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Refugee Week 2019

Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

René Cassin is proud to support Refugee Week 2019 (17-23 June).

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-authored by our namesake Monsieur René Cassin, states that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” and “the right to a nationality”. The need to protect these rights has rarely been more urgent than it is today. There are currently more refugees than at any time since WWII the Second World War.

Refugee Week celebrates the contribution of refugees and promotes understanding of why people seek sanctuary. The theme of Refugee Week 2019, ‘You, me and those who came before’, is an invitation to explore the lives of refugees – and those who have welcomed them – throughout the generations.

This year’s Refugee Week falls on the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport. Then, thanks to a voluntary scheme funded and implemented by the British public, the UK took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children fleeing Nazi persecution. Now, those who come to the UK seeking shelter are being met, not by kindness, but by hostility and indifference.

In the UK each year, around 25,000 migrants and asylum seekers are routinely locked up in detention centres – often for months, sometimes for years. No trial. No redress. No knowing when they will be released. No time limit on how long they can be held.

This is indefinite detention. It robs people of their dignity, their spirit, and, in some tragic cases, their lives. Four years ago, a cross-party group of MPs condemned it as “expensive, ineffective and unjust”. Four years later, it is still happening.

How do we, as individuals, as communities and as a country truly say to refugees ‘you are welcome, just as I once was’? As the Jewish voice for human rights, René Cassin draws on Jewish experience and Jewish teachings on the treatment of the ‘stranger’ for an answer to this question. That experience and these values demand a sense of responsibility to those who seek asylum from persecution René Cassin has long campaigned, alongside others and as part of the Detention Forum, for the introduction of a 28-day time limit.

In our quest to remake the case for human rights, René Cassin will continue to campaign for a time limit on immigration detention, and will remain a forceful voice demanding a more accountable and transparent immigration policy, which seeks to serve not administrative targets, but the rights and dignity of all.