Tribunal: Member Meena Sripathy

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) refused to grant the applicant a Protection visa on 1 February 2016 and she applied to the AAT for a review of this decision.

The applicant claimed she fled Fiji because she feared persecution from certain members of the Fijian government based on her involvement in unlawful transactions as an employee of an organisation in Fiji. She claimed that the organisation she worked at was managed by a person who had become a Minister in the Fijian Government and had connections to senior officials in the Fijian Government. She feared that if the unlawful conduct that she was involved in at the organisation came to light she would be blamed as a scapegoat by the former manager of the organisation. She also claimed her political views were in opposition to the Fijian Government and she was at a risk of harm from the government.

A Protection visa may be granted if the applicant can satisfy one of two criteria.[1] The first is called the ‘refugee criterion’ and broadly requires the applicant to have a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’.[2] The second is called ‘complementary protection’ grounds and broadly requires the applicant to have ‘a real risk of significant harm’.[3]

The AAT was concerned with the credibility of the applicant. The AAT acknowledged that assessing claims made by an applicant involves an assessment of credibility and noted that it must be mindful of the difficulties faced by refugee applicants and the benefit of the doubt should be given to an applicant who is generally credible but unable to substantiate all of their claims. The AAT however stated that it is not required to accept uncritically any or all of the allegations made by an applicant.[4]

The AAT did not accept a number of the applicant’s claims. The AAT did not accept the claimed nature of the work the applicant undertook and the risk of harm to her on that basis. The AAT found her evidence about the work she did there was vague and lacking in convincing detail. She referred to ‘preparing documents relating to transactions’ in written statements, but was unable to provide any further convincing detail when asked to elaborate.

The AAT did not accept the applicant had knowledge from her work at the organisation that would bring her to the adverse attention of Fijian authorities, her former employer or anyone else in Fiji.

The AAT accepted that the applicant may not be in agreement with all of the government’s actions and/or decisions. To assess this claim the AAT referred to official country information[5], which indicated that freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Fijian Constitution, although it was noted that the government has authority to restrict those rights for an array of reasons and there is a degree of self-censorship by members of civil society on political issues. The country information provided that high profile public figures including the leaders of organisations, who may be seen to challenge the government’s authority or undermine its legitimacy, are at risk of negative attention, such as arrest or detention. The AAT did not consider that the applicant fell within this category.

For these reasons, the AAT found that the applicant did not satisfy the criteria for a Protection visa and affirmed the Department’s decision to refuse the visa. 

Read the full written decision on AustLII.

 

[1] Section 36(2) of the Migration Act 1958

[2] Section 36(2)(a) and section 5H for the meaning of a refugee under the Migration Act 1958

[3] Section 36(2)(aa) and section 36(2A) for the meaning of significant harm under the Migration Act 1958

[4] See paragraph 38 of the full decision