Amnesty International is a large force on campus for students dedicated to standing up for human rights.
This term, they have been focusing their attention on two large campaigns to aid and support refugees, asylum-seekers, and undocumented migrants in the UK. This is different from their past campaigns, which Amnesty Welfare Officer, Ani Steele, described to The Student as “concerned with getting more refugees accepted into the UK, which required a dramatic change in legislation.”
This year, Amnesty plans on adapting their focus to current policies. Tilly Lewis, an Amnesty representative, said: “We want to support existing work that’s already being done to support refugees in Scotland, from here at Edinburgh.”
One campaign, headed by Tilly Lewis, Ani Steele, and Isabel Leask, will focus on issues within the National Health Service (NHS) Digital. Their campaign focus is to discuss universal basic care received at the GP’s. It was revealed that accessing this healthcare can be a major risk for undocumented migrants living in the UK, and that this is especially an issue for pregnant undocumented migrants that have complicated asylum claims. Ani Steele explained that the GP is “entitled to ask questions on your citizenship status”, putting undocumented migrants at fear of being deported in their pursuit to access safe healthcare.
The Student also spoke to Raphael Birrell, one of Amnesty’s co-presidents, and the leader of their second major campaign this term. This campaign focuses on the Immigration Detention Centres for deportation that are located throughout the UK. Raphael describes the conditions of these centres as, “pretty dire. There is routinely abuse from guards. Guards don’t really intervene when there’s abuse between people there. There’s been 32 deaths in them since 2000… some of them have been people taking their own lives and some have been deaths through negligence.”
This campaign is going to solely focus on the Dungavel Removal Centre, 40 minutes outside of Glasgow. Amnesty plans on sending students from the society there on Saturday, November 18, to protest and advocate for the shut-down of the centre.
Raphael states that one of their largest goals is to reach the attention of the people inside: “If you are someone that’s been isolated from the world, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be there — I think it’s quite a strong message of solidarity to know there are people aware and fighting. I think that’s quite good.”
Students can get involved to help both of these current campaigns. Students can sign petitions through Edinburgh University Amnesty International on Facebook. Amnesty plans on developing new campaigns in the next term which focus more on financially supporting the charities that exist in Scotland for refugees.
Image: Nicolas Vigier Via Flickr