TJ v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2014] IEHC 161
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:27 Feb 2014
Judge:Barr J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Asylum application (Examination of an), Country of Origin Information, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee (Convention), Refugee Status
Country of Origin:Afghanistan
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/241662e8-acc4-41e4-9589-4b4d05274aae/2014_IEHC_161_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was an Afghan national. His application for asylum was based on his claim to have fallen foul of both the government and the Taliban in Afghanistan. He asserted that he came from a family which was opposed to the authorities and to have engaged in acts of terrorism. He said that the Taliban chose him to become a suicide bomber and arranged training in that regard in Waziristan in Pakistan. The applicant, however, became ill and was returned home by them. His mother then became concerned for his safety and, after one day, he was spirited out of the country to Bangkok, after which he travelled through an unknown country to Ireland. He submitted documentation which allegedly issued from both the Afghan authorities and the Taliban indicating that he was wanted by them.

Having investigated his claim, the Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee on the basis of lack of credibility in his claim and the availability of state protection.

His appeal failed before the Tribunal on credibility grounds and on the basis that internal relocation would be available to him.

In terms of its credibility assessment, the Tribunal found that the documentation submitted was not corroborative of the applicant’s account and it was afforded little weight by it. The applicant complained that this was due to an error on the part of the Tribunal in holding that they had issued in 2009 and 2010, when, in fact, they had issued in 2008, around the time he had been training with the Taliban.

Reasoning:
The court held that the Tribunal had erred in holding that the documents were issued in 2009 and 2010. That led it to attach little weight to them, proceeding on the mistaken assumption that they had issued years after the applicant had left the training camp and at a time when his family had relocated to Pakistan. The court accepted that both of the documents issued in January, 2008, which was close to the time when the applicant had been on the training exercise with the Taliban. In those circumstances, it concluded that the Tribunal had made a serious error of fact in dismissing them as being of little weight. They provided significant corroboration of the applicant’s story and would tend to suggest that his fears of the government and of the Taliban were objectively well-founded.

The court held that the Tribunal also erred in holding that, having allowed the applicant to leave the training camp, the Taliban did not bother him again. However, the court pointed out that that appeared to be predicated on a belief that the applicant had actually spent an appreciable period in Afghanistan after leaving the training camp and before setting off for Ireland. The applicant had actually stated that he had spent only one night in Afghanistan before leaving Afghanistan. Accordingly, the court concluded that the finding was undermined by the Tribunal’s error as to the length of time that the applicant had spent in Afghanistan before fleeing.

The applicant also contended that the decision was ambiguous it that it was unclear whether or not the Tribunal had accepted the truth of his narrative, and considered that his fears were not objectively well-founded, or had simply found his narrative to be completely incredible. He argued that he was unable to glean from the decision why his appeal has been refused and that the court was similarly hampered in the exercise of its judicial review jurisdiction, it being impossible to discern in concrete terms the reason for the refusal of his appeal.

The court accepted the applicant’s arguments in that regard.

Finally, the applicant complained that the Tribunal had erred in finding that he could relocate internally in Afghanistan. He criticised the Tribunal for relying on country of origin information from 2009 when it had available information from 2010 which indicated the existence of risks to persons suspected of supporting armed anti-government groups.

The court held that, having regard to the applicant’s participation in the training with the Taliban, the documents submitted from indicating that he was wanted by the Afghan authorities, and country of origin information from 2010, there was considerable evidence from which it could be inferred that the applicant was likely to face persecution at the hands of the government forces such that internal relocation was not a viable option. If the Tribunal was to disregard those matters, it would have to have stated clearly the grounds upon which it was doing so, and had not complied with that obligation.

Decision:
Accordingly, the court quashed the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Allocation of little or no weight by a protection decision-maker to material evidence due to a mistake of fact will likely result in its decision being quashed.

A protection decision-maker must also ensure that, when making findings on credibility, such findings be unambiguous, so as to leave the applicant, and any reviewing court, in no doubt as to whether the decision-maker believed his claim or not.

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