The applicant, a national of Nigeria, claimed to be a Christian and to have had a husband whom she converted to Christianity from Islam in 1992. She said that she fell foul of her husband’s family as a result, and they took her child in 1993. She said that she moved around Nigeria on a number of occasions owing to fear of them. She said that they found her in Kaduna in northern Nigeria in June, 2006 and that she fled to Lagos, where she remained for around a month before leaving for the State. She stated that she travelled with an agent who handed over relevant documentation for her on arrival at Dublin airport.
Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee, and she appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she impugned in these proceedings.
The Tribunal did not believe her account of not having personally presented documentation on arrival in Dublin airport, nor her claim to have lived in Kaduna in northern Nigeria. It pointed out that Kaduna State was effectively a Muslim State, run under sharia law, and it found it very difficult to accept that the applicant, a Christian, would move there in the circumstances. It also found that she could relocate internally in Nigeria.
The court decided to quash the Tribunal’s decision.
The applicant complained that the decision of the Tribunal lacked clarity about whether her credibility was rejected and that its decision on internal relocation was unlawful, failing to comply with the requirements of Article 8 of the Qualification Directive (Council Directive 2004/83/EC), and the relevant transposing measure in domestic law, reg. 7 of the EC (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.
The court held that the Tribunal had expressed two clear negative credibility findings. However, it pointed out that it had not expressed any view as to the credibility of the applicant’s core claim, namely the alleged abduction of her child by her husband’s family and her fear of persecution at their hands. Accordingly, it said that the question for it was whether or not it was possible to discern whether the Tribunal had rejected her overall credibility, or merely disbelieved part of her narrative.
The court concluded that the absence of an express rejection of the core claim in the Tribunal’s decision, balanced against the rather mild negative credibility findings, suggested that the core claim was believed, which had relevance to the assessment of the availability of internal relocation.
The court then turned to assess the finding on internal relocation, noting that the Tribunal had taken the view that the applicant could return to Nigeria in safety, having been unharmed for some 14 years by her husband’s family.
The applicant contended that the finding was unlawful because inter alia it did not specify a place of relocation, did not comply with reg. 7 of the Regulations of 2006, and had gone on to refer to a UNCHR position paper on relocation from 1999, which had been superseded by one which issued in 2003.
The respondents contended that the finding on internal relocation was related to a passage in section 3 of the Tribunal’s decision, where it was recorded that the applicant had been questioned as to whether she could have relocated to two specific locations, namely Abuja or Port Harcourt, to which she replied that her husband’s family had found her and chased her from Kaduna and on to Lagos.
The court held that, under Article 8 of the Qualification Directive and reg. 7 of the Regulations of 2006, a protection decision-maker like the Tribunal, when examining the possibility of internal relocation, had to enquire as to whether the applicant’s persecutors might harm him or her in an identified part of the country of origin. The decision-maker’s task was not complete where it was found that the identified part of the country was free from the applicant’s well-founded fear of persecution. It had to be satisfied that the applicant could “reasonably be expected to stay” there, and in reaching that conclusion, regard had to be had to the general circumstances prevailing there and to the personal circumstances of the applicant.
The court noted that the operative part of the decision did not identify any part of Nigeria to which the applicant could relocate internally. It accepted that the Tribunal, when questioning the applicant, had identified two parts of Nigeria as places for possible internal relocation, but stated that it would be preferable for that to be clearly noted in the operative part of any decision on internal relocation.
The court pointed out, however, that the Tribunal was obliged to consider the general circumstances prevailing in the place of relocation and to the personal circumstances of the applicant in order to conclude that she could reasonably be expected to stay there. It was unable to divine the reasoning of the Tribunal on those matters from the decision and held that, for that reason, the finding was unlawful.
As the court found the Tribunal to have accepted the credibility of the core claim, the unlawful finding on internal relocation could not be severed from a valid rejection of credibility.
Accordingly, the court granted leave to seek judicial review and made an order quashing the Tribunal’s decision.