Sweden - Migration Court of Appeal, 30 November 2011, UM 7850-10

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
30-11-2010
Citation:
UM 7850-10
Court Name:
Migration Court of Appeal
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 4 Section 1
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 4 Section 2
Sweden - Utlänningslagen (Aliens Act) (2005:716) - Chapter 12 Section 19
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Headnote: 

For conversion to be considered an acceptable protection ground the religious belief must be genuine.

Converts to Christianity in Afghanistan face a general risk of persecution and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on return. However, the Migration Court of Appeal found that an Afghan applicant did not prove it was reasonably likely that his conversion from Islam to Christianity was founded on a genuine belief. He had not shown that if he returned to his country of origin he had the intention to live as a convert. There was also no evidence that the authorities in his country of origin knew that he had converted.

Facts: 

The applicant, from Afghanistan, sought asylum in Sweden in 2006. He stated that he had had an improper relationship with a woman in Afghanistan and therefore risked persecution and death if he was returned there.

The Migration Board rejected the application and the Migration Court rejected his appeal. In October 2009, the Migration Court of Appeal decided not to grant leave to appeal the case.

In November 2009 the applicant contacted the Migration Board, claiming that he had converted to Christianity and that his life was at risk in his country of origin.

The Migration Board did not grant the applicant a new examination but the Migration Court referred the case back to the Board which then decided not to grant the applicant a residence permit. The Migration Court made the same assessment.

The Migration Court of Appeal granted the applicant leave to appeal.

Decision & Reasoning: 

The Court was of the opinion that there was a general risk of persecution and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for converts in Afghanistan. Provided that the applicant established it was probable that his conversion was genuine, he would therefore be entitled to a residence permit in Sweden.

The applicant stated that in Afghanistan he had never considered any religion other than Islam. He became interested in Christianity on his way to Sweden. In Sweden, he attended church with friends and was baptized in December 2009. He stated he felt he was a confirmed Christian a week after his baptism.

The Migration Court of Appeal found that the baptismal certificate and evidence from witnesses gave some support to the applicant's account but this was not alone sufficient to make it reasonably likely that his conversion was genuine. Therefore a credibility assessment had to be made.

In this assessment the Migration Court of Appeal stated inter alia that it was surprising that the applicant had not talked about his interest in Christianity during the asylum procedure. It was also strange that he only started to accompany his friend to the church from the autumn of 2009. The applicant's details on why he changed his religion and of Christianity's importance to him were consistently vague and generalised. This was, according to the Migration Court of Appeal, quite remarkable as a genuine conversion must be assumed to be an extremely important consideration for the individual and have a very important role in that person's life. The applicant could not name any story in the Bible and he did not know of the key Christian festivals. Therefore, there were strong reasons to doubt the authenticity of his conversion to Christianity.

The Migration Court of Appeal found that the applicant had not shown it was reasonably likely that his conversion was based on a genuine belief. He had not shown that it was likely either that he if he returned to Afghanistan he had the intention of living there as a convert.

The remaining question was whether the applicant, through imputed Christian beliefs, would be at risk in Afghanistan.

The applicant stated in the Migration Court of Appeal that his conversion was known by all Afghans where he lived in Sweden but they had not discussed his faith and not tried to influence him to revert to Islam. Then later he had stated that he was afraid that some of his countrymen were informers, and that he was being bullied by them. The Migration Court of Appeal found it remarkable that the applicant had first provided the latter information after the Court hearing. The Court found nothing that indicated that the applicant's baptism had come to the Afghan authorities' attention. Nor was it likely that someone in Sweden would divulge the information to them.

The Migration Court of Appeal found the applicant had not shown it was reasonably likely that he held a well-founded fear of persecution or that there was reason to believe that he would risk being punished by death or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment if he was returned to Afghanistan. He was therefore found not to be a refugee nor in need of subsidiary protection.

Outcome: 

The Migration Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

Other sources cited: 

UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Afghanistan, 17 December 2010, HCR/EG/AFG/10/04

UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection No. 6: Religion-Based Refugee Claims under Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 April 2004, HCR/GIP/04/06

Case Law Cited: 

Sweden - MIG 2006:1

Sweden - MIG 2007:12