The decision

Heard at Field House

APPEAL NO HX39650-2001
On 5 July 2002

JM (Sufficiency of Protection – Ethnic Russian) Latvia CG [2002] UKIAT 03133


Date Determination notified:



Mr G Warr (Chairman)
Mr A A Lloyd JP








1. The appellant, a citizen of Latvia, appeals the determination of an Adjudicator (Mrs E B Grant) dismissing her appeal from the decision of the Secretary of State to refuse her application for asylum.

2. Mr A Alabi of Douglas Peters, Solicitors, appeared for the appellant. Mr M Blundell represented the Secretary of State.

3. The appellant was born on 13 June 1974 in Latvia. She claims she is ethnic Russian. She claimed she was arrested and interrogated by the police on various occasions and beaten up. She had threatening telephone calls and letters from the local police and at the end of 1998 she was sacked from her job. Both the appellant and her brother were fighting for the rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia. The appellant’s brother fled the country whereupon the police turned their attention to her.

4. In the Home Office refusal letter of 23 May 2001 part of what the appellant had to say is accepted. In some respects the letter is rather unusual because it goes into the claim in more depth than is sometimes the case. The Secretary of State explicitly accepted that the appellant was an ethnic Russian and had participated in demonstrations. Her claim that her brother was involved with an organisation concerned with the rights of Russians in Latvia was not disputed. However, the Secretary of State took issue with the claim that the appellant’s brother was sought by the authorities for the reasons claimed or that the appellant was of interest to the authorities because of her ethnicity or her activities, or those of her brother.

5. The Secretary of State went into the background material and the constitutional position in Latvia. He noted that there had been fair and free parliamentary elections in Latvia on 3 October 1998. He noted that numerous public meetings and political demonstrations had taken place recently without government interference. The Secretary of State concluded that the appellant would not suffer persecution in Latvia solely on account of her Russian ethnicity for reasons which are detailed in paragraph 11 of the refusal letter. The Secretary of State was not satisfied that the medical report relied upon was evidence of the appellant’s claim to have been detained and ill treated by the police.

6. The Secretary of State also considered the position on the footing that what the appellant had said about her ill treatment was in fact true. However, he came to the conclusion that even in the unlikely event that these claims were genuine, the appellant had failed to establish a well founded fear of persecution. He considered that the activities of the police resulted from failures of discipline and supervision rather than from any concerted policy on the part of the Latvian authorities. There have been no recent reports of arbitrary arrest. There were also judicial remedies. The Latvian government had a commitment to improvement of rights in this area and the appellant should have had recourse to remedies in her own country before seeking international protection. Irrespective of any problems claimed to have been suffered in the past, the appellant had failed to establish a reasonable likelihood that she would be of interest to the authorities in Latvia on her return – see paragraph 17 of the letter. There was the possibility of internal relocation. The Secretary of State also suggested that if she were in genuine fear, she would have left Latvia earlier.

7. When the matter came before the Adjudicator on 18 February 2002 there was no appearance by the appellant. Neither did her solicitor appear. There was no representative from the Home Office either. An hour after the hearing was scheduled to being, the appellant’s brother arrived and sought an adjournment. He claimed that the appellant was ill with a fever but adduced no evidence for this. The appellant had previously had her case adjourned in order that it might be joined with her brother’s appeal.

8. The Adjudicator refused the application to adjourn the hearing. There was no prejudice to the appellant in having her appeal heard separately from her brother. There was no medical evidence adduced to support the claim that the appellant was ill. The Adjudicator was not satisfied that the appellant was unable to attend the hearing. She proceeded with the hearing.

9. In granting leave to the Tribunal, the Chairman expressly stated that the refusal to grant the adjournment was correct and reasonable. We agree. No evidence was adduced before the Adjudicator or before us to support the claimed indisposition of the appellant on the day of hearing.

10. The Chairman who granted leave was concerned about the lack of reasons in the determination and that was why he granted leave.

11. Mr Alabi submitted that the case should be remitted for rehearing. An asylum case was a very serious matter and the issues should be taken seriously. There was an insufficiency of protection in Latvia. He acknowledged that he had lodged no material whatsoever in support of his case. The only material before the Tribunal had been lodged by the Home Office. Accordingly, the only objective material before the Tribunal was the Home Office Country Assessment in respect of Latvia dated March 2002.

12. Mr Blundell relied on the reasons given in the refusal letter which the Adjudicator had adopted in her determination.

13. No steps whatsoever had been taken to prosecute this appeal. No evidence has been lodged, objective or otherwise. There are some manuscript grounds of appeal.

14. We see nothing wrong with the way in which the Adjudicator approached the matter. The refusal letter in this case was a long and detailed one and appears to have been the product of rather more thought and care than one sometimes sees. There is not a blanket rejection of the applicant’s credibility and, indeed, part of her story is explicitly accepted. On the other hand, where the account is rejected, the Secretary of State considers in the alternative the position on the footing that the appellant’s account was true.

15. We really do not see in such a case where the Adjudicator considers that the refusal letter provides proper reasons, he or she should not rely upon it. An Adjudicator must always give independent consideration to an appeal and we are satisfied that the Adjudicator did in this case. The appellant’s claim is briefly summarised on page 4 of the determination and the Adjudicator notes that the grounds do not address any of the matters raised in the letter and she refers to the bundle lodged by the appellant at the hearing.

16. Although it was not lodged before us, we have also looked at this bundle and the submissions on human rights points.

17. Also before us is the Home Office Country Assessment and we note that the government in Latvia is willing to engage in dialogue with non-governmental organisations working on human rights issues and is generally responsive to their views. It has fully cooperated with the recommendations of the OSCE in addressing citizenship and other issues. Paragraph 6.16 of the Assessment makes the point that the Constitution provides that all citizens are equal under the law. Of Latvia’s 2.35 million inhabitants there are over 980,000 persons in ethnic minority groups comprising 42% of the total population. The majority ethnic group are ethnic Russians. We note that there are no ethnic restrictions on political participation and that non-ethnic Latvians, including ethnic Russians serve in various elected bodies – see paragraph 6.20 of the Report. The Cabinet adopted a broad national programme at the beginning of 2001 entitled The Integration of Society in Latvia. The Social Integration Foundation has been established to attract funds to assist in the implementation of projects within the broad national program of integration.

18. On the material before us, we are not satisfied that it is arguably established that there is an insufficiency of protection available for the appellant in Latvia. We do not find that the Adjudicator’s approach was wrong in the premises. No material whatsoever has been lodged before us to demonstrate that her conclusions, or the conclusions of the Secretary of State were in any way flawed.

19. This appeal is dismissed.

G Warr
Vice President