U.S. Sixth Circuit Denies Asylum to Albanian Woman Who Was Trafficked
Friday, August 3, 2007 2:11 PM

A young Albanian woman sought asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) because she feared being forced to work as a prostitute if she were forced to return to Albania. She testified in Immigration Court that men unknown to her had tried to kidnap her as she was walking home from school one day.  She managed to get away, but as she ran away one of the attackers told her "not to get too excited" because she would end up on her "back in Italy." She understood this statement as a threat that they would kidnap  her and force her into prostitution in Italy. The incident was reported to local police, but the police did not take any action in response.

The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied asylum.  First, the judge found she had failed to define a recognizable social group.  The group she claimed to be a member of, "young, attractive Albanian women," was simply too broad to constitute a social group under asylum law.  The judge also found that even if she had satisfied that element, that she nonetheless had failed to show that the attack was was "on account of" her membership in the group, as opposed to a random, unfortunate criminal act.  The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the IJ's decision without opinion.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the IJ's finding that "young, attractive Albanian women" do not constitute a particular social group for the purpose of asylum.  First, the Court noted that the group as she defined it was too generalized and sweeping to constitute a social group.  Second, the Court found that the group was circularly defined. To obtain a grant of asylum, the group must have a unifying characteristic besides the fact that it risks persecution.

The Court also rejected her claim that she was eligible for humanitarian asylum because the one attack did not constitute past persecution. By extension, the Court held that the random attempt to abduct her did not establish a well-founded fear of future persecution. In doing so, the Court failed to refer to any evidence of the prevalence of trafficking in women that may have been on the record.  The Court, therefore, upheld the BIA's denial of her asylum and withholding of removal claims. Her CAT claim was also rejected because she failed to show that government officials acquiesced in her attempted kidnapping or that they would acquiesce in the future.

Compiled from: Rreshpja v. Gonzales, 420 F.3d 551 (6th Cir. 2005).