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Heard at Field House
 UKIAT 00062 C (Sierra Leone)
On 13 August 2003
IMMIGRATION APPEAL TRIBUNAL
Date Determination notified: 5TH September 2003
Mr G Warr (Chairman)
Mr N Kumar, JP
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
DETERMINATION AND REASONS
- The appellant, a citizen of Sierra Leone, appeals the determination of an Adjudicator, Mr J R L G Varcoe, CMG, who dismissed his appeal against the decision of the Secretary of State to refuse his application for asylum.
- The appellant is represented by Miss E Storey of the Refugee Legal Centre and Mr D Saville appears for the Secretary of State.
- One of the principle grounds of appeal is that the Adjudicator reached findings based on his own personal knowledge without giving the appellant the opportunity to comment on that personal knowledge. It was part of the appellant's case that he had been befriended by UNICEF after an escape. He had met people who had escorted him to the UNICEF compound. There he had met one of the locally engaged staff and after he had explained what had happened to him this UNICEF employee had allowed him to stay for about 1 week. The Adjudicator in paragraph 24 of his determination recorded that he must declare an indirect interest in the sense that he was aware from personal experience of the way in which international agencies such as UNICEF operated. While he could not entirely rule out the possibility that a junior UNICEF official helped the appellant on a personal basis and without reference to normal UNICEF practice, the Adjudicator found this highly unlikely.
- Moving from there the Adjudicator in paragraph 25 stated that UNICEF as an international organisation would never give protection for a national for more than a few hours without contacting other more appropriate organisations, particularly the UNHCR or the Red Cross. The Adjudicator found the appellant to be wholly lacking in credibility and on the basis that he had fabricated his claim there was no need to consider the background evidence.
- In the grounds of appeal it is accepted that the Adjudicator had stated at the hearing that UNICEF "just don't behave like that". It is perhaps unfortunate that the Adjudicator apparently used language of that kind because it would indicate to any impartial observer that he had formed a view about the evidence before him. It is extremely important that the impression of bias is not given to the representatives or to the witnesses at a hearing.
- Miss Storey has drawn our attention in the bundle to material indicating that the international organisations have not always behaved in the manner that one would expect and hope. In this case nothing adverse is claimed by the appellant vis-a-viz the conduct of the locally engaged employee. He simply befriended him for a week. We do feel in all the circumstances that the Adjudicator's determination is not safe. Mr Saville accepted that the Adjudicator should have done more to let the parties know the extent of his knowledge and give a proper opportunity to rebut the points on which he relied and he does not as we understand it strenuously resist the suggestion by Miss Storey that the case should be heard afresh. Having carefully considered the matter we have come to the conclusion that remittal for a fresh hearing before a different Adjudicator is the appropriate outcome in this case.
- The appeal is allowed to the extent indicated.
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