24 Oct 2016, 39 mins ago

12 retired judges, 103 Queen’s Counsel, barristers, law academics, solicitors, partners and directors have signed a statement calling for an urgent humanitarian response to the refugee crisis. The statement is supported by Gherson Solicitors and has 343 signatories at the time of writing.

The initiative, known as the Lawyers Refugee Initiative, is the product of Laura Dubinsky and Raza Hussain QC. You can read more about the initiative here. The call is a reaction to the UK government’s response to the refugee crisis, which is considered to be ‘too low, too slow, and too narrow.’

The call states:

1. ‘The UK should take a fair and proportionate share of refugees, both those already within the EU and those still outside it.

The UK’s present offer is deeply inadequate: in Lebanon alone, a country of 5 million, there are 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees.

2. Safe and legal routes to the UK, as well as to the EU, need to be established.

Permitting travel by ordinary means will do much to halt the hazardous boat traffic and will save lives. Such routes ought to include:

i Humanitarian visas – that is to say visas for the specific purpose of seeking asylum on arrival – issued in the country of departure or intended embarkation.

ii Resettlement schemes, accepting refugees directly from the country of persecution or from neighbouring states.

iii Humane family reunion policies, such as allowing child refugees in the UK to be joined by adult family members.

3. Safe and legal routes within the EU, including the UK, should be established.

For instance:

i A relocation scheme to take refugees from destitute conditions elsewhere in Europe;

ii A suspension of the ‘Dublin’ system, save for the purpose of family reunification.

4. There should be access to fair and thorough procedures to determine eligibility for international protection wherever it is sought.

International refugee law developed following the horrors of the Second World War because states, including the United Kingdom, recognised that people fleeing persecution have a moral and legal entitlement to protection.’

The call will hopefully serve to shed some light on the issues facing refugees and assist the wider public in appreciating why there is a need for change in the government’s response. As we have noted previously the media reporting on immigration is often surrounded by sensationalism, a misunderstanding and/or a misrepresentation of a number of issues. For example the much loved phrase illegal immigrants does not unpack that individuals at risk often have no legal steps available to enter the UK to be able to seek protection. Currently to claim asylum in the UK you need to first be physically present in the UK, however “The UK demands that people from dangerous countries, such as Syria or Eritrea, have visas in order to enter this country, […] but then the UK simply does not provide visas for the purposes of travelling to claim asylum,” as explained by Mr Saini QC in the Times.

We share the note of Immigration Practice Lawyers Association (ILPA) ‘do signal your endorsement, on your website, twitter, etc. and do bring it to the attention of someone you think the Home Secretary is more likely to listen to.’

To find out more or to offer your support you can email refugeeprinciples@gmail.com.