O (F) v Minister for justice, Equality and Law Reform and Another
|MR. JUSTICE BIRMINGHAM
|04 July 2008
| IEHC 213
|04 July 2008
 IEHC 213
THE HIGH COURT
REFUGEE ACT 1996 S11B(c)
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH OVERVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT NIGERIA 2004
K (G) & ORS v MIN JUSTICE & ORS
BANZUZI v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL & ORS UNREP 18.1.2007 2007 IEHC 2
K (D) v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL & ORS
G (T) v REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL & ORS UNREP BIRMINGHAM 7.10.2007 2007 IEHC 377 EX TEMPORE
Credibility - Country of origin information - Weight to be attached to country of origin information - Whether tribunal member made fundamental error of fact - Whether tribunal member took impermissible approach to assessment of credibility - Whether obligation to refer to every aspect of evidence or to identify all documents referred to - Whether documentation so critical as to call for specific assessment - Whether tribunal member had insufficient regard to limited intellectual ability when assessing applicant's credibility - D(K) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal  IEHC 132, applied; G(T) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal  IEHC 377, (Unrep, Birmingham J, 7/10/2007) distinguished; K(G) v Minister for Justice and Banzuzi v Refugee Appeals Tribunal  IEHC 2, (Unrep, Feeney J, 18/1/2007) considered - Leave to apply for judicial review refused - (2006/992JR - Birmingham J- 4/7/2008)  IEHC 213
O (F) v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Facts: The applicant from the Nigerian Delta State was illiterate and of limited understanding. She alleged an incident in respect of her husband arising from his political activities. The Tribunal had found her not to be a credible witness and had found her to be vague in her testimony. The applicant alleged inter alia a fundamental error of fact and a failure to have regard to the relevant country of origin information.
Held by Birmingham J. that there was ample material before the Tribunal to reach the conclusion that he did. Nothing in the procedures used undermined the integrity of the decision. The Tribunal was in the best position to determine her intellectual abilities and her credibility. The application would be refused.
In this case, the applicant is a national of Nigeria who has sought asylum in this State. On 21 st April, 2006, the Refugee Applications Commissioner ("RAC") recommended that the applicant should not be declared a refugee. From that decision an appeal was brought to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal ("RAT") and an oral hearing was held. By decision dated 26 th July, 2006, the RAT affirmed the earlier decision of the RAC and refused the applicant's appeal. The applicant now seeks to challenge the RAT decision by way of judicial review.
The applicant stales that she was living with her husband and six children in the Delta State. Her husband was originally an electrician but seems to have become involved with one of the oil companies and to have taken on a leadership role in the village, equivalent to that of Chief. It seems that he also became politically involved.
The applicant states that on one particular occasion in October or November 2005, a number of youths called to and broke into her family home. I would note at the outset that the applicant is very vague about dates, for reasons that I will come to. The youths removed the applicant's husband from their home, and his corpse was found later. Later that evening, the youths sought out the applicant and asked her to hand over her husband's documents, the whereabouts and nature of which were not known by the applicant. The applicant reported both incidents to the police. What transpired on foot of that report is the subject of some controversy or confusion, to which I will return.
Thereafter, the applicant fled Delta State and made her way south to Benin City, in Edo State. There, a Christian friend hid her and helped her to escape to Ireland. She left Lagos by air and then continued her journey by ship. She states that she does not know where the plane landed and where she boarded the ship. She says that she arrived in Ireland on 4 th February, 2006. She applied for asylum in the State by filling out an ASY-1 form on 23 rd March, 2006.
Before dealing in any detail with the decision or the grounds of challenge it is necessary to say that the applicant is said to be - and this seems to be the case - of limited intellectual ability, to be illiterate and to be unable to speak English other than Pidgin English. These factors are relevant to her difficulties with dates.
It is necessary, in order to appreciate the basis of the RAT decision and the grounds on which it is challenged, to outline the contents of the ORAC questionnaire, interview and decision/recommendation, the applicant's Notice of Appeal and the RAT decision itself.
The applicant completed the usual ORAC Questionnaire, or more accurately had the usual Questionnaire completed on her behalf. The applicant stated that a man she met in Moore Street, whom she had not previously known, completed the application for her. The applicant gives her date of birth as 7 th August, 1955. She explains that she is of Bini ethnicity, is a Christian, that Edo is her first language and that she also speaks Pidgin English. She completes question 16 by listing her six dependent children and giving their year and month of birth in each case. She indicates that the current whereabouts of her dependent children are unknown.
The applicant provides a full response to question which asks why she left her country of origin, and indeed she makes use of an additional page for this purpose. In summary, she indicates that in late January, her husband, to whom she refers as 'Chief Osifo', and the rest of the family were sleeping when a group of youths burst into the house, dragged her husband out, and set the house ablaze. His body was later found, burnt beyond recognition. She indicates that her husband had been accused of collaborating with the oil company and of not making payments due to the community, while at the same time he had been accused by members of his political party of taking kick backs from the government and failing to share it with them. Of particular note is that as part of her answer, the applicant says that when the police came, she wrote a statement and that she identified three of the youth leaders who she saw pick her husband out that night. They were arrested, and bailed the same day.
She goes on to explain that later on the same night, the youths and their leaders came looking for her at a house that she was sharing with a family friend. She says that they "demanded me and my children, shouting they have no place in the community for traitors and their children". She states that she escaped through a window and went to the police station where the police told her to hand over any of her husband's documents, and that it was only in that way that they could help her. She was not in a position to do this because she did not have any documentation. The police alleged that her husband was "eating the community money for schools and hospital" and told her that there was nothing that they could really do to protect her.
Further on in the Questionnaire, the applicant states that her husband was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a community chief in Bayesa State in the Niger Delta. In terms of her departure from Nigeria, the applicant stated that her church members organised money for a white man who worked in Nigeria to bring her to Ireland. When asked the full name and present address of her companion on her journey, she responded by saying "I call him Oga, he did not give me his address".
The applicant attended for interview with ORAC on 6 th April, 2006. The interview was conducted in Pidgin English and there was an interpreter present. At the outset, when asked her date of birth, the applicant responded "I'm 45 but I can't remember the date". When it was pointed out to her that she had furnished a date of birth on the Questionnaire and asked whether it was correct, she responded "it is likely, it was calculated for me". She explains that her last address in Nigeria was with a church member in Benin City and that before that she was in Warri, in Delta. The applicant says that the man who completed her ORAC Questionnaire did not read to her what was written in it.
When asked whether the details set out in the Questionnaire about her children were correct, she responded "the first one is seventeen years (Dian). I had my children at intervals of one year". She confirmed her children's names but was unable to remember their exact dates of birth, saying "I'm not educated so I don't know, there is a year between them all". She explained that she ran and left her children behind and that she did not know their whereabouts at that stage.
She was then asked when her problems began in Nigeria, and responded "I really don't know how to calculate it but I think it was about five months before the celebration of Christmas in December last year". She stated that she could not remember when she left Nigeria, but thought that it was in the same month that she was arrested by the police in Ireland, just after she arrived. She claimed that the person who brought her to Ireland just dumped her in a busy area, and that she had been in Ireland for two weeks before being arrested. She says that during those first...
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