PRT 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 447
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:10 Jul 2015
Judge:Faherty J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Refugee
Country of Origin:Zimbabwe
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/8c77fd22-3a4e-407a-aeb5-271a0fc9e119/2015_IEHC_447_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a national of Zimbabwe who claimed asylum in Ireland fearing persecution in her country of origin. She claimed that she and her family had been evicted from their home in a government initiative named “Operation Murumbatsvina.” She then ended up living a peripatetic existence with her father. He ended up working on a farm in a particular locality. One night, four men came to their dwelling and raped her. They returned some days later and raped her again. She felt that this was because her father was not a supporter of the Zanu-PF party. They went to police to complain but the police offered no assistance. The men came back again and indicated that they wished her to marry a man they knew.

Her father then arranged for her to leave. She went to another city. She returned to the farm two months later and was subject to harassment from the men, after which she went to South Africa. She travelled thence to the State via Jordan and Frankfurt. She claimed asylum at Dublin Airport. She said that she did not claim asylum in Germany because she did not know where she was.

Having investigated her 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 rejected her claim on credibility grounds and held that their nature was so fundamental that there was no need to discuss the contents of a significant amount of country of origin information which the applicant had furnished to it.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
The court set aside the credibility analysis of the Tribunal. First, it held that it had unfairly emphasised a discrepancy between the record in her ASY1 form of the interview conducted with her under s. 8 of the Refugee Act 1996, where she indicated that her father owned the aforementioned farm, and her questionnaire, where she stated that he was only working on it. It held that, taken as a whole, the applicant’s questionnaire and the sequence of questions in the s. 11 interview, were largely inconsistent with the idea that her father could have been the owner of the farm. Moreover, the ownership of the farm was peripheral to the applicant’s core claim, which related to allegations of rape and the threat of forced marriage. It held that primacy should have been afforded to the questionnaire as the statutory basis of the asylum application.

It indicated that it was not to be taken as suggesting that inconsistencies or contradictions between the record of a s.8 interview in an ASY1 form and a questionnaire were to be ignored by a decision-maker. Each case would have to be assessed individually, with due regard being given to both the nature of the particular inconsistency / contradiction in the overall context of the claim for asylum and the primacy of the questionnaire.

Secondly, it held that the Tribunal had erred in finding a discrepancy between her questionnaire and s. 11 interview with the Commissioner regarding the identity of the individual who owned the farm.

The Tribunal had held that the applicant’s inability to indicate how long her father had been working at the farm and her failure to mention in her questionnaire that she had returned to the farm before leaving for South Africa, undermined her credibility. The court held that those findings were open to it given the level of detail which had been provided by her in the questionnaire regarding other matters. It was also open to it to find that her professed ignorance of the countries she travelled through en route to the State, was not credible.

Nonetheless, the court held that the credibility findings were peripheral in nature and that country of origin information directly relevant to the applicant’s core claim had not been considered. In its view, the information provided context to her claim and indicated, on the one hand, that rape was used as a weapon against those opposed to Zanu PF and that police protection was unlikely to be forthcoming in such cases and, on the other, that forced marriage existed.
The court therefore held that the Tribunal’s failure to consider and weight the country of origin information vitiated its overall credibility assessment.

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

Principles:

When assessing credibility on an application for refugee status, a decision-maker should not necessarily draw negative inferences based on discrepancies between the ASY1 form and the questionnaire.

A decision-maker, in assessing credibility, should refrain from making peripheral findings, as these may not be material enough to underpin an overall negative credibility appraisal.

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