MSO v Refugee Applications Commissioner, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Ireland and the Attorney General

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Applications Commissioner, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 171
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:01 Apr 2014
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum application (Examination of an), Child, Minor, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee (Convention), Refugee Law, Refugee Status
Country of Origin:Nigeria
Geographic Focus:Ireland

The applicant was born in Ireland in 2008 to a Nigerian mother, who claimed asylum on her behalf, asserting she feared persecution in Nigeria arising from her conversion from Islam to Christianity and from the baptism of her daughter. She claimed to fear persecution at the hands of her family and at the hands of the father of her firstborn child.
Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee, and she appealed unsuccessfully to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision she impugned in these proceedings.

The Tribunal found that the claim lacked credibility, owing to the lack of knowledge of Islam on the part of the applicant’s mother when certain questions pertaining thereto were put to her.

It also considered to be incredible the claim that the applicant’s mother did not know the name of her brother’s girlfriend, with whom she allegedly lived for two months after leaving her family home, and who had helped her to flee to Ireland.

The Tribunal also considered that internal relocation was available to the applicant.

The court rejected the applicant’s challenge.

The applicant complained that the Tribunal’s finding on her knowledge of Islam was irrational and based upon conjecture, and was based on speculation about what level of knowledge a person reared in a devout Muslim family might have.

The court rejected that complaint, holding that it was not irrational for the Tribunal to conclude that a person like the applicant’s mother, who was allegedly raised in the Muslim faith, who attended a Muslim secondary school, and whose family was devout, would be expected to have had greater knowledge of the Islamic religion than that displayed by her. The conclusion did not fly in the face of fundamental reason or common sense, and could not be said to be irrational.

In addition, the court rejected the applicant’s complaint that the finding was unlawful for being based upon conjecture. It noted that, when the Tribunal asked the applicant’s mother why she did not have greater knowledge of Islam, she said that she did not believe in the Muslim faith. The court pointed out that it was not irrational to reject that explanation. It held that even a sceptical young person whose life had been immersed in the Islamic religion could be expected to have a certain knowledge of its workings.

The applicant also complained that the finding based on her lack of knowledge of her brother’s girlfriend’s name was irrational and unreasonable. The court rejected that complaint. It held that there was nothing unreasonable in finding that it was strange not to remember the name of a person with whom one had lived for two months and who had been of central importance in an enormous event in one’s life, namely flight from one’s country in fear of persecution to a place of safety.

The applicant also argued that there might have been another explanation for the initial inability of the applicant’s mother to remember or to utter the person’s name, and that that ought to have been considered by the Tribunal. The court held that that argument failed to take account of the duty on the applicant’s mother to present all relevant information to the Tribunal. If there was another explanation for why she did not answer the question fully or without hesitation, then that ought to have been addressed by the applicant and by her legal advisers at the appropriate time. It was not the duty of the Tribunal to speculate what other reason might exist for the applicant’s lack of knowledge of the name of the person in question.
The applicant also complained that the Tribunal had unlawfully disposed of her appeal by adopting its earlier negative decision on her mother’s asylum application. She contended that her case differed in some respects from that of her mother’s. The court rejected that argument, noting that her case had been rejected as not being well-founded only insofar as it was the same as that of her mother’s.

The applicant also claimed that the Tribunal had made a fundamental error of fact in finding that there was nothing on file to indicate that children in Nigeria were specifically persecuted because of their illegitimacy, and referred to the fact that, in her notice of appeal, reliance had been placed on the case of one Ms. Amina Lawal, who was from a northern state of Nigeria, where sharia law had been implemented. The Tribunal had considered that that was not relevant to the applicant’s claim, because her mother lived in Lagos State in southern Nigeria and, in any event, Christians were not subject to sharia law.

The court held that the Lawal case relied upon by the applicant indicated negative consequences in sharia law states in Nigeria for women who had children out of wedlock. It did not indicate that there was any difficulty for their children. It therefore held that the Tribunal did not err in finding that there was nothing to indicate that there would be negative consequences for children born outside wedlock.
The court also rejected the applicant’s challenge to the finding on internal relocation. The applicant had complained that the Tribunal had not given any consideration to her particular circumstances or to the relevant UNHCR Guidelines. The court pointed out that the Tribunal had approached the question of internal relocation by examining some of the legal principles which permitted a decision-maker to decide that internal relocation was an appropriate answer to a persecution claim. It then had regard to country of origin information indicating that internal relocation was possible for women in Nigeria and identified a particular place of relocation where a non-governmental organisation operated which was active in promoting women’s rights, finally concluding that it would be reasonable for the applicant to stay there.

The court considered its appraisal to be lawful. It held that, even if it had erred in that regard, the finding on internal relocation was capable of being severed from the earlier, lawfully made adverse credibility finding.

The court therefore refused to grant leave and upheld the validity of the Tribunal’s decision.


It is open to a decision-maker to make an adverse credibility finding on a claim by an asylum applicant who fears persecution on the ground of membership of a religious group, if the applicant’s knowledge of the religion in question is not what might reasonably be expected from someone in his or her position.

If an asylum applicant has sought refuge with a person en route to the State, it will be reasonable for a protection decision-maker to expect the applicant to recall that person’s name, and if he or she cannot, it will be open to the decision-maker to make an adverse credibility finding on the asylum application in that regard.

A decision-maker will make a valid finding on Internal relocation if he or she identifies a place of relocation and concludes that the applicant reasonably stay there, having regard to the general circumstances prevailing there and the personal circumstances of the asylum applicant.

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