Our plans for the year ahead

René Cassin works to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable individuals and communities – particularly on issues that resonate with the Jewish experience.

Here is a taste of what René Cassin will be doing over the next year.

The last bastion of acceptable racism? – countering discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

Together, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers constitute Europe’s largest ethnic minority. They share a history of persecution with Jewish peopleBoth communities have suffered centuries of racist hostility. Both were targeted by the Nazis during the Second World War.

In the UK today, life expectancy for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is 10 years lower than the population as a whole; their miscarriage rate is almost twice as high. Yet this marginalised minority is increasingly subjected to official discrimination and persistent casual prejudice in the media.

René Cassin is committed to exposing this neglect and prejudice for the racism it is:

  • Through our interfaith network – leaders of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, with a common will to speak out against the discrimination suffered by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers
  • By ensuring that the Jewish community recognises that its shared history with the Roma compels it to speak out against that discrimination
  • By lobbying the Holocaust Memorial Foundation to acknowledge that shared history in its work
  • By holding officials and media accountable for their discriminatory attitudes towards Gypsies, Roma and Travellers

Innocent, vulnerable, locked up – demanding an end to indefinite detention of asylum-seekers

The UK detains around 30,000 migrants every year – including children, pregnant women and people suffering from mental health problems. Of EU countries, only Greece detains more. But, shockingly, the UK is the only country that does not impose a time limit on detention, routinely locking up migrants for years.

This indefinite immigration detention means untold misery for innocent people held in prison-like conditions, with no prospect or knowledge of when they will be released. It also seriously damages the UK’s international reputation for defending human rights. Given the current refugee crisis, the worst since the Second World War, it is likely that this shameful situation will get even worse.

In 2015 we made a significant contribution to a Parliamentary Inquiry that found that Britain’s system of immigration detention is ‘expensive, inefficient and unjust’.

René Cassin will build on this political momentum:

  • By continuing to press for a maximum time limit of 28 days’ immigration detention
  • By highlighting viable alternatives to immigration detention, and so challenging the legitimacy of its use as a normal part of British immigration control
  • By leading coalitions and working in partnerships with other human rights and social change organisations, such as the Detention Forum
  • By facilitating interfaith co-operation including through our partnership with Tzelem and other faith organisations

Learning the lessons of the Holocaust – protecting human rights provisions in the UK

Modern human rights laws are the direct result of the civilised world’s response to the horrors of the Holocaust. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights were both drawn up to say ‘Never again!’ and to protect people from oppressive governments.

But now, the government plans to repeal the Human Rights Act – which incorporates the European Convention into UK law – and is even considering withdrawing from the Convention itself. We believe this would be disastrous for vulnerable minorities in the UK and beyond. Britain is viewed world-wide as a paragon of liberty, democracy and the rule of law. Less enlightened regimes would view the UK’s back-tracking on human rights as a green light to ignore or repress the rights of their own citizens.

René Cassin will work to ensure that the law continues to protect our essential rights:

  • We will highlight our concerns to the government’s consultation on the Human Rights Act due in early 2016
  • We will galvanise parliamentarians from across the political spectrum to voice their concerns
  • We will mobilise the Jewish community to defend the UK’s current human rights provisions
  • We will stress the fundamental link between the Holocaust and the evolution of human rights law

Breaking the chains – campaigning to end modern slavery and human trafficking

Slavery is not history. It calls to mind images of the trans-Atlantic trade or Jewish experience of forced labour. But it is here and it is now – in the UK today there are as many as 13,000 victims of slavery or trafficking.

Although there has been welcome progress on this issue – the Modern Slavery Act became law in 2015 – worrying loopholes still remain. But the appointment of Kevin Hyland as Britain’s first independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner gives us a real focus for our campaign on this issue.

René Cassin will keep up the pressure for reform in this area:

  • By mobilising faith communities to lobby the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, the Home Office and Parliamentarians
  • By continuing to highlight the links between the Jewish experience and the scourge of modern day slavery and human trafficking

Planting the seed – empowering tomorrow’s human rights activists

Human rights ought to be incontestable and uncontroversial. But, sadly they are neither, as the current debate over the Human Rights Act demonstrates. Just as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, so human rights will continue to need well-informed, wise and determined advocates.

René Cassin is investing in the future:

  • By galvanising a movement of young Jewish social activists, equipping them with the skills and passion to promote social justice and human rights both locally and globally
  • By ensuring that school students and Jewish youth activists learn that human rights are the civilised world’s response to the horrors of the Holocaust

Building a community of support – the Jewish voice for human rights

Just as many of the human rights issues of the modern world – asylum, discrimination, slavery, genocide – resonate deeply with the  Jewish experience, so Jewish tradition and values demand support for social action and human rights.

As ‘the Jewish voice for human rights’ René Cassin will be speaking:

  • To the Jewish community – building support for human rights values amongst British Jewry
  • To the wider community – bringing a Jewish perspective to human rights debates, especially on issues affecting vulnerable minorities

We cannot do all this without your help – support our work

René Cassin is a small charity with limited resources. We rely on the support of like-minded individuals and organisations for the funds to continue this important work. You can make a donation now via this website or see other ways you can support us or get involved in our work.