IFO v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 586
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:22 Sep 2015
Judge:Faherty J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/eb46daba-9ce6-4dc5-84d9-90719dd7859a/2015_IEHC_586_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant, a Nigerian national, claimed asylum in Ireland fearing persecution there. He said that he set up a church in the city in northen Nigeria where he lived. An attack took place on the city by the Muslim terrorist group, Boko Haram, which spilled into the compound in which his church was located. He fled, leaving his wife and children behind, and got a lift to Chad, whence he travelled to the State with the assistance of a priest who accompanied him and paid his fare. He had previously been in Greece in 1998, and said that he returned to Nigeria in 2005.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it. The recommendation was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicant challenged in these proceedings.

The Tribunal had held that the applicant’s claim lacked credibility in certain respects, and that internal relocation was available to him. It doubted the assistance allegedly given to the applicant by the priest, and referred to a decision of the High Court which had upheld a finding that such philanthropy was incredible. It also stated that before leaving Nigeria for Chad, he might have made inquiries as to the whereabouts of his wife and children. It found that it was incredible that he managed to get a lift away from the violence and make his way to Chad. It did not consider credible his claim to have travelled to Greece and returned to Nigeria.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
The court upheld the finding made by the Tribunal as the lack of credibility of the assistance rendered to the applicant by the priest in travelling to the State. Whilst its language had been somewhat ambiguous, the reference to the High Court case indicated sufficiently that the Tribunal did not believe that aspect of his claim. On the other hand, the court held that the Tribunal’s comment about making inquiries about the whereabouts of his wife and children was not sufficiently concrete in terms as to amount to a finding of disbelief on his claim. It also found that the Tribunal had no rational or evidential basis for disbelieving his account of his travel to Chad or his earlier travel to Greece and subsequent return to Nigeria. Given the detailed account of what had happened to him in Nigeria, the court also disagreed with a finding by the Tribunal that the applicant’s narrative had been lacking in focus.

The court held that the applicant’s core claim had not been properly considered. The Tribunal’s decision did not indicate whether the core claim had been accepted or rejected. In its view, a clear and reasoned finding on whether his compound had been attacked and he had needed to flee for his life was needed.

The court also held that the finding on internal relocation was unlawful. The applicant had denied that he could relocate, claiming that Boko Haram were everywhere. The court noted that whilst a number of cities had been identified as potential places of relocation, there had not been any analysis of the responses the applicant had given to explain why he could not go there.

Turning to the question to state protection, the court noted that the Tribunal was of the view that Nigeria was taking action against Boko Haram and that the applicant had not been specifically targeted by them. In the court’s view, that was too cursory an approach given that country of origin information before the Tribunal contained reports of attacks on police stations, residents of the applicant’s city being killed in the crossfire between Boko Haram and the authorities, and insufficient efforts to identify members of Boko Haram. The court held that the Tribunal ought to have weighed those matters in order to assess the adequacy of state protection in practical terms and set out a rationale for its conclusions clearly in its decision.

Finally, the court held that the Tribunal was not entitled to lay any weight on the fact that the applicant had not been specifically targeted by Boko Haram, there being no such requirement in refugee law.

Decision:

The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

A decision-maker should set out, where necessary, whether or not it believes the core or material elements of an applicant’s claim when assessing his or her credibility.

Where a protection decision-maker wishes to make a finding that state protection is available to an applicant, it should assess the adequacy of state protection in practical terms and set out a rationale for its conclusions clearly in its decision. If it is minded to decide that internal relocation is available to him or her, and is met with statements that the person cannot go to the proposed places of relocation, the decision-maker should analyse those statements and set out its view on them.

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