Scotland has opportunity to set example for welcoming refugees, says human rights leader Shami Chakrabarti

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, called on Scots to ‘set an example of welcome’ to refugees from across the world today (Friday, 14 January)

Speaking as a guest at the Scottish Refugee Council Annual General Meeting, held at Edinburgh’s City Chambers, Chakrabarti stated the need to recognise the importance of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which marks its 60th anniversary this year.

She said: “The UN Refugee Convention is more important now than ever when we think of the refugees yet to come and the lives yet to be saved by this incredibly important document.

"The Convention isn’t just a wonderful, beautiful antique that we should treasure. It’s just as pertinent now as it was 60 years ago, and even more pertinent in our  shrinking, interconnected world. “I think there's a real opportunity for Scotland to build upon its tradition of warmth and welcome, and set an example here in the UK and in Europe for welcoming refugees. We don’t want a fortress Europe keeping refugees out.”

Chakrabarti is director of Liberty, a UK-wide charity which campaigns to protect our basic rights and freedoms. She is well-known as a commentator and challenger on human rights for us all – including people who’ve sought refuge in our country.

In the run-up to the UK Elections last May, Scottish Refugee Council joined Liberty and the Refugee Council in England to call on party leaders and candidates to sign an asylum election pledge and remember the importance of providing safety to people fleeing war, torture and persecution in debates on asylum and immigration. A total of 1,031 candidates signed the pledge including the leaders of all four main parties (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dems and SNP).

In 2011, Scottish Refugee Council, along with many other refugee charities, will be marking 60 years since the UN Refugee Convention was put in place. It is as crucial as ever that our governments honour their part in this lifesaving document – and continues to protect the rights of people fleeing war, torture and persecution.

For more information contact media officers Clare Harris or Karin Goodwin on 0141 223 7927, 07850 930418 or 07734 030 763

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Notes to Editors:

Scottish Refugee Council provides help and advice to those who have fled human rights abuses or other persecution in their homeland and now seek refuge in Scotland.

We are a membership organisation that works independently and in partnership with others to provide support to refugees from arrival to settlement and integration into Scottish society. We campaign to ensure that the UK Government meets its international, legal and humanitarian obligations and to raise awareness of refugee issues.