UK: Court of Appeal rules 1951 Refugee Convention applies to British Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On 25 May 2017, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that the UK Home Secretary has unlawfully refused entry to the UK to a group of refugee families who have spent more than 18 years at a British military base in Cyprus. The refugees were rescued from a fishing boat in the Mediterranean in 1998 and have been living in deteriorating conditions in ex-military accommodations since then.
The claimants argued that the UK was legally responsible for them and had to fulfil its direct obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which could not be delivered in the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. In 2014, they were refused entry to the UK on the grounds that they could be resettled in Cyprus instead and that they had no ties to Britain. The UK Home Secretary also argued that, under international law, the UK obligations arising from the 1951 Refugee Convention did not extend to that territory.
The Court of Appeal found that the 1951 Refugee Convention does apply to the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. It understood that the UK owed direct obligations to the refugees and that a durable solution for them implied resettlement in the UK territory, which must be “rapidly” made possible by the Secretary of State. The government has indicated it will seek leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners.



Refugee Status