The decision


KF (IFA –Blood feud) Albania CG [2002] UKIAT 01419
Appeal no. CC 40450-2001
Heard: 22.03.02
Typed: 25.04.02
Sent out: 07.05.02     


John Freeman (chairman)
Mr A Smith

Karafil FETA,
Secretary of State for the Home Department,


Mr D Bazini (counsel instructed by Howells) for the appellant
Mr M Pichamuthu for the respondent

This is an appeal from a decision of an adjudicator (Mr G Dearden), sitting at East Retford on 26 October, dismissing an asylum and human rights appeal by a citizen of Albania, from refusal of leave to enter on 12 June 2001: a certificate by the respondent was withdrawn by the presenting officer. Leave was given in general terms.

2. This was another case about blood-feuds in Albania: we drew the parties’ attention to our decision in Skenderaj [01/BH/0026], and Mr Bazini drew the distinction that in this case the appellant claimed to have tried to enlist police protection; but, he said, the adjudicator had not dealt with that. Mr Bazini suggested that a fresh hearing should be directed without further ado; but this was a considered decision by an experienced adjudicator, and we should regard summary disposal of that kind as quite wrong. We are not enthusiasts for page-counting; but, leaving aside preliminary matters (which occupy §§ 1-11, and might well have been taken more shortly), this adjudicator spent seven full pages discussing the merits of the case, and his decision is entitled to more respect than that.
3. The appellant’s case was that in 1990 his father had killed two men of the Gegaj family in the course of a land dispute in their home area of northern Albania. Soon after this had led to his father’s death at the hands of Gjevolin Gegaj, who fled to Italy. At that time the appellant was on military service: when he finished his time and came home, Gjevolin Gegaj was still in Italy, and the rest of the clan were not interested in pursuing the blood-feud; but in 1997 Gjevolin returned and stirred them up to the extent that they gave the appellant three months to leave town. The appellant went to stay with a friend in Sarandë, in the south (“in hiding”, according to Mr Bazini; but helping on the friend’s market stall, according to the evidence he himself gave to the adjudicator: see § 21). He remained there till December 1999, when the friend decided to leave Albania. The appellant did so too, crossing the border to Greece, where he stayed till the police sent him back again at the end of January 2000. He did not claim asylum in Greece, as Albanians were unpopular there. On return to Albania he went to the port of Vlorë (Valona), where in only three days the money he had earnt in Greece secured his passage to Italy. However he did not claim asylum there, this time for fear of the long arm of the Gegajs, but came on by clandestine means to this country, where he arrived and claimed asylum on 2 March.

4. The adjudicator did not believe that:

a) the appellant would have come home from military service, as the only surviving man in his family, at a time when the Gegajs were one down in the blood-feud; or
b) Gjevolin would have come back there from Italy in 1997 to face the police for killing the appellant’s father; or
c) the Gegajs would have been so benevolent as then to let him have three months to leave; or
d) it would be unduly harsh to expect the appellant to return to Sarandë now; or
e) he would have failed to claim asylum in Italy if genuinely in fear.

5. Mr Bazini’s point on a) and b) was that the climate of public order in Albania had changed between 1990, when Gjevolin had to flee the country for killing the appellant’s father, and 1997, when he was able to return with impunity. For this he relied on an article in the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ of 7 August 1997:

Once suppressed and nearly extinguished by the Communists, the Kanun – a code of law that has guided life in much of northern Albania for nearly half a millennium – is back, with a vengeance. Albania’s descent into turmoil has fuelled its revival. Once relegated to the north, blood feuds have reportedly erupted in the capital, Tirana, and in the south.

Then we were referred to V97/06837, an apparently routinely anonymous decision from 1998 of the Australian Refugee Review Tribunal (Mr BF Kissane): this appears to be a single-member first instance appellate body, like an adjudicator here. The decision recites evidence, apparently emanating from a Albanian human rights body, about 9,000 men and 3,000 boys being kept “in imprisonment” [obviously a dramatic way of saying “indoors at home”] by their families for fear of feuds [which as in most such societies are not pursued by or against women]. There is said to have been a sharp deterioration in Albania’s human rights record “… around the time of the state of emergency from March 2 until July 24 [the year is not given, but appears to be 1997], reflecting the country’s general breakdown of governmental authority and civil society.” We think this ground of challenge is made out: if counsel (not Mr Bazini) who appeared before the adjudicator had properly drawn his attention to this evidence, we do not think he would have made points a) and b) in the way he did.

6. So far as c) is concerned, three months’ notice to leave does seem unusually benevolent in the context of a blood-feud. Mr Bazini was not able to refer us to any independent evidence of such a practice; but the appellant did make the point at Q37/A8 of his interview that in his case it had been a compromise brokered by the elders. That possibility does not seem to have been considered by the adjudicator: in our view it may be a reasonable one. The importance of this point may relate to the possibility or otherwise of internal flight, rather than the credibility of the appellant’s account of events in his home town (which curiously he never seems to have been asked to name: Mr Bazini told us it was Dedaj, in Puke district).

7. The other credibility point is e): the appellant’s own explanation for not claiming there was at Q63/B13-14

I had many reasons not to claim asylum in Italy but main reason is that person I was in conflict with [Gjevolin] lived and he had all the papers in Italy so Italy for me was like Albania. Also he had friends and relatives living there so I wasn’t safe.

Again that was not considered by the adjudicator. Mr Bazini referred us to the evidence in the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ (same issue) about a named Albanian claiming to have prevented over 300 murders since 1991, including, significantly, 20 abroad. He pointed out the appellant was likely to find himself living among fellow-Albanians if he stayed in Italy: although the appellant did pass through Italy on his way here, it may have been a fairly rapid transit.. This is a credibility point, so it depends on the appellant’s own (“subjective”) view of his prospects in Italy. On that basis only, we are prepared to assume it may just about be a reasonable one, even though the blood-feud had been settled by the elders on the basis that the appellant left town. [Not making a claim in Greece, where he had successfully worked for a couple of months, might have been a better point against the appellant; but it was not one the adjudicator made]. It follows that we do not see any serious reason on the adjudicator’s findings, in the light of the further evidence put before us, to doubt the appellant’s credibility as to what happened in his home town.

8. The evidence as to how far local protection against the consequences of that might have been available is sketchy. The furthest Mr Bazini was able to take it was by referring us to the decision of the Tribunal (Rapinet VP and a mixed panel) in Bregu [01/TH/02286]. They accepted (§ 14) that the appellant was not likely to get effective protection from the police; though they made clear at § 15 that this depended on the particular circumstances of that case. It is not in any case a question of any great continuing interest whether this appellant might have got effective protection from his local police in 1997: we are prepared to accept in his favour that he might not, in the particularly turbulent circumstances of that year. He did not claim to have made any specific approach to them then, though he said at his interview (Q33/B9) that the problem was common knowledge to everyone, including the police. Whether the appellant would get effective protection from the police in his home town now is not something on which the adjudicator found it necessary to come to a conclusion: the finding he did make (§ 44) on the interest the police were likely to have taken in 1997 is bedevilled by the failure of counsel before him (see § 5, above) to point out, as Mr Bazini did to us, the difference in public order conditions between that year and 1990.

9. While it might be possible for us to decide in general terms whether or not police protection is now available in Albania against the consequences of blood-feuds, they are by their nature local; so to uphold the adjudicator’s decision on the situation in the appellant’s home town would require investigation of his particular circumstances there, probably on the basis of any oral evidence he was able to give about them. That is not an exercize for us; so we turn to the findings the adjudicator did make on the possibility of internal flight. He took the view that there was no reason why it should be unduly harsh to expect the appellant to return to Sarandë: if his friend were still there, that would be unquestionably right, given that he stayed with him quite safely from 1997-99, and occupied a particularly prominent role on the market stall.

10. Mr Bazini’s point however is that the appellant’s situation in Sarandë would be entirely different in the absence of his friend. That was not something the adjudicator took into account, though the appellant had mentioned the friend’s departure at Q44/B10. We asked Mr Bazini to refer us to any evidence that blood-feuds operated on anything other than a local basis. Referring to the UNHCR paper of “1999-March 2000”, he pointed to the evidence (bundle p 26, citing the ‘New York Times Magazine’) of the kanun blood-feud code having spread from the north over the whole of Albania since 1997: an unnamed Albanian law professor was quoted as saying that “escaping from blood feuds by moving to other parts of the country does not necessarily guarantee security”. There is further evidence (‘Christian Science Monitor’, same issue) of blood-feuds reportedly erupting in the south.

11. All that evidence, apart from the professor’s reported comments, deals with blood-feuds originating in the south. The particular feature of the present case is that the appellant was given three months to leave his home area in the north, by a settlement agreed or imposed under the auspices of the elders. While the appellant would not have his friend’s home to go to in Sarandë as he did before, he is a single man of 30, and, in view of the two years he spent working on a market stall there (not something at the forefront of Mr Bazini’s submissions), is unlikely to be wholly without local contacts. It is quite clear that, following the elders’ settlement (the traditional nature of the kanun is emphasized in all the evidence put before us by Mr Bazini) there was no real (“objective”) risk for the appellant if he complied with its terms by leaving his home town. Nobody pursued him over the blood-feud in Sarandë between 1997 and the end of 1999; and we see no reason why anyone should do so now: there is certainly no other reason why it should be unduly harsh to expect a single man of his age and good health to seek refuge there amongst his fellowcountrymen, rather than here.

Appeal dismissed

John Freeman (chairman)