FU (Nigeria) -v- The Minister for Justice & ors, [2016] IEHC 339 (2016)

Docket Number:2013 402JR
Party Name:FU (Nigeria), The Minister for Justice & ors
 
FREE EXCERPT

THE HIGH COURT

JUDICIAL REVIEW[2013 No. 402 JR]

BETWEEN

F.U. (Nigeria) (AN INFANT SUING BY HER NEXT

FRIEND AND MOTHER B.U.)APPLICANTAND

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, LAW RFORM AND DEFENCE, MARGARET LEVEY (SITTING AS THE REFUGEE APPEALS TRIBUNAL), IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERALRESPONDENTS

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Stewart delivered on 17th day of June, 2016.

  1. This is a telescoped hearing seeking, inter alia, an order of certiorari in respect of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (hereinafter ‘the RAT’) to affirm the decision of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to refuse to grant the applicant refugee status. The decision of the RAT was made on 30th April, 2013, issued to the applicant on 3rd May, 2013, and received by the applicant on 8th May, 2013. The applicant argues that the RAT failed to employ a forward-looking test when considering the potential risk to the applicant of suffering female genital mutilation at the hands of her father’s family. Secondly, a ground is advanced by the applicant’s mother, and next friend, that she is under threat from a former governor of a Nigerian state, who wished to prevent the next friend from implicating him in certain financial irregularities to which she was privy. The applicant and her mother have been granted leave to remain within the state until 13th May, 2018.

    Background

  2. The applicant is a Nigerian national and was born on 25th February, 2006, in Lagos, Nigeria. The applicant applied for asylum along with her mother, B.U., and her two brothers in 2007. The affidavit of the applicant’s mother states that the applicant travelled to Ireland in the company of her mother, who was born on 23rd September, 1980, in Nwagwa Keffi, Plateau State. The applicant arrived in the State on 23rd April, 2007, with her mother.

  3. The applicant’s mother gave evidence at the RAT hearing, which can be summarised as follows:-

    The applicant’s mother is an only child, her mother having died when she was four years old. The applicant’s mother was given to another family to mind children for that family. The man of that family sexually abused the applicant’s mother and, as a result, she fell pregnant with his child. She was then forced to marry a man called S., also known as A., who worked as a politician’s bodyguard. S.’s friend, J., befriended B.U. and gave her a job working in the Houses of the Assembly in 2003. After two months, she went to A. and was subsequently sent to K. to work as a stock recorder. The applicant’s mother alleges that serious financial impropriety and corruption was committed by the politician to whom S. provided protection; a former State governor in Nigeria. Four bank accounts were opened using the applicant’s mother’s name. B.U. married this man, known as Samson, with three ceremonies being undertaken to record the event officially. She stated that she stayed with him because it was “somewhere to stay. She didn’t have any say. He called the shots.” The applicant’s mother was warned by the workers that she was not to comment on the politician’s actions. A man put a knife to the applicant and warned her mother that she was to remain silent. This was a clear threat to the welfare of the applicant’s life.

  4. The applicant’s mother went to the police in April, 2007 and they took a statement from her concerning these threats. She also called a co-worker and old-school acquaintance called A. and asked her to mind the applicant while her mother was at the police station. The police placed the applicant’s mother behind bars and two police officers came to say that they would help her if she remained silent about the politician’s actions. A special crime and fraud unit of the police force arrived at the station; this unit is known as the EFCC.

  5. In the applicant’s mother’s s. 11 interview she was asked whether she knew the politician and she stated that she did not. She also stated that she could not identify the source of the money that was linked to the politician. She then provided the police with S.’s address. The next day, the police informed the applicant’s mother that Samson’s friend, J., had been killed by a bomb near a local mosque. The EFCC searched the applicant’s mother’s home and they found money hidden there. She stated that she did not know anything about this money. The EFCC also obtained access to bank accounts in B.U.’s name that contained funds. She again denied knowledge of this money. She remained in custody in the police station for a number of days.

  6. The applicant’s mother also alleges that the police raped her repeatedly in the police station over five days. She claims that she did not receive any food during this time. Eventually, a local pastor arrived at the station to provide some food and water to the applicant’s mother. After this stint in custody, the applicant’s mother was released and placed under house arrest. She then phoned A. and asked her to take the children to the applicant’s grandparents’ house.

  7. The applicant’s mother claims that she was confronted by a police officer called M. who stated that, if she gave him money, he would allow her to leave through the back gate. She did this and left, but the police officer was shot dead as a result of his actions. The applicant’s mother believes that her co-workers blamed her for this death and she was advised to leave. A friend gave her a passport under a false name and she was again advised to leave. A. gave the applicant’s mother a sum of money, which the applicant used to obtain passports for her children, including the minor applicant.

  8. The applicant believes that, if she returned with her children to Nigeria, she would not be protected by the police, as they “can’t protect you, they care about themselves…Regarding her children, they can get them too…Regarding Sophie she is afraid of circumcision for her. She will have it before she gets married.”

  9. The RAT also questioned the applicant’s mother regarding her travel to Ireland. It was stated that she first arrived in the United Kingdom, but she is not sure of the place where she arrived. From there, she came to Dublin.

  10. The applicant’s mother and the applicant made separate applications, firstly to the Office of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner (ORAC), with the daughter’s application being brought by her mother and next friend. These applications were refused and recommendations were made that the applicant should not be granted refugee status.

    The impugned Tribunal decision

  11. The applicant appealed the recommendation of ORAC to the RAT. The RAT rejected the appeal on credibility grounds. In the RAT decision, it states that the:-

    “applicant’s mother claims that she fears her daughter will be circumcised by her husband’s family and also that because of her own situation her children (including the applicant) will be targeted.”

  12. The applicant’s mother also claims that she would be killed by persons acting on behalf of the politician who used her bank accounts to launder money. The applicant’s mother further contends that she will be pursued by the police and the EFCC, as she managed to escape from her period of house arrest. The RAT found that the applicant had failed to discharge the burden of proof in relation to credibility and found that:-

    “…the difficulty with it is that the applicant’s mother was not circumcised and she indicated that at hearing. Thus this piece of fiction writing at Q21 merely highlights the mother’s talent for adapting facts and using them as though they applied specifically to herself and by extension to her daughter the applicant herein. I do not accept this claim as credible and therefore there is clearly no future risk to the applicant herein.”

  13. The RAT also made reference to the decision in the applicant’s mother’s application in relation to credibility and stated:-

    “Credibility is established when the applicant has presented a claim...

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