Edinburgh amnesteam are home! It was a long journey, believe us, but definitely worthwhile.
The second day of student conference was just as exciting as the first. We kicked things off with a plenary from Amnesty UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director, Steve Symonds. We saw that, while the focus in recent years has been on the rapidly growing number of Syrian refugees, those fleeing from Afghanistan and Palestine remain very much a constant presence. Also, the number of refugees who have been accepted into the UK is minimal compared to the numbers for other European countries like Germany. It is therefore vital that we continue to put pressure on the UK government to provide care and aid to refugees seeking safety within our borders.
Following some exciting workshops, our own Nuri Syed Corser spoke about why he should be elected to the Student Action Network Committee (STAN). He and seven others were successful! Three cheers for Nuri, anyone?
Our next plenary was particularly moving and discussed the importance of saving the Human Rights Act (HRA). Laura Trevelyan – Priority Campaigns Manager at Amnesty International – spoke about the origins and importance of the human rights act. We were then lucky enough to hear a first hand account of someone having been helped by the HRA – an inspiring woman and campaigner named Jan Sutton. Her story about fighting for her basic human rights deserved the standing ovation it received.
Time for some exciting news (drum roll, please?) – we took an action to the STAN AGM this year which was passed by overwhelming majority. But wait, there’s more! The University of York put forward a motion pushing Amnesty to accept a pro-choice stance on abortion. After a lengthy debate during which several good points were raised, this motion too was passed. An exciting day for Amnesty activists!
Our final plenary was led by Shane Enright, Amnesty’s global trade union advisor and the trade union campaigner at Amnesty UK. He spoke about the importance of trade unions and their benefits to both the economy and workers around the world while highlighting some of the excellent work Amnesty has done to ensure that people are free to form and join trade unions wherever they may be. The plenary concluded with another personal story from Isa Al-Aali, a young Bahraini student who was just seventeen years old when he was detained and tortured by the police in 2011. It is worth noting, however, that Isa spent twice as long in a detention centre in the UK than he did in police custody in Bahrain. Another standing ovation well deserved.
Overall, a successful student conference, would you agree? By far the best part was meeting people from other student groups and we wish we could have spent more time making connections and getting to know the wonderful Amnesty groups out there.
Here’s to all those who attended and those who couldn’t make the trip. We hope you all have an excellent year!