A Culture of Disbelief, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal Legacy

Posted On: February 19, 2014

Media Statement, 19 February 2014

On 17th February, Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark delivered judgment on how a Tribunal member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) dealt with one particular application for refugee status and stated that:

“…the only conclusion which the Court could draw for the Tribunal’s decision not to recommend that the applicant should be declared a refugee is that the Tribunal Member simply did not like the applicant.”

In response to the judgment Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said that the case highlights the ‘culture of disbelief’ that has permeated RAT decisions to either grant or deny an individual refugee status.

“There has, in the past, been a disregard of the need for careful consideration of cases which have such serious consequences for the lives of those involved, if wrongly decided. There are people caught up in the Direct Provision system for years now, whose applications may have been treated with the same, to use Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark’s words, ‘unfair and irrational’ conclusions, rather than ‘judicially and within the law.’”

Conlan went on to say,

“There is a need to decide how best to deal with those who are genuinely in need of protection, who have been waiting for years in the system, and who may well have been subjected to similar unfounded decisions regarding their right to refugee status.  Cases that are awaiting a decision on a subsidiary protection application may well be tainted with the same inadequate consideration at an earlier stage.”

Although there have been concerns raised in the past about the conduct and decision making process of members of the RAT, The Irish Refugee Council echo Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark’s hope that the new appeal system will hear cases humanely and expeditiously. However, there is still a need to address the situation of those left languishing in Direct Provision centres across Ireland. In light of this case, how do we know that their applications were not exposed to the same deficient decision making processes?

ENDS

 

Contact:

Caroline Reid (Communications Officer) +353 85 8585510 / Caroline@irisrefugeecouncil.ie

Notes:

–          Sue Conlan is available for interview

From the Judgement:

–          “Again as previously indicated, when reviewing this quite extraordinary decision on the day of the hearing, the only conclusion which the Court could draw for the Tribunal’s decision not to recommend that the applicant should be declared a refugee is that the Tribunal Member simply did not like the applicant.”

–          “Sometimes the Court is called upon to review a decision which is so unfair and irrational and contains so many errors that judicial review seems an inadequate remedy to redress the wrong perpetrated on an applicant. This is such a case.”

–          “While the determination of an applicant’s credibility is uniquely within the remit of the protection decision maker, that decision maker must act judicially and within the law. He is not at large to act perversely in disregard of relevant statements and documents capable of supporting an applicant’s claim. The Court therefore accepts that the contents of the very compelling Amnesty reports and letters were ignored and that the conclusions drawn were irrational.”

–          Paragraph 22: Nature of the ‘errors’ with RAT’s decision infected the legality, fairness and constitutionality of the decision

–          Paragraph 23: The sole reason for RAT rejecting the asylum claim, is that “the Tribunal Member simply did not like the applicant“

–          Paragraph 24. The Tribunal Member ignored evidence due to this personal dislike

–          Paragraph 26: The Tribunal Member is unfamiliar with very basic precepts of international and national law (i.e. suggesting Mr A.A  ’internally relocate’ to an independent country (South Sudan))

–          Paragraph 29-31: The Tribunal Member makes factually inaccurate comments and statements about Mr. A.A’s education (not that it was of any relevance to the refugee claim)

Link to full Judgement