UOA (Nigeria) v Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice and Equality

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice and Equality
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2015] IEHC 179
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:19 Mar 2015
Judge:Stewart J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Asylum, Country of Origin Information, Persecution, Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/3475c72b-5956-4ff1-a0fe-d351e5e563d1/2015_IEHC_179_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

Facts:
The applicant was a Nigerian. His mother, a Muslim, married the applicant’s father, a Christian, in 1992, and both of them applied unsuccessfully for asylum in Ireland. In his asylum application, he claimed that were he returned to Nigeria, he would face persecution as a result of being the offspring of a mixed religious marriage and would suffer discrimination because of a number of disabilities suffered by him, both physical and intellectual.

Having investigated his claim, the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that he not be declared a refugee. He appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the Commissioner’s recommendation.

The Tribunal stated that the applicant’s claim of persecution in Nigeria stemming from being a child of a mixed marriage was inextricably linked to his parents’ asylum claim and failed for lack of credibility. It accepted that he could potentially face discrimination in Nigeria because of his disabilities, but that it would not amount to Convention persecution. It pointed to country of origin information showing that the state authorities provided protection for individuals who faced discrimination as a result of disabilities.

The applicant challenged the Tribunal’s decision in these proceedings, arguing that it had failed to assess discrimination against disabled persons in Nigeria which, he contended, amounted to persecution, and meant that he qualified for refugee status. He argued that the Tribunal failed properly to assess the country of origin information on the matter of whether state protection was available to persons like him. He also contended that it had failed to take into account a previous decision of the Tribunal submitted on his behalf relating to a person with disabilities from Nigeria, and to explain why it was reaching a different decision from it.

The Tribunal contended that the facts of the applicant’s case were entirely different from the previous Tribunal decision that he sought to rely upon. It also submitted that the country of origin information upon which the applicant sought to rely showed that whilst serious physical disabilities were subject to discrimination in Nigeria, there was nothing to suggest that the same applied to persons with learning and language difficulties, like the applicant. The Tribunal submitted that, in effect, the applicant’s case was based on the fact that the same level of services would not be available to him were he to be returned to Nigeria, and that that was not sufficient to give rise to a grant of refugee status.

The court noted that legislation had been passed which prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in Nigeria and that the Tribunal had referred to it in its decision.

Reasoning:
The court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. It noted that the Tribunal, looking at the applicant’s case as a whole, had accepted that he had a disability. It held that the mere fact of discrimination or the potential for such in Nigeria did not give rise to the need for international protection unless that discrimination amounted to persecution of the applicant. It did not accept that that was the case on the basis of the evidence before the Tribunal. It held that the Tribunal had properly and adequately assessed the applicant’s claim and evaluated the country of origin information before it. It accepted the Tribunal’s submission that the previous Tribunal decision which was relied upon by the applicant was distinguishable.

It noted that the Tribunal had been told by the applicant’s father that the standard of treatment which the applicant was able to avail of in the State for his disabilities would not be available at a same level and/or an appropriate level in Nigeria. However, it did not follow that he was persecuted on that account and the Tribunal, it held, had properly differentiated between discrimination per se and discrimination amounting to persecution.

Decision:
The court refused leave and upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

Principles:

Discrimination on the basis of a disability will not necessarily amount to persecution on a Convention ground.

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