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Sweden - Migration Court of Appeal, 23 May 2008, UM 1802-07
A female applicant from Syria belonging to a minority group was eligible for refugee protection based on the lack of fundamental rights and freedoms for the minority to which she belonged, in addition to her political activities.
The applicant claimed she was in need of protection based on the discrimination (amounting to persecution) she was subjected to as a member of the minority group Maktoumeen in Syria. The Maktoumeen are denied a number of fundamental rights in their country of origin. She had also been imprisoned and was tortured following her participation in a political demonstration and risked persecution on political grounds on return.
The Migration Board denied the application on 2 December 2005. The Stockholm Migration Court came to the same conclusion on June 11 2007. Neither the first nor second instance decision-makers found that the applicant fulfilled the requirements of the refugee definition. The judgment of the Migration Court was appealed to the Migration Court of Appeal where the applicant emphasised the difficult situation for Maktoumeen in Syria. The Migration Board approved the appeal as a whole with reference to cumulative acts of discrimination and the situation for this particular minority in Syria.
The Migration Court of Appeal stated, contrary to the view of the Migration Board but consistent with the Migration Court judgment, that the fact that the applicant was part of a discriminated minority was not in itself enough to grant her protection on refugee grounds. The Migration Court of Appeal underlined that an individual assessment had to take place.
The Migration Court of Appeal found that the particularly vulnerable situation of the applicant as a Maktoumeen, combined with the consequences of the applicant’s political activities, as well as her statements regarding her limited possibilities of return to Syria, led to the conclusion that she was to be granted protection as a refugee under Chapter 4, Section 1 of the Aliens Act.
The Migration Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Migration Board and the Migration Court judgment and granted the applicant refugee status.
Obiter Comments: One of the judges of the Migration Court of Appeal wrote a dissenting opinion stating that she thought that there were facts in the case that should have been further investigated. She also found the applicant’s account of events to be vague and lacking in detail and therefore not credible.
In the present judgment, the Migration Board completely changed its position when the case reached the Migration Court of Appeal. There it considered the discrimination the applicant has be subject to as cumulatively amounting to such human rights violations that fall within the scope of the refugee definition. The Migration Court of Appeal does not accept this line of reasoning. Instead, it emphasises the importance of an individual assessment of asylum claims and avoids the recognition of legitimate asylum claims from a particular group.