Pakistani woman wins challenge over protection refusal

Family was attacked by male relatives objecting to woman’s mother taking up employment

The court found the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) erred in recommending protection be refused on the basis she would not be more at risk of persecution or harm than other women in Pakistan.

The court found the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) erred in recommending protection be refused on the basis she would not be more at risk of persecution or harm than other women in Pakistan.

 

A Pakistani woman whose family were attacked by male relatives objecting to her mother taking up employment has won a High Court order overturning a recommendation she be refused protection here.

Her protection application must be reconsidered in line with the court’s findings, including that the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) erred in recommending protection be refused on the basis she would not be more at risk of persecution or harm than other women in Pakistan if repatriated there, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said.

An applicant does not have to show they are more at risk than others, it is sufficient if they can establish a reasonable likelihood they would be at risk of harm if repatriated, he said.

While the tribunal accepted the woman’s family were subject to attacks and harassment between 1996 and 1999 by male relatives who objected to her mother taking up employment when her father became too ill to work, it concluded she would not be at risk more than other women generally if she was returned there and, on that and other grounds, recommended against protection.

The woman, whose family had to leave home and relocate within Pakistan as a result of those attacks, challenged that decision. In opposing her proceedings, the tribunal and Minister for Justice denied the disputed decision was flawed.

In his recently published judgment, Mr Justice Barr noted the woman, aged in her 30s, had obtained business degrees in Pakistan and was sponsored by her mother to go to the UK in 2010 to further her education and “keep an eye” on her younger sister, who lives in Ireland with her husband.

Having obtained a post-graduate diploma in business management in the UK, the woman got further leave to remain there to pursue an accountancy qualification. She abandoned that course for various reasons and came to Ireland in 2013 to look after her sister who had developed severe mental health issues and made a number of suicide attempts.

Her UK leave to remain expired in 2014, she applied for international protection here in late 2016 and IPAT found against her in November 2019.

Mr Justice Barr concluded the IPAT decision should be quashed for reasons including it was unclear whether the tribunal applied the correct legal test concerning the likelihood of being at risk of harm if repatriated.

The correct test is that a decision maker, having considered all the evidence, including Country of Origin Information (COI), should be satisfied there is a “reasonable” likelihood of risk that an applicant would face persecution or serious harm if returned, he said. Because the tribunal decision contained the words “balance of probabilities”, it was unclear whether the correct test was applied.

The tribunal also failed to give reasons why it had not accepted prima facie credible COI about the position of women in Pakistan, including from the UK Home Office which stated it was “next to impossible” for a single woman to live alone in Pakistan due to prejudice against women and economic dependence. A 2016 UK Home Office report said Pakistan was ranked the third most dangerous place in the world for women with widespread violence against them, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, acid attacks, forced marriages and “honour killings”.

The judge further held the tribunal failed to give adequate consideration to the woman’s claim to have become a refugee ‘sur place’ due to her adopting western dress and lifestyle, such as would put her at serious risk if returned to Pakistan. It had not given sufficient reasons for rejecting her claim she was more at risk due to coming from a poorer background, he said.

The tribunal further erred in not giving reasons for concluding the woman’s explanation for leaving the UK — to care for her sister in Ireland — was not true and she had instead come here for economic reasons, he said. The tribunal had not explained why it was economically more favourable for her to relocate here where she did not have the financial capacity to continue her accountancy studies.