BY (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 60
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:05 Feb 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/661b73cd-0157-4b4c-b377-841bc8b4c1ce/2015_IEHC_60_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Nigerian national who alleged that she was a policewoman there who had been forced to flee Nigeria as a result of being repeatedly targeted by a criminal gang, which had allegedly killed her mother, husband and daughter. She arrived in Ireland and sought asylum. Her only evidence of identity was a Nigerian police warrant card.

Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee. It was considered that she had not sufficiently demonstrated that she had been a serving police officer in a particular city, as she had claimed. It was also found that she had no supporting knowledge of a significant criminal event in the area of Nigeria with links to the police station to which she claimed to have been based, and had no documentation to support her contention that the events described by her actually occurred. She appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation. She was restricted to a paper appeal by virtue of a finding in the Commissioner’s report made pursuant to s. 13(6)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996.

She also contended that the Tribunal had made credibility findings against her over and above those which had been made by the Commissioner and upon which his s.13 (6)(b) finding had been made. She emphasised that the Tribunal had accepted that she was a Nigerian policewoman and had failed to deal with what she said was the inaccurate way details of an incident in her station’s locality had been presented to her at interview.

Reasoning:

The court decided to quash the Tribunal’s decision.

It accepted that it was not necessary to afford the applicant an oral appeal hearing under the Refugee Act 1996. However, if the Tribunal was effectively to ignore and/or abandon the findings made by the Commissioner and upon which the s.13(6)(b) decision had been arrived at, and proceed to make further adverse credibility findings in respect of the applicant, it held that natural and constitutional justice, fair procedures and audi alteram partem required that the applicant should be afforded the right to be heard and/or have an input into the process prior to the matter being determined. As that had not happened, it decided to quash the Tribunal’s decision.

Decision:
The court therefore granted leave and, the matter being telescoped, decided to quash the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Where an appeal against a first instance decision recommending refusal of an application for international protection is on the papers only, an appellate decision-maker who wishes to make findings that were not made by the first instance decision-maker should ensure that fair procedures are observed and that an applicant has an opportunity of making submissions on the considerations giving rise to those findings.

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