are at high risk of being unfair and that Lukashenko will retain his title of 'last European dictator.' What happens next, bearing in mind increased European pressure, the Ukrainian example, Polish intentions and Russian influence, should be interesting to see.