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How a doctor had his asylum request rejected because someone 'didn't like him'

The finding was made in an extraordinary ruling in the High Court.

Asylum seekers at a protest last year
Asylum seekers at a protest last year
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A DOCTOR WHO applied for asylum in Ireland had his request rejected because a member of the decision-making body ‘didn’t like him’.

The finding was made in an extraordinary ruling in the High Court by Mrs Justice Maureen Harding Clark which was published today.

In the ruling, the judge said that the man’s asylum application had been documented and supported “to an unusual level” but had still been refused.

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

She cited factual errors by one member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) and cited a number of problems with the way in which the unnamed person had dealt with the case.

The judge quashed a previous appeal not to grant asylum and expressed “deep concern at the fundamental nature of the many errors identified which infect the legality, fairness and constitutionality of the decision as a whole”.

“Personal dislike is not a valid reason for any legal decision”

The Sudanese man had arrived in Ireland in April 2009 and requested asylum. He presented around 25 documents to support his claim, including proof that he had been threatened and tortured, and was at risk if he remained in Sudan where he had worked as a human rights and opposition party activist and then as a GP with Médecins sans Frontieres.

After the initial rejection of his application, his appeal was heard by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal but a decision was not reached until 22 April 2011 – some seventeen months after his initial hearing. The appeal was refused.

Judge Harding Clark found that a member of the Tribunal – who has not been named in the ruling – had not found the man to be credible, and had questioned many parts of his story.

She described the decision not to grant the application as “extraordinary” and said it appears  to be based on the fact that the Tribunal Member did not like the applicant, as he had met all the criteria to be classified as a refugee.

“Personal dislike is not a valid reason for any legal decision and certainly not a reason for ignoring numerous documents relevant to a claim which appear to emanate from reliable sources,” the judge wrote.

She also questioned the knowledge of the Tribunal Member:

The Court was very surprised to find that the respondents were defending this decision. The practice of reading the entire file ahead of the hearing had led the Court to observe that key parts of the applicant’s case were ignored and / or misunderstood or simply wrong.

For instance, the finding that the applicant could have relocated to another state (the newly constituted South Sudan) to avoid the need for international protection when South Sudan is a State with which he has no ties at all was so evidently flawed that on this ground alone, the decision was legally unsound.

She also cited a number of other mistakes which appeared to have been made by the Tribunal Member.

New appeal

“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,” Justice Harding Clark wrote in her ruling.

The judge was also critical of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, which she said had “failed the refugee assessment process abysmally” in its methods used and findings.

The man would have been held in direct provision centres, which is where all asylum seekers are kept.

The system, which was introduced in 2000, has been widely criticised for detaining people for years at a time, as well as the opaque method of deciding on whether asylum is granted.

Just under 5,000 people are current held in direct provision in Ireland where they are given full-board accommodation and €19.10 per week. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their application is being processed.

The man is now due to have his original appeal heard again.

“It is hoped that the new appeal has been heard humanely and expeditiously,” the judge wrote.

Read: More than half of Ireland’s asylum seekers in ‘reception system’ for over 3 years >

Column: The time has come to end the system of Direct Provision >

Read: Lack of information on asylum-seeker deaths ‘shambolic’ >

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