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Top lawyers slam UK's response to Syria refugee crisis

PUBLISHED: 07:59 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:42 12 October 2015

A Syrian woman changes her son's clothes near a makeshift camp for asylum seekers, after crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border near Roszke, southern Hungary. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A Syrian woman changes her son's clothes near a makeshift camp for asylum seekers, after crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border near Roszke, southern Hungary. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

More than 300 lawyers, including a former president of the Supreme Court, have signed a statement criticised the Government's response to the Syrian refugee crisis as "deeply inadequate".

Syrian refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island in Greece. Photo: Petros GiannakourisSyrian refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island in Greece. Photo: Petros Giannakouris

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the first head of Britain’s highest court, joined three other former law lords and the former president of the European Court of Human Rights Sir Nicolas Bratza as signatories of the document which says an offer to house 20,000 refugees over five years is “too low, too slow and too narrow”.

The statement also calls for the suspension of the “Dublin system”, which means asylum seekers must seek asylum in the first EU country they arrive in.

Organisers say the list also includes five retired Lords Justices of Appeal, the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald, Lib-Dem peer Lord Carlile of Berriew QC and more than 100 Queen’s Counsel, as well as solicitors.

Sir Stephen Sedley, a signatory and a Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal until he retired in 2011, said: “As the statement explains, 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.

“Since refuge from persecution and war is a universal human right, this means recognising that our Government’s present offer to take no more than 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years is wholly inadequate.

“As a stable and prosperous country, we can do better than this.”

The statement is due to be published at www.lawyersrefugeeinitiative.org, says: “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 five years, is too low, too slow and too narrow.”

Last week Oxfam accused the UK government of not taking its “fair share” of Syrian refugees.

Britain has given £1 billion in aid - more than any other EU nation - to countries neighbouring Syria that have taken in millions of refugees.

An EU quota scheme to relocate 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary does not include Britain as it is not part of the Schengen “borderless” area.

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