SFA (a minor) and AA v Refugee Applications Commissioner

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Applications Commissioner, Minister for Justice and Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 364
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:16 Jun 2015
Judge:MacEochaidh J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Country of Origin Information, Minor, Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/3538ea46-78d3-46c9-9ec6-d0ee862aaf30/2015_IEHC_364_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicants, Nigerian nationals, were daughter and mother respectively. The second named applicant (mother) claimed asylum based on a fear of persecution by the Muslim family of the father of the first named applicant (her daughter). She stated that the family objected to their inter-religious relationship and that they burned down her house and shop.

The application was rejected by the Commissioner and its decision was challenged in these proceedings by the applicants on a number of grounds, including the Commissioner’s assessment of the credibility of the second applicant’s travel to the State, its appraisal of country of origin information, and the manner in which it dealt with internal relocation.

The court upheld the Commissioner’s decision.

Reasoning:
Turning to the specific complaints made, it held that there was a clear error on the part of the decision-maker as to the second applicant’s evidence of her travel to Ireland. However, it was an error of an evaluative nature and not one of law. It was, therefore, an error within jurisdiction and did not attract certiorari.

Furthermore, it did not deal with a material part of the applicant’s claim. The appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal was perfectly suited to providing the applicants with the opportunity to correct the error.

The court rejected the applicant’s argument that there was an error of jurisdiction in the Commissioner’s assessment of the country of origin information. First, it stated that, for such a complaint to succeed, an applicant had to establish the existence of information relevant to the claim which the decision-maker ought but failed to have considered. That had not been made out. Secondly, it rejected the proposition that laws in the country of origin had to be investigated in the course of processing an asylum application.

Finally, on the issue of internal relocation, the applicants contended that the minimum standards of consideration outlined in the EC (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 had been breached, there being no consideration of relevant laws or the manner of their application or the relevant statements of the applicant.

The court held that there had not been any error of jurisdiction regarding the assessment of internal relocation. It stated that the Commissioner had conducted the “forward looking test” required, having identified parts of Nigeria as places where the applicants would be safe from the alleged persecution, considered the conditions on the ground in those locations by reference to the country of origin information and the personal circumstances of the applicant, and addressed his mind as to whether it would be reasonable to expect the applicants to relocate there.

The court also rejected the applicants’ argument that the caselaw which limited access to judicial review of decisions of the Commissioner breached EU law.

Finally, the court rejected the argument that the first applicant’s claim had not been dealt with individually, impartially or objectively. It was appropriate and unavoidable that the Commissioner would decide the child’s claim based upon the outcome of the mother’s. It rejected the argument that it breached the child’s right to be heard not to give the mother a copy of her decision, as the court could see no advantage accruing to the child by the Commissioner’s so doing.

Decision:
The court therefore upheld the decision of the Commissioner.

Principles:

Judicial review will generally not lie against decisions  of a first instance protection decision-maker where it has made errors within jurisdiction.

Where a protection applicant considers that evidence has not been taken into account by a decision-maker, he or she must establish the existence of that evidence, show how it was relevant to the claim, and how the failure to take it into account has materially prejudiced him or her.

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