Open Letter from International Lawyers: Re-opened for Signatures

by | Sep 23, 2015

This open letter emerged from a session on ‘Refugee Crisis and Europe’ that took place at the 11th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law in Oslo on 12th September 2015. Those international lawyers present at the session concurred that as international lawyers we should remind European States and the European Union, and inform European publics of the international law obligations that the states and the EU owe to those seeking refuge. This letter lays out these obligations both with regard those seeking access to Europe and those that have already made the journey. It urges new approaches to ensure that those seeking refuge can do so in safety and so that Europe lives up to its international responsibilities.

The letter was open for signature for just two days, from 21st September until midnight on 22nd September 2015.  It was signed by 674 international legal scholars and practitioners from across the globe, including leading experts in international refugee law.

Due to further demand, the letter was re-opened for signature from today, Thursday 24th September until midnight on Monday 28th September 2015. The letter begins ‘We, international lawyers…’ and is from those with scholarly or practical expertise in international law, so we ask that potential signatories bear this in mind.

Signature is effected by inputting your details here.

After the signature period closes, we will amend the letter to include the additional signatures.  The final version will be posted at the location of the existing version.

In short, it urges European states and the EU to:

– meet their obligations of international responsibility-sharing, to resettle significant numbers of refugees and provide aid to countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

– as regards those seeking protection in Europe, abandon those policies which prevent safe and legal access to protection. The UNHCR estimates over 2,860 people have died at sea trying to get to Europe this year alone. Suspending carrier sanctions and issuing humanitarian visas would largely prevent the need for those seeking refuge to make dangerous journeys.

– respect and protect the human rights of those seeking refuge once they are in Europe, including by enabling them to access asylum procedures or ensuring safe passage to countries where they wish to seek international protection.

– immediately suspend Dublin returns of asylum-seekers to their first point of entry, but ensure that its rules on family reunification are implemented fully and swiftly.

– relocate asylum-seekers and refugees in a manner that respects the dignity and agency of those relocated, and increases Europe’s capacity to offer protection.

– replace the Dublin System with one which accords with international human rights law and respects the dignity and autonomy of asylum-seekers, and supports international and intra-European responsibility-sharing.

– implement fair and swift procedures to recognize all those in need of international protection.

– while claims are being examined, afford those in need of international protection, at a minimum, the reception conditions to which they are entitled in international human rights and EU law.

– respect the right to family life, including positive obligations with regard to family unity, facilitation of swift family reunification and family tracing.

-treat all refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants with dignity and respect, respecting and protecting their human rights, irrespective of status.

Read the entire open letter here.

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