On Byline Times: MPs slam Home Office for “Windrush” scandal that hit 50,000 overseas students over cheating claims

Home Office HQ: MPs accuse the ministry under Theresa May of ” entirely unacceptable” behaviour in handling the problem

MPs today accused the Home Office of learning nothing from another “Windrush” scandal over their treatment of 50,000 overseas students from outside the EU and European Economic Area who were said – many wrongly – of cheating in oral English language tests to get a university place.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said it is “staggered” by the uncaring attitude of the Home Office over the fate of thousands of students who were accused five years ago and had their visas cancelled or voluntarily left the country as a result. Others had to spend thousands of pounds to win court cases against the government to prove their innocence.

The full story is here on Byline Times.

Byline Times: EU countries and Switzerland tighten laws to block Brits right to work in Europe in “No Deal” Brexit

EU and UK flag: Pic Credit: European Commission

The Swiss will introduce work quotas, the Danes and Estonians will treat new Brits settling there after Oct 31 under the Alien laws and the Belgians will introduce tough border checks to see whether we have enough money to holiday there.

All this is in new legislation already passed by many of the 31 countries in Europe to counter Boris Johnson’s No deal Brexit on October 31.

Read the full story with all the facts on Byline Times here. Plus you can check the new legislation yourself – most of it in English – by going to an expat blog Dispatches Europe.

Cabo San Lucas: Mexico’s pristine environment on the front line of an American invasion

President Trump is more than keen to build a wall to keep out immigrant criminals, drug dealers and bad people from entering the United States from Mexico.

Yet some 1000 miles away from the proposed wall Americans are very happy to move into a country seen by some as a dangerous hotbed of crime and violence threatening the foundations of the US.

The front line for this “invasion” is Cabo San Lucas a fast growing resort in Baja California some 300 miles south of San Diego and once one of the remotest parts of the world.

Some 50 years ago it was a small fishing village set among spectacular scenery at the ” Lands End” of Baja California a long slither of land separated from the mainland of Mexico by an inland sea and then an extremely isolated home for amazing wildlife.

Every year grey whales from Alaska come and breed in Pacific Ocean off the coast and there are colonies of sea lions and pelicans plus a huge variety of other birds and fish. The local scenery is spectacular with huge rocks and pinnacles rising out of the ocean and a much photographed natural arch. Cabo San Lucas is also on the edge of a giant underwater canyon which makes for fine scuba diving. Outside the resort the desolate desert scenery is full of forests of slow growing cacti.

According to the guides the turning point in Cabo’s history came when the Mexican government altered land tenure law and allowed its original inhabitants to own their land in the village. Instead of sharing the windfall the people lucky enough to own property sold it to multinational corporations at what looked to them a vast profit. Most were American real estate companies who saw the opportunity to create a resort to exploit the stunning scenery and wildlife.

Now there are no original village homes left, local fishing has ceased,and an ever expanding ribbon of hotels,condominiums, apartments ,shopping malls and time shares have been built into the surrounding hills making it the most expensive city in Mexico. Villas with commanding views of the sea sell for seven million dollars. Millionaire yachts dock in the harbour alongside tourist boats.

The resort is and looks American with Walmart, Dominos Pizzas and McDonalds along the main streets. Most shops advertise their wares in English with pharmicists offering sleeping pills and body building drugs without prescriptions.Development has brought advantages for local people with most of the population in tourism or employed by real estate companies. Mexico unlike the US encourages immigration anyone who can earn the equivalent of 2000 US dollars,according to the guides, is welcome.
As a result Cabo has attracted people from other Central and South America to work there.


There are downsides. The pristine scenery and abundant wildlife is under threat by this mass invasion. Also the Koreans and Japanese are overfishing the abundant waters off Mexico though the under sourced Mexican government is trying to limit their activity.
The real dangers are that the overdevelopment of the area could eventually destroy its main attractions. There is also a national park where development is restricted which offers hope. But the town is both an example of pristine nature being exploited by corporate greed.

Report from Aruba: The boom tourist island off crisis hit Venezuela 

Just 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela lies the former Dutch colony of Aruba.The state of Aruba could not be more different from Venezuela.

While Venezuela is facing its worst economic crisis with hyper inflation and three million people have fled the country mainly to Colombia and Brazil, Aruba is in the middle of a tourist boom.

The distance from Aruba to Venezuela is less than that between Dover and Calais so it is not surprising, though it is unreported, that Venezuelans have also sought refuge here. Officially they are deported back to Venezuela if found but unofficially with the current labour shortages many may not be. And unlike the phobia by some in the UK of immigrants flooding the country this small island of 118000 people seems to welcome them.

Aruba is a curious mixture of American high rise resort hotels,holiday apartments and casinos and Dutch social welfarism shown by affordable state housing schemes and a national contributory health service.

Most Arubians are trilingual – they learn Dutch,English and Spanish in school – though Dutch is the official language. They are mainly Roman Catholic rather than Protestant due to the legacy of the original Spanish conquerors of Aruba and their local currency still is the guilder long abolished in favour of the Euro in Holland. Nearly all the supermarkets are owned by the Chinese.

Arubians who want to study medicine or engineering go to Dutch universities and Arubians are proud they have freedom of movement as EU as well Dutch citizens. From March 29 they will have more freedom of movement than the British.

The biggest deal for Arubians is tourism. An estimated 1.8 million people visit the island every year from cruise ships and direct flights from the US and South America.As a result most people are employed by the tourism industry.There is a also a flourishing aloe vera industry as it has a dry desert like climate – it doesn’t rain for 8 months a year.

Intriguingly the country used to refine Venezuela oil but the big refinery was closed. It still imports a lot of its fruit and vegetables from Venezuela – which given the shortages in Venezuela is remarkable.

The main tourist attraction are the beaches – the hinterland when not developed is mainly desert scrub and grazed by goats- goat is staple diet. Wild creatures include iguanas, rattlesnakes which are protected and boa constrictors which were irresponsibly released into the wild.

When the local pest control are called out it is often to remove a boa that has got into someone’s yard.

But what is the most extraordinary is the parallel universe between Aruba and Venezuela – so close together but so far apart.

A rosy celebration in a London square of good relations between Bulgaria and Britain

Bulgarian 1st Rose jpg

The first  perfumed Damascene rose donated by the Bulgarians to London flowers in Golden Square

While London is shortly to have a nationalistic pro Brexit  demonstration following the “Free Tommy Robinson ”  violent right wing extremist march last weekend, a square in the heart of Soho  was a venue to  celebrate the  opposite to those stirring up hate and prejudice  – a celebration of how the Bulgarians contribute to London life.

Bulgaria Dancers Party

Bulgarian dancers

The Bulgarians took over Golden Square for an afternoon of dancing, singing and speeches from both the London mayor’s office and Tory councillors representing the area in Westminster plus an impromptu speech from me. My grandson Leon thought the dancing was similar in some ways to Irish dancing.

 

Bulgaria Group Food

A spread of Bulgarian food

There was also a a selection of Bulgarian food – which is influenced by both Turkish and Greek cuisine – and  was offered free to any members of the public who happened to be enjoying the sunshine in the square at the time.

Bulgaria Junior Dancer PartyAnd schoolchildren also performed dances

The contrast between the manufactured  fear of the other in the media  and the attitudes of the people there could not be stronger. And I suspect this is reflected in many other ethnic minority communities. Pictures were supplied by Boyko Boev.

Bulgaria Group Foto Party

The Bulgarians and guests at the celebration

Official figures reveal a disturbing rise in right wing extremism among UK youth

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Scenes from the right wing demo in defence of extremist Tommy Robinson pic credit: You Tube

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The somewhat violent demonstration in London this weekend in support of jailed right wing extremist Tommy Robinson was foreshadowed by figures released under three months ago by the Home Office.

The figures come from the highly controversial Prevent programme which most people see as a plan to catch young people  being radicalised by so called Islamic State and Al Qaeda before they commit atrocities.

What is not  as well known is that the Prevent programme also tackles people radicalised by racist and Fascist organisations who aim to commit violent acts against Muslims, Sikhs and other ethnic minorities, including Africans and East Europeans.

Just over two months ago the Home Office published a report and analysis of the latest figures of who is being targeted.

These are people who if one follows the official guidance are those who  have “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

The disturbing fact is that the latest figures for 2016-17 reveal there has been a RISE in the number of young people radicalised by right wing extremism while there has been a FALL in the number of people radicalised by perversions of Islam.

The report says: “There was a 28% increase in the number of extreme right wing referrals in 2016/17 (968) when compared with 2015/16 (759); whilst referrals for concerns related to Islamist extremism decreased by 26% over the same time (2015/16, 4,997; 2016/17, 3,704).
The proportion of panel discussions [ most serious cases] regarding extreme right wing related concerns has increased by 44%, from 188 in 2015/16 to 271 in 2016/2017. Similarly, the number of individuals receiving Channel support for extreme right wing related concerns has also increased over the same time period by 27% (2015/16, 98; 2016/17, 124).
This is in contrast to individuals receiving support for concerns related to Islamist extremism,which has decreased by 30% between 2015/16 (264) and 2016/17 (184).”

The right wing extremists were almost exclusively male ( 902 out of 968) while only 77 per cent of those monitored for Islamic extremism only 77 per cent were men.

The largest proportion in both groups were teenagers aged between 15 and 20 with right wing extremists being almost exclusively male.

There was also a considerable variation between regions for the two groups.

“Of the 3,704 individuals referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism, the largest proportion was from London (1,039; 28%), whereas of the 968 individuals referred for concerns related to right wing extremism, the largest proportion was from the North East (171; 18%).

Of the 760 individuals discussed at a Channel panel for concerns related to Islamist extremism, the largest proportion was from London (214; 28%), whereas of the 271 individuals discussed at a Channel panel for concerns related to right wing extremism, the largest population was from the West Midlands (47; 17%).”

This suggests a considerable divide in the country – with  multi cultural London having fewer right wing extremists than the deprived North East and the West Midlands where there have been racial tensions.

The general message is that Britain is becoming more divided and that racism and Fascism among the young is rising, particularly in areas where there are fewer people from ethnic minorities.

This was born out by a chat with a person  at the Race on the Agenda conference on mental health reform  in London last week who was dealing with the Prevent programme in Dorset. Here it was in the rural areas where young poorly educated men who had seen few immigrants appeared to be attracted to right wing extremism. The issues raised by  Brexit had also been a factor in highlighting tensions.

Whatever it is this is a deeply disturbing trend and it suggests that focus on the rise of all types of extremism should concentrate equally on right wing racists as much as Islamic extremists.

 

 

 

 

Take time to smell the roses: Bulgarians love bomb London to counter British hate media

Bulgarians Soho square

Bulgarians after completing the planting of the damascene roses in Golden Square Soho in London Pic credits: Boyko Boev

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The Bulgarians have not had a good press -particularly in the  Sun, Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

The Sun sent a reporter to Sofia to portray them as rushing to  hand out Britain just to claim benefits. The Daily Mail quoted a survey by a gambling company saying Bulgarians were the laziest people in Europe. The Daily Mail and The Telegraph have repeatedly highlighted that Britain is being flooded with them under EU rules.

Yet very little is known about the Bulgarians in Britain..until now. Bulgarian academics at Warwick University and the University of Florida  have carried out a detailed survey of  151 Bulgarians living and working in London for a report which has gone to Sadiq Khan, the London mayor. It is not a representative survey but it is full of insights.

And it coincided with a remarkable gesture by the Bulgarians – who have planted their national floral pride – the Rosa Damascena –  the perfumed rose grown for centuries in Bulgaria -in Golden Square, Soho – re-enacting  a gift to London  from Sofia 95 years ago-in 1923.

The report says: “After 2013, this community was caught unwittingly in the crossfire of an especially heated immigration debate around Brexit, feeding off of public discontent and strong activity of the opposition. Bulgarians and Romanians have been collectively sneered with reference to perceived combination of cultural and social traits. This form of bias is still highly discriminatory, even if not directly versed in common understandings of racism (of quasi-biological labels and insult).”

Bulgarians planting roses

Bulgarians planting the roses

What the survey did was examine groups of Bulgarians living in London from their 20s to their 50s and 60s. One fact that shows the media coverage suggesting Bulgarians are here to claim benefits is completely refuted. Just four were out of work.

The second suggestion that Bulgarians are lazy gets equal short shift – it turns out one of the favourite pastimes of Bulgarians in the capital – whether 20 or 50 – is going to the gym. Hardly couch potatoes then.

And a lot are highly educated with university degrees or high school diplomas – they are not always able to get jobs suitable to their qualifications.

Highly educated women were most affected  “Many work as housekeepers, babysitters, care providers and “personal assistants”, says the report.

But younger Bulgarians were getting jobs suitable for their qualifications. These included marketing or public relations coordinator, accountant, sales representative, teacher, programmer, as well as jobs requiring manual labour, such as a cook, car-mechanic, construction worker, barman, and stage worker in the theatre.

Living in London also changed the attitude of some Bulgarians Those in their 30s said  that their new life in London has changed them for the better, and that they have become more ‘tolerant towards diversity,’ ‘patient,’ ‘more open’, ‘exposed to more travel,’ ‘walking more often than earlier in Bulgaria’ and visiting more cultural events,

The report added: “there are also statements indicative of closing socially, due to extremely busy schedules: ‘I am becoming more productive due to the quick pace of life, but also more mindful of my private time, which is a limited resource.’

The report does pick up damage done by right wing media coverage which meant that many were reluctant to work outside London because they thought the rest of Britain would be more intolerant about them being there.

The report also says the majority were happy living London despite it being more stressful than their native country.  One recommendation  to the London  mayor is that London helps ,particularly older Bulgarians, to become more fluent in English by laying on language courses. This would help the older generation of Bulgarians here become more integrated than they are.

There is a 11 minute video from Warwick University academic Maria Koinova which gives the background to the study.