Thursday, February 19, 2009

For readers in England

Press release below:

Modern Movement has organised a demonstration in favour of more flights for all:

Support Airport Expansion: Thursday 19 February, 17.30 -19.30 on Parliament Square, East Footway, London. For more details, see: Modern Movement

"The extension of flying to millions of people has been a liberation. Most of us can now afford to go on holiday and welcome the cheapening of air travel allowing us to fly abroad. The development of aviation infrastructure is crucial to allow ever more people to fly."

Join us in front of Parliament to argue for guilt-free travel, for ever-cheaper flights and for freedom of movement. Facebook event page: here

Come along and feel free to forward this information to colleagues/members and friends.

British government claims on asylum seeker removals branded a 'mockery'

Six in ten people the Home Office claims to have removed never entered the country or left of their own accord, the Daily Telegraph can disclose. Ministers boast that the UK Border Agency removes a failed asylum seeker, illegal immigrant or foreign criminal every eight minutes. That is based on more than 63,000 people who had no right to stay in the UK and were removed or left in 2007, the most recent figures. But almost half of those were turned back at a port of entry and one in ten left voluntary.

The Daily Telegraph can also disclose that up to a quarter of a million failed asylum seekers who should have been removed under Labour are still here. Figures slipped out to MPs in a parliamentary written answer show in 2007 some 63,365 people were removed, left voluntarily or took advantage of the assisted returns packages. As a result ministers continually defend the work of the UK Border Agency by claiming it removes someone every eight minutes. But 31,145 - or 49 per cent - of those were refused at a port of entry, either here or at points abroad, and never officially entered the UK. A further 6,885 - 11 per cent - were in the UK but left of their own accord without informing the immigration authorities.

A separate investigation by this newspaper shows at least 227,000 failed asylum seekers who should have been removed since 1997 may still be here. The vast number does not even include those involved in the 450,000 backlog cases the Home Office is desperately trying to clear, which is likely to throw up tens of thousands more. It follows a scathing report by Government auditors last month which widely criticised performance in the asylum system.

There were just over 750,000 claims for asylum, including dependants, between 1997 and 2007, based on the Home Office's own statistics. Of those, just over 541,000 were refused. The National Audit Office estimates seven in ten refusals go to appeal, of which between 20 and 25 per cent are overturned. Based on that estimate just over 87,000 more would have been allowed to stay during the period, plus around 92,000 who were granted stay under effective short term amnesties to clear backlogs. That leaves just over 362,000 but the research shows only around 136,000 were removed during the ten year period. Some will also have left of their own accord but the Home Office has no way of knowing and it means up to at least 227,000 may still be here.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: "These figures make a mockery of Labour's claim to be getting a grip on the asylum system. "Far from making inroads into the numbers of failed asylum seekers who are in this country, the number looks set to get bigger."

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, added: "Asylum applications are now only ten per cent of net foreign immigration but that is no excuse for such a dismal performance."

The Home Office insisted the latest research does not represent a "full picture" because it does not account for who leave the country voluntarily or have outstanding appeals and figures for the number of dependants removed were unavailable for 1997 to 2000. On the one in eight removal claim, a spokesman added: "Britain now has one of the toughest borders in the world and these figures are proof that our juxtaposed controls are working - in 2007 we stopped 18,000 people getting into the UK, and last year we barred even more. "We will not tolerate anyone who seeks to abuse the system, which is why we moved our border controls to France. This means we can turn people away before they even step foot on British soil."


Millions opt for DoItYourself dentistry

Millions of people in England have resorted to DIY dentistry, a survey by consumer magazine Which? suggests. The poll, of 2,631 adults, found 8% had tried to fix their own dental problems - and a similar number knew somebody who had tried. Of those who admitted trying the DIY approach, one in four had tried to pull out a tooth using pliers.

Since a new dental contract was introduced in 2006 there has been growing concern over access to care. But the government said the findings of the survey were unreliable, and said access to NHS dentistry was improving. Ministers have announced an independent review of NHS dentistry in England, which will report back later this year.

Which? will be making a submission to this review and is currently carrying out detailed research to build an accurate picture of the state of NHS dentistry. The latest survey found 12% of those who had tried DIY techniques had tried to extract a tooth by using a piece of string tied to a door handle. Some 30% of DIY dentists had tried to whiten their teeth with household cleaning products. Other DIY procedures people admitted to included:

Using household glue to stick down a filling or crown (11%)

Popping an ulcer with a pin (19%)

Trying to mend or alter dentures (8%)

Trying to stick down a loose filling with chewing gum (6%)

Which? health campaigner, Jenny Driscoll, said: "This research shows the desperate measures people will resort to. "Everyone should have access to good quality dental treatment so it's worrying to see so many people resorting to doing it themselves."

Susie Sanderson, of the British Dental Association, said: "While worries about accessing or paying for dental care can clearly be a concern, it really isn't advisable to resort to do-it-yourself care. "We hear too many horror stories about people pulling out the wrong tooth, or causing themselves to have an infection, and urge anyone considering this path to think again. It is all too easy to make the problem worse, rather than solve it. "If you are having trouble accessing NHS dental care then contact your local primary care trust."

Mike Penning, the shadow health minister, said: "It is a scandal that millions of people are resorting to pulling out their own teeth as a result of Labour's disastrous mismanagement of NHS dentistry. "These survey results are a direct consequence of the introduction of Labour's botched dental contract which has left millions without an NHS dentist."

But Barry Cockcroft, the chief dental officer for England, gave the Which? survey very short shrift. He said: "These findings come from an online multiple choice survey that has no statistical credibility. It is ludicrous to suggest that three million people are doing DIY dentistry. "DIY dentistry is dangerous and unnecessary. Thanks to our investment of over 2bn pounds in NHS dentistry, there are now lots of new NHS dental practices expanding and opening around the country."


UK: Terrorist threat "exploited to curb civil liberties"

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Her comments came on the same day as a report published by international jurists suggested that Britain and America have led other countries in "actively undermining" the rule of law and "threatening civil liberties" in the guise of fighting terrorism.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Dame Stella said that a series of increasingly draconian policies have led British citizens to "live in fear and under a police state". The 73-year-old said: "Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people's privacy. "It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state."

Dame Stella, who became the first female head of MI5 in 1992 and held the position until 1996, has long been a vocal critic of the Government's plans to introduce ID cards and lengthen the amount of time terror suspects are held without charge to 42 days. In the interview yesterday, she also criticised the United States. She said: "The US has gone too far with Guantanamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification."

The former MI5 chief chose to air her views on the same day as a three-year study called for urgent measures to stop the erosion of individual freedom by states and the abandoning of draconian measures brought on with the "War on Terror". The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the legal framework which broadly existed in democratic countries before 9/11 was "sufficiently robust to meet current threats".

Instead, a series of security measures were brought in, many of which were illegal and counter-productive, instilling anger and resentment expressed through violent protests. One worrying development, says the report, was that liberal democracies such as the UK and US have been at the forefront of advocating the new aggressive policies and that has given totalitarian regimes the excuse to bring in their own repressive laws.

The ICJ panel, which included Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and Arthur Chaskelson, the former president of the South African constitutional court, gathered their evidence from 40 countries. They took testimony from government officials, ministers, and people in prison for alleged terrorist offences.

The actions of the US has immense influence on the behaviour of other countries, the study maintained, and the jurists called on President Barack Obama to repeal policies which came with the "war on terror paradigm" and were inconsistent with international human rights law. "In particular, it should renounce the use of torture and other proscribed interrogation techniques, extraordinary renditions, and secret and prolonged detention without charge or trial". The report stated: "The framework of international law is being undermined... the US and UK have led that undermining."

The jurists examined cases which included "individuals abducted and held in secret prisons, where they have been tortured and ill-treated; terrorist suspects held incommunicado for extended periods before being charged and before they have access to lawyers; a culture of secrecy (in which) suspects are being placed beyond the basic protections afforded by... international humanitarian laws".

The ICJ "received evidence that intelligence services... effectively enjoy impunity for human rights violations. In addition... state secrecy or public interest immunity have been used to foreclose civil suits and hence remedies to the victims of such abuses."

Mr Chaskelson, chairman of the panel, said: "... we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive... counter-terrorism measures..."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We recognise clearly our obligations to protect the public from terrorist atrocities while upholding our firm commitment to human rights and civil liberties. Our policies strike that balance."


UK: Hundreds of photographers join police picture protest

HUNDREDS of photographers protested in London on Monday against a new law which makes it illegal to take pictures of the police. Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force yesterday, allows for the arrest of anyone who takes photographs of police officers, police stations and other public servants which are "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

Some 300 angry snappers gathered outside the Scotland Yard headquarters of the Metropolitan Police to flout the new law by taking photos of the building. The demonstration, organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the British Journal of Photography, issued a demand - backed by Labour MP Austin Mitchell - that the Home Office draws up guidelines to prevent photojournalists being searched by police and even prosecuted, merely for doing their job. In contrast, police have the right to photograph citizens engaged in legal public protests.

NUJ vice-president Peter Murray described the law as "bizarre." He said: "Even if the officer happens to be in the background, the photographer may end up on the wrong side of the law."

Amateur Photographer magazine news editor Chris Cheesman said that his readers were being stopped at a rate of two or three each week. Speaking at the protest, he said: "It seems that, if you have a professional-looking camera or you are using a tripod, the police feel they have to stop you. The law is being misinterpreted more and more often."

Comedian and civil rights campaigner Mark Thomas said that, unless new guidelines are issued, Section 76 will make work "hazardous" for photojournalists. "In a democracy, the government should be accountable to the people. This law is putting the reverse into practice, making the people accountable to authority."

The Home Office denied that the law would be used to prevent legitimate photography. But Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said later that his organisation shared the concerns of the photographers and backed the call for a photography code to "facilitate photography wherever possible, rather than seek reasons to bar it. "As things stand, there is a real risk of photographers being hampered in their legitimate work and of police officers facing opprobrium for carrying out what they believe are duties imposed on them by the law," he added.


British Labor Party figures support ban on a film they haven't seen

I have a piece up at Pajamas Media on the British government's appalling decision to ban Geert Wilders from entering the UK. In it I mention that the idiotic Labour MP Keith Vaz appeared on the BBC's Newsnight to condemn Wilders and his film Fitna, but then admitted he hadn't seen the film. Also in the piece, responding to Foreign Secretary David Miliband's claim that Fitna contained "extreme anti-Muslim hate" I wrote:
If Miliband has seen the film, then he's lying; if he hasn't seen it, he's guessing.

Turns out he was guessing. From Harry's Place, via Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:
Miliband, having watched Fitna, obviously feels it does 'stir up hate, religious and racial hatred'. But, hold on. When asked by the interviewer if he had actually watched Fitna he responded that he had not and didn't need to as he already knew what was in it! Fitna is a 16 minute film, easily accessible online. Is it really so much to ask that our political overlords bother to watch a film before condemning it and supporting its creator being barred from the country? How is Miliband any better than Muslims who screamed about The Satanic Verses without bothering to read it?

Also at The Corner, Mark Steyn has a good post on the subject:
If young Muslim girls are being kidnapped and forced into marriage with their first cousins, the British Home Office minister will suggest that these matters are best handled discreetly and informally. If young Muslim girls are being murdered in "honor killings", the Chief Commissar of the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission will explain that they're a "small commission" and they have to be able to prioritize and that Mark Steyn is a far greater threat to the Queen's peace than killers of Muslim women.

But, if you don't threaten violence, if you don't issue death threats, if you don't kill anyone, if you just make a movie or write a book or try to give a speech, the state will prosecute you, ban you or (in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali) force you to flee your own country.

In their appeasement of thugs, buffoons like Miliband and the Tory squishes across the House of Commons on the Opposition benches are making it very clear that the state accords more respect to violence than to debate.

It's truly terrifying that Britain is being run by people this ignorant, and this arrogant. With the Tories apparently not offering much more in the way of backbone than the fascist bureaucrats of Labour, it's hard to see how Britain can pull out of this tailspin towards what Steyn calls 'civilizational suicide'.


Race of attackers mentioned for once. I wonder why? "An Australian woman has been subjected to a horrific seven-hour rape ordeal after being snatched from the streets of Edinburgh in broad daylight. Two men grabbed the 24-year old woman and sprayed her in the face with a "noxious substance'' before dragging her into nearby bushes, police say. The woman had been walking through an underpass near the city centre at 3pm on Monday. She was not released until 10pm, after a prolonged assault that has shocked local officers. A police spokeswoman said: "This young woman has been subjected to a terrifying ordeal at the hands of these two men - the trauma she has experienced cannot be underestimated. Police were last night unable to provide further details about the woman, such as which state she was from or whether she was a tourist or resident. The suspects are described as being white, Eastern European, and in their 20s."

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