Holocaust Memorial Day is always a day we mark at the Refugee Council by remembering those who lost their lives during World War II at the hands of their persecutors. It is also a time for us to highlight the persecution and discrimination still taking place around the world today. Human Rights Watch published its annual report this week about the human rights situations in 90 countries around the world. These are the countries many of our clients have fled from – countries such as Iran, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
But this week, there have also been a few unwelcome reminders that human rights are at risk even in our own country:
- The Prime Minister called for reform of the European Court of Human Rights, which has upheld the rights of many people fleeing persecution who have let down by the UK justice system. See our response to the news here.
- MPs published a report that finds officials carrying out deportations often use racist and offensive language, and that dangerous and unauthorised restraint techniques are still being used on deportation flights. So it appears racism and discrimination, on top of violent restraint techniques, are abundant in our returns system.
- To top it off, Asylum Aid published a shocking report into the generally horrifying experiences of women in the asylum system: “I feel like as a woman I’m not welcome.” Through a deep analysis of the law, policy and practice of the UK asylum system, and testimonies of women battling against a system that does not believe them, the report shows the system is far from meeting the specific needs of women, leaving them exposed to destitution, violence and exploitation.
It is clear there is much work to be done to ensure the rights of people fleeing persecution are upheld, even in the UK, and this is something that we and many of our partners will be spending our time reminding the government about this year. In particular, an asylum system that is sensitive to the needs of women is one of the issues we are focusing our energies on at the moment.
But looking at the bigger picture, there is still much to feel positive about on this Holocaust Memorial Day. We have just spent the last year looking back at the millions of lives saved since the UN Refugee Convention was created in 1951 in order to prevent the atrocities of the Holocaust from ever happening again. We managed to capture some of those incredible stories in a film about the work we have been doing to support refugees since that time.
We also asked people to sign our pledge to remember the importance of protecting refugees, and nearly 9,000 people have done so. Please help us reach our target of 10,000 and sign the pledge today (and tell your friends!!).
And lastly, tell us: what are you doing to mark Holocaust Memorial Day? (why not leave a comment here, or tweet us @refugeecouncil using hashtag #HMD2012)