Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



In 2023, the United Kingdom enacted the Illegal Migration Act, implemented to deter individuals from seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. The Illegal Migration Act places a duty on the Secretary of State is to remove all persons who meet certain criteria regardless of whether they make a protection, human rights, slavery, or human trafficking claims. The Act provides a list of countries — Schedule 1 — which it declares to be safe and thus, obliges the Secretary to remove such nationals to their country of origin without consideration of their claim on the merits. This procedural mechanism increases the likelihood of individuals being subjected to refoulement in violation the 1951 Refugee Convention, which places a duty on the United Kingdom not to forcibly return individuals to a place where they fear persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Furthermore, differential treatment among refugees based on their country of origin is an infringement of the duty of non-discrimination because it ignores the fact that fear of persecution is based on the individual and not on a group stereotype. The Illegal Migration Act is a direct response to the increasing number of small boat arrivals, which predominantly encompass nationals from Albania, Afghanistan, and Iran. Of these three nations, Albania is the only country listed in Schedule 1. The United Kingdom’s presumption of safety in Albania is particularly shocking because prior to 2023, over one-half of Albanians’ asylum claims for refugee and human rights protection were granted in the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding the fact that Albania had one of the highest asylum grant rates, the Home Affairs Committee published a report in June 2023 announcing that it had found little evidence to indicate Albanians should require asylum. Unfortunately, Albanians have very legitimate fears of persecution as political corruption, criminal organizations and human trafficking are widespread. Individuals who do not fall under Schedule 1 will be removed to a safe third country, but the only such bilateral agreement was with Rwanda, which was officially declared unlawful by the United Kingdom’s highest court in November 2023. The Court found there were substantial grounds for believing that the removal of asylum claimants tot Rwanda would put them at great risk for being subjected to refoulement, citing Rwanda’s troubling human rights record in which the Rwandan government is primarily responsible for the majority of human rights violations. Only weeks later, the United Kingdom entered into a new treaty with Rwandan Prime Minister and proposed the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which if successful, will substantially limit an individual’s ability to challenge their relocation to Rwanda in the United Kingdom’s judicial system. The United Kingdom has managed to evade accountability for its breaches under the 1951 Refugee Convention thus far, but it is imperative that they expeditiously address these concerns to avoid deporting claimants too countries where they may fear persecution, or otherwise be in grave danger.