The minutes of the group meeting in January 2108 are attached thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  We are pleased to see a further increase in the numbers following the Website – the biggest monthly rise ever.  New members are always welcome and our next meeting is on February 8th in Victoria Road but always check beforehand in case there is a change in venue.

January minutes (Word)

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Many human rights organisations worried by the Brexit* Bill’s threat to human rights

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Liberty are among those who are expressing concerns that the EU (Withdrawal) bill will weaken our human rights protections because it seeks to remove the Charter of Fundamental Rights from our law.  The Charter is important because it protects fundamental issues important to us such as dignity, data, worker’s rights, children and more.  By excluding this, our rights will be weakened.  In their annual report, Human Rights Watch say:

More than six months after the government formally triggered the start of Brexit, significant concerns remained about the status of rights and protection for all UK residents derived from EU law after the UK leaves the EU. A draft law to move EU law into domestic law after Brexit raised serious concerns about granting broad powers to the executive to amend laws undermining rights without parliamentary scrutiny, and excluding rights currently protected under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (HRW, 2018)

Amnesty has raised similar concerns:

While the Bill claims to be copying and pasting EU derived law into domestic law, it leaves one, crucial element behind on the cutting room floor – the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.  The Charter plays an important role in our domestic rights protection architecture.  Unlike the European Convention on Human Rights (which has nothing to do with the EU), the Charter only applies when EU law is in issue – like questions about data retention, or pension rights – but it provides stronger protection than the ECHR in those areas (judges can use it to ‘strike down’ primary legislation, like they did when the Brexit Minister David Davis MP used it himself in a privacy case recently!) It is a clear statement of fundamental rights which we all enjoy.  If this is simply a cut and paste job as the government says, then why is the only thing they are leaving behind our rights protection?

The current government has had a long and at times tortuous relationship with human rights.  It is surprising to compare a Conservative government after the war, led by Winston Churchill, who was instrumental in pushing for improved rights and which led to the current architecture of law on the subject, with the current government who wants to abolish the Human Rights Act and remove the Charter as well.

The reasons are complex and sometimes hard to fathom.  It is connected in part with a dislike of all things European.  Europe is the cause of so many of our problems it is claimed and once Brexit is accomplished, we shall be free.  According to Mrs. May, it prevents us deporting dangerous criminals which it doesn’t.  We are unable to deport some people because of various treaties which prevent us sending people to a country where they are likely to be tortured.  It overrides parliament they claim and so we need to do this to regain our sovereignty.  It does not.  But the myths, endlessly repeated by politicians and some parts of the media are widely believed.

We should be extremely concerned.  The bill also contains what are known as ‘Henry VIII powers’ which enable ministers to by-pass parliament.  Without the Charter in place, which underpins human rights law, the government risks getting clogged up in a series of legal cases.  Fundamental protections can easily be removed almost on a whim.

* Amnesty has no position on Brexit itself


If you live in the Salisbury area and want to become involved in human rights activities, you would be most welcome.  Keep and eye on this site or on Facebook or Twitter – salisburyai – and come along to an event and make yourself known.  Or contact us via Facebook.  It is free to join the local group.


Attached is the death penalty report for the mid December – January period prepared by group member Lesley.  Some good news especially in Texas – a state with a high use of this punishment – but elsewhere in the world, a depressing number of countries in the list.

Death penalty report (Word)


Title of a display of photos in the Methodist Church, Salisbury

This is a moving display of photos in the Salisbury Methodist Church taken by Bedouin women in the ‘unrecognized villages’ of the Negev-Naqab region of Israel which lies to the east of Gaza.  The project documents the brutal way the villagers are treated by the Israeli authorities.  Their villages are demolished and crops destroyed to make way for new settlements and they suffer discrimination and police brutality.

The tactics are familiar and included cutting water supplies sometimes for days at a time.  They are denied basic services such as paved roads, electricity and medical help.

The exhibition runs until February 3rd and is between 10:00 and noon daily.  Coffee is available.  For more details see The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

If you live in Salisbury, please make time to visit this exhibition.

 


UPDATE: January 23, 18:00

Reza is reported to be in Kabul see https://www.change.org/p/home-office-stop-deportation-of-reza-to-afghanistan

UPDATE: January 22, 18:00

Latest news is the Reza is due to be deported at any moment.

 

Further developments with Reza Maghsoudi

Readers may recall an earlier post about a refugee from Afghanistan who has been living in this country for some years and Salisbury for 2, who went to Melksham police station for a routine appointment, whereupon he was arrested and sent to a Detention Centre prior to a planned deportation.  Reza Maghsoudi gained some local publicity and there was a follow-up item on BBC Wiltshire last month.

In today’s Salisbury Journal (4 January 2018), the Salisbury MP Mr Glen, in his View from the Commons piece, devotes some space to Reza’s case:

I was in my office at 9am on January 2nd to plan my latest intervention on behalf of Reza Maghsoudi, the young Afghan national who is facing deportation.  His many allies in Salisbury have been fighting compassionately and tirelessly to help him regularize his immigration status so that he can continue with his life he has built here – the dear friends he has made and the skills he has learned.

A decision is due and I have been keen to once again to ensure that the case in on the personal radar of the minister so that the significant new evidence that has come to light in recent week can be taken into account.

This is of course encouraging and we hope that the combination of publicity and political pressure bear fruit.

Why are we here?

But why do we have a situation like this in the first place?  Why do we have a series of policies whereby someone like Reza is held in a detention centre and is under constant threat of deportation?  The answer of course is because for some years now the government has pursued aggressive policies in an attempt to reduce immigration.  These have included:

  • plans to reduce immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’
  • tightening of work visa eligibility
  • greater scrutiny of students concerning their eligibility to stay and study
  • reducing benefits to the lowest level in Europe
  • provision of sub-standard housing and is what the home affairs sub-committee described as ‘disgraceful’.
  • introducing bureaucratic delays which regularly force people into destitution according to the Refugee Council.

The benefit reductions came about because it was claimed by David Cameron, when he was the prime minister, that our benefits were a ‘magic pull’ to people wishing to come here.  There was no evidence for this.  This led to cuts trumpeted to save £500m.  These attitudes have been stirred up by some of the media who have great influence on government policy.  One media commentator called refugees ‘cockroaches’ in the Daily Mail for example.  Despite research evidence to show that immigrants are of net benefit to the UK economy, politicians and some media editors constantly refer to them as a ‘problem’ and a drain on the economy.  They are seen as another form of scrounger.  People seeking asylum – like Reza – have been conflated with immigration as a deliberate policy (Migration Policy).

So Reza is a small part of a concerted programme of demonizing immigrants and asylum seekers by legal restrictions, benefit reductions and detaining them in detention centres.  It is interesting to contrast the plans being prepared by Mr Glen in the Salisbury Journal piece with a rather different speech he made in the House Of Commons:

One aspect of that reform, referred to in the Queen’s Speech, is access to benefits for immigrants. It is right that the Government are considering limiting access to housing benefit and health care for people who have not earned the right to it. It is not enough to keep ignoring that uncomfortable truth because we are frightened of being too right wing, too nasty or too unpleasant. The routine experience of people up and down this country is that on the front line, at the point of delivery and at the point of receiving public services, they are too often displaced by people who, apparently, should not have the right to access those services. I am pleased that the Government will address that in legislation.   (Source: Theyworkforyou.com, May 2013 Queen’s Speech debate (our highlight)

Mr Reza’s case is not about benefits but it is about the attitudes of a government who have adopted an aggressive approach based upon misinformation and media attacks.  We wish Reza every success.

xenophobic-headlines

Sources: BBC; fullfacts.org; Refugee Council; Migration Policy; UCL; Guardian; Independent

 


Youth at risk of execution tomorrow in Iran

Amnesty has just received news of a youth at risk of execution in Iran tomorrow.  Full details can be accessed on the following link.   https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/7666/2018/en/


The ‘I Welcome’ exhibition which has been running through most of December in Salisbury Library, ended today.  We have no means of knowing how many people attended but a number of people signed the visitors book and some of their comments are shared below.

We do not know how lucky we are in the UK.  We moan about the silliest of things.  Just think!  We could have been born on a rubbish tip, then we would know we had problems!

Love not hate, be thankful for what we have.

I am ashamed of us Europeans leaving people freezing on the streets who are refugees from wars we started or sold arms for.  Hundreds of children sleep under hedges at Calais now.

Excellent exhibition and shaming.

Well done Salisbury Amnesty, excellent exhibition.

Excellent exhibition very well done.

Amnesty International – what a brilliant exhibition of photos and words.  We need more of this.  How we react to other’s needs is what defines us and our ‘civilised’ society.

Excellent exhibition but shaming to ‘civilised’ states – what has changed?  Keep up the good work AI!

Required viewing by all (including politicians).  All going on while we ‘want, want, want’ on our mobiles.  We’re asleep.

Well done AI Salisbury Group – excellent exhibition of photos and thought provoking commentary.

Powerful images that shame the world, and us in our comfortable city.  Thank you Amnesty International for putting this on.

Thank you Salisbury Amnesty group for raising awareness and for [the] call to action.  Shocking statistics on your host map.

Our thanks to all those who took the trouble to comment.  All comments were favourable.


If you would like to join the local group you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to come along to an event and make yourself known.  Details of what is happening will be posted here or on Facebook and Twitter if you prefer those platforms. It is free to join the local group.  For further details see our latest minutes.

 

Seasons greetings

Posted: December 23, 2017 in China, Group news, Uncategorized

Seasons greetings to all our followers.


Underneath the lamppost …

Once again, we joined forces with the Farrant Singers and toured some streets in Salisbury singing carols.  We were blessed with dry weather.  We collected money for our funds and it was a very successful evening.  Thanks to the Farrants, to the collectors and our hosts for the evening, Michael and Chantal who provided the vittles both before and after.  An enjoyable evening and many residents came out and listened to the singing.

The Farrants with spectators

 


The December group minutes are now available thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  Busy meeting and we touched on forthcoming events, the death penalty report in particular.

December minutes (Word)

I Welcome exhibition