The Applicants were a Congolese family who sought asylum in Ireland in April 2007. EC and BBN were husband and wife, NOC, their son. The claimed refugee status in Ireland on the grounds of political persecution in the Congo. BBN had fled to Belgium in 2005 and claimed asylum there, only to withdraw her claim when she believed it was safe to return to the DRC. Finding herself and her family the target of renewed persecution, the family fled again, this time to Ireland. When her claim was heard by the Refugee Applications Commissioner, BBN asked that a copy of her Belgian file be obtained. This request was refused on the grounds that under the Dublin Regulation such information could only be obtained for the purposes of establishing which Member State was responsible for the examination of the Application. A negative recommendation was made by the Commissioner in her case and in that of her husband and son, whose claims were heard together. Both EC and BBN obtained the leave of the High Court to challenge these recommendations on a variety of grounds. In BBN’s case, these grounds included the failure of the Commissioner to obtain a copy of her Belgian file based on a flawed understanding of Article 21 of the Dublin Regulation.
The High Court quashed the Commissioner’s recommendation in BBN’s case because the Commissioner had failed to consider the evidence she had given which predated her flight to Belgium and on the grounds that he had adopted an erroneous interpretation of Article 21 of the Dublin Regulation. The Court noted that this provision entitled but did not require the Commissioner to request access to BBN’s Belgian file from the Belgian government. Her husband’s claim was not successful because the matters he complained of could, in the judgment of the Court, be adequately addressed upon appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.