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People’s History Museum urges visitors to join it in standing Together With Refugees

People’s History Museum (PHM) wants the government to rethink its approach to refugees and the changes that are proposed under the Nationality and Borders Bill. It has added its voice to the Together With Refugees coalition, made up of international development charities, grassroots and community organisations, refugee-led groups and cultural institutions who all believe that how we treat refugees is about who we are and that this should be effective, fair and humane.

The changes proposed by the government on how asylum seekers could be treated under the Nationality and Borders Bill threaten to undermine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone in the history of human rights has stood since 1948 and recognises equality of all and represents the guiding principles to every individual’s rights as a human being. Furthermore, if the Bill passes into law, it will profoundly undermine the UK’s commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

People’s History Museum is using its platform as the national museum of democracy to stand as part of the #AntiRefugeeBill movement. Amongst the activities that it is doing to raise awareness of the changes that it opposes to carried in the Nationality and Borders Bill is a postcard campaign; visitors to the museum are invited to share their words and thoughts on Together With Refugees postcards, which will be sent directly to the Home Secretary on Monday 14 February 2022.

The words already shared by visitors powerfully sum up feelings that PHM urges the government not to overlook:

“Nobody entrusts themselves and their precious children to a leaky boat unless living on the land has become so dangerous and brutal that there is no other choice.”

“Everyone should be free to seek asylum. The proposed borders bill will endanger people who have no safe route to asylum. We should be helping these people, not harming them further.”

“All seeking refuge should be treated with dignity and respect. No detention, access to education and permission to work for all. We must work internationally to support refugees.”

“I’m not a British citizen but I’d like to say that even in Brazil (!) we know about the Bill and we cannot believe that such a country like Britain would make something so humanless, cruel and heartless. Please reconsider the example you give to the world!!!”

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement at People’s History Museum, says, “The proposed changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill fail to consider the people whose lives it will affect; some of the most vulnerable people in the world who are facing the most challenging circumstances imaginable. We want people to be put at the heart of how our nation approaches refugees and to remind government of the importance of advancing human rights, not going back on principles that have stood as a guiding light for decades. The proposed legislation will create a discriminatory two-tier system that judges an asylum seeker on the route they take to the UK, not why they came here. It threatens to criminalise those who are seeking asylum as part of their legal right under international law and to use ‘off shore’ processing centres and out of town institutions to house refugees which we believe would be inhumane.

“Over the last three years a central part of our work as the national museum of democracy has focused upon the experiences of migrants and the results of this can be seen throughout our exhibitions and visitor activities. These moving stories remind us of the people whose lives are affected by legislation, of the power of positive action and that we should always take a human rights led approach in all that we do.”

PHM’s championing work for communities has recently been recognised with the presentation of the 2021-2022 Activist Museum Award, which it has received alongside Fast Familiar, Jean Campbell and Museum of Homelessness. The award is made by the Research Centre of Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. PHM’s efforts to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the Nationality and Borders Bill are one of the reasons that the museum was successful and the £1,000 it has been awarded will be used as part of a staff training programme to develop the PHM team as campaign advocates.