Safe country of origin

United Kingdom

Country Report: Safe country of origin Last updated: 14/03/22


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Legislation allows for a safe country of origin concept.[1] States are designated safe by order of the Secretary of State for the Home Office. The Secretary of State may make such an order where they are satisfied that ‘there is in general in that State or part no serious risk of persecution of persons entitled to reside’ there, and that removal there ‘will not in general contravene’ the European Convention on Human Rights. In making the order, the statute requires the Home Secretary to have regard to information ‘from any appropriate source (including other member states and international organisations’.

Orders are in force in relation to: Albania, Macedonia, Moldova, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, Ukraine, Kosovo, India, Mongolia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mauritius, Montenegro, Peru, South Korea and Serbia. The section also allows partial designation, and currently designated as safe for men are: Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali and Sierra Leone. There is no appeal against designations. Designation may be challenged by judicial review. After successful challenges Bangladesh and Jamaica were removed from the list of designated countries.[2]

Where an asylum claimant comes from a designated country, the UKVI caseworker is obliged to certify the case as clearly unfounded unless satisfied that the individual case is not clearly unfounded. The consequence of the certificate is that an appeal against refusal may only be made from outside the UK (see Accelerated Procedure: Appeal).

Challenges by judicial review to safe country of origin decisions are also difficult to establish on a case by case basis, but some do succeed. For instance, in a case in which the Court of Appeal held that it was not irrational to treat Gambia as safe in general, the court still held that the applicant’s asylum claim was not bound to fail. He had already been ill-treated in detention because of his politics, and faced a possible trial for sedition.[3] The general designation as safe is often perceived to be very risky for particular groups who have not been taken into account in the assessment of the country as safe, as illustrated in the Supreme Court case of Brown mentioned above. In particular, the safety of women has been shown to have been left out of account. Lesbians, trafficked women, single women who are outside the accepted family structure may all be at risk in some countries designated as safe. Designation is also not reviewed routinely and there is no automatic review in response to changes in country conditions.

Asylum applicants in 2020 from countries designated as safe were as follows:


Country of origin Asylum applicants
Albania 3,071
India 1,046
Nigeria (men) 484
Brazil 205
Ukraine 113
Ghana (men) 91
Gambia (men) 83
Sierra Leone (men) 79
South Africa 66
Kenya (men) 56
Mali (men) 38
Mauritius 32
Mongolia 25
Kosovo 15
Malawi (men) 12
Bolivia 10
Peru 7
Ecuador 6
Liberia (men) 5
South Korea 2
Serbia 1

It appears from this that there is no consistent pattern in terms of the relevance of designation to the numbers of asylum seekers coming from these countries to the UK.

[1]  Section 94 NIAA.

[2]  High Court, R (on the application of Zakir Husain) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] EWHC 189 (Admin); Supreme Court, R (on the application of Brown) Jamaica [2015] UKSC 8, para 36.

[3]  Court of Appeal, MD (Gambia) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWCA Civ 121.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection