WMM v Refugee Appeals Tribunal (Michelle O’Gorman) and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

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Respondent/Defendant:Refugee Appeals Tribunal (Michelle O'Gorman) and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2009] IEHC 492, [2010] IEHC 171
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:11 Nov 2009
Judge:Cooke J. and Clark J.
Category:Refugee Law
Keywords:Refugee, Refugee Law
Country of Origin:Nigeria
URL:https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/ac054284-6c45-4397-b9a1-091acdaad8ac/2009_IEHC_492_1.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
Geographic Focus:Ireland

The Applicant was a Nigerian national who had travelled to Ireland in order to claim refugee status. She claimed to have been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and his friends throughout her adolescence. The Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she not be declared a refugee. An initial appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal was unsuccessful, but this decision was vacated by agreement. Her appeal was reheard, but was unsuccessful. The Tribunal concluded the Applicant would be able to relocate to Port Harcourt in order to avoid her father and his associates and that, in any event, State protection would be available to her. Cooke J granted leave to challenge the Tribunal’s decision by way of judicial review on two grounds:

  1. that in concluding that the Applicant was not a refugee because her claimed risk of persecution could be avoided by internal relocation in Nigeria, the Tribunal erred in law and in complying with the requirements of Regulation 7 of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 and with the duty to adhere to fair procedures by (a) failing to identify a part of the country as a site for relocation and to conduct the necessary enquiries to verify whether it was a place where the applicant could be reasonably expected to stay without fear of being persecuted or real risk of suffering serious harm; and (b) identifying Port Harcourt for that purpose only after the appeal hearing without such inquiries and without affording the applicant an opportunity of commenting thereon; and
  2. that in concluding that the Applicant ought not to be declared a refugee because State protection might reasonably be forthcoming to her on return to Nigeria if required, the Tribunal erred in law and applied a wrong legal test in that regard and failed to apply correctly Regulation 5(2) of the said Regulations, having regard to the applicant’s personal history and to the effect of the country of origin information as to the ineffectiveness of state protection for victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Upon substantive hearing of the application for judicial review, the High Court (Clark J.) was concerned that the issue of whether the Tribunal addressed the question of whether there were any compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution that might warrant a determination that the Applicant was eligible for protection could not fully be explored because it was not clear from the decision that the Tribunal actually found the Applicant to have been credible in relation to her description of past persecution. The Court stated that if an applicant is found to be entirely credible, then this ought to be stated and that, unless the determination of credibility is spelled out, it can be difficult, if not impossible to assess the validity of a Tribunal decision. The Court said that the opacity of the decision on the issue of credibility also impeded the assessment of whether the Tribunal Member considered the reasonableness of internal relocation by reference to the Applicant’s personal circumstances. On the grounds that the Court could not ascertain fully why the appeal failed, the Tribunal’s decision was quashed.

Principles:

If an applicant is found to be entirely credible, then this ought to be stated and that, unless the determination of credibility is spelled out, it can be difficult, if not impossible to assess the validity of a Tribunal decision

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