The applicant was a Nigerian national who was born in May 1991. She arrived in the State on 9 January 2007 when she was 15 years old and applied for asylum. The applicant claimed to been threatened with forced marriage and attempted rape. She said she was given assistance by the African Refugee Foundation (“AREF”) before ultimately leaving Nigeria. As part of her asylum claim the applicant submitted a refugee card and a letter from AREF to corroborate her account. The applicant’s refugee claim was rejected at first instance and appeal in part on credibility grounds; in particular, the authenticity of the AREF documents was not accepted. The applicant instituted judicial review proceedings arguing that the Tribunal should have made efforts to verify the documents before reaching a conclusion that they were not authentic. The High Court (Barr J.) found in favour of the applicant and held that there was a duty on the decisionmaker to take steps to investigate the authenticity of the documents. The High Court subsequently certified two points of law of exceptional public importance for the purposes of an appeal in the following terms:
(i) Whether the effect of this court’s judgment is to require the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to adopt an investigative role not provided for in the provisions of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended)?
(ii) Whether by effectively placing an obligation on the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to contact the creator/author of a document tendered as evidence by the applicant, the court’s judgment requires the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to act contrary to the duty of confidentiality imposed on it by s. 19(1) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended)?
The Court of Appeal held that a decision-maker is not obliged as a general rule to conduct his or her own investigations in order to establish the authenticity of a document relied on by an applicant for international protection, although there may be special circumstances where this is required. It was held that while it is clear from the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Singh v Belgium (2 October 2012) that Contracting States may be under such an obligation in particular cases where the authenticity of the documentation is critical and the implications for the claimants otherwise potentially grave, the Court of Appeal was satisfied that there was no general rule to this effect.
Contrary to the conclusion of the High Court in the present case, the Court of Appeal was satisfied that the decision maker could not be faulted for her decision. She conducted a careful review of the documents relied on by the applicant and concluded for stated reasons that they were unlikely to be authentic. In those circumstances the court said it was unnecessary to express any view on Question 2.