Woman who fled Albania wins appeal over protection refusal

Mother-of-three claims flight from Balkan state due to menacing pursuit by stalker

The judge found the tribunal failed to given adequate reasons for its decision.  File photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

The judge found the tribunal failed to given adequate reasons for its decision. File photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

A woman who claims she fled Albania because of a stalker has won a High Court challenge to a refusal to grant her and her three children international protection.

The woman claimed because the stalker was politically connected in Albania she could not turn to the local police for help and had to flee.

Mr Justice Max Barrett overturned the International Protection Appeals Tribunal decision to refuse her and her children subsidiary protection. He said the tribunal failed to give adequate reasons for its decision.

The judge also quashed a separate tribunal decision refusing protection for the woman’s husband and ordered it to reconsider the case.

The judge said a one-time co-worker of the woman began stalking her at her workplace. He initially left her anonymous messages at her workstation and later made anonymous telephone calls to her land line.

Subsequently, he vandalised the car belonging to her husband and appears to have shot several times at her husband when he was out driving, said the judge. In the end, matters became so bad that she quit her job and the whole family moved to the Albanian capital, Tirana.

They were settled there for only a short time when, the said, they woke up one morning to find a cat’s head left in a box on their doorstep.

They attributed this to the stalker who the woman believes enjoys political influence and protection in Albania. They decided to flee Albania and the family ended up in Ireland.

In her application for protection, she told the tribunal, among other things, that her stalker was connected to the Socialist Party where she lived and the corrupt police would not support or protect her. There were many similar cases in Albania, she said.

Killed

She knew one woman who was a judge and was killed by her stalker, she said. That judge looked for protection, even writing to the American ambassador about it, claimed the woman.

She also said her family enjoyed a good life in Albania, that she had a degree and her husband was a businessman, but they abandoned it because that was “how it works in Albania.”

The judge said the tribunal accepted almost all the elements of her account. It said because the stalker had “proven himself to be relentless” and “remained a credible threat” there were substantial grounds for believing if returned to Albania the woman and her children would face a real risk of serious harm.

But the tribunal refused her asylum and subsidiary protection application saying, among other things, she had not shown she would not enjoy Albanian state protection if returned.

The judge noted that, regrettably, the woman’s concerns regarding the Albanian police were not some figment of her imagination. A US State Department report said police there “did not always enforce the law equitably. Personal associations, political or criminal connections . . . often influenced law enforcement.”

The judge found the tribunal failed to given adequate reasons for its decision, based on country of origin information.

A person affected by a decision is entitled to know in general terms why it was made, he said.

The woman had been left with no reason as to why her stalker’s political connections were perceived by the tribunal not to affect the availability of effective State protection to her, he said.

There was, in consequence, a breach of the International Protection Act 2015 duty to communicate reasons as well as a breach of fairness of procedures.

He also found the tribunal erred in law and acted outside its powers.