HJE (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 189
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:27 Mar 2015
Judge:Stewart J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Nigeria
Geographic Focus:Ireland

The applicant was a Nigerian national who applied for asylum in Ireland. He claimed that his father was heir apparent to a tribal throne and that, as his eldest son, he was next in line to it. He said that the tribal king died and that his life was then in danger because some of the villagers did not want to him accede to the throne as his mother had come from Sierra Leone. They preferred his half-brother instead, whose mother was Nigerian. The applicant said that the villagers beat him and then, unusually, took him to hospital for treatment. He claimed that he did not report the various threats to his life to the police because he lacked the money to do so. However, he contradicted this by saying that he had gone to the police and made a statement, but had been informed that it was a family matter and that the police would not intervene.

He then said he relocated in Nigeria for a week before going to Niger. It was pointed out that his driving licence was issued during the time he had allegedly been in Niger and he said that he returned briefly to Nigeria to obtain it. He stated that the villagers attempted to kidnap him in Niger, but that he was hidden by his employer there until he departed for his intended destination of Canada. However, he was arrested at Dublin airport for being in possession of a false Portuguese passport and was taken to Cloverhill prison where he was held for seven weeks. He initially claimed to be Sierra Leonean but later stated he was Nigerian. His claim was processed on that basis.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee. He appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation. He challenged the Tribunal’s decision in these proceedings.

The Tribunal held that his claim lacked credibility, based on three particular matters: first, when asked about the occupants of the throne, he named three different persons; secondly, he had asserted that, having beaten him, the villagers took him to hospital; and, thirdly, he had denied going to the police and later changed his story in that regard. The Tribunal also held that he did not fall within a particular social group, as he had alleged. At best, he was an aggrieved heir to the throne in his own individual capacity or, alternatively, had no conceivable claim to any throne.

The applicant claimed that the Tribunal had not given adequate reasons for its decision and, in particular, that its credibility findings were inadequate to reject his claim. He also claimed that the Tribunal had erred in not considering his claim to be a member of a particular social group by reference to his nationality.

The Tribunal argued that the applicant did not fall into a particular social group. It contended that the particular social group he claimed to be a member of was defined by the alleged persecution and that case law had consistently held that that was not permitted. It also maintained that the adverse credibility inferences drawn against the applicant were substantial and were open to it on the basis of the evidence. It relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Baby O. v. Minister for Justice [2002] IESC 44, wherein it was held that an applicant was not entitled to ask a court to set aside such inferences unless the court was satisfied that no reasonable decision-making body could have drawn them.

The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It noted that, whilst the adverse credibility findings made by the Tribunal appeared quite terse, the analysis referred to the recital of evidence which had been set out earlier in the decision. It stated that the Tribunal had gone into considerable detail setting out the evidence which the applicant had put before it and had then highlighted the inconsistencies in the applicant’s claim. It held that, on reading the entire decision, it was patently clear that the applicant’s story had not been believed and that the reasons why were set out in the analysis section of it.

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


A protection decision-maker will be entitled to reject an application for international protection where the application contains material inconsistencies, provided it sets out a reasoned basis in its decision for doing so.

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