KB v Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 239
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:02 May 2014
Judge:McDermott J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum application (Examination of an), Persecution, Refugee, Refugee (Convention), Refugee Law, Refugee Status
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/cadc911c-0597-4c30-9cf3-4363df664eed/2014_IEHC_239_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Nigerian national and a Muslim. His father, who died when he was a baby, had allegedly been a chief in the Ogboni society. The applicant’s mother besought him to resist being initiated into it, contending that it was incompatible with his religion. The applicant said that in 2005, his mother was approached by a senior member of the Ogboni society, who told her that he had to join it. Her life was threatened if she did not agree to this. The applicant claimed that she subsequently died mysteriously, and he believed that the Ogboni society was responsible for her death. He then moved to northern Nigeria to avoid the society, but was found by its members by supernatural means. He was told that if he did not join the society, he would be killed. He claimed that subsequent to that, he was visited by supernatural means by members of the society two or three times a month. He then returned to Lagos to finish his education and began washing cars. He was visited several times a year by members of the society who continued to ask him to join it. He feared that the society would kill him. He said that a wealthy customer at the car wash obtained a passport for him and travelled with him on a flight to Spain. He was introduced to the customer’s friend who allowed him to stay at his home for a few days and then told him to leave. Another man then made arrangements for him to travel to the State. He arrived in Cork where he was arrested for possession of forged documents.

The applicant did not report his suspicions about his mother’s death or the threats made to him to the police, as he believed that the society had members within the police force and that they were corrupt.
Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee, and he appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision he impugned in these proceedings.

The Tribunal made only one finding in relation to credibility, stating that for the applicant to suggest that he could return from northern Nigeria to Lagos and spend two and a half years there and not be discovered by the Ogboni lacked plausibility.

The Tribunal also found that the applicant could have remained in Lagos in safety, having been there for some two and a half years unharmed washing cars, or that he could have relocated to another part of Nigeria with ease.

The applicant challenged the Tribunal’s decision on that basis that it failed to determine the core aspect of his claim; relied upon vague findings; erred in fact; and made erroneous findings on state protection and internal relocation.

Reasoning:
The court held that the Tribunal had failed to make specific findings in respect of the applicant’s allegations of past persecution and his perception of the events alleged by him to have occurred. It held that it was unclear what aspects, if any, of his claim had been accepted by the Tribunal, noting that the only assertions considered and found to stretch credulity related to the claim that the applicant had been found in northern Nigeria and had then spent two and a half years without being discovered while working and going to school in Lagos, which it pointed out was based on an error of fact, in that the applicant claimed that he had been discovered and threatened by the society there.

The court also held that it was incumbent on the Tribunal properly to assess the facts advanced by the applicant and state what it considered credible and what it did not, which would in turn enable it to make a proper finding as to whether it would be possible for him to relocate internally in Nigeria.

Insofar as the applicant’s failure to seek state protection was concerned, the court noted that it was for the Tribunal to assess whether or not his explanation for that was reasonable, but that it had not done so.

Decision:
In the light of the above, the court held that the Tribunal’s decision was flawed, and it therefore quashed it.

Principles:

A protection decision-maker must ensure that any findings on credibility are unambiguous, so as to leave the applicant, and any reviewing court, in no doubt as to whether the decision-maker believed his claim or not. This is particularly so if it wishes to make a finding that internal relocation is available to the applicant.

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