MA (A Minor) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 28
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:30 Jan 2014
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Persecution, Protection, Protection (Application for International), Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/a7517c02-35fc-4170-a669-fef0a7e8294e/2014_IEHC_28_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:

The applicant was a national of Nigeria who was born in Ireland. Her mother had previously unsuccessfully claimed asylum. She had claimed that her father had raped her because she was a lesbian and that the applicant had been conceived on foot of that. Her claim had been found to lack credibility.

She claimed that her daughter would suffer persecution on account of being incestuously conceived and that she would also be persecuted on account of a particular medical condition from which she suffered. The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee, and she appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she challenged by way of judicial review.

The Tribunal had held that the applicant would not be denied medical treatment for her condition in Nigeria or that she would suffer discriminatory treatment, amounting to persecution. It also found that she would not suffer persecution on account of her parentage, as nobody knew that her mother was pregnant when she left Nigeria. It also found that internal relocation to large cities like Lagos and Abuja would be an option for her and her mother.

Reasoning:

The High Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It began by addressing the complaint that the internal relocation finding failed to take account of or overlooked the personal circumstances of the applicant.  It rejected this, noting that it was clear from the Tribunal’s decision that the applicant’s personal circumstances had been considered at length.  It also rejected the complaint that the finding was unsound because there had been no evidence as to where the applicant had resided before leaving Nigeria. It acknowledged that there were circumstances in which a decision-maker would need to ascertain whether it was physically possible or otherwise practical for a person to relocate from one place to another. There might, for instance, be reasons of geography or circumstances, such as political unrest or armed conflict, which would militate against such a possibility and therefore precise knowledge as to the applicant’s place of origin might well be important. In the instant case, no such circumstances applied. The simple finding made by the Tribunal had to be seen in the context of a claim of persecution emanating from the applicant’s father in a country of almost 170 million people. The Tribunal was simply saying that the applicant and her mother could remove themselves from the source of harm by relocating to Lagos or Abuja.

The court also upheld as rational the finding of the Tribunal that there was no evidence that the applicant would be subject to discriminatory medical treatment as might amount to persecution.

Decision:

The High Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision and refused the Applicant leave.

Principles:

In deciding whether the “personal circumstances” of an applicant have been taken into account in deciding if internal relocation is reasonable, it is open to the court to consider the extent to which reference is made to them in a decision containing such a finding.  

In deciding that internal relocation is available, it is not necessary in every case to know in what location the applicant last resided in his country of origin, particularly where the applicant fears only a non-state agent or a small group of such persons. A different appraisal might be warranted if the applicant was fleeing political unrest or armed conflict.

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