JO 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 249
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:16 Apr 2015
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Country of Origin Information, Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/f8de3d23-29a5-45e1-b854-1b6e16c27e18/2015_IEHC_249_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a citizen of Nigeria who claimed asylum in Ireland on the ground of a fear of persecution by her father who had tried to force her to marry his business partner. She claimed that she had escaped to Lagos where she met a stranger who decided to help her and organised her travel to Ireland.
Having investigated her application, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which she unsuccessfully appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she challenged in these proceedings. The Tribunal found that internal relocation within Nigeria was a viable alternative, and that her account was not credible.

The applicant pursued three main grounds of challenge, namely that the Tribunal had:

  1. failed to lawfully deal with the assessment of credibility (particularly that it fell short of the requirements specified in I.R. v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2009] IEHC 353 and R.O. (An Infant) v. Minister for Justice [2012] IEHC 573);
  2. failed to deal with her submissions, particularly regarding internal relocation and forced marriages; and
  3. failed to lawfully apply the internal relocation alternative, particularly regarding the prevailing circumstances in the proposed relocation sites and the applicant’s personal circumstances.

The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
The court found no fault with the Tribunal’s credibility assessment which it held to be both clear and well-reasoned. It rejected the applicant’s contention that the Tribunal failed to have regard to the material submitted on her behalf, noting that the Tribunal had expressly referred to it. It further held that there was no obligation on the Tribunal to set out each piece of information relied on by an applicant. Where evidence relied upon in an asylum application was central to that claim and was rejected, the Tribunal had to give reasons why that was so.

In the instant case, the country of origin information submitted was of a general nature. Insofar as some of that information was supportive of the applicant’s case, the Tribunal was entitled to prefer the opposite case without parsing all the nuanced differences in the information. Where such information contained an internal contradiction relevant to a central part of the applicant’s case, the Tribunal could prefer one point over another provided that its decision complied with rules as to rationality, including the duty to give reasons. Finally, it held that there was a rational basis for the Tribunal’s conclusion that both state protection and internal relocation were available to the applicant.

The Tribunal, having identified an area for proposed relocation and put this suggestion to the applicant at the hearing, was entitled to conclude that the applicant could reasonably be expected to stay in another part of her own country where she would not be at risk of persecution or where meaningful protection from such persecution would be available, and that, consequently, she was not a refugee.

The Tribunal, in reaching this conclusion, relied extensively on country of origin information, particularly noting the availability of assistance and protection for women escaping forced marriages and other domestic issues. It correctly placed emphasis on the fact that the applicant had already relocated to Lagos and decided to stay there and get a job until a third party decided that she should leave. The applicant’s personal circumstances were adequately considered, and the Tribunal applied the correct test resulting in a reasonable, rational decision based on the facts.

Decision:
The court therefore refused leave to seek judicial review.

Principles:

Where evidence relied upon in a protection application is central to that claim and is rejected, a protection decision-maker has to set out the reasons why. Where country of origin information submitted by an applicant is of a general nature and in part supports it, a protection decision-maker is entitled to prefer the opposite case without parsing all the nuanced differences in the information. Where it contradicts a material part of a claim, it can be relied upon provided reasons are given.

When deciding whether internal relocation is reasonable for an applicant, it is appropriate to have regard to the fact that the applicant has already relocated internally in his or her country or origin.

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