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

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 145
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:21 Mar 2014
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Protection (Subsidiary), Refugee
Country of Origin:Iran
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/39a5323f-6726-4a1e-8958-463d559c1f66/2014_IEHC_145_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:

The applicant, an Iranian, claimed to fear persecution in Iran on account of his political activities and because he had renounced his Muslim faith. He said that he had been arrested and detained on numerous occasions and badly beaten and tortured. He said that his brother, who was politically active, had been executed in 1999, and that he himself had been detained for many months after attending a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of his brother’s execution.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee, and he appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision he challenged by way of judicial review.

The Tribunal had rejected the applicant’s claim on the basis of lack of credibility.

The High Court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:

The Tribunal had found that the applicant’s claim not to have known how he got from Iran to Turkey or the country through which he allegedly passed en route to Ireland was inconsistent with the manner in which he presented himself as an articulate, 27-year old man, educated to third-level, with an active interest in politics. The court held that, in the absence of clear evidence as to the applicant’s language skills on the day he travelled from Turkey to Ireland, it was irrational and unfair to conclude that he would have understood announcements made on the aeroplane in relation to its destination.

The Tribunal had also found that it was not credible that the Italian passport on which the applicant had been travelling had been stamped at Dublin Airport. The court agreed with the Tribunal that EU passports were not stamped. However, it noted that the decision recorded that the applicant believed it was an Italian passport” and it held that it was harsh to make a negative credibility finding on the unlikelihood of the Italian passport having been stamped when it had never been asserted with certainty that the passport used by the applicant was Italian.

The Tribunal found that the applicant had not given a reasonable explanation for the absence of a passport by means of identification. The court held that it was irrational because the applicant had contended that he had never been issued with a passport and had travelled to the State on a false passport.

The Tribunal also found that the applicant’s claim was incredible because he was “unaware as to the name of the supposed passport on which he was travelling”. The court held that it could find no trace of any evidence that he was unaware of the name on the false passport and that the Tribunal’s finding was irrational.

The court concluded that the Tribunal had weighed the credibility findings on matters like travel, passport possession and border crossing, which it considered to be unrelated to the core claim.

The court also held that the Tribunal had made significant credibility findings on the core claim based on speculation. It referred to the credibility finding based upon the applicant’s claim that he had completed his degree course and the suggestion that that could not have happened given that he was expelled from university. The court found that the two were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

It also discounted the Tribunal’s adverse credibility finding based on the applicant’s claim that the opposition group he was involved with had no name. It held that his evidence that it was known by a moniker did not present a degree of inconsistency or a circumstance of incredulity warranting a rejection of credibility.

The court also addressed the applicant’s alleged renunciation of his Muslim faith. It held that the Tribunal had unfairly decided on the consequences for him of that, finding that it would not be necessary for him to be actively working against the Muslim faith in order to draw negative attention to his circumstances. It accepted the argument made by him that the country of origin information supported the claim that persons who renounced or did not practice their Muslim faith suffered negative consequences in Iran.

Decision:

The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

When considering whether an applicant travelling to Ireland would have understood announcements made on an aeroplane in relation to its destination, regard should be had to his or her language skills. 

Adverse findings made on the basis of documentation used by an applicant during his or her travel should be based on a clear understanding of the nature of that documentation.

Credibility findings should be based on core matters pertaining to the claim, as opposed to matters like travel, passport possession and border crossing which may not necessarily be related to the core claim.

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