TI (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Others

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Respondent/Defendant:Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Refugee Appeals Tribunal, Ireland and Attorney General
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 341
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:19 May 2015
Judge:Faherty J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Minor, Refugee
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/6562329e-ba37-4061-955f-3720e37c003a/2015_IEHC_341_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was an infant of Nigerian origin. Her mother claimed asylum on her behalf, claiming that her life was at risk in Nigeria because her father refused to agree to succeed his father as chief priest of a pagan shrine. His father died suddenly and his death was attributed to his son’s refusal to take over the position of chief priest. In order to appease the spirits, it was decreed that the applicant, as then unborn, would have to be sacrificed. This prompted his mother to flee her home, and after spending some time in different locations in Nigeria, she arrived in Ireland. Her mother also claimed that the applicant would be subject to female genital mutilation (“FGM”) in Nigeria.

Having investigated her claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a negative recommendation on it, which was affirmed by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, whose decision the applicant challenged in these proceedings.

The Tribunal had held that the applicant’s mother’s fear of persecution on the basis of the pagan priesthood issue had previously been held to lack credibility by it , and that the same therefore applied to that aspect of the applicant’s claim. It held that the applicant’s claim to fear FGM also failed, noting inter alia the existence of internal relocation for women who feared the practice and the educational qualifications of her mother, which led it to conclude that it was not plausible that she would not know from whom to obtain help. It also took the view that the claim to fear human sacrifice from the pagans’ hands was inconsistent with the claim that they wanted to perform FGM on her. In its view, her mother’s statements about the fear of FGM ran “counter to generally known facts”.

The applicant’s representatives contended inter alia that the Tribunal had intermingled the assessments of credibility and internal relocation, leaving the basis of the decision ambiguous and deserving of being quashed. Moreover, insofar as internal relocation was concerned, they pointed out that she presented with medical problems and special needs, reports on which had been before the Tribunal and which they said had not properly been taken into account by it.

The court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Reasoning:
It held that it was open to question whether it was solely based on lack of credibility or availability of internal relocation or a mixture of both elements. An applicant was entitled to a clear and reasoned basis for a decision and the ambiguity inherent in it constituted a sufficient reason to quash it.

Even if it were to be construed as a decision based on lack of credibility, the court was not convinced of the soundness of the Tribunal’s view that the alleged fear of sacrifice was inconsistent with the fear of FGM, given the high statistical incidence of FGM in Nigeria which, it held, obliged the Tribunal to give due consideration to the claim. It adopted the reasoning of Hogan J. in OOYA v Refugee Appeals Tribunal [2011] IEHC 373 which, it considered, encapsulated the spirit in which the fear of FGM should have been considered. It held that the Tribunal’s finding that the applicant’s mother’s statements about the fear of FGM ran “counter to generally known facts” did not meet the tests of rationality or cogency given that FGM was a fact of life for a significant percentage of the female population in Nigeria when the finding was made.

The court held that the finding on internal relocation was more than a mere facet of a credibility analysis and, therefore, went on to consider whether it had been made in accordance with reg. 7 of the EC (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. It held that it had not. In its view, the Tribunal had not properly considered whether relocation was reasonable for the applicant. The applicant had developmental difficulties in the form of a speech disability and defective hearing, and regard ought to have been had to the alleged difficulties she might face in Nigeria and, in particular, Lagos as the proposed place of relocation, and whether the medical reports about her disclosed the existence of developmental delays or disabilities that might impede her relocating.

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

Principles:

An applicant is entitled to a clear and reasoned basis for a decision and ambiguity inherent in it constitutes a sufficient reason to quash it. When assessing whether internal relocation is a viable option, regard must be had to whether it is reasonable, and account taken of the personal circumstances of the applicant.

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