12 Oct 2015

Syria refugees: former judges condemn government response

Hundreds of prominent lawyers, four former law lords and five retired court of appeal judges have united in an unprecedented move to condemn the prime minister’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis as “deeply inadequate”.


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In a letter to David Cameron signed by, among others,  the former president  of the supreme court, Lord Phillips, and the ex- president of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza, they describe the government’s offer to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years as “too low, too slow and too narrow”.

The legal profession’s statement calls for the UK, with other EU states, to urgently set up secure legal routes and a system of humanitarian visas  so refugees are not forced to risk their lives at the hands of human smugglers.

Former appeal court judge Sir Stephen Sedley said “it is within the UK’s power to curtail the lethal boat traffic by enabling refugees from countries such as Syria and Iraq to travel here lawfully in order to apply for asylum… our government’s present offer… is wholly inadequate. As a stable and prosperous country, we can do better than this”.

The letter recommends  the Dublin agreement , which dictates asylum seekers must remain where they first arrive, has become dysfunctional. It argues reception facilities in countries like Greece and Italy have collapsed and the regulations should be suspended.

Former law lord Walker said “the EU’s Dublin accord is proving to be against the spirit of the refugee convention and an obstacle to dealing with the crisis effectively and humanely…”

In September the prime minister described the decision to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees as the country fulfilling its moral responsibility.

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5 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    Mr Cameron and his advisor’s are probably privy to that, which isn’t available to us. This ‘sudden’ crisis appears manufactured in many respects.

  2. nh downing says:

    As Giles Fraser responded when asked how many refugees should be taken in, All of them. Every last one. There but for the grace of God …

  3. Thomas Park says:

    My initial response to this was “So what?”. When it comes down to it they are just lawyers, people who have studied law. Does that give them more of a right to express their opinion on whether the people of the United Kingdom should take in more people? No, of course it does not.

    It should be a democratic decision and it is right that democratic processes are what stand in the way of more people coming. I personally would be all for a vote given to the entire country on how many people they want to take. That is the fair way to decide it seeing as it is all of our tax paying that pays for it.

  4. James Alton says:

    I heard one of these presumably rich, remote supposed law experts on radio 4 this morning – she admitted that there were millions of refugees that could be journeying to a neighbourhood like yours soon, and when asked how many should be accepted she was less than forthcoming.

    None of these people, Syrians or whoever, are refugees once they leave the borders of Syria – they’re all economic migrants. As hundreds of thousands become millions re-settled within Europe, those migrants attract other economic migrants because they’re now migrating to a place in which there are not now so many strangers. Of course, these migrants are strangers to the indigenous neighbours in many more ways than an influx of their own kind, and in years to come the indigenous neighbours will become less of a majority, perhaps a minority, like has already happened in many places throughout Europe. When the migrants become sufficiently numerous, and the gratitude of being rescued (from, if anything, poverty) is no more than a memory, then trouble will ensue because many of them, because of their refusal to integrate, will feel alienated from society at large. This is happening right now yet we’re still accepting these migrants, and these lawyers want to ignore the Dublin accord to suit their own ends, whatever they may be.

    Yes, a tranche of lawyers want to throw away a law, made in Europe for the benefit of Europe, because thousands of non-European migrants are forcefully ignoring it by dint of their numbers. Now that’s what I call upholding the law – get enough foreign people who don’t like the law and you can persuade hundreds of lawyers and judges to denounce it. It used to be the case that crime was all about the criminal, with the victim given scant to no thought, but that state of affairs is supposed to have changed – not here. The criminals here are running riot and their victims – their eventual neighbours – are given no thought at all.

  5. oliver s says:

    So accurate. The Government’s response to the Calais problem illustrates their overall incompetence – in that case shared with the French. Rather than establish proper asylum processing, they build wire fences. There is also a need to put much greater pressure on the Gulf States to do their part.

    The UK has managed to accommodate several hundred thousand economic migrants from Eastern Europe so the capability to accept real war refugees is surely greater than Cameron’s pathetic offer. Alan Henning should be decorated post humously . an ordinary man doing the extra ordinary – and showing that the crisis did not start in the last 3 months

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