January minutes

Posted: January 16, 2022 in Group news
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Group minutes for January 2022

We are pleased to attach the minutes of the group’s meeting help via Zoom thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling them. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that we do not produce a newsletter – partly because we were not able to secure an outlet for them in the printed form – so these minutes are much fuller than normal meeting minutes to enable a wider audience to review content.


This bill is being debated in the House of Lords on Monday 17 January 2022. Several members of the local Amnesty group are writing to members in the Lords with a Wiltshire connection to ask them to vote against this pernicious bill. The Lords in question – as far as we can discover – are Lord Eatwell, Baroness Bonham-Carter, Lord Marland and Baroness Bybrook (the former leader of Wiltshire Council, Jane Scott).

Details can be found at http://www.writetothem.com/about-lords. Previously, members have written to our local MPs which has little or no effect since they usually follow the party whip.

The Police, Crime and Sentencing bill represents a concerted attack on our ability to protest. It gives the police more powers – and vague powers – to inhibit protests and demonstrations. The last few weeks has seen the government itself in the dock for a whole series of illegal parties held at 10, Downing Street. Yesterday, the prime minister had to apologise to the Queen for a party held on the eve of Prince Philips’ funeral. Yet these same ministers want to inhibit the right to protest.


Monthly Death Penalty report for Dec 2021 to mid Jan 2022

We are pleased to attach the latest monthly death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it. Note that China – which is believed to execute more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined – is not included since details are a state secret.


Issues to do with refugees and immigrants continue to make waves in the UK

The main development post-Christmas 2021 on the UK refugee front has been the announcement of plans for the proposed Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, originally promised in the Summer. Ministers confirmed that the resettlement scheme will open this month, providing up to 20,000 Afghan women, children, and others most at risk with a safe and legal route to resettle in the UK.

The ACRS will build upon the UK’s continuing efforts to support those at risk, alongside the relocation of British nationals, and those who supported our armed forces through the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

The ACRS will prioritise:

  • those who have assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan
  • extremely vulnerable people such as women and girls at risk and members of minority groups

Minister for Afghan Resettlement, Victoria Atkins, said:

“We are committed to supporting everyone we have evacuated from Afghanistan to make a success of their new life in the UK. I’m very grateful to everyone who has stepped forward to help. The Afghan citizens resettlement scheme provides a safe and legal way for the most vulnerable and at-risk people from Afghanistan to come to the United Kingdom and rebuild their lives, as part of the New Plan for Immigration. Operation Warm Welcome is a huge national effort which could not succeed without the compassion and determination of our partners in local government, the private sector, voluntary organisations and the great British public. “

Further details will be set out this month, but a row has immediately broken out about how many of the refugees are among those already in the UK and whether the “most vulnerable” will be able to be resettled before 2023.

In 2021 a total of 28,300 refugees and asylum seekers arrived in England by boat, three times the number for 2020. The largest number arrived in November, many of them from Afghanistan. The sharp increase in numbers is at least partly accounted for by the reduction in ferry crossings post-COVID and the tighter control of lorries using the Channel Tunnel.

Government figures show that only 1,171 refugees were granted protection through resettlement schemes in the year to September.

Border Force officers are threatening to strike in response to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Channel “pushback” tactics. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said it was “totally opposed” to Patel’s tactics, which would see Border Force jet skis block and redirect migrant boats in the Channel back toward France. Both PCS and the Care4Calais charity have announced they’ll take the Home Office to court over the policy, while PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said his members could go further by striking and refusing to implement it.

Home Office policy

The Independent revealed that the government has given more than £700,000 to a “migration behaviour change” company that runs communications campaigns targeting asylum seekers in their home countries.

The Home Secretary ‘s latest thinking on asylum seekers seems to be directed at keeping even tighter control of those awaiting decisions. Under the Home Office’s “new plan for immigration”, Patel is expected to announce early in the new year that small boat arrivals will be electronically tagged.

Ministers also hope tagging working-age people will make it harder for them to work illegally while their asylum claims are processed, and make it easier to remove those whose application for asylum has failed. The plan has been described as “desperate and draconian” by the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

New bill

The Nationalities and Borders bill continues its progress, having now had a second reading in the Lords. The government’s current emphasis was expressed by Home Office minister Tom Pursglove, who said that the government was reforming its approach to asylum through its new plan for immigration.

“Seeking asylum for protection should not involve people asylum shopping country to country, or risking their lives by lining the pockets of criminal gangs to cross the Channel,” he said. “The nationality and borders bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK illegally and introduce life sentences for those who facilitate illegal entry into the country. It will also strengthen the powers of Border Force to stop and redirect vessels, while introducing new powers to remove asylum seekers to have their claims processed outside the UK.”

Free Movement have concluded that the changes to the bill have made it worse, mainly in the area of making it more difficult for asylum seekers to get hearings: “This Bill will entrench existing problems: people with a legitimate basis to stay in the UK – and genuine grounds to fear removal – can be removed without effective access to justice. Making it legally easier to remove people from the UK in principle does nothing to make the system any more efficient in practice. Greater effort should be made to increase the quality and accuracy of Home Office decision-making in the first place.”

Bridget Chapman, a blogger and refugee charity worker has noted the Home Office’s claims about the ages of migrants – her comments follow (courtesy of Free Movement)

  1. The Home Office has suggested that over 1,100 adults have lied and pretended to be child asylum seekers over the past year
  2. The Home Office has weaponised this claim and has used it to undermine sympathy for young refugees, saying they are not genuine children but predatory adult men
  3. Actually the figures are misleading anyway because of the completely inappropriate and inadequate ways in which assessments are made after young people arrive
  4. They are also misleading because many of the age assessments which find them to be adults are subsequently overturned (those pesky activist lawyers again, damn them)
  5. The Home Office is now promising ‘scientific methods’ for accurately assessing young people’s ages
  6. These methods don’t exist
  7. Much of the media are reporting on these ‘scientific methods’ and uncritically regurgitating Home Office press releases
  8. We should all be really cross about that
  9. There is a real danger to the many asylum-seeking children who are wrongly assessed as adults and have their safeguarding put at risk as a result
  10. Those of us working on the ground with young refugees have serious and growing concerns about this.

However, the biggest attacks on the bill have been about Clause 9, the ability of the Home Secretary to remove British citizenship more easily than at present. It has been suggested that this leaves up to 6 million citizens in jeopardy of such an eventuality.

On campaigning, note that the organisers of Refugee Week will be holding their planning conference online on two dates:

Monday 7 February 1030am – 1245pm
Friday 11 February 1030am – 1215pm

Places are available.


Other bills which will have an effect on human rights were discussed in a previous post.


Report released by Korea Future on the persecution of religious believers in North Korea

A Report has been produced by Korea Future containing detailed evidence of the scale and extent of religious persecution taking place in North Korea. Entitled: Persecuting Faith: Documenting religious freedom violations in North Korea (vol 2) It is based on 456 documented cases of human rights violations involving 244 victims and 141 perpetrators.

There are two mains religious beliefs in North Korea: Shamanism and Christianity. Both are severely persecuted and those thought or accused of engaging in either are subject to brutal treatment. This includes physical beatings, ingestion of polluted food, positional torture, sleep deprivation and forced squat jumps.

The Ministry of People’s Security are responsible for 90% of the documented serious human rights violations against Shamanic adherents and the Ministry of State Security is responsible for 90% of violations against Christians. The difference is that Christianity is seen as a political crime and adherents are tried in secret. To possess a bible is to risk death.

Sources: Korea Future; Private Eye

Statistics

Posted: January 2, 2022 in Uncategorized

We are pleased to report that the number of views to this site was an all-time record in 2021 at 8,375. This is an increase of 28% on 2020 itself a record. Well over six thousand were from the USA and just under a thousand from the UK. A surprise is over 200 from PRC, China where almost certainly sites such as this are blocked due partly to our references to the abuses of the Uyghurs.

We wish a happy New Year to our readers and followers.


The Supreme Court in Moscow today (Tuesday, 28 December 2021) ordered the closure of the human rights group Memorial is a move which is seen as another step in the route to greater authoritarianism by President Putin in Russia. The group fell foul of the ‘foreign agent’ law, a law passed in 2016 to make life difficult for human rights groups to operate in the country. The prosecution accused the group of ‘creating a false image of USSR as a terrorist state’. Memorial sought to shed light on the horrors of the Stalin era when millions died in a vast network of gulags.

Amnesty International described the decision as ‘a grave insult to the victims of the Russian gulag’. With suppression of opposition parties – Navalny is imprisoned for example – and the intimidation or murder of journalists, Russia is living up to its sobriquet of a ‘gangster state’.


May we wish all our supporters, readers and followers a happy Christmas and a happy New Year. We have had an increase in readership to this site this year which is very gratifying although sadly, we seldom get much in the way of interaction. Human rights are increasingly important and the local group will be focusing on the threat to the UK Human Rights Act which the government would like to see neutered in various ways. We are also concerned about the bills the government is pushing through to limit protest and to reduce the powers of the courts to hold the government to account.

We have welcomed several new members this year and it is a shame that we cannot meet in person more often because of Covid.


The group carried out its annual carol singing around a selection of streets in Salisbury on Monday. The actual carols were sung by the excellent Farrant Singers who split into two groups. Because of Covid we could not enter the host’s house for soup and cheese which in previous years has been an enjoyable end to the evening. We are grateful as ever for the support of the Farrants and the residents many of whom gave generously to Amnesty. We are also grateful to group member Chantal for providing the hospitality.


Dr. Osama Yassin is a paediatrician – but right now, he is sitting on death row in Egypt – where there is human rights crisis. 

He was arrested in 2013 and has been in solitary confinement since – often denied food and water. He was sentenced to death alongside 11 other men in a mass trial of 739 people and faces imminent execution. 

No specific evidence was introduced against Dr Osama in his trial.

This is reproduced from a message from Reprieve. If you can add your name to their petition that would be wonderful. You can access it here.