A (A Minor) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal
Court/s:Supreme Court
Citation/s:Unreported judgment
Nature of Proceedings:Appeal
Judgment Date/s:16 Jan 2013
Judge:Hardiman, Fennelly, O’Donnell, Clarke and MacMenamin JJ
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum (Application for), Asylum application (Examination of an), Child, Minor, Persecution, Persecution (Actors of), Protection, Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
Geographic Focus:Ireland


The applicant’s mother made an asylum application on her behalf in which she alleged that the applicant was at risk of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) in Nigeria from a family member. The Refugee Appeals Tribunal found that the claim lacked credibility and, in effect, cast doubt on the existence of the family member. It also found that state protection and internal relocation were available to the applicant. The applicant’s mother issued proceedings to challenge the Tribunal’s decision.

The High Court upheld the credibility findings made by the Tribunal, but nonetheless quashed the decision on the basis that it had failed to assess the risk to the applicant of being subjected to FGM in Nigeria having regard to country of origin information which showed a high rate of it amongst her tribe and the potential lack of police protection. The High Court granted the Tribunal a certificate of leave to appeal on the grounds that its decision raised a point of law of exceptional public importance and that it was desirable in the public interest that an appeal be taken.


The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the High Court and allowed the appeal of the Tribunal. It noted the fact that the Tribunal had not considered credible the applicant’s claim to fear the infliction of FGM from a particular “actor of persecution”. In those circumstances, the Supreme Court made it clear that the high statistical incidence of FGM in Nigeria could not, of itself, place any obligation on an asylum decision-maker to confer refugee status on an applicant such as the minor.


The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the High Court and allowed the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to stand.


It is not sufficient for a person claiming to fear persecution on the basis of FGM to show that there is a high statistical incidence of FGM in her community or tribe. She must show a credible basis for believing that an “agent of persecution” exists who would inflict it on her in her country of origin.

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