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Tribunal: Member Christopher Smolicz

A delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection refused to grant the applicants Protection visas. The Tribunal affirmed the decision on 4 April 2018.

The applicants were a couple from Fiji who travelled to Australia multiple times between 2010 and 2012 on a number of visas. When their last visa ceased on 19 February 2012 they remained in Australia unlawfully until they applied for protection visas on 6 September 2013.

Section 36 of the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) sets out the criteria to be satisfied for a Protection visa. Broadly, the applicant must be a person in respect of whom Australia has protection obligations under the ‘refugee’ criterion or on other ‘complementary protection’ grounds. In basic terms, this arises when a person is found to have a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ or there is a ‘real risk of significant harm,’ respectively.

The applicants claimed they came within Australia’s protection obligations for a number of reasons. These included being staunch Methodists, members of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement (FDFM) in Australia and expressing their opposition to the 2006 coup in Fiji and the present government. The first applicant claimed he used to work with political prisoners when he was employed as a prison officer and therefore had a profile which would put his life in danger if he returned to Fiji. The second applicant’s claims mostly relied on the claims of the first applicant.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection considered country information provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as it was required to do so. The applicants disagreed with the DFAT report conclusion about the current political situation in Fiji. The applicants claimed that the situation remained unstable and was insecure for citizens who disagree with the government.

The Tribunal had doubts about the credibility of the applicants and their evidence. The Tribunal found the claim that the applicant was an advocate against the coups in Fiji was not supported by the applicant’s evidence at the hearing. For example, the Tribunal noted that when questioned at the hearing the applicant conceded that he had no involvement in the 2006 coup in Fiji and did not take part in any political protest activity in Fiji. The Tribunal did not accept the applicant was politically active and opposed to the government in Fiji and was a person of interest to the authorities in Fiji.

The Tribunal did not accept the applicant was viewed as anti-government when he worked as a prison officer and steward and that this put his life in danger. There was no evidence that he was a threat to the government or faced serious or significant harm during his period of employment in Fiji or at any other time. The applicant retired with full superannuation entitlements more than seven years before the time of the decision. His career was not prematurely ended due to his political or religious profile after the 2006 coup.

The Tribunal found that the applicant’s fear of persecution because of his imputed political opinion and religious beliefs as a staunch Methodist was not well-founded. The Tribunal found that the applicant’s evidence about his political activism in Australia was vague and not consistent with his claims. The Tribunal also found that some of the political activities undertaken in Australia had been done in order to strengthen the protection application. The Tribunal found that in the absence of a more significant profile, such as being a known political activist, there was not a real chance the applicant would be targeted.

Looking at the claims cumulatively and having regard to the applicant’s profile and the country information, the Tribunal was not satisfied the applicant met the criteria for a Protection visa.

Read the full written decision on AustLII.