MAA v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice and Equality

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice and Equality
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 492
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:02 Oct 2014
Judge:Barr J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Persecution, Refugee
Country of Origin:Somalia and Yemen
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/7875bd32-753e-42db-ae6f-d5a149fe84d5/2014_IEHC_492_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland
Facts:
The applicant claimed to have been born in Somalia. He applied for asylum and claimed to have a fear of persecution in Somalia on the basis of his minority status as a member of the Reer Hamar clan. He related a narrative of persecution suffered by his family previously in Somalia: in 1998 his family was attacked by an armed militia and his father and other members of the family killed; the applicant himself was shot in the leg and lost consciousness. After this, he travelled to Ethiopia where he lived with a kindly family for approximately one year. The family then departed Ethiopia and left him behind, giving him $200.00. The applicant then lived on the streets of Addis Ababa for around three years. He saved around $400 from the proceeds of begging. He then travelled to Yemen, where he spent around three years begging. After three years, he left Yemen for Saudi Arabia, where he lived for another three years and washed cars. One of his customers arranged for him to travel to Ireland for the sum of $4,000. The applicant said he received $2,000 from relatives of his who lived in Europe and paid the balance with his own savings.
The applicant had a Yemeni passport in the surname of B.S. He denied that that was his name. Attached to the passport was a valid visa authorising entry to Ireland to enable the bearer of the passport to study English, which visa was obtained from the Irish embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on foot of a visa application made in 2008 which contained a photograph of the applicant and his signature, which was similar to that on his asylum application. He stated that he was unaware of the application. However, the British authorities informed their Irish counterparts that the Yemeni passport used by the applicant to travel to Ireland was a valid one, which indicated that the applicant was in fact a national of  Yemen. He told the Irish authorities that it was not his passport and that he was simply using it to travel to Ireland. He denied ever having been to Riyadh while he was allegedly living and working illegally in Saudi Arabia.
As part of his application for asylum, the applicant underwent language analysis, which resulted in the preparation of a report which stated that he spoke Somali to the level of a mother-tongue speaker and in a dialect found with certainty in southern Somali, and that he had a good knowledge of the area he claimed to come from in Somalia.
The Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on his application for asylum. The applicant appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the recommendation. It noted the evidence pertaining to the Yemeni passport and considered that the applicant’s attempts to explain away his possession of the passport and the visa application were not credible. It also doubted the credibility of his claim to have saved $2000.00 by begging and washing cars. It noted that among the visa application details, it was indicated that a fee of €2,520.00 had been paid to an English language school in Dublin to enable the applicant to attend a full-time English language course. The applicant professed ignorance of this. The Tribunal did not believe the applicant’s claim that he had not sought asylum in any of the countries in which he lived before coming to Ireland because he was unaware of the concept of asylum. The Tribunal had regard to the language analysis report, but was unable to give it much weight in the light of the other evidence before it.
The applicant challenged the decision of the Tribunal by way of judicial review.
He argued that the Tribunal had not properly dealt with the core issue of his nationality. He contended that the passport used by him had been obtained by the agent who arranged his travel and that the agent had applied for the visa. He argued that greater weight should have been given to the language analysis report when assessing his nationality.
The Tribunal contended that it was the Tribunal’s function to assess the weight to be given to the various matters of fact and inferences of law. It relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Baby O v. Minister for Justice [2002] 2 IR 168 in that regard and contended that the court was not entitled to set aside findings of primary fact unless there was no evidence to support such findings and that it ought not to set aside inferences drawn from such facts unless such inferences were ones which no reasonable decision making body could draw.
The court decided to extend time to bring judicial review proceedings having regard to the explanation set out on affidavit by the applicant’s solicitor.
Reasoning:
The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It held that the content of the language analysis report had to be seen in the context of the evidence from the British authorities that the Yemeni passport possessed by the applicant, which contained a visa permitting entry into this State, was valid. The weighing of the evidence, including the language analysis report, was a matter for the Tribunal. The language analysis report was not conclusive of the issues for determination before the Tribunal. Whilst it was supportive of the applicant’s story, it did not establish that he was a Somali national. Nor did it corroborate his account of leaving home after an attack in 1998 and his various occupations since that time.
The court held that the Tribunal was entitled to conclude that the applicant’s story was lacking in credibility in relation to how he claimed to have earned the money which funded his journey to Ireland and his explanation of his arrest on board a ship in Northern Ireland. It was also entitled to have regard to the evidence from the British authorities in relation to the validity of both the passport and the visa.
Decision:
The court therefore upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Facts:

The applicant claimed to have been born in Somalia. He applied for asylum and claimed to have a fear of persecution in Somalia on the basis of his minority status as a member of the Reer Hamar clan. He related a narrative of persecution suffered by his family previously in Somalia: in 1998 his family was attacked by an armed militia and his father and other members of the family killed; the applicant himself was shot in the leg and lost consciousness. After this, he travelled to Ethiopia where he lived with a kindly family for approximately one year. The family then departed Ethiopia and left him behind, giving him $200.00. The applicant then lived on the streets of Addis Ababa for around three years. He saved around $400 from the proceeds of begging. He then travelled to Yemen, where he spent around three years begging. After three years, he left Yemen for Saudi Arabia, where he lived for another three years and washed cars. One of his customers arranged for him to travel to Ireland for the sum of $4,000. The applicant said he received $2,000 from relatives of his who lived in Europe and paid the balance with his own savings.

The applicant had a Yemeni passport in the surname of B.S. He denied that this was his name. Attached to the passport was a valid visa authorising entry to Ireland to enable the bearer of the passport to study English, which visa was obtained from the Irish embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on foot of a visa application made in 2008 which contained a photograph of the applicant and his signature, which was similar to that on his asylum application. He stated that he was unaware of the application. However, the British authorities informed their Irish counterparts that the Yemeni passport used by the applicant to travel to Ireland was a valid one, which indicated that the applicant was in fact a national of  Yemen. He told the Irish authorities that it was not his passport and that he was simply using it to travel to Ireland. He denied ever having been to Riyadh while he was allegedly living and working illegally in Saudi Arabia.

As part of his application for asylum, the applicant underwent language analysis, which resulted in the preparation of a report which stated that he spoke Somali to the level of a mother-tongue speaker and in a dialect found with certainty in southern Somali, and that he had a good knowledge of the area he claimed to come from in Somalia.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on his application for asylum. The applicant appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the recommendation. It noted the evidence pertaining to the Yemeni passport and considered that the applicant’s attempts to explain away his possession of the passport and the visa application were not credible. It also doubted the credibility of his claim to have saved $2000.00 by begging and washing cars. It noted that among the visa application details, it was indicated that a fee of €2,520.00 had been paid to an English language school in Dublin to enable the applicant to attend a full-time English language course. The applicant professed ignorance of this. The Tribunal did not believe the applicant’s claim that he had not sought asylum in any of the countries in which he lived before coming to Ireland because he was unaware of the concept of asylum. The Tribunal had regard to the language analysis report, but was unable to give it much weight in the light of the other evidence before it.

The applicant challenged the decision of the Tribunal by way of judicial review.

He argued that the Tribunal had not properly dealt with the core issue of his nationality. He contended that the passport used by him had been obtained by the agent who arranged his travel and that the agent had applied for the visa. He argued that greater weight should have been given to the language analysis report when assessing his nationality.

The Tribunal contended that it was the Tribunal’s function to assess the weight to be given to the various matters of fact and inferences of law. It relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Baby O v. Minister for Justice [2002] 2 IR 168 in that regard and contended that the court was not entitled to set aside findings of primary fact unless there was no evidence to support such findings and that it ought not to set aside inferences drawn from such facts unless such inferences were ones which no reasonable decision making body could draw. The court decided to extend time to bring judicial review proceedings having regard to the explanation set out on affidavit by the applicant’s solicitor.

Reasoning:

The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It held that the content of the language analysis report had to be seen in the context of the evidence from the British authorities that the Yemeni passport possessed by the applicant, which contained a visa permitting entry into this State, was valid. The weighing of the evidence, including the language analysis report, was a matter for the Tribunal. The language analysis report was not conclusive of the issues for determination before the Tribunal. Whilst it was supportive of the applicant’s story, it did not establish that he was a Somali national. Nor did it corroborate his account of leaving home after an attack in 1998 and his various occupations since that time. The court held that the Tribunal was entitled to conclude that the applicant’s story was lacking in credibility in relation to how he claimed to have earned the money which funded his journey to Ireland and his explanation of his arrest on board a ship in Northern Ireland. It was also entitled to have regard to the evidence from the British authorities in relation to the validity of both the passport and the visa.

Decision:

The court therefore upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

A protection decision-maker is entitled to attach significant weight to evidence which suggests that the applicant’s claim lacks credibility because he is a national of a different country than the one claimed by him. A language analysis report supportive of his claim to be a national of a particular country constitutes one piece evidence which must be considered in the round, in the light of all the other evidence, including evidence which indicates that the applicant is actually a national of another country.

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