The people we meet in Calais have crossed the Sahara desert and survived the hell of Libya. They’ve fled persecution in Iran. They’ve escaped brutal conflict in Yemen and Sudan.
At every stage their human rights are denied to them. In their home countries, on their terrible journeys, and when they arrive in France and the UK. Their freedoms of life, liberty and love are under attack.
Today is #HumanRightsDay. All over the world people will reflect on the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, forged by world leaders in the aftermath of World War II.
For refugees in Calais and the UK, it’s bittersweet. For many people here, the Declaration of Human Rights is little more than a long list of things they’ve been denied. The tortured, imprisoned, silenced and persecuted have every reason to believe that human rights weren’t written for people like them.
But refugees have incredible depths of hope and belief. They come to France and the UK because they know about our commitment to these ideals. They believe our countries are places they can live in peace and dignity.
Sadly, so often we let them down. They are attacked with tear gas in France. They are deported from the UK. Politicians vilify and dehumanise them. Sometimes it seems human rights are a forgotten ideal.
Care4Calais will always stand up for refugees’ human rights. We will never stop providing them the basic food and shelter they need to survive. We will never stop getting them the lawyers they need to protect themselves. We will never stop holding the powerful to account for the way refugees are treated.
I think Eleanor Roosevelt’s words put it better than we ever could:
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world… Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
Human rights aren’t a complex concept to be negotiated by lawyers, politicians and global charities. They’re a powerful, personal idea, defined by how we each treat each other, and how we would want to be treated ourselves.
We can all promote human rights in the small places, close to home. These things truly make a difference.