Teenage asylum seeker secures High Court permission to challenge illegal migration laws

A teenage asylum seeker from Iran who travelled alone on a small boat to the UK has secured High Court permission to challenge the Illegal Migration Act (IMA).

The 16-year-old boy, who is currently staying at a children’s home in Northern Ireland, was granted leave to seek a judicial review amid claims the controversial legislation breaches the Windsor Framework.

A judge in Belfast ruled on Tuesday he has also established an arguable case that parts of the IMA are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

His solicitor, Sinead Marmion of Phoenix Law, hailed it as a significant decision for cases involving unaccompanied children in the asylum system.

As part of the Government’s attempts to stop migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, anyone arriving illegally in the UK will be detained and removed under the terms of the IMA.

A separate High Court challenge to the Act mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is currently awaiting determination.

But proceedings brought on behalf of the Iranian teenager focused on the impact of the IMA on unaccompanied children.

The court heard he travelled through Turkey, Greece and France before getting on a small boat to the UK and claiming asylum in July last year.

He stated that he travelled by a dangerous route and is terrified of being sent back to Iran, claiming he would be killed or sent to prison.

Ms Marmion argued that the IMA could provide unaccompanied children in the asylum asylum system with an incentive to run away in a bid to avoid removal once they turn 18, driving them into the arms of exploiters and traffickers.

It was contended that provisions in the Act are incompatible with Article 2 of the post-Brexit Windsor Framework, which commits the UK not to diminish human rights safeguarded from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Justice Humphreys ruled: “It is clearly arguable that this applicant enjoys the protection of Article 2(1) of the Windsor Framework and can seek to rely on the rights enshrined in the various EU Directives, Regulations and the Charter in order to challenge the provisions of the IMA.”

The judge also held that the boy had cleared the preliminary stage in arguing the Act breached his rights under the ECHR.

Granting him the necessary legal status as a potential victim, Mr Justice Humphreys pointed out: “This applicant is at real risk of removal from the UK without his protection claim being determined.

“The evidence reveals that the UK Government intends to commence these provisions.”

He confirmed: “The applicant has clearly established an arguable case with realistic

prospects of success and there are no discretionary bars to the grant of leave.”

The application for judicial review will now be heard in full next month.

Welcoming the determination, Ms Marmion said later: “This is a significant decision in the journey to challenging the lawfulness of the Illegal Migration Act.

“We act for an unaccompanied minor, who are among the most vulnerable in society.” 


Sinead Marmion


Peter Corrigan

Legal Executive

Clíodhna Hardy

Legal Executive

Alannah Faulkner


Sinead Marmion

Sinead is a solicitor with expertise in dealing with asylum and immigration cases. She has an LLM in Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast and is fluent in French. 

Sinead has built up an expertise in immigration and asylum work, with specialism in unaccompanied children’s claims. 

Judicial Review

Sinead has specialism in public law challenges in immigration cases through judicial review. She has successfully challenged the Home Office’s decision in respect of a minor asylum-seeker’s age assessment, which is the first of its kind in the jurisdiction. She has a number of judicial review challenges ongoing in respect of the Home Office’s delays in deciding asylum claims within a reasonable time. She is also acting in the first challenge in Northern Ireland in respect of how the rights of asylum seekers interact with the rights enshrined in Article 2 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Sinead is acting in a judicial review against the PPS in the Divisional Court in respect of a failure to prosecute forced labour and slavery of fishermen in a Northern Irish port, which is also the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland. She is instructed in a number of judicial reviews against the Home Office in their failure to recognise her client as victims of trafficking. She has also acted in appeals from the High Court to the Court of Appeal.


She has represented clients at the First tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal, and Asylum Support Tribunal. This includes successful challenges to refusals of asylum in LGBT cases, political persecution cases and religious persecution cases. She has also had successes in challenging refusals of granting of residence cards by the Home Office on derivative rights of residence cases through the Zambrano route. Sinead has also represented clients who have faced destitution due to unlawful refusals to grant asylum support through representation at the Asylum Support Tribunal. 

Sinead also provides legal support on family and criminal defence cases arising from her immigration work. 


She works closely with Barnardo’s Independent Guardian Service in dealing with cases for unaccompanied minors. Sinead also works with victims of trafficking and modern slavery and works closely with Flourish NI. Sinead is also retained by South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP), which is Northern Ireland’s largest migrant organisation run by veteran civil rights activist, Bernadette McAliskey. Through her work with STEP, Sinead advises on complex cases involving Europeans and their family members applying to the European Settlement Scheme. 

Sinead has experience in a wide range of immigration related matters including; entry clearance, family reunion, spouse and fiancé visas, family visas, European Economic Area (EEA), visit visas, and settlement and naturalisation applications. 

Sinead obtains instruction from clients who are in detention in Larne House Detention Centre, often facing removal and deportation. This can lead to bail applications, asylum claims, judicial review,  urgent injunctions, and unlawful detention claims. 


Sinead has assisted on setting up the first Northern Ireland regional working group for the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA).

She is also Chair of the Law Society’s Immigration Practitioners’ Group. 

Sinead has recently been appointed as Module Coordinator for the Immigration module on the Public Law & Tribunals course in the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Queen’s University Belfast. 

Sinead is a member of Phoenix Law’s wellbeing committee.


Peter Corrigan

Legal Executive

Clíodhna Hardy

Clíodhna Hardy is a legal executive in the criminal defence and regulatory department.  Clíodhna is an important member of the criminal defence team having been involved in serious and complex trials across a number of jurisdictions, including Dublin and Belfast.   Clíodhna has acquired particular expertise in Extradition having advised on proposed extraditions to other jurisdictions which involved potential breaches of human rights.   

Clíodhna advises both individuals and organisations regarding their right to protest and has recently been involved in the defence of high profile prosecutions of the Extinction Rebellion and Animal Rebellion protestors.    

Criminal Defence:  

  • Extinction Rebellion (District Court, Dublin) 
  • Animal Rebellion (District Court, Dublin) 
  • DPP v Anthony Stokes (District Court, Dublin) 
  • DPP v Lisa Smith (Special Criminal Court, Dublin) 
  • R v Gerard Lagan (Double Murder – Belfast Crown Court) 
  • R v Jake O’Brien (Murder – Belfast Crown Court) 
  • Operation Arbacia (High profile prosecution involving offences including Directing Terrorism – ongoing) 

Legal Executive

Alannah Faulkner

Let's get in touch

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we will contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.