CW v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 157
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:28 Mar 2014
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum application (Examination of an), Country of Origin Information, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee (Convention), Refugee Law, Refugee Status
Country of Origin:Liberia
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/7003d815-9059-4f98-907a-f22cf1103d16/2014_IEHC_157_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Liberian national who claimed to have arrived in Ireland in 2008 and applied for asylum. He claimed to be an unaccompanied minor but was not accepted as such as he had not provided a genuine passport or any verifiable documentation to prove his identity and appeared to be older in appearance and to have the maturity of an adult.

He claimed that his father worked for Charles Taylor, the former leader of Liberia, and that he had been involved in the killing and torture of rebels. His father was killed in 2003 by rebels. The applicant said that he was forced to fight for Charles Taylor but was captured by the rebels, and tortured and imprisoned for two or three months. He escape with the help of a friend of his father and fled to a children’s camp where he remained until 2008. He claimed that his sister, who lived in Europe, sent her friend to find him and that she organised his travel to Ireland via an unknown African country and another European country. He said that he escaped Liberia by ship, came by air to Europe, and then arrived in Ireland by ferry. He claimed that if he were to return to Liberia, he would have no one to take care of him and would be killed by rebels seeking revenge for the activities of his father.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee, and he appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision he impugned in these proceedings.

He levelled a number of complaints at the decision of the Tribunal. He said that it

(a) failed to consider the evidence of actual persecution inflicted on him;

(b) failed to consider medical evidence in support of his claim to have been persecuted;

(c) failed to decide the case on the basis of the evidence submitted and speculated in making its findings; and

(d) failed to consider the forward looking aspect of his claim in accordance with the evidence.

The court rejected his complaints.

Reasoning:
First, it held that the Tribunal did not disbelieve his claims in relation to his alleged arrest and imprisonment. Rather, it considered that, having regard to the considerable changes which have occurred in Liberia since 2003, the applicant’s fear of being sought out by rebels there was not objectively well-founded. As such, the court held that it was not incumbent on the Tribunal to make express reference to the medical evidence in a situation where the subjective aspect of the applicant’s claim was not questioned.

The court also rejected the applicant’s complaint that the Tribunal erred in finding difficult to believe his claim to have evaded the rebels for four years at the children’s camp. The Tribunal noted that country of origin information referred to the camp having been looted by rebels and the applicant’s own account of regular rebel incursions. The court held that the Tribunal’s assessment of the objective credibility of the applicant’s narrative was far from speculative. On the contrary, it was cogent, supported by reference to country of origin information, and adequately reasoned.

Finally, the court rejected the claim that the Tribunal had erred in its forward-looking assessment, which had been based on country of origin information. It held that its findings in that regard were not irrational. It held that it was for the Tribunal to weigh and assess the country of origin information and that it was not for the court to substitute its own assessment of such information. It concluded that the Tribunal did not stray into illegality in finding on the basis of country of origin information that changes had occurred within Liberia, as to mean that the applicant’s fear was not well-founded.

Decision:
The court accordingly refused to grant leave to the applicant to challenge the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

When assessing a claim by an applicant for international protection, a protection decision-maker like the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is not obliged expressly to refer in its decision to information, such as medical evidence, which supports that applicant’s subjective fear, in circumstances where the decision-maker does not question the credibility of the subjective element of the applicant’s claim.

Findings made by a protection decision-maker will not be irrational or unreasonable if they are cogent, supported by reference to country of origin information, and adequately reasoned. These include findings in relation to forward-looking fear which are based on positive changes in the applicant’s country of origin and which suggest that his or her fear of persecution or serious harm are no longer objectively well-founded.

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