Human Rights is more than a topic for debate. It’s not just a legal concept. It’s far more because it affects our daily lives. The Human Rights Act is a vital tool which includes the right to Protest or the right to Free Speech, the right to Education and the right to be free from discrimination- and many more that protect our freedoms and liberties. Human Rights are for everyone.
Often, people talk about Human Rights without fully understanding what Human Rights are – and what organisations like JustRight Scotland and our partners across the country do to defend and extend people’s rights.
When we live in a society where we expect to have access to the right to a fair trial, where we can participate in free and fair elections, and where we can express our opinions and ideas freely, without fear of harm or violence, we are also talking about Human Rights. They help us live our lives with safety and dignity.
Human Rights in Scotland
In the UK and across Scotland, Human Rights law obliges governments to not violate our Human Rights and to ensure that all of us enjoy our rights equally, no matter who we are, and no matter where we come from.
In the last few months, we have seen the UK Government constantly question the principle that Human Rights are universal and inalienable – that they belong to all human beings regardless of nationality, religion, age and disability.
Together with JustCitizens, our migrant advisory panel – and alongside other human rights organisations across Scotland, JustRight has raised concerns about the Government’s proposals to reform the Human Rights Act.
This reform aims to make it harder for individuals to bring human rights claims in UK courts. It has the potential to break the link between European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law and human rights cases heard in UK courts, reduce the accountability of public authorities for breaching individual rights, restrict the application of human rights in deportation cases, and reduce damages that individuals could recover even where they have successfully proven that their human rights were breached.
Building a positive vision…
JustRight Scotland and JustCitizens are also working to build a positive vision of migration and citizenship – which embraces the idea that everyone who chooses to make Scotland their home should enjoy equal access to rights and protection.
We have repeatedly raised concerns about the hostile environment and the harmful impact of the Nationality and Borders Bill in Scotland – as well as about the recent announcement of a deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. We will continue to lead a campaign for a fairer and more humane reception for people seeking safety in Scotland and affirming that these reforms are taken “not in our name.”
The newly enacted Nationality and Borders Bill (NABB) will further restrict access to asylum by introducing a two-tiered approach in which only those who come to the UK through so-called safe and legal pathways will have access to the full benefits of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
As we know, most refugees are escaping war and violent oppression. They often walk across deserts and cross rivers and seas to reach a safer place to live.
This will be now considered entering the UK “illegally” and these refugees may be denied many of their rights under the Convention, despite having the right to family and private life under the Human Rights Act.
We have opposed the NABB as an “anti-survivor law, an anti-refugee law and an anti-safety law.” We have organised events to highlight the impact of the NABB in Scotland. We have given evidence to the Scottish Parliament on the potential implications of the NABB on refugees and asylum seekers.
We took part in the Kenmure Street Festival last week to celebrate the power of popular resistance against Home Office deportations in Scotland and to express support for a more humane asylum and immigration system. We haven’t stopped there.
We launched a centre to respond to the Ukraine Crisis
At JustRight Scotland we are now working to support all workers on the Seasonal Workers Visa (SWV) in Scotland including those of Ukrainian nationality by providing them with information and support through our new Worker Support Centre linked to our Ukraine Advice Scotland helpline.
The Centre has been launched to respond to the Ukraine crisis and the need expressed by Ukrainian seasonal workers who have been trapped in very unsuitable long term labour conditions with no access to benefits, including sickness and disability benefits and who have nowhere else to go because their country is at war.
If, for example, the employer/employee relationship breaks down, a seasonal worker may be in breach of their visa conditions and at risk of destitution. This situation places pressure on employers and leaves workers at high risk of abuse and exploitation.
Our legal team will provide support to our outreach support workers and direct legal outreach to seasonal workers. They will conduct in-person and online information sessions and will commence with organising pro-active legal information sessions for Ukrainian nationals about recent and important changes regarding their immigration situation.
As an organisation that aims to use the law to defend and extend people’s rights, JustRight Scotland in the last 5 years has achieved more than the founders would have imagined.
JustRight Scotland now collaborates with over 30 partners, has launched a social enterprise to create accessible, inclusive, engaging and fun digital learning experiences, and hosts four legal centres that provide direct legal advice and representation, including via free and confidential legal helplines.
This year, we are celebrating our fifth anniversary. We do this to give thanks and give back to the people who make JustRight Scotland what it is and to the organisations who work with us to create a fairer and more equal Scotland.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EachOther.