A tale of two human rights lawyers: Could a Labour government realise a better future in the UK for refugee protection with control?

The question of whether and, if so, how countries can construct arrangements to transfer asylum seekers to other countries is viewed with alarm by most supporters of refugee rights. But this need not be so. This briefing shows how Labour’s focus on the potential for tough action on Channel crossings, when combined with improved responsibility sharing for refugees across Europe, may represent a way forward that is compatible with the Refugee Convention, and a preferable alternative to the ‘Rwanda scheme’.


  • Greater public support for providing practical protection to refugees requires states to be able to:
    • Exercise greater control over refugee flows
    • More fairly share the burden and responsibilities to which those flows give rise
  • Rather than thwarting states’ ability to do so, the International Refugee Convention in fact gives states leeway to do just that
  • Sir Keir Starmer’s statements suggest that Labour are considering how greater control and responsibility sharing might best be achieved within the European region, allied to a ‘get tough’ message on people smuggling
  • The latter though is doomed to failure unless coupled with a fundamental reform of the refugee system to break the link between where a refugee makes their claim and where they are settled if their claim succeeds
  • For the UK, there is currently a window of opportunity to be a key contributor to the development of a revised refugee responsibility sharing system within Europe, one that sees the UK bearing its fair share but also gaining important protections in terms of its own potentially significant exposure to refugee flows in the future.


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