B (Nigeria) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Attorney General and Ireland

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Attorney General and Ireland
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 9
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:15 Jan 2015
Judge:Stewart J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum (Application for), Persecution, Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/4ebaadd5-8e1c-4533-8f10-9cfc91cbd8a9/2015_IEHC_9_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Nigerian national who applied for asylum in Ireland. She lived alone with her father from the time he became ill in 2005 until his death in 2009. She was accused of witchcraft and was subjected to several beatings by neighbours who blamed her for her father’s illness. She stated that she complained to the police but received no help from them. A man arranged and funded her travel to the State.

Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee, and this was affirmed on appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she challenged in these proceedings.

In the course of the investigation of her application, information was obtained from the United Kingdom Border Agency in relation to an application she made for a visitor’s visa, which indicated that she was married and had family in Ireland. This was queried with her at the appeal stage. She admitted that she had applied for a visa, but denied that the statements in it were true. She then denied making the application.

The Tribunal was not satisfied as to her credibility. It noted that she presented as a well-dressed young woman in her late twenties who spoke excellent English, and it considered it possible that she might have a third-level education. It noted, however, that throughout the appeal hearing she had kept her responses to an absolute minimum, stating “I don’t know” in response to a number of questions. It formed the view, on that account, that she was not a candid witness and had been uncooperative.

The applicant contended that the Tribunal had made credibility findings on peripheral matters and had erred in failing to identify which elements of her claim were regarded as credible and which were not. She also contended that the finding on internal relocation did not comply with reg. 7 of the EC (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006, as interpreted by case law. She argued that the Tribunal had made an unlawful assessment of credibility by reference to her demeanour, and that it had not acted with the care necessary when making such an appraisal.

The Tribunal argued that it had made a clear and unequivocal finding that the applicant lacked credibility and that the applicant was effectively asking the court to substitute its views on credibility findings for those of the Tribunal. It contended that its findings were not based on her demeanour but on the manner in which she gave her evidence and the words she used.

Reasoning:
The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It held that it had set out very clearly the basis on which it arrived at its decision. It noted that the findings on credibility were specific in nature and went to the core of the claim. It rejected the contention that the decision was based on demeanour; rather, it was based on the answers, or lack thereof, supplied by the applicant to the questions put to her and, in particular, their frequent monosyllabic nature. It also held that there were inconsistencies between the evidence given by the applicant to the Tribunal and, in particular, the information obtained from the British authorities.

Decision:
The court therefore refused leave and upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

An applicant for asylum has an obligation to cooperate in the assessment of his or her application. Where an applicant gives answers to questions which indicate that the applicant is being uncooperative or evasive, a decision-making body will be entitled to take that into account when assessing credibility.

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