Human rights campaigners speak at Newcastle University

Helen Byrne reports on the Amnesty International event

Helen Byrne
13th February 2018
Guests at Amnesty International Society event | Image: Helen Byrne

The Amnesty International Society at Newcastle University recently hosted their first guest speaker event, inviting three speakers who campaign for and raise awareness of the importance of human rights across the world.

The speakers, who attended the event as representatives of Amnesty International UK, shared their insights on a wide range of current affairs. The evening had a particular focus on the rights of refugees, the ongoing legal battle for gender recognition and raising awareness of the work carried out by the Children’s Human Rights Network.

Basia Giezek was one of the speakers who travelled to Newcastle from Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre in London and works as the Country Coordinator for Australia, Nauru, Malaysia and Singapore. She spoke about the offshore detention centre that the Australian Government has used on Manus Island and Nauru. Giezek explained how Amnesty International is campaigning for the protection of refugees and how they will continue to put pressure on the Australian Government until adequate living conditions are provided.

Hidden from the mainstream media, the conditions in which refugees are kept has been highlighted by Iranian Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani, who has been detained on Manus Island for four years. Amnesty International honoured his work, awarding him as winner of the ‘Writing from Manus’ at the Amnesty International Media Awards.

Richard Kotter is based locally in Newcastle and works for Amnesty as a Country Coordinator across the European Union. He is currently the co-lead on the legal challenge against the Finnish Governmen, regarding the Finnish ‘Trans Act’.

Anyone who would like to find out more about this campaign can reach out to

Kotter said, “It is extremely important for transgender people that the code corresponds to their chosen gender identity and that they are not forced to ‘out’ themselves as transgender every time they are required to reveal their personal identity code. The act also restricts the possibility to access legal gender recognition to individuals who have reached the legal age of maturity, which in Finland is 18. The whole process can take more than three years.”

This is one of several challenges, which Amnesty has been involved with and is achieve the success as they have done, most recently in Norway. More information is available on the LGBTI Network blog.

Russell Pilling, also a local to Newcastle, is a committee member of the Children’s Human Rights Network. He spoke about Amnesty International’s coordinated campaign with the ‘Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC)’.

The PRCBC provides legal advice to children and their families, conducts research, and undertakes cases as well as campaigning. The current campaign the CHRN is calling for the improvement of the process for children in the UK who have been granted refugee status, but who are not currently British citizens, due to the £976 fee application. Amnesty International and PRCBC are calling for the removal of the profit-making aspect of the fee; a power to waive the fee; and no fee for children assisted by a local authority.

Anyone who would like to find out more about this campaign can reach out to Students wishing to get involved with the Amnesty International Society and their campaigns can get in touch through their Facebook page: NUAmnestyInternationalSociety.

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