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Minister must reconsider application from woman who submitted fake passport

Breaking News from Ireland
Saturday November 19, 2022

Her lawyers said there is no functioning central government in Somalia, and it is not possible to obtain passports from Somalia or through and embassy abroad

The Minister for Justice has been directed to consider afresh the naturalisation application of a Somali woman who submitted a fake passport.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said the submission of a false passport in support of an application is, “of course, a very serious matter”. Without a reasonable explanation this conduct could “certainly justify” the refusal of a naturalisation certificate on grounds that the applicant is not of good character, he added.

However, in this case, the decision-making process did not comply with fair procedures and the decision itself does not meet the legal test required for providing reasons for reaching a particular conclusion, the judge ruled.

He set aside the decision of December 2021 and directed the Minister to reconsider the application.

Absolute discretion

The Minister has “absolute discretion” under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 to approve or refuse a naturalisation request, but her decision is not immune from judicial review in the High Court, the judge said.

The woman complained in the High Court that the person who determined her application did not adequately refer to the fact she had informed the Minister that her passport, which she claims she obtained in good faith, might not be valid.

The judge said the woman submitted her naturalisation application in May 2017 accompanied by a Somali passport in her name.

In November of that year, her lawyers wrote, unprompted, to the Minister raising concerns about the genuineness of the travel document.

Somali document

She explained the passport was obtained through a member of the Somali community in Ireland, which was the only route she knew of. Her lawyers said there is no functioning central government in Somalia, and it is not possible to obtain passports from Somalia or through and embassy abroad.

The Garda Technical Bureau had found in June 2017 that the passport, while a genuine Somali document, had a substituted bio-data page that rendered it false. This finding was never formally put to the woman or her lawyers, the judge noted.

Mr Justice Simons said an internal Department of Justice document examining and determining the woman’s application fails to record, “even in the most cursory form”, the explanations offered by the woman for the submission of the false passport.

The judge noted there was no reference in the document to the practical difficulties asserted by the woman in obtaining a Somali passport given the said absence of a functioning central government there.

The document also did not seem to acknowledge the woman’s correspondence regarding the validity of the passport was sent to the Minister unprompted.

The submission of a false passport was cited as the singular factor justifying a finding that the woman lacked “good character”. She had a right to be heard, and any explanation she relied upon should be fairly summarised by the decision-maker, said the judge.

It is “crucial”, he said, that a decision maker carefully considers any exculpatory factors advanced by an applicant.


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