OA 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:[2015] IEHC 501
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:28 Jul 2015
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Nigeria
Geographic Focus:Ireland

The applicant was a Christian Nigerian who claimed that he had been in a relationship with a Muslim woman who became pregnant and subsequently died after her father forced her to terminate the pregnancy. He claimed that this so enraged her family that his life would be endangered should he return to Nigeria.

Having investigated his application, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which he unsuccessfully appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision he challenged in these proceedings.

The Tribunal considered that his fear stemmed from his former girlfriend’s family and not from differences between the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. It held that the applicant had not demonstrated that he had a credible subjectively or objectively well-founded fear of persecution and that, if it was “persecution,” it was not persecution for a Convention reason.  It considered that he had given no reasons for not going to the police.

The applicant contended that it was impossible to detect whether his credibility had been accepted or rejected by the Tribunal, and that confusing and contradictory statements were made throughout the decision.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

The court considered that the Tribunal had fundamentally misunderstood the case made by the applicant. There was no basis to conclude that the sole problem was that the applicant’s former girlfriend’s family was disturbed by the fact that she had become pregnant outside of marriage and broken a societal taboo. The Tribunal, without reason, had repeatedly ignored the case made by the applicant that the problem was caused by the religious differences between Muslims and Christians. The Tribunal’s finding was irrational and based on speculation, and was never put to the applicant.

Furthermore, the court held that the Tribunal erred in its finding regarding the applicant’s evidence as to the circumstances of his former girlfriend’s abortion, namely whether or not her family had forced her to take the medicine to induce the abortion. The court held that that aspect of the decision was very unclear and that it was incumbent upon the Tribunal to have made a clear finding on that aspect of the case. It noted that whilst the law did not require the Tribunal to decide on every aspect of a claim made, it did indicate that it was unlawful for it to raise an issue and then make unclear findings on a central element of the narrative.

The court considered that there were unfair and inaccurate findings about what was contained in the applicant’s evidence, particularly regarding his alleged failure to give reasons for not availing of police protection. The court stated that the applicant did give detailed reasons as to why he did not feel that the police could be of assistance. The reasons may not have been acceptable to the Tribunal, but it was unfair to say that he had given no reasons in this respect.

The court also held that the Tribunal’s decision was too vague. It was unsure as to whether it had rejected the claim because it rejected the applicant’s credibility, whether it accepted that the applicant genuinely feared his girlfriend’s family but that such fears were not well-founded or fell outside the remit of the Convention, or whether it accepted his credibility but found that adequate state protection and/or internal relocation were appropriate responses to the stated fears of persecution.

The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision.


A protection decision maker minded to make adverse credibility findings on a claim should do so in a clear and reasoned manner. Where he or she is inclined to take a different view of the evidence than that contended for by the applicant, it may be necessary to put the intended appraisal of the evidence to the applicant for comment in order to comply with fair procedures.

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