Refugee Council responds to attacks on the Human Rights Act - Refugee Council
May 15, 2006

Refugee Council responds to attacks on the Human Rights Act

The Sun has started a campaign this week to abolish the Human Rights Act following the furore about the Afghan hijackers.

Commenting on the issue, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said in a statement to the BBC:

“Most asylum seekers arriving in the UK believe this country is a place where human rights are respected and where people who have been persecuted will be welcomed. It’s a reputation we should be very proud of in a world where there are still so many repressive regimes.

“When I got to Britain I knew I would be safe.” We hear this said by many people coming into our offices. It is a poignant comment as the asylum system is now so tough that the large majority of claims are rejected.

However, despite the removal of legal safeguards, people are still able to challenge bad decisions in the courts. The Human Rights Act has helped those seeking protection here, but in many cases, including the recent one of the Afghan refugees, international conventions have been as important. One of the key principles of refugee law is “non-refoulement”—which means that no one should be removed back to a country where they would face human rights abuses.

All those people who have angrily observed that this is a case of “human rights gone mad”—none of whom have heard all the evidence which the much-abused judges have considered so carefully – should reflect on just how dangerous it would be for these men to return to Afghanistan where the Taleban are still strong. Hijacking can never be condoned, and the men have acknowledged that what they did was wrong. But do they deserve to die, which is what could happen if they were sent back?

Sometimes, no doubt, human rights law is badly applied and questionable decisions are made. But overall, we should be proud that we respect the human rights of people, even if they don’t strictly “deserve” it. The criminal justice system should be able to protect public safety without us tearing up human rights legislation and abandoning our proud, if somewhat battered, tradition of providing sanctuary.”