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

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 26
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:30 Jan 2014
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum (Application for), Asylum application (Examination of an), Persecution, Protection, Protection (Application for International), Refugee, Refugee (Convention)
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/7328f48c-e901-46c1-9be3-e64964c6169d/2014_IEHC_26_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:

The applicant was a national of Nigeria and a Christian who claimed to fear persecution there from Muslims for having impregnated his Muslim girlfriend. He left the locus of his difficulties for Port Harcourt, where his younger brother and his wife refused to let him in. He travelled thence to Lagos and made arrangements to flee. He arrived in Ireland, having travelled via France, and claimed asylum. The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee, and he appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision he challenged by way of judicial review.

The Tribunal’s decision was based on the availability to the Applicant of state protection and internal relocation. The Tribunal had noted that the applicant was a practicing pharmacist and could work as such anywhere in Nigeria. It considered that he would face little difficulty in relocating to a southern state of Nigeria where there was little or no tension between Muslims and Christians and where the Christians were in the majority.

Reasoning:

The High Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

The High Court also dismissed a number of grounds of challenge as lacking substance, such as the claim that the Tribunal had failed to consider the s. 13(1) report of the Commissioner and the grounds of appeal contained in the notice of appeal. It observed that the Commissioner’s decision turned on lack of credibility whereas the Tribunal had taken a different approach to its assessment of the claim.

It also rejected as de minimis a misdescription of the basis upon which the applicant claimed to fear persecution contained in his notice of appeal, pointing to the fact that his claim, as recounted at interview and at the oral appeal, had been fairly reproduced by the Tribunal in its decision.

It rejected a claim that the Tribunal had erred in failing to consider a report of the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, relying on a different version of the report than that relied on by the applicant. It concluded that, even if there had been an error in relation to precisely what report had been submitted, it was not material because the content the applicant sought to rely on was available in the report relied on by the Tribunal.

The High Court also dismissed the complaint that the Tribunal had failed to have regard to the fact that the applicant had twice sought to relocate within Nigeria and that it was unreasonable to expect him to do so again. It upheld the Tribunal’s finding that the applicant’s visit to Port Harcourt was an attempt to seek his brother’s help rather than to relocate. The High Court found that he had not relocated at all.

The High Court also rejected the claim that the Tribunal breached audi alteram partem in making a finding that the applicant had not sought asylum in the first safe country, namely France, without addressing it with the applicant at the oral hearing. It noted the Tribunal’s argument that the same issue had been raised in the s. 13 report and that the applicant was on notice that it would be considered by the Tribunal because the Tribunal was required by law to consider the contents of the s. 13 report. The court held the finding did not determine the outcome of the asylum application, as credibility had not been impugned by the Tribunal.

Decision:

The High Court accordingly refused the applicant leave to seek judicial review.

Principles:

Internal relocation in Nigeria is reasonably open to a Christian man and qualified pharmacist, who fears persecution from Muslims.

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