Find out the latest in human rights news
- Illegal Migration Bill
- Sudan Conflict
- Women’s rights in Afghanistan
- Women’s rights in Iran
- Ugandan anti-LGBTQ+ laws
The Illegal Migration Bill
Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans which will see asylum seekers arriving to the UK in small boats detained and deported. Such plans mark yet another assault on the rights of refugees, criminalising and punishing the most vulnerable. This includes human rights defenders who are forced to flee from countries where they are silenced, persecuted, tortured, and killed for standing up for what’s right.
In 2022, over 69% of the people PoC supported were refugees or migrants. These people need their fundamental right to seek asylum protected.
See our social media posts on the bill here:
We are a member of Together With Refugees, a coalition of organisations that believe in a more compassionate approach to refugees. We call for a better approach to supporting refugees that is more effective, fair and humane. Find out more about Together With Refugees, along with how to get involved, here.
As of 24th May, the Bill is still being debated in the House of Lords. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, vows to keep fighting the reforms, insisting he ‘will not abandon his position’ against the ‘morally unacceptable’ bill (The Guardian, 2023).
30th May- The UN human rights chief has stated that he has formally conveyed his concerns over a new British migration law to the government stating ‘we have very serious concerns from an international refugee law and from an international human rights law perspective’ (Reuters, 2023).
30th June- The Court of Appeal rules that government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda are unlawful. PoC celebrates the official condemnation of this scheme, recognising this victory for reason and compassion. We urge the government to now rethink its entire approach and focus on protecting, not punishing, those who seek asylum on our soil.
17th July- The Illegal Migration Bill is passed by the UK government and will soon become law. PoC are deeply disappointed by this news. This legislation is an assault on the rights of refugees and will only serve to criminalize and punish the most vulnerable. Prisoners of Conscience who had no choice but to come to the UK now may be left with no choice at all. They need our help now than ever before.
20th July- We are saddened to add to this page with the news that the Bill received Royal Assent on the 20th July 2023, becoming the Illegal Migration Act.
On 15th April 2023, an armed conflict began between rival factions of the government in Sudan. Reports currently state that the Sudanese Armed Force have since agreed to a ceasefire on the 25th April (The Guardian, 2023). Yet the suffering is far from over for Sudanese citizens.
Current figures (as of 28th May 2023)
Atleast 1800 people have been killed nationwide, including over 487 civilians.
more than 5,100 injured
21,000 have fled Sudan to neighbouring countries (with numbers expected to increase)1
Nearly 1.4 million people have now been displaced in Sudan since the conflict began.
In the last three years, PoC have supported 40 prisoners of conscience from Sudan. The news of the conflict, and the fact that both forces have a history of violating international human rights law, is a devastating reminder that human rights abuses will continue in Sudan.
Women Human Rights Defenders
Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
The Taliban are gradually stripping women of their fundamental human rights. Though initial promises were made to uphold women’s and minority rights, they have instead imposed strict and medieval restrictions1. See below a timeline of actions against Afghan women:
- Universities are segregated. Women are allowed to continue attending university, but classrooms are segregated by gender and head coverings are made mandatory (US News, 2023).
- Just hours after schools reopened following the pandemic, the Taliban government cancels classes for teenage girls (those over the age of 12). Hundreds of thousands of girls are barred from attending classes (Al Jazeera, 2022).
- The government mandates that women must cover from head to toe when they leave their homes (OHCHR, 2023). This includes a mesh covering over their faces. If these restrictions are violated, their male guardians face punishment, and even imprisonment (US News, 2023).
- Women are barred from parks and gyms, as well as other public spaces including funfairs (The Guardian, 2022). The ban marks yet another attempt to squeeze women out of Afghan society, and confine them to their homes.
- Women are banned from attending universities and working for NGOs. The UN and several countries condemn the order, with the UN’s Special Rapporteur to Afghanistan denouncing the ruling as a ‘new low further violating the right to equal education and deepening the erasure of women from Afghan society’ (BBC, 2022).
- The ban of women working in NGOs casts fear for international aid groups, who are concerned that it will inhibit their ability to provide much needed humanitarian aid (US News, 2023)
- Ban on Afghan women working in the U.N. This law results in over 3,000 of UN national staff members, including approximately 400 Afghan women, to refrain from reporting to offices over concerns for their safety (The Diplomat, 2023).
The need to support women human rights defenders in Afghanistan has reached a devastating high since the Taliban takeover.
Read here the story of Lina, a lawyer and human rights defender from Afghanistan, who knows first-hand the dangers of standing up against Taliban’s repression.
Women’s Rights in Iran
The authorities in Iran continue to treat women as second-class citizens (Amnesty International, 2023). For example, the legal age of marriage for girls is 13 years old, and fathers can obtain permission for marriage at an even younger age.
An ongoing series of protests and civil unrest began in September 2022 in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab. Certain reports state that officers beat her head with a baton, though Iranian police claim she suffered a heart attack (BBC, 2022).
Women and girls were at the forefront of a popular uprising against this barbaric detainment, challenging decades of gender-based discrimination and violence (Amnesty International, 2023).
As of April 2023, Amnesty International reports that Iran’s intelligence have been ‘committing horrific acts of torture, including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape, and other sexual violence’ against protestors, some as young as 12, to quell their involvement in nationwide protests2 .
PoC has provided 36 grants to Iranian prisoners of conscience since 2022. The need for aid in Iran is likely to worsen with tough crackdown on protestors and dissidents.
Read here the story of Sahar, a Iranian singer, poet and translator, who was forced to flee Iran after speaking out against the repression of women.
Ugandan Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws
The Ugandan Parliament recently approved harsh anti-LGBTQ+ laws. These laws will endanger the rights of gay people in Uganda, as well as those who support and defend them. Despite President Yoweri Museveni asking for certain provisions from the original legislation to be toned down, the bill retains most of the harshest measures adopted in March. These include the death penalty for certain same-sex acts (The Guardian, 2023). Anyone ‘promoting’ homosexuality could face up to 20 years in prison.
President Museveni has assented to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the 29th May. Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director said:
This is a desperately dark day for LGBTI rights and for Uganda(Amnesty, 2023).
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