Do Human Rights Treaties Help Asylum-Seekers?: Lessons from the United Kingdom

This Article analyzes the circumstances under which international human rights treaties have helped or hurt asylum-seekers in the United Kingdom since 1991. Combining a database of nearly two thousand asylum decisions and fifty-one interviews with U.K. refugee lawyers, it identifies several factors which help determine the impact of human rights treaties in individual cases. It focuses on the United Kingdom because that country has ratified or otherwise adopted numerous human rights treaties over the past three decades, and U.K. refugee lawyers regularly invoke those treaties in representing their clients.

This Article fills a gap in the treaty effectiveness literature by addressing the extent to which domestic courts rely on or otherwise reference human rights treaties in asylum litigation. It posits that the impact of such treaties in any given case depends on several factors, including the extent to which the treaty has been incorporated into domestic law and the gender of the applicant. This Article also demonstrates that while such treaties help asylum-seekers in some cases, in others they may do more harm than good.

Photo by Betty Longbottom (Source)