Refugee Crisis

Seraphus supports the statement calling for an urgent, humane and effective governmental response to the refugee crisis. Its signatories include retired judges, Queen’s Counsel, barristers, solicitors and law professors. The statement appears on Monday 12 October 2015 in The Times and The Guardian and it has 342 signatories comprising:

12 - Retired Judges
103 - Queen’s Counsel
30 - Partners and Directors
24 - Professors of Law and International Migration
127 - Barristers
24 - Solicitors
23 - Law Academics

The signatories believe that, as a matter of urgency:

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.

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.

But many member states of the European Union, including the UK, make it impossible for people to gain access to these rights by normal means of travel. They require regular visas conditioned on an early return home. There is no such thing at present as a visa for travel from refugee-producing countries such as Syria, Iraq, Eritrea or Afghanistan, permitting entry in order to claim asylum.

This situation, coupled with draconian penalties on airlines and ships which carry undocumented passengers, including those fleeing persecution, has created the conditions which drive individuals and families into the hands of people-smugglers, with unseaworthy and overloaded boats or suffocating lorries.

The EU’s ‘Dublin’ system, under which asylum-seekers are compelled to apply to the first member state in which they land, is dysfunctional. In certain member states, particularly at the EU’s periphery, reception conditions have collapsed and determination procedures are rudimentary.

Like many others, we consider that the UK Government’s offer to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East, spread over 5 years, is too low, too slow and too narrow.