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Ghanaian man who claimed to be persecuted for being gay denied refugee status in Ireland

July 1, 2024
Ghanaian man who claimed to be persecuted for being gay denied refugee status in Ireland

It was not unreasonable or irrational for a tribunal to reject a Ghanaian man's claim that he was openly gay and had been subjected to persecution, the High Court in has ruled.

Mr. Justice Barry O'Donnell dismissed the divorced father-of-three's appeal to overturn the International Protection Appeal Tribunal's decision to deny him refugee status and subsidiary protection.

The judge noted that the international protection process had uncovered findings that called into question the credibility of the applicant's accounts of persecution and his claim of being gay.

Assessing the credibility of assertions about sexual orientation is “undoubtedly” sensitive and difficult, but “they are assessments that have to be made,” Mr. Justice O'Donnell stated. In this case, the tribunal had “conspicuously” endeavoured to evaluate the claim with reference to appropriate standards.

The tribunal acknowledged that gay men may face extreme discrimination and homophobia in Ghana, where violent homophobic attacks are common, the judge said.

The applicant arrived in Ireland in February 2020 and immediately sought international protection at Dublin Airport. He was called for an interview with the International Protection Office 26 months later and was denied refugee status, subsidiary protection, and leave to remain in June 2022.

The tribunal upheld this decision in November 2022, prompting the man to file judicial review proceedings at the High Court the following month.

He argued that the tribunal legally erred in finding his account not credible and had based its conclusions on assumptions about the experiences of gay men. He also claimed that the tribunal breached principles of fair procedure by making credibility findings without allowing him to respond.

The tribunal defended its determination, arguing it was lawful, fair, and reasonable.

Mr. Justice O'Donnell noted that the applicant had told the tribunal he was married and had three children. After his divorce in 2017, he said he “lost touch for women” and met a man in 2018 who introduced him to being gay. The applicant moved in with the man that year and felt he was in the right place, losing interest in women. He stated that his family was disgusted when they learned he was living with a man, making him feel like an outcast. He also claimed to have been attacked three times in Ghana between 2017 and 2020.

Due to numerous unexplained issues with his narrative, the tribunal had significant doubts about his credibility and could not accept that he had been persecuted. The tribunal remarked that although he might have been “naive or reckless,” his account of engaging in an openly gay relationship despite widespread intolerance and oppression seemed “unexpected and unusual.”

The tribunal also had issues with his description of his relationship with the other man and his realization of being gay, which it found “entirely bereft of any of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are commonly experienced.”

Mr. Justice O'Donnell concluded that the tribunal did not err by making findings based on conjecture or stereotype. He stated that the findings were derived from a careful consideration of the facts, with the applicant given extensive opportunities to explain his position.

The judge held that the tribunal's decision was lawful.

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