B. (Nigeria) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMs. Justice Stewart
Judgment Date15 January 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IEHC 9
Date15 January 2015

[2015] IEHC 9

THE HIGH COURT

[No. 293 J.R./2011]
B [Nigeria] v Refugee Appeals Tribunal & Ors
JUDICIAL REVIEW
IN THE MATTER OF THE REFUGEE ACT 1996 (AS AMENDED)
IN THE MATTER OF THE IMMIGRATION ACT 1999 (AS AMENDED)
IN THE MATTER OF THE ILLEGAL (TRAFICKING) ACT 2000 (AS AMENDED) AND
IN THE MATTER OF THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 2003 SECTION 3(1)

BETWEEN

B. (Nigeria)
APPLICANT

AND

REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND LAW REFORM ATTORNEY GENERAL IRELAND
RESPONDENTS

D (K) [NIGERIA] v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL & MIN FOR JUSTICE 2013 1 IR 448 2013/12/517 2013 IEHC 481

I (E) & I (A) (MINORS) v MINISTER FOR JUSTICE & REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL (O'GORMAN) UNREP MAC EOCHAIDH 1.30.2014 2014 IEHC 27

EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (ELIGIBILITY FOR PROTECTION) REGS 2006 SI 518/2006 REG 7

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 2003 S2

HATHAWAY & FOSTER THE LAW OF REFUGEE STATUS 2ED 2014

O (FO) [NIGERIA] v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL & MIN FOR JUSTICE UNREP HOGAN 2.2.2012 2012/36/10628 2012 IEHC 46

R (I) v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL UNREP COOKE 24.7.2009 2009/47/11866 2009 IEHC 353

Immigration and asylum – Adverse credibility – Internal relocation – Applicant seeking asylum based upon persecution for reasons of race and social grounds – Whether applicant was a credible witness

Facts: The applicant is a Nigerian national. She applied for refugee status on the basis that was accused of witchcraft following her father”s death in March, 2009. She was subjected to several beatings by neighbours who, it was stated, blamed her for her father”s illness. She stated that she was helped by a man who took care of her in exchange for her undertaking housework for six months, during which time she was severely beaten by that man”s wife. She further stated that she complained to the police but received no help. This man arranged for her flight to Ireland through an agent. She departed Nigeria and arrived in Dublin in November, 2009. She was taken, by the agent, to Belfast where she was arrested attempting to board a ferry to Scotland. She was detained by UK authorities until being returned to Irish authorities in July, 2010. She claimed asylum based upon persecution in Nigeria for reasons of race and social grounds. Her claim was rejected by the Refugee Applications Commissioner in November, 2010, which stated that adverse credibility findings, as well as findings in respect of internal relocation, had been made against her. A notice of appeal was submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and a hearing was held in March, 2011 which was unsuccessful on the basis that the applicant was not a credible witness. The applicant made a telescoped application to the High Court for leave to seek judicial review, seeking an order of certiorari to quash the Tribunal”s decision, and remitting the applicant”s appeal for a de novo consideration by a separate tribunal member. The applicant contended that the tribunal erred in law in failing to identify which elements of the claim were regarded as credible. The applicant contended that the substantive findings were unlawful because there was no adequate analysis of the question of potential for internal relocation. In relation to the credibility findings the applicant submitted that, firstly, they relate to peripheral matters and are not concerned with refugee issues which are at the heart of s.2 of the Convention, and secondly, it was obvious that the applicant gave a considerable amount of information to the tribunal member in the summary of her evidence. The applicant contended that if the analysis of the applicant”s credibility by the tribunal member fails then the question of internal relocation kicks in and that should fail because it did not comply with the previous decisions of KD (Nigeria) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal & anor [2013] IEHC 481 and EI & ors v Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform & ors [2014] IEHC 27. The tribunal member submitted that she was satisfied that the applicant gave no credible evidence of being persecuted in Nigeria on the grounds of her race, religion and membership of a particular social group, or for any other convention reason. She was satisfied that the applicant was not a refugee within the meaning of s.2 of the Act. The respondents (the Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Attorney General) submitted that the decision-maker stated unequivocally and made a clear finding in relation to the lack of credibility on the part of the applicant. The respondents argued that the findings of the tribunal member were not based on the demeanour of the applicant but based on the manner in which she gave her evidence and the words she used.

Held by Stewart J that, having considered the process and procedure adopted by the tribunal member, she had set out very clearly the basis on which she arrived at her decision and the findings on credibility were not generalised. Stewart J held that it was open to the tribunal member to reach a determination in respect of the credibility of the applicant based on the evidence given to the tribunal as there were inconsistencies apparent between the evidence the applicant gave to the tribunal and the documentary evidence available.

Stewart J held that the applicant”s request for leave to seek judicial review be refused.

Application refused.

1

1. This is a telescoped application for leave to seek judicial review, seeking an order of certiorari to quash a decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal dated the 15 th March, 2011, and remitting the appeal of the applicants for a de novo consideration by a separate tribunal member.

Background
2

2. The applicant is a Nigerian national born on the 13 th April, 1982, in Ogun State. The following is the account which she gave in support of her application. She lived alone with her father from the time he became ill in 2005 until his death on 27 th March, 2009. The applicant was accused of witchcraft and was subjected to several beatings by neighbours who, it is stated, blamed her for her father's illness. As a result of one such beating the applicant states that she lost the sight in her left eye. She states that she was helped by a man who took care of her in exchange for her undertaking housework for six months, during which time she was severely beaten by that man's wife. She further states that she complained to the police but received no help. This man arranged for her flight to Ireland through an agent. She departed Nigeria on the 5 th November, 2009.

3

3. The applicant arrived in Dublin on the 6 th November, 2009, and states that she was taken, by the agent, to Belfast where she was arrested attempting to board a ferry to Scotland on the 29 th November, 2009. She was detained by the United Kingdom authorities until being returned to the Irish authorities on the 14 th July, 2010. She claimed asylum on that date based upon persecution in Nigeria for reasons of race and social grounds. The applicant was interviewed by the Refugee Applications Commissioner on the 29 th September, 2010, and her claim was rejected by the Commissioner in a letter of the 9 th November, 2010, which stated that adverse credibility findings, as well as findings in respect of internal relocation, had been made against the applicant. A notice of appeal was submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal on the 22 nd November, 2010, and a hearing was held on the 10 th March, 2011. By letter dated the 15 th March, 2011, the applicant was notified that the appeal was unsuccessful.

Impugned Decision
4

4. At this juncture it is worthwhile setting out the reasons for the refusal of refugee status contained in the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal on the 15 th March, 2011. Firstly, the tribunal member sets out a finding in relation to the applicant's credibility:

"The applicant presented as a well dressed young woman in her late twenties who spoke excellent English. It is believed that she might be a person who had reached third level education, but throughout the entire hearing she kept her responses to an absolute minimum and the manner in which she delivered her responses convinced the tribunal member that she was not a candid witness."

5

5. Further the tribunal member states that although she does not accept the aspect of the applicant's story in relation to the fear of persecution from her neighbours, internal relocation to a safe place within Nigeria is possible based on the country of origin information available to the tribunal. However, the tribunal member states that the issue of internal relocation does not apply, due to the tribunal's decision that the applicant was not a credible witness.

Submissions
6

6. Counsel for the applicant, Mr. Michael Conlon S.C., contends that the tribunal erred in law in failing to identify which elements of the applicant's claim were regarded as credible and...

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