29th September 2010: This was my contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the action taken by France concerning the Roma.
"The fact that the people, who were returned from France to the countries from which they had come, were Roma leads to the presumption that they were returned because they were Roma. The French Government would claim that they were returned because of their activities and inactivity.
"The idea that different treatment amounts to discrimination is based on the assumption that generalisations cannot justifiably be made about different peoples. However, even the impeccably anti-discriminatory head of the Socialist Group described the Roma recently in the plenary session as a difficult minority. He and others spoke of the Roma and the need to enforce the criminal law in the same sentence. Their innuendos were clear. The Roma were involved disproportionately - not universally but disproportionately in some forms of criminal activity.
A few months ago, in a LIBE hearing about human trafficking, I asked if any population groups were involved disproportionately among the traffickers and the trafficked. The representative of Europol replied "the Roma" to both questions."
(I ran out of time but I would have continued with the following)
"The plan to spend large sums of money to integrate the Roma is based on two questionable propositions:
1. that it is morally right to tell people to leave their traditional way of life and live like other people and
2. that individuals and peoples are malleable and the product of their treatment. Spend money on people and they will change. They will not!"
29TH September 2010: THESE were my contributions this morning to the second day of the hearing in LIBE on Combating sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
When I arrived to sign in, one of the attendants said that they were waiting for me to arrive. I thought that this was a strange remark to make, as I am only reserve member of the committee from the Non-Attached group.
It was then that I saw that I was the first person to arrive apart from the Vice President presiding over the hearing. A few more arrived after me but probably no more than five or six and at one point there appeared to be only three MEPs including me. The co-ordinators had obviously thought that this hearing was so important to hold but not important enough to attend.
These are the questions I asked and comments I made.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Miss Shaw (one of the speakers from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre - CEOP) mentioned that the sex offenders register had prevented attempts by convicted paedophiles to gain employment with children from succeeding.
What happens when sex offenders are caught seeking such employment?
Have they committed an offence (by making such an attempt)?
Are registered sex offenders prevented from having access to the internet?
REPLY: Miss Shaw said that offenders seeking employment with children would certainly be in breach of the registration order. She said that the most serious sex offenders were prevented from have internet access.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Miss von Weiler (one of the speakers from Innocence in Danger) mentioned that abusers were often people trusted by the family and the child believes that he/she will not be believed. Sometimes they are right. There are cases of wives and partners of abusers placing themselves in denial, even after conviction. Do we need a public education programme for parents telling them the warning signs and explaining how they might make it easier for their children to tell them about abuse. Perhaps it might persuade parents to carry out certain procedures such as checking on computer use by their children.
REPLY: There was no response to this.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Mr. Sellström (a speaker from the Swedish Police Force) said that the total number of children identified as victims of child abuse by child pornography images was only 1,852 and implied that this was only a small proportion of the total number of victims pictured on such sites.
How small a proportion this?
REPLY: There was no response to this.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Mr. Robbins (one of the speakers from the Internet Watch Foundation) said that 98.6% of broadband users used service providers that co-operated with the Internet Watch Foundation).
Who are the other 1.4%?
Have they chosen their service providers innocently or have they chosen their service providers because they do not co-operate with Internet Watch?
Why do the service providers not co-operate?
Are they complicit with the abusers?
Are they lazy or careless?
Are they simply ignorant?"
REPLY: Mr. Robbins and another speaker seemed to indicate that some broadband users might have chosen service providers deliberately because they did not co-operate with Internet Watch but were reluctant to suggest that that was the main reason.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Mr. McNamee (Advocacy Co-ordinator of European Digital Rights) has said that blocking can be used to prevent access to sites that are unconnected to child abuse.
Is it used by member states to prevent access to international political web-sites unconnected to any form of pornography?
If they did I would deplore such measures. However, that would not seem to be a reason for refraining from blocking sites that do distribute child pornography.
You mentioned Deep Packet Inspection (cataloguing and storing everybody's internet use in order to discover whether people were gaining access to child abuse sites).
Could this be used by unscrupulous governments to identify people who might have gained access to unapproved political websites?
REPLY: Mr. McNamee said that blocking had been used against an ant-paedophile web-site but disclaimed any knowledge of blocking access to political web-sites.
QUESTION & COMMENT: Mr Noten mentioned the connection between child abuse and prostitution. In some towns and cities of the United Kingdom, adolescent girls have been targeted by abusers who convince their victims that they have a romantic attachment. This is used to get them addicted to Class A drugs and to groom them for prostitution.
The town that is best known for this practice is Keighley in Yorkshire. However, when the abusers operate from sensitive* areas the police are reluctant to intervene and the media are reluctant to report the abuse.
REPLY: There was no response to this.
* sensitive areas might just as easily be described as enriched areas.
28th September 2010: This was the third contribution of yesterday afternoon from Andrew Brons, this time during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Passenger Name Record agreements between the EU and the USA, Australia and Canada.
Our MEP for Yorkshire and North-East Lincolnshire said:
"When this subject was last discussed (in LIBE), I expressed my surprise that Australia should need such information because all passengers travelling to that country need to have a visa, which requires them to be identified. Other MEPs seemed to be similarly bemused. However, a member of the Secretariat afterwards explained that this agreement would require much more information to be supplied - the person's travel history (to which countries that person had travelled) and even credit card payment details.
In my view, this is an example of a line being crossed between supplying the identities of people travelling to a state, which it is perfectly acceptable for that state to know, and the handing over of information that is possibly sensitive and has security relevance only if there is some independent evidence placing persons under suspicion."
28th September 2010: This was a contribution made by Andrew Brons in Brussels yesterday to debates in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home affairs Committee (LIBE) on (i) the Re-admission Agreement between the EU and Georgia; and (ii) the facilitation of the issue of visas (to Georgian nationals).
"Why should it be necessary for a state (Georgia in this instance) to have to consent to their own nationals being returned? I can understand that Georgia might be reluctant to accept the citizens of third countries that might have travelled illegally to the EU from Georgia. I should have thought that such people would, more appropriately, have been sent to the third country in question, rather than to Georgia from which they travelled.
The facilitation of visas being issued to people from Georgia has ostensibly nothing to do with immigration or permanent residence. However, once a person has been admitted to the European Union, there are few real safeguards against them seeking work and permanent homes and becoming, de facto, immigrants. Their questionable status would make them vulnerable to exploitation of the worst possible kind. This is about third countries, with visa facilitation, becoming, in effect, an outer ring of quasi member states."