Refugee Council criticizes new visa rules for Syrians

Refugee Council has expressed concern at the government’s decision to change visa rules for people including Syrian, Libyan and Egyptian citizens travelling to the UK.

On 13th March 2012, Home Secretary Theresa May said they’ll all be required to apply for a visa if travelling through UK airports, under the Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) regime. "We see this as a necessary measure to protect the security of our borders," Ms. May said.

"We are very concerned that the government's change in visa rules will effectively close the borders to people who are fleeing the horrific violence and human rights abuses in Syria and the Arab Spring countries,” Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said. “Many of these people who have faced persecution will have been forced to leave at very short notice, and it will be impossible for them to apply for any kind of visa in order to reach a place of safety.”

Ms. Covey said that last year, the number of people from Libya and Syria applying for asylum in the UK increased sharply showing that people from these countries are in desperate need of UK’s protection.

At the same time that the UK government has called for the violence and suffering in Syria to end, “it is shocking that they would also introduce measures that will prevent people fleeing that same situation from finding safety,” Ms. Covey said.

“The government has made a commitment to offer protection to people in need of it, and now is a crucial time to uphold that commitment, not to withdraw it," she added.

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