Refugee Appeals Tribunal did not properly assess country of origin information relating to forced conscription
By: James Cross BL, on July 8th, 2013
S.A (Syria) v. O'Gorman (Refugee Appeals Tribunal)  IEHC 277 (High Court, McDermott J, 12 April 2013)
High Court grants judicial review of decision to refuse refugee status to a Syrian national who claimed to have deserted from the army following killing of civilians, on the grounds that the Refugee Appeals Tribunal gave inadequate consideration to the country of origin information when assessing his credibility.
Judicial review – telescoped hearing - Syrian national – left Syria for Moldova in 2005 to study – returned to Syria in 2011 – forced into military service in the summers when he returned to Syria - when he returned he was taken to the “secret police office” – he was questioned and inducted into the army – he was part of a unit directed to break up demonstrations – he denied that he shot or abused any person – he witnessed the killing of a large number of people by the army and decided to desert – fears that he will be shot for desertion – travelled across the Turkish border and made his way to Istanbul – travelled to Ukraine and then to Ireland by way of Denmark – claimed he travelled on a false Romanian passport – claimed that he did not seek asylum immediately because he heard it was difficult to obtain asylum in Ireland – he lived illegally in the state – he was arrested when he tried to obtain a PPS number – he made an application for asylum at Cloverhill Prison – claimed he feared persecution on the basis of his political opinion and fears that if he returned as a deserter he would face the death penalty - whether the Tribunal failed to assess the risk of persecution faced by the applicant in Syria – whether the Tribunal failed to assess the applicant’s explanation for his lack of documents, his failure to claim asylum in Turkey, the Ukraine and Denmark and his delay in claiming asylum – whether the Tribunal unreasonably held the applicant’s lack of documents against him – whether the Tribunal’s treatment of country of origin information in respect of conscription in Syria was unreasonable – matters the Tribunal must have regard to when making a credibility finding – how a judicial review of a decision based on credibility should be conducted – applicant argued that he was a member of a particular social group namely “forced conscription males” – the applicant provided country of origin information to the effect that young males may be conscripted and males who returned from abroad were questioned and often charged with draft evasion Tribunal failed to regard the country of origin information as objectively sourced material in support of the applicant’s claim – the Tribunal used the country of origin information to conclude that it was incredible that a person would return to Syria if there was a chance he could be conscripted – Tribunal gave inadequate consideration to the country of origin information – inference drawn by the Tribunal was not sustainable and involved a degree of speculation –claimed that he feared that he would be returned to Syria if he made an application for asylum in Turkey or the Ukraine – claimed that he only spent a short time in Denmark – claimed that the negative credibility finding in relation to the absence of travel documents was unreasonable - open to the Tribunal to accept or reject these explanations therefore no judicial review lies.
Key Cases Cited
IR v. Refugee Appeals Tribunal  IEHC 353
Camara v. The Refugee Appeals Tribunal (Unreported, High Court, Kelly J., 26th July, 2000)