Outward-looking and internationally focused government policy is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of the nation. If the UK is to continue to promote economic and technological developments, law and order and environmental protection on an international level, it needs a world that upholds and protects human rights.
Human rights not only provide protection against abuse, but are a crucial foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Rights-respecting nations are our most reliable political allies, our strongest trading partners and the most effective leaders in the fight against violent extremism.
Insularity and self-protection are short-termist and have the danger of leading to longer-term international conflict and the breakdown of human rights, all of which may well undermine even the domestic agendas set out in the government’s recent Queen’s Speech.
In a world that is becoming increasingly divided, we need the uniting force of human rights more than ever – and this means doing everything we can to support those who peacefully stand up for what they believe in.
This is why we agree with Amnesty’s Alternative Queen’s Speech in which it calls for a Bill to embed respect for family life in all immigration and asylum decision-making, and measures to strengthen support and protection for human rights defenders.
Amnesty says that the Government should underline respect for the best interests of children and the importance of family life by extending family reunion rights to child refugees in the UK, so that children have the right to bring their parents here to join them. Adult refugees should be able to sponsor their elderly parents, siblings, and children up to the age of 25.
Here at Prisoners of Conscience we offer help to those prisoners of conscience who have been forced to leave their families behind as they flee for safety. We provide grants for travel, emergency documentation, medical assessment, DNA testing and legal expenses that enable families to be reunited.
In addition, our grants enable prisoners of conscience to access university education at all levels, giving them a chance to regain their professional lives after having been uprooted by terror and tyranny.
We believe that an immigration bill that gives safe refuge to human rights defenders and their families will be a positive way to recognise the crucial role the UK plays in safeguarding human rights across the world.
Likewise, Amnesty has called for more support for the brave human rights defenders who face unprecedented levels of repression and abuse. Again, we join them in this call.
Every day we hear the heart-breaking stories from ordinary people who have been persecuted for their non-violent actions to protect human rights and to stand up for what they believe in. They could be languishing in a filthy jail cell, suffering harsh treatment and torture and in need of food or medicine, or they may have had to flee their homes, leaving behind family and friends, and have arrived in a new country, traumatised and destitute.
We help these courageous people by providing them with rapid financial assistance by way of grants to ensure immediate relief, resettlement and requalification at the time of greatest need. This funding is used to pay for safe accommodation, food, travel, medical and legal bills and much more. In all cases, our grants help some of the world’s bravest people, those determined to hold fast to their beliefs in truly difficult and frightening circumstances
However, there are so many more people who need our help. Strategic support from the UK, including access to funding, emergency protection, greater promotion and recognition, as called for by Amnesty, would go a long way to ensuring that we reach these courageous individuals and their families.
Why is this important? Because if human rights defenders are not supported, their voices die along with our freedoms. And in some cases, so do they.
As activists and campaigners continue to raise awareness of human rights abuses and push for strengthened democratic processes, we will continue to provide the practical life-saving assistance that is so urgently needed by prisoners of conscience both in the UK and overseas – something we can only do thanks to the support of our donors who give so generously. If you are one those supporters, thank you. Your donations save and change lives every single day.
Gary Allison, chief executive, Prisoners of Conscience
If you would like to help keep the voices of human rights defenders alive, please make a donation today .