AWM v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 365
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:15 Jun 2015
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Refugee
Country of Origin:Kenya
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/bb637f60-db09-4a3f-858d-e9fdd11076e6/2015_IEHC_365_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Kenyan female and a Christian who began a relationship with a Kenyan man, a Muslim of Somali ethnicity. She claimed that their relationship ended when she refused to convert to Islam. She alleged that, following a number of incidents including inter alia attacks on churches, of which she believed she was the intended target, she felt her life was in danger and sought asylum on the ground of a fear of persecution by Muslim extremists.

Having investigated her application, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which she unsuccessfully appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she challenged in these proceedings, seeking leave ex parte. The Tribunal made a number of adverse credibility findings on her claim arising from discrepancies between the contents of a police report and her description of the same attacks recorded in it, and discrepancies between newspaper reports submitted by the applicant and her own version of events.

The court granted leave to challenge the Tribunal’s decision on one ground.

Reasoning:
The applicant argued that the Tribunal did not have reasonable regard to her evidence of the attacks on the churches she had personally attended. The court rejected that argument and held that the Tribunal had reasonable regard to all of her evidence regarding that claim. It rejected her assertion that the rejection of her claim that she had been followed by four men was based on conjecture. It held that the reasons given were detailed and based on logic and reason, and that a finding of implausibility should not be confused with a finding based on conjecture.

In relation to the particular complaints about the Tribunal’s rejection of the authenticity of the documents, the court rejected her argument that there was a duty on the Tribunal to take steps to investigate the authenticity of documents. It stated that such an approach might be appropriate where, for example, a document was thought to be a fake because of its appearance or because of physical features. However, no rule of law prevented a decision-maker from deciding that a document was fake because of its contents.

With regard to the authenticity of the police report, the court noted that the decision-maker had made adequate enquiry into how the content of the document came to be written but had not been satisfied with the explanation given. It therefore rejected the claim that the Tribunal was not entitled to find that the report lacked authenticity. However, with regard to the authenticity of the newspaper reports, the court held that, for the purpose of a leave hearing, it was irrational of the Tribunal to have concluded that the existence of two typographical errors in printed articles was an indication that they were fake. Furthermore, the inconsistencies in the detail of the suffering of the women in the articles were not necessarily an indicator that the articles were fake. The applicant was not responsible for the content of the articles, whereas she was responsible for the content of the handwritten police report because she had dictated it to her sister and had checked it personally afterwards. The court therefore held that there was a good, arguable case that the Tribunal was not entitled to reject the articles as fake.

Decision:
The court was therefore satisfied that substantial grounds had been established to permit the applicant to challenge the decision on one ground only, namely that the Tribunal unlawfully decided that two newspaper articles submitted in support of the applicant’s claim were not authentic.

Principles:

Where a protection applicant seeks to support a claim by means of newspaper articles or similar material, a protection decision-maker should not necessarily find such material to be fake on account of typographical errors in it, where it cannot be satisfied that the applicant was responsible for the content of the articles.

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