JG (Ethiopia) 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 49
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:04 Feb 2015
Judge:Stewart J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum (Application for), Nationality, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Ethiopia
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/c0fd25c0-9d85-48de-bf4e-3bce483be008/2013_IEHC_248_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a national Ethiopia and applied for asylum in the Ireland, claiming to have a fear of persecution there on account of her membership of and activities on behalf of a terrorist group known as the Oromo Liberation Front (“OLF”).

She said that in 1998 her home had been attacked by state forces and that she, along with her husband and children, had been detained. She claimed that she had not seen her husband since. She said that she was ill-treated in detention. She was then released, after which she fled to Kenya with her children. Three years later she returned to Ethiopia to continue her involvement with the OLF. Five years later she was again arrested and detained for a period. She was freed by a friend of a relative of hers and fled to Ireland.

Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee. She appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation on credibility grounds. She challenged the Tribunal’s decision in these proceedings.

She contended that the Tribunal had not dealt adequately with documentation submitted on her behalf concerning her Oromo ethnicity and her involvement with the OLF. She also submitted that the Tribunal had not properly considered the medical evidence, in the form of a SPIRASI report, submitted on her behalf.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:

It noted that the applicant had submitted documentary evidence to the Tribunal in relation to her claim, including a letter from the association of the Oromo community in Ireland vouching for her Oromo ethnicity, and documentation from the North American and European offices of the OLF vouching for her claim to have been involved with the OLF. It held that the documentary evidence submitted by her was prima facie capable of establishing that the applicant was a member of the Oromo ethnic group and that she had in the past been an active member of the OLF. It noted that, when dealing with her claims to be associated with the OLF and the documentation and letters submitted in that regard, the Tribunal had stated that they gave no indication of when she joined the OLF or what she actually did in it. The court held that that was factually incorrect, having regard to the content of the documentation from the OLF’s North American office.

The court also noted that there was a considerable amount of country of origin information submitted to the Commissioner and the Tribunal in respect of Ethiopia, which was consistent with the case made by the applicant.

The court noted the SPIRASI report submitted on behalf of the applicant, noting that she had been diagnosed in it with a depressive disorder and some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The findings on physical and mental examination were found in the report to be consistent with the history she had given ill-treatment whilst in detention in Ethiopia. It noted that the Tribunal was not satisfied with the applicant’s overall account but that it did not give any reasoned decision for ignoring the SPIRASI report’s findings.

The court noted that the Tribunal had made findings based on the applicant’s demeanour. It stated that such findings were to be treated very carefully.  It noted that, the applicant was recorded as suffering from depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Having referred to pertinent paragraphs on the Istanbul Protocol in that regard, namely paragraphs. 251 to 253, it held that there was no indication from the decision of the Tribunal that it had made any allowance for the fact that it was dealing with a person who was in a strange culture and was exhibiting such symptoms.

In conclusion, it held that the Tribunal had not provided any cogent or reasoned decision as to why the documentary evidence and the medical report submitted by the applicant were rejected.

Decision:

The court therefore granted leave and, the matter being telescoped, decided to quash the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Where an applicant claims to have a particular nationality or ethnicity, a decision-maker should have regard to prima facie evidence supporting this when determining the question of nationality or ethnicity and, if rejecting it, give reasons for doing so.

When assessing credibility, regard should be had by a decision-maker to medical evidence, including SPIRASI reports which are capable of supporting claims of ill-treatment. Reasons must be given for rejecting such evidence.

When assessing demeanour, regard should be had to any evidence tending to suggest that the applicant is suffering from depressive or post-traumatic stress symptoms, and due allowance should be made for that if it is considered plausible.

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