UK - AS (Iran) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department, 12 October 2017

Country of Decision:
Country of Applicant:
Date of Decision:
12-10-2017
Citation:
AS (Iran) v SSHD [2017] EWCA Civ 1539
Court Name:
Royal Courts of Justice (Lady Justice Rafferty, Lord Justice Irwin and Lord Justice Moylan)
Relevant Legislative Provisions:
International Law > 1951 Refugee Convention
National / Other Legislative Provisions:
UK - Refugee or Persons in Need of International Protection (Qualification) Regulations 2006
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Headnote: 

The appellant claimed that the Tribunals in their determinations had failed to give adequate reasons for their conclusions, in particular that the appellant had not demonstrated well-founded fear. The Court considered the grounds for this claim and found that since we should ‘avoid a requirement of perfection’ (para 26) they were not sufficient to establish that the tribunals had erred, nor that the claimant was at risk of persecution.

Facts: 

The claimant lived in the UK from 2001 to 2009 on a visit visa. She converted to Christianity in 2002 and applied for asylum unsuccessfully; she was removed to Iran in 2009. She claimed to have left Iran illegally in September 2012, arriving in the UK. This case was an appeal from earlier decisions of the FTT and UT which refused her claims for asylum and humanitarian protection: first, because as a victim of domestic violence she is a member of a particular social group; second, because she may face persecution as  a Christian convert if removed to Iran.

Decision & Reasoning: 

There were three grounds of appeal (paras 12-14). The first was that the FtT had failed to give adequate reasons for considering the appellant (as a victim of domestic violence in Iran) as a member of a ‘particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution.’ The Court found that, while (as the Secretary of State accepted) women in Iran do form a particular social group, the claimant could not argue a well-founded fear of persecution on that basis (par 28) being well-educated with no dependent child.

The second was that the FtT failed to give adequate reasons for its conclusion that she did not demonstrate a well-founded fear on the basis of religion. She claimed (para 37) that her history as a convert is an intrinsic part of her religious identity. In response, the Court noted that the applicant had not evangelised or proselytised and, indeed, saw her religion as a personal matter.  The Court found that there are a number of Christians living in Iran and that if they do not proselytise they are not subject to persecution. Thus, the applicant did not fall within the category specified in HJ (Iran) of persons concealing their religion in order to avoid persecution. Ultimately, the Court rejected the applicant’s argument that her conversion is her personal history and part of her religious belief or identity. Whilst this may be different if, as part of her religion, active evangelising was a duty, this was not the case for the applicant. Ultimately the Court agreed with the respondent that ‘the route by which an individual acquires religious belief, by upbringing or conversion, does not form part of identity, or (at least necessarily) religion’ (par 40). The Court, therefore, rejected this ground.  

The third ground was that the FtT did not give adequate reasons for concluding that ‘the appellant had not demonstrated well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of her illegal exit from Iran’ despite a recent report from Amnesty International (par 30). Essentially, as the Court said (para 33) this was ‘a challenge to the factual findings in the First-tier Tribunal’. The Court considered the claim and found that while the Appellant could be held for a few days and questioned on arrival (par 30), as was clear from the Respondent’s Country Information, she had actually no real political profile in Iran (par 32), although she had tried to boost it by sur place activities. She did not have a well-founded fear.

Consequently, the Court found that in none of these cases had there been a material error, pointing out that ‘in approaching criticism of reasons given by a First-tier Tribunal, the Respondent correctly reminds us to avoid a requirement of perfection.’ (par 26). 

Outcome: 

Application denied.

Observations/Comments: 

Cases involving Christian converts in Iran constantly recur in the courts, the definitive guidance being that of Ouseley J in FS (UKIAT 303, 2004), several times reaffirmed. Here the appellant claimed additional grounds - the (substantial) risk of domestic violence from her husband \and the fact that she had left illegally.

The case is discussed further in the Free Movement  blog, Court of Appeal: private religious belief does not risk persecution.

This case summary was written by Luke Hodgkin, LLM graduate, Birkbeck University. 

Other sources cited: 

United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) - Article 18

Case Law Cited: