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Tribunal: Member J Marquard

The AAT affirmed the decision of a delegate of the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) refusing to grant the applicant a protection visa. His home country was now politically stable and, although poor with inadequate health facilities, this disadvantage did not set him apart from any other citizen there or represent a real chance of serious harm.

The applicant argued he feared harm for reasons of his imputed political opinion, his Krahn ethnicity and as a member of a particular social group of former civil war combatants. He also claimed to fear harm because of mental health issues, among other factors.

The applicant arrived in Australia in 2004 as a dependent on his mother’s refugee visa. This was mandatorily cancelled in 2020 after he was sentenced to more than 12 months in prison. A few weeks after the final decision was made not to revoke the decision cancelling that visa, he applied for a protection visa.

The applicant had a traumatic childhood and his early life in Liberia was disrupted by civil war and several horrific personal experiences. He was a child soldier before escaping Liberia and eventually fleeing to Australia with his mother. At the time of his application he had not lived in Liberia for almost 20 years. His mother, siblings, new partner and children (who were from an earlier relationship) also lived here.

The AAT accepted the applicant’s evidence on his early experiences, relying on extensive country information from international sources to corroborate the human rights abuses he recounted. The Tribunal also accepted new evidence about the applicant’s escape from Liberia after he killed a rebel leader in a revenge attack.

However, considering the claim cumulatively, the Tribunal was not satisfied the applicant faced a real chance of serious harm on return to Liberia. The country had become stable and peaceful, with no evidence of significant ethnic conflict. The civil war had ended in 2002 and following a truth and reconciliation process rebel leaders were sentenced and convicted for their war crimes.

The applicant’s fears of retribution as a former combatant could not be substantiated and non-government organisations in the area had not heard any reports of the targeting of refugees who were former combatants. Finally, the claimed killing of the rebel leader happened 20 year ago when he was a child, reducing the chances of anyone identifying him.

The Tribunal considered the applicant’s mental health condition, given the limited specialist services in Liberia, but was not satisfied that there was a real chance of serious harm on the basis of a lack of availability of treatment or because of stigma or ill-treatment of persons with disabilities in Liberia. 

The Tribunal also considered the applicant’s claims against the complementary protection criterion but was not satisfied that there was a real risk that he would suffer significant harm.

On these bases, the Tribunal found that the applicant was not owed protection obligations by Australia and affirmed the decision under review.

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