Calais chapelA group of over 300 senior judges and lawyers have today criticised the government’s response to the refugee crisis as ‘deeply inadequate’. The statement, which was published in a full-page advertisement in The Times and sent to the prime minister, describes the UK —a nation which once had a foremost reputation as a safe haven for refugees—as having ‘lost its way’. It condemns the government’s offer of 20,000 resettlement places for Syrian refugees over five years as ‘too low, too slow and too narrow’.

In the open letter to the press, the group calls on the UK to take ‘a fair and proportionate share of refugees’ and proposes a number of alternatives for dealing with the migrant crisis, including the issuing of humanitarian visas and the creation of safe legal routes to the UK so that refugees are no longer forced to undertake dangerous journeys to reach Europe.

It also calls for the suspension of the Dublin Regulation, whereby asylum seekers can only claim asylum in the first EU member state they enter, and face deportation if they try to apply in another. This system has already been quietly ignored by Germany, which in August ordered its officers to process applications from Syrians even if they had made their way through other EU countries.

 ‘As a stable and prosperous country, we can do better than this.’
Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal

The statement draws its support from ‘the most eminent and expert body of opinion concerning refugees in the UK’, including two ex-Lords Chief Justice, five retired Court of Appeal judges and four former law lords. It is the latest move in a series proving the judiciary’s increasingly outspoken stance on political affairs.

According to the Guardian, other signatories include a former president of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza, ex-director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald, over a hundred QCs and a number of leading academics.

One signatory, retired immigration judge Catriona Jarvis, warned: ‘When history considers how our country has behaved in this moment of serious crisis, do we want to be judged as having wrung our hands while standing back in the face of immense suffering? We have a legal and moral responsibility to provide protection that is not beyond our capabilities and should not be beyond our will.’

Author: Lucie Boase

Lucie Boase is a paralegal specialising in actions against the police. She is Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) committee member and co-ordinates YLAL South West

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1 Comment

  • Christopher Lennon October 12, 2015 12:52 pm

    Syrians, out of compassion, yes; but on limited, extendable visas, so that they will return home to Syria when conditions there allow it.

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