Guest Blogger: Amy Lythgoe – Trustee Refugee Welcome Trust / Digital Marketing Manager: Bolton at Home
On one of those days where you’re wondering why you’re spending your day off at a Human Rights seminar, the availability of reasonable priced parking outside the door of the venue was the first hint that this would be a good day.
Realising human rights are about my work
At the initial refreshments, where that “first day of school” feeling can so easily creep back in, I was instantly made to feel at ease with the people who joined me at my table. It was refreshing to meet people from a range of backgrounds who were all really passionate about their jobs. Having initially signed up for the seminar with my work with refugees in mind I soon realised that the content was also really relevant to my ‘day job’ at a housing association.
Having worked with people whose fundamental human rights have so grossly abused, forcing them to seek asylum in the UK I had never really considered the day to day importance of the rights that we are all afforded.
Lots of learning with lots of interaction
Despite describing myself as having a ‘reasonable’ knowledge of human rights prior to the sessions I quickly revised this appraisal. My knowledge was so restricted to one sector and the abuse of people’s human rights abroad I hadn’t really fully understood their reach in UK legislation and how we all go about our lives not appreciating them enough.
With such a complex and controversial subject the facilitators did a fantastic job of keeping the day on message and moved easily from broad politics to detailed case studies. Having a short attention span and an appetite for a bit of debate the discussion sessions were really interesting and I learnt a lot from the fantastic experience of the people in the room.
Along with some others in the group the biggest shock was that private companies rarely have legal obligations to protect the human rights of those they interact with. The contrast was most stark in the care home examples where those self -funding their place with a private healthcare provider had no basis on which to challenge human rights violations (this is something BIHR has been campaigning to change). Whereas those with state funded places at private homes would be able to challenge decision making if they felt it infringed their human rights.
Running a charity that allows UK refugees to exercise their legally protected ‘right to family life’ under Article 8 I thought I had this particular right under my belt so to speak. Discussions following the case studies revealed that this non-absolute right this is one which often has most relevance in people’s lives, especially as the ‘privacy’ it protects is not just about having a private space it’s also about having a say on what happens to your body. With the event partnered by and taking place within Liverpool Women’s Hospital (the largest of its kind in Europe), this was especially thought-provoking.
The media and politicians: it’s protecting human rights that matters
With politicians bandying round the idea of repealing the UK Human Rights Act it seems that now more than ever we all need to understand how significant these rights are to each and every one of us. It was encouraging to hear that there had been two youth sessions on this tour and perhaps it’s with the next generation we need to be challenging the negative perception of human rights pushed by the UK press.
The day was fantastic in terms of widening my understanding of human rights in the UK and has definitely encouraged me to read more about the subject and renewed an interest in legal process and precedent.
However I think what I came to realise most was that the 18 rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (and part of our law via the Human Rights Act) are unarguably what we should be doing – it’s how we go about protecting them that matters.