Case of Izevbekhai and Others v. Ireland


Case of Izevbekhai and Others v. Ireland. European Court of Human Rights; 2011.


The Applicants were a mother and two daughters who arrived in Ireland in January 2005. Mrs. Izevbekhai applied for declarations of refugee status on her own behalf and on behalf of her daughters. The basis of her claim for refugee status was that she was in fear for her own life and the lives of her daughters if they were returned to Nigeria, as a result of threats from the family of her husband to carry out female genital mutilation on her daughters. She claimed that an elder daughter had died in Nigeria as a result of complications arising from female genital mutilation. The Applicants’ applications for refugee status in Ireland were refused, and they made representations to the Minister for leave to remain temporarily in the State. These representations were rejected and the Minister made deportation orders in respect of all three Applicants in November 2005. Mrs. Izevbekhai went into hiding and her children were taken into care by the HSE. She was later apprehended by Gardaí and placed in detention. The Applicants obtained the leave of the High Court (McKechnie J.) to challenge the deportation orders by way of judicial review but the substantive applications were refused by the High Court (Feeney J.) in January 2008. In March 2008, the Applicants made applications to the Minister for subsidiary protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations (S.I. No. 518) 2006. The Minister refused to consider their applications for subsidiary protection because the deportation orders had been made before the coming into force of the Regulations. In an earlier case (N.H and T.D. v. Minister for Justice and Law Reform [2007] IEHC 277) the courts had identified a discretion on the part of the Minister to accept such late applications, but the Minister refused to exercise this discretion in favour of the Applicants. In March 2008 the High Court (Edwards J.) granted to the Applicants leave to apply for judicial review of the Minister's decision. In January 2009, the High Court (McGovern J.) delivered judgment on the substantive application for judicial review, and held that the Minister had acted properly. The Applicants appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the Minister’s officials reopened their investigations into Ms Izevbekhai’s claims about the death of her eldest daughter in Nigeria. The Minister concluded that the documents relied upon by Ms Izevbekhai in support of her claim were forgeries and that no such child had ever existed. Affidavits to this effect were filed in the Supreme Court.

Following the hearing on the preliminary issue of whether the Minister had jurisdiction to entertain the application for subsidiary protection, the Supreme Court found that he had no discretion to do so. Consequently, the substantive appeal did not proceed and thus no findings were made by the Supreme Court as regards the Minister’s allegations of forgery.

The Applicants took their case to the ECHR and complained under Article 3 that there was a real risk that the minor Applicants would be exposed to FGM if they were expelled to Nigeria. They also invoked Articles 6, 13 and 14 of the Convention about the domestic remedies available to them in that respect. The ECHR found that the information presented by the Government with respect to the documents relied upon by Ms Izevbekhai gave strong reasons to question the veracity of the Applicants’ core factual submission concerning the death of a child in Nigeria as a result of FGM. The Court considered the Applicants’ response to the core issue of credibility to be unsatisfactory.

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Last updated on 07/23/2015