Speaking for Ourselves

Human rights means migrants too

Human rights means migrants too


 Migrant Voice - Human rights means migrants too

16 November, 2023

On Wednesday 15 November the UK Supreme Court ruled against this Government's plan to ship vulnerable people to Rwanda. The UK's supreme court. Not a court in Brussels, and not a court 4,000 miles away, as those seeking asylum would have had to face under the failed policy had it gone ahead. In response there have been warnings of attacks on human rights laws to allow the policy to proceed.

The phrase "human rights" is a carefully chosen one. It does not just imply, it actively states, that these are rights to be enjoyed by all persons, regardless of nationality, race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, or politics. They are not rights which only apply to the citizens of one country, and they continue to apply regardless of where someone was born, or how they have moved.

To suggest that human rights laws could be disallowed in the cases of those seeking safety in this country is to say that all migrants are undeserving of them. It is to say that where someone came from should determine what rights they have. 

As an organisation our very purpose is to ensure that migrants have their voices heard. To say that they are not deserving of human rights is to say that their voices should be silenced.

It is not enough to say that any government can be trusted not to abuse human rights once the protections which prevent them doing so are removed. No government, without undermining rights in the first place, can guarantee what a future one will do with the laws which they pass. “Human rights” is not a soundbite. It is not a term used lightly, It is what allows us to stand up and say something is wrong. Being part of international human rights agreements does not weaken the concept of “sovereignty, it reinforces it. It is a sign of a stable democracy that it can agree to international human rights obligations, and ensure it meets them.  A country which does not adhere to human rights laws is one where its own people risk suffering as much as those who it is claimed the removal of human rights is aimed at.

The Rwanda policy was not just found to be unsafe based on the conditions within Rwanda itself. It was found to violate very basic human rights, such as a protection against torture and inhumane treatment, by having a significant risk of refugees being sent back to countries where they are persecuted, Rwanda has a zero percent acceptance rate for Afghans, Syrians, and Yemenis for example. The right not to be tortured is not a right which anyone should be talking about disapplying to people based upon where they were born.

In its judgement the Supreme Court was clear that its finding of the Rwanda policy being unlawful was not solely linked to the European Convention On Human Rights, yet this is exactly what we have seen attacked since the ruling. Undermining human rights may make for good headlines, but the repercussions will be far reaching, and affect not only those seeking asylum, but all migrants, and everyone else.

Rights for those coming to this country have, for some time, been subject to unfair limitations already. Extortionate visa fees are forcing tens of thousands of migrants into destitution, just so that they can maintain the basic rights many people take for granted, being able to rent a home, work, even fall in love and have a family. Thousands of international students were unjustly stripped of their right to study overnight, based on spurious grounds, leaving many still fighting to clear their names. These are situations which would never be tolerated if they applied, particularly on such scales, to people who were/are born here. To attack the very fundamentals of human rights though escalates this. It sends a statement from the UK, as a country, that it believes some people are “less than” others.

There appears to be more focus on spending hundreds of millions on the asylum system of a country thousands of miles away than investing in our own. Our own report into asylum accommodation showed the horrendous conditions which many of those seeking asylum are forced into, and provided recommendations for how we can improve the system here.

We need an asylum system which works, and works for everyone. We need one where applications are processed faster and more effectively. We need a system which provides those waiting for their claims with the right to work, and we need one which treats those in it with dignity and respect. At a point when we should be investing into a system to ensure that though, we are talking about putting money into another country’s system, and undermining the very fabric of the international human rights order at the same time.

This should be a moment for the government to rethink its whole approach to migration. Rather than seeing migrants as having fewer rights than others, we should be looking at how we protect the rights of everyone. We should be looking at putting money into our own communities to support those born here as much as those born elsewhere, and we must stop seeing migrants as scapegoats and deflections, and instead as part of those communities.

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Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: info@migrantvoice.org

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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