The Applicants were Azeri nationals (husband and wife), who applied for and obtained asylum status in Poland in April 2006. Mr S was a journalist who became editor in chief of a prominent opposition newspaper in Azerbaijan in 1994. He complained that during his tenure as editor he was subjected to assaults, threats and blackmail and that agents of the Azeri security forces made an attempt on his life. It was against this background that the couple left Azerbaijan and went to Poland, where they applied and were granted asylum status. The affidavits supplied by the couple in these proceedings chronicled their treatment in a Polish refugee camp which was ‘hard and decidedly unpleasant.’ While in Poland, the couple maintained that hey were being watched on behalf of the Azeri Government. They left and came to Ireland, where they claimed asylum again. The Refugee Applications Commissioner refused to process their claims, and they sought to have that decision quashed by the High Court.
The High Court (Hogan J.) considered that if the issue in this case solely turned on the question of whether the applicants alleged that they were at risk if returned, then it would have been inevitable that the impugned decision would have to be quashed, since it would have been incumbent on the Commissioner to investigate the credibility of these claims. However, the Court placed emphasis also on the fact that the couple made no attempt to inform the Polish authorities and to invoke their protection in respect of the events that occurred there. The Court held that it is not enough for an applicant to simply allege a fear of persecution: he/she must go further and must generally show that the state in question is either not disposed to granting reasonable protection, or, perhaps, is simply not in a position to do so. The Court noted that there has been no attempt by the Applicants to show that Poland was not in a position to provide some degree of protection. On this basis, the Court concluded that the Applicants could not claim to have a fear of persecution in the particular sense understood by the 1996 Act. For these reasons, the Court upheld the Commissioner’s decision.