The applicants claimed to be of Niger nationality and claimed asylum in Ireland based on a fear of persecution on the ground of religion in that country. They were Christians and said that they were attacked by rebels on that account. The first applicant said that they escaped by running into the bush, and later met a pastor who arranged for them to travel to Ireland.
Having investigated their claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it. The recommendation was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicants challenged in these proceedings.
The Tribunal had held that the applicants’ fear of persecution was unreasonable assumption on their part that they were in danger in Niger. It also held that country of origin information did not support the assertion that they had been targeted for being Christians.
The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.
The court first dealt with a complaint that the Tribunal had been biased, which arose out of a confrontation at hearing between the Tribunal Member and the applicants’ counsel based on whether an interpreter was needed or not. The Court held that the applicants have not established the decision was vitiated owing to bias.
There was no evidence of any external factors giving rise to actual or objective bias, nor of pre-judgment on the part of the Tribunal vis-à-vis the applicants’ claim. Nor was it persuaded that the applicants had established that the confrontation had any bearing on the substantive findings made by the Tribunal on the claim. It also noted that at no stage had the Tribunal Member been asked to recuse herself, and relied on Corrigan v The Irish Land Commission  IR 317 which indicated that this was tantamount to waiver of a right to complain on the ground of bias.
Turning to the balance of the complaints, the Court was satisfied from the contents of the decision that the Tribunal had accepted that the applicants were Christians from Niger. It also rejected a complaint that the Tribunal had drawn an improper inference from the failure of the first applicant to mention during the hearing an attempted rape by the rebels, in circumstances where she had referred to it during her interactions with the Commissioner. It also held that the Tribunal had not erred in identifying the group which she claimed to fear in Niger. Finally, it rejected a complaint that the Tribunal had not had regard to the applicants’ would be exposed to future persecution by reason of their religion or nationality.
Although it was not contained in the applicants’ statement of grounds, the court heard argument from the parties as to whether the Tribunal had dealt lawfully with the country of origin information which was before it. It decided that it had, and rejected the applicants’ attempt to impugn the decision on that basis.
Nonetheless, the court was not satisfied that the core claim of the applicants had been dealt with. First, the first applicant had given an account of her house having been destroyed by rebels and, that not having been recorded on the face of the decision, the court was not convinced that the Tribunal had properly had regard to that evidence in reaching its conclusion that her fear of persecution was unreasonable. It was not sufficient that her evidence in that regard had been outlined in the s. 11 interview with the Commissioner, which had been before the Tribunal on the appeal.
Secondly, it held that the decision did not clearly set out whether the first applicant’s account of the core events surrounding her claim, namely that rebels had come to her house, was believed or not. In the court’s view, the credibility or otherwise of the facts presented by the applicant regarding the alleged attack on her home and village by rebels should have been clearly set out by the Tribunal in its decision before it addressed the question of whether or not her fear was unreasonable or lacking an objective basis.
The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.