Ruling allows refugees stay if they face serious harm at home

MANY more refugees afraid to return to their own countries should qualify to remain in Ireland following a ruling from the European Court of Justice which says they need only face serious harm if they return home.

As a result, an applicant does not have to prove he or she is specifically targeted if they return to their home country, but should only have to show that because of the level of violence he or she would be at real risk.

The ruling could affect Nigerian woman Pamela Izevbekhai and her two daughters who face deportation, despite her fear that the girls will be subject to genital mutilation. She is waiting for the European Court of Human Rights to hear her case.

Ireland is one of the countries that interpret the EU directive very strictly and only about six people have been allowed to stay in the country on the basis that their lives would be in danger if they were deported.

The head of the Irish Refugee Council, Robin Hanan, welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a very positive judgment”.

The EU legislation to which Ireland signed up, says that if a person does not qualify as a refugee, they can apply to the Minister for Justice to remain in the country temporarily on the grounds that they face a real risk of suffering serious harm if they return to their country of origin.

But Mr Hanan said that the department has asked for proof of this from applicants, including death certificates of relatives and other documents that would be impossible to get.

The ruling makes it clear that the criteria are not as difficult as that required for refugee status. The case was brought by an Iranian couple living in the Netherlands who were refused temporary residence permits because they had not proved they faced risks by returning to Iran.

The Luxembourg-based court ruled yesterday that indiscriminate violence in the applicant’s home place poses a risk irrespective of their personal circumstances. The applicant does not have to prove that they are specifically targeted.

It also ruled that other factors, such as that the person had already been subject to serious harm or threats, should be taken into account unless it is clear that such threats would not be repeated.

It adds that it is enough to show that by returning to his home country, the applicant is at risk of serious harm. This does not have to be as serious as the death penalty, execution or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Ms Izevbekhai and her daughters want to remain in Ireland because she claims the girls will be subject to genital mutilation if they return to their home country of Nigeria. Ms Izevbekhai says her first daughter Elizabeth died as a result of the mutilation some years ago.

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