I try to avoid using this blog as a soapbox for my own personal (as distinct from academic) views. However, lawyers, I think, have a duty to speak out when their professional and personal views coalesce in respect of crucial matters of public policy. At present, there can be few more obvious candidates for that status than the refugee crisis. For that reason, I am one of 342 signatories to a statement that was published in The Guardian and The Times this morning calling for an urgent, humane and effective response by the UK Government to the refugee crisis.
The statement reads as follows:
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.
Further information about the Lawyers’ Refugee Initiative can be found here.