Judge slams 'insulting' comments on refugee's beliefs
A JUDGE has criticised as "gratuitously insulting" remarks by a member of a refugee appeals body to a woman from Cameroon concerning her religious convictions.
Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) member Emma Toal, when considering the woman's claim she fled her home country after refusing to marry a local chief because she was Catholic, had remarked: "One has to question the strength of these religious convictions given that she had two children out of wedlock."
This was "an extraordinary comment to make in the context of the early part of the 21st century", Mr Justice Robert Eagar said in the High Court.
Those remarks were "gratuitously insulting" to the woman, "unhelpful and unnecessary", he said.
The remarks were not however sufficient to impair Ms Toal's decision dismissing the woman's appeal for refugee status, he ruled.
He was satisfied the process by which the conclusion on credibility was reached was legally sound.
He was giving judgment on an appeal by the woman, a mother of two aged in her thirties, who came here in late 2008. The Refugee Applications Commissioner had recommended she be refused refugee status.
The woman's appeal was heard by the RAT in November 2009 and she was informed of its rejection in an undated letter stamped May 2010, Mr Justice Eagar said.
In her application, the woman, who has a university diploma, said her mother had died some time ago and her father, a "Notable" in Cameroon, died in 2008.
She claimed she was told at his funeral she must become the wife of a chief and she was ordered to drink a glass of human blood.
She claimed she refused both orders and was told drastic measures would be taken if she did not obey.
The RAT identified several issues of credibility and said parts of her account was implausible.