Sweden - Migration Court, 20 May 2010, UM 4942-10

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
20-05-2010
Citation:
UM 4942-10
Court Name:
Migration Court (Administrative Court Gothenburg)
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Headnote: 

An Armenian opposition politician was considered a political refugee by the Migration Court of Appeal. Both the Migration Board and the Migration Court believed the applicant's political commitment and account of events. The Board considered, however, that the Armenian authorities' actions were not unreasonable and dismissed the application.

The Migration Court stated the fact that the applicant was not imprisoned for long periods did not imply that the arrests and ill-treatment that took place could be considered as acceptable measures by the authorities. Nor could the actions of the authorities be considered as reasonable or acceptable.  The applicant was considered to be the victim of persecution that was rooted in his political belief.

Facts: 

The main applicant sought asylum in 2008, while his wife and children applied in 2009. He was a member of an opposition party (Orinak Erkic) and had been an election observer in 2008. He made complaints of election fraud to the authorities. He participated in demonstrations and was arrested by the police. He was falsely charged and was fined a large sum for damages to property during the demonstration. The renewal of his commercial property contract was refused and the property impounded. He was accused of being paid by a previous presidential candidate to join the demonstration. The family’s passports were seized. Subsequently his father’s, and his own property, was expropriated and sold to cover part of the damages. In April 2008 he was summoned to court proceedings regarding the remaining damages but did not appear. An order to arrest him was then issued. In June he was stopped by police who dragged him out of his car and also injured his son. The police then set fire to the car. His wife had a miscarriage as a result of this action. He reported the incident to the police. A few days later he was arrested by special forces and interrogated for many hours. The police wanted him to withdraw his complaint and to sign a document saying it was he who set fire to the car. The police said they would not investigate the incident. A few weeks later the family fled to Georgia and returned for a brief period because vital health care was not accessible for their sick son. Shortly after the husband fled to Sweden as he was wanted by the authorities and risked a sentence of up to 15 years.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Migration Board turned down the application despite confirming the facts of the case. The Migration Board stated that a number of the measures taken by the authorities were reasonable given the need to establish responsibility for the damages during the demonstration. When the police detained him he was released shortly after. The family had also returned to Armenia and during that time had no problems with the police. Therefore, the applicant had not shown that he risked persecution or other treatment warranting protection.

In the appeal the applicant stated that what the Board depicted as reasonable measures consisted of ill-treatment aimed at getting him to withdraw his complaint. He received threatening phone-calls, threatening visits to his home and an attack on the family car. On their return to Armenia they hid from the authorities. They also stated that EU observers had noted that there were frequent breaches of human rights in Armenia. A number of authorities had cooperated in harassing the applicant despite the fact that he had made a report to the police, which only led to his being arrested and subjected to violence.

The Migration Board stated that the family had not shown a nexus between their situation and the current situation in the country. Three years had passed since the events. They also stated that an oral hearing was not necessary in the appeal procedure.

The Migration Court did not order an oral hearing nor did it allow the applicants to change their legal counsel. The Court noted that country of origin information (USSD report 2010 Armenia) showed that the rule of law was inadequately respected. The authorities carried out random arrests of political opponents. Despite being forbidden in law torture was used by the security forces and incidences of false confessions had been reported. The courts were subject to political influence.

The Migration Court did not question the applicants’ account, which had been corroborated by written documents. The applicant had been subjected to repeated harassment and violence at the hands of Armenian authorities. The fact that he was not imprisoned during long periods did not imply that the arrests and ill-treatment that took place could be considered as acceptable measures from the authorities. Nor could the actions of the authorities be considered as reasonable or acceptable. Looking at all the grounds jointly what the applicant had been subjected to, based on its intensity and character, was deemed to be sufficient to be regarded as persecution. The persecution was based on the applicant’s political affiliation and involvement. Based on the country of origin information and bearing in mind what he had already been subjected to and moreover noting that the political situation in Armenia had not changed since the events mentioned took place. The Court found that it was likely that he would face a real and individual risk forthwith of being subjected to persecution by the Armenian authorities based on political grounds.  He could not be expected to enjoy the protection of his home country.

Outcome: 

The applicant was declared to be a refugee according to Chapter 4 Section 1 of the Aliens Act. Bearing in mind the principle of family unity the other members of the family were also granted a permanent residence permit, refugee status and travel documents.