H.O v The Refugees Appeals Tribunal and Others
 IEHC 144
[Record No. 2007/1672/J.R.]
Judicial Review – Asylum - Refugee Appeals Tribunal - Grounds of appeal - Adequate reasoning - Proper social group - Witchcraft - Fear of persecution - Refugee Act 1996
Facts: The applicant was a Nigerian national who applied for refugee status after entering Ireland on the 4 th June 2007. It was said by the applicant that she became pregnant in March 2007 to a Christian, which led to strife within her Muslim family. She stated that her father and brother threatened and assaulted her and her boyfriend, and ordered her to terminate her pregnancy. The applicant claimed that she then escaped to Lagos and from there enlisted the help of a Church Pastor to leave the country. Her child was born in Ireland on the 27 th August 2007. In support of her application for refugee status, she claimed that she had a well-founded fear of persecution for her and her child if returned to Nigeria. She also stated that she had not reported the matter to Nigerian police because her family told her they would not intervene and had not sought help from a non-governmental organisation because she was not aware of any. The application was refused at first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’) on the basis of negative credibility findings in respect of the applicant. It was also said that the applicant”s fear of persecution was not well-founded and that state protection in Nigeria would be available if she was to return there.
The applicant initiated judicial review proceedings to challenge the Tribunal”s decision and leave to apply was granted. It was claimed that the Tribunal had failed to consider the country of origin information properly, which led to an unlawful finding in relation to the availability of state protection. In this regard, it was said that the Tribunal had not given proper consideration to an Amnesty International report that indicated that Nigerian state authorities tended not to intervene when women and girls were subjected to violence from members of their families, and instead focused of the applicant”s failure to seek state protection. It was also said that the credibility findings made by the Tribunal in respect of the applicant were unreasonable and unlawful because they were made in breach of the duty to give reasons and were not based on any evidence.
Held by Mac Eochaidh J. that the Tribunal could not be said to have failed to consider the country of origin information submitted by the applicant. It was said that the contents of the Amnesty International Report indicated that a women”s rights in Nigeria may not be properly protected because of dismissive attitudes within the police, but this did not prevent the Tribunal from making a finding that the applicant”s fear of persecution if returned to Nigeria was not objectively justified and thus well founded.
In regards to the decision on state protection, it was said that the Tribunal had correctly considered the applicant”s reason for failing to seek state protection and whether such protection would have been forthcoming if the applicant had sought it. It was said that the Tribunal had been entitled to find that the applicant had failed to justify her failure to discharge the onus that was on her to seek state protection in Nigeria and to find that, on the basis of all of the available country of origin information, state protection would have been forthcoming if sought. As a result, it was held that the Tribunal”s finding on state protection was rationally made. It was also held that the Tribunal had been entitled to make negative credibility findings in respect of the applicant because there were a number of clear inconsistencies in her evidence
This is a judicial review of a decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal dated 21st November 2007, confirming the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner refusing the applicant a declaration of refugee status. Leave to seek judicial review in this matter was granted by McCarthy J. on 14th November 2013.
The applicant in this case is a Nigerian national, born on 10th January 1984, who arrived in the State on 4th June 2007. The applicant claims to have a well founded fear of persecution on the grounds of membership of a particular social group and religion. The applicant claims that her troubles began after she became pregnant in March 2007. Her boyfriend was a Christian while the applicant and all her family are Muslims. The applicant claims that when her father and brother found out that her boyfriend was a Christian, they refused to let her marry him. She claims that they threatened and assaulted him, breaking his hand in the process and that they told her she had to terminate her pregnancy.
The applicant states that initially she pretended to acquiesce to their wishes and remained in the family home for a week during which time she claims to have been beaten by her father and brother. She then left for a friend”s house nearby. The friend soon became aware that the applicant”s brother was actively searching for her and so gave the applicant some money in order to get to Lagos. On reaching Lagos the applicant claims she stayed with relatives, until she was banished on her uncle”s return to the house. The applicant claims she then sought out the assistance of a Pastor at a nearby church who got her in touch with a “white man” to help her. She claims the “white man” arranged for her to leave Nigeria and initially travelled with her on her journey to Ireland. The applicant arrived in the State pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl who was born on 27th August 2007.
The applicant claims that she fears that her family will kill her or her child. She states that she did not make any report to the police as her family had told her they would not intervene as it was a family matter. She further states that she did not seek the help of a non-governmental organisation as she did not know of any.
Mr. Mel Christle S.C., on behalf of the applicant, made three broad challenges to the decision of the Tribunal Member in this case. In the first instance, counsel submitted that there was a failure to consider the country of origin information. Second, it is claimed that there was an unlawful finding in relation to the availability of state protection taking into account the country of origin information submitted. Finally, it was contended that the credibility findings made by the Tribunal in respect of the applicant were unreasonable and unlawful.
In relation to the first claim, counsel submits that the Tribunal Member failed to take into consideration the country of origin information which was supportive of the applicant”s case, in particular with regard to her finding on state protection. In this regard, counsel notes that the Tribunal Member quotes a passage from an Amnesty International report from 31st May 2005 which appears to lend credence to the applicant”s proposition that women and girls in Nigeria are subjected to violence from some members of their families. However, counsel makes criticism that in proceeding to address the question of whether the applicant”s fear was objectively well founded by reference to the availability of state protection, the Tribunal Member failed to afford the applicant the benefit of the contents of that Amnesty International report and instead preferred the contents of another report. In this regard it is submitted that the Amnesty International report indicated that the persecution feared by the applicant was viewed as a private matter by state authorities and as such didn”t warrant their intervention.
In assessing the Tribunal Member”s finding in relation to state protection, counsel notes that while the Tribunal recognised that the correct test to be applied was to examine whether state protection might...
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