Morris Ali v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

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Respondent/Defendant:Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2012] IEHC 149
Nature of Proceedings:Appeal
Judgment Date/s:01 Mar 2012
Judge:O’Keeffe J
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Refugee, Refugee Status, Refugee Status (Withdrawal of)
Country of Origin:Sierra Leone
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/ff7c7c81-d0b0-419b-9246-829c0e8cbb47/2012_IEHC_149_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts

The applicant was a national of Sierra Leone and had been given a declaration of refugee status in 2002. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to the possession of drugs worth €70 for sale or supply under Section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (as amended) and of possession of a false instrument, a false South African passport. He was sentenced to 18 months and 12 months imprisonment respectively, the sentences to run concurrently.

In 2009 the Minister informed the applicant that he proposed to revoke his declaration as a refugee under Section 21(1)(g) on the basis that the Minister was satisfied that the applicant was a person whose presence in the State posed a threat to national security or public policy (‘ordre public’).

The applicant made representations inter alia expressing his regret for that had happened, that he was engaged and that his fiancée was pregnant with his child. Submissions were made including on Regulation 11(1)(b) of the ‘Protection Regulations’ which provided for revocation of refugee status where the refugee, having been convicted of a “particularly serious crime” constituted a danger to the community of the State. It was submitted by the applicant that Regulation 11(1)(b) did not apply as the applicant had not been convicted of a “particularly serious crime” and in the review by the Minister the offence had been labelled incorrectly. It was pointed out that he had been transferred to an open prison, and that it would not be reasonable or lawful for the Minister to apply a fixed policy whereby all convictions under Section 15 were deemed particularly serious crimes.

In 2010 the Minister revoked the applicant’s declaration as a refugee under Section 21(1)(g) and Regulation 11(1)(a) and (b) on the basis that the applicant was a person whose presence in the State posed a threat to national security or public policy (‘ordre public’) and that there were reasonable grounds for regarding him as a danger to the security of the State or that he, having  convictions for particularly serious crimes, constituted a danger to the community of the State. However, in the Minister’s consideration of the proposal to revoke the declaration of refugee status there were a number of factual errors.

Reasoning

O’Keeffe J. adopted the reasoning of Cooke J. in Gashi v Minister for Justice [2010] IEHC 436 as to the procedure for an appeal under Section 21(5). The Court held that having regard to the totality of the Minister’s consideration of the proposal to revoke the declaration the decision could not stand as it was not a fair and accurate summary of the relevant admitted facts. There was no evidence that the drug was crack cocaine as distinct from cocaine and there was no specific consideration based on the correct classification of the drug as cocaine. Secondly, the applicant had only one conviction for a drug offence and not convictions. There was also a suggestion that the applicant was found to be in possession of what was described as ‘cocaine dealing paraphernalia’ which, it was said, indicated that he had scant regard for the laws of the State, but there was no charge of having ‘cocaine dealing paraphernalia’ and the latter finding was not supported by the facts. There was an unsupported conclusion that he was a serious player on the drug scene and that he was in the business for monetary gain only.

Decision

The Court held that the Minister should have considered the separate constituents of the phrases “serious crime” and “particularly serious crime” based on an informed and correct version of the facts. O’Keeffe J held that the Minister had not acted in a reasonable manner in the preparation of the consideration, in the conclusions reached and the decision taken in reliance on such analysis and conclusions. The Court directed the Minister to withdraw the revocation of the declaration of refugee status.

Principles:

Section 21(1)(g) provides that the Minister may revoke refugee status where he considers that a person whose presence in the State poses a threat to national security or public policy (‘ordre public’) and that there are reasonable grounds for regarding him as a danger to the security of the State.  Regulation 11(1)(a) and (b) provides that the Minister may revoke refugee status  where he considers that a person having been convicted of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of the State.

The Minister must consider the separate constituents of the phrases “serious crime” and “particularly serious crime” based on an informed and correct version of the facts and act in a reasonable manner in the preparation of his consideration of revocation, in the conclusions he reaches and the decision he takes in reliance on such analysis and conclusions.

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