MAI v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 623
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:19 Dec 2014
Judge:Faherty J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Country of Origin Information, Refugee
Country of Origin:Iraq
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/248cc09a-27b9-4422-8c79-8f893e2f63ca/2014_IEHC_623_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was an Iraqi national who claimed asylum in Ireland. He worked as a shepherd in Ninewa province and was approached by a number of terrorists who wanted him to park a car bomb outside a police station. He agreed to meet them another day about this. He subsequently told his mother what had happened, and then went and told the police, who did not believe him. He did not meet the terrorists again, contrary to his arrangement with them. His mother then told him that on two occasions she had been visited by the terrorists, who told her that they wished to see the applicant. On the second occasion, she realised who they were, and she advised him to flee Iraq. He then travelled to the State.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it. The recommendation was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicant challenged in these proceedings.

The Tribunal had held that the applicant’s account lacked credibility on eight separate grounds. It afforded no weight to documentation furnished by him to support his claimed Iraqi nationality and gave little or no weight to country of origin information relied upon by him.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
A preliminary issue arose as to the interpretation afforded the applicant at his appeal hearing. He had requested the services of an interpreter who spoke a particular dialect of Kurdish, but the interpreter provided spoke a different dialect of the language. The applicant alleged that this meant that his evidence had not been interpreted properly, and pointed to a specific example where the record taken by the Tribunal differed from that given by him to the Commissioner. The Tribunal produced a document signed by the interpreter recording inter alia that he spoke the dialect requested by the applicant. The court held, however, that that was not dispositive of the issue, particularly as his solicitor’s affidavit alleged that he had told the Tribunal at the hearing that the interpreter spoke a different dialect, an averment  which had not been challenged by the Tribunal in any way. It accepted that he spoke a different dialect to that of the applicant and that the decision to proceed with the oral hearing therefore breached fair procedures or the Tribunal’s obligation pursuant to either s. 16(11)(d) of the Refugee Act 1996 to afford the applicant a proper hearing.

The court also held that, in reaching its credibility findings, the Tribunal had failed properly to consider country of origin information furnished by the applicant in breach of reg. 5(1)(a) of the EC (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. In the court’s view, none of the adverse credibility findings were individually or cumulatively of such gravity as to relieve the Tribunal of its obligation to set out the weight given by it to the country of origin documentation concerning the state of affairs in Ninewa province, which provided a context against which to weigh the evidence. The Tribunal should therefore have set out an account of the information considered by it, outlined the weight (if any) attached to it and, should it wish to have rejected it, given reasons for doing so.

It held that the Tribunal had also failed to have regard to identity documentation submitted by the applicant in support of his claim to come from Ninewa province. The Tribunal should have set out an express view on that claim. Instead, it gave it no weight, without giving any reasons for doing so, in breach of fair procedures and the duty to give reasons.

The court held that the Tribunal had erred in failing to state expressly why it had rejected the applicant’s explanation for not seeking asylum in Turkey, namely that it would not have been received favourably there.

Decision:
The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Protection decision-makers should ensure that applicants appearing before them who are unable to communicate through English have an appropriate interpreter which will enable them to do so. Failing to ensure this is the case may result in their decisions being based on inaccurate information and hence liable to being set aside by way of judicial review.

Such decision-makers should, in general, also be careful to assess claims for protection in the light of country of origin information. If they decline to give any weight to evidence furnished to them by an applicant, they should set out a reasoned basis for this.

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