Author Archives: Bradley Hillier Smith and Ruvi Ziegler

A Radical New Policy: Humanitarian Visas: a life-line for refugees

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With ever increasingly dangerous journeys, and increasingly restrictive measures against refugees to prevent them accessing asylum, the Liberal Democrats have taken the lead in adopting a radical new proposal: humanitarian visas for refugees to travel safely and legally to find the safety they deserve in the UK.

‘Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries freedom from persecution’, says Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. There is no such thing as an illegal asylum-seeker: only asylum seekers lacking legal routes to safety. But how can you get safely and legally to other countries?  Well, if you are British, your passport gives you visa-free access on arrival to 132 countries, and nearly all others will grant you a visa on application. But if you are Afghani, Iraqi, Iranian, or Syrian there is no such possibility.

In the year to March 2020, 35,000 people applied for asylum in the UK: virtually all of them had to enter irregularly – smuggled in lorries, crossing the channel in small boats, or using forged documentation. Ask yourself: why would a Darfuri escaping war-torn Sudan have to forge their passport to get on a plane from Khartoum to London? Why would an Eritrean in Calais pay thousands of pounds to traffickers, risking their lives by travelling in unseaworthy boats to reunite with their family in the UK, rather than board a Eurostar for £50? The answer is clear: if either of them attempted to use their national documents, they will be denied boarding.

Less than 1 percent of the world’s refugees are resettled. Most refugees are forced to risk their life and limb on perilous journeys, enduring extensive human rights violations on the way, to claim their human right to asylum. Many of those who made it to Calais have gone to dangerous lengths to reach adequate safety, running from Turkish border guards with a shoot to kill policy, walking the channel tunnel for 30 miles avoiding the speeding trains, suffering abuse and violence from police and border officials, cramming onto small unsafe dinghies to cross the channel, and losing their loved ones on the way, all to try and find safety.

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