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United Kingdom Asylum and Immigration Tribunal

You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> United Kingdom Asylum and Immigration Tribunal >> S v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sierra Leone) [2003] UKIAT 00080 (20 August 2003)
Cite as: [2003] UKIAT 00080, [2003] UKIAT 80

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    Heard at Field House

    [2003] UKIAT 00080 S (Sierra Leone)

    On 26 June & 20 August 2003


    Date Determination notified:



    Mr N H Goldstein (Chairman)
    Mr M L James
    Mrs E Morton







    For the appellant

    (At hearing on 26/6/2003): Mr A Deve, Legal Representative

    (At hearing on 20/8/2003): Mr S Revindran, Legal Representative

    For the respondent

    (At hearing on 26/6/2003): Mr B Montilla, Home Office Presenting Officer

    (At hearing on 20/8/2003): Ms L Saunders, Home Office Presenting Officer

  1. The appellant, a citizen of Sierra Leone, appeals with the leave of the Tribunal against the determination of an Adjudicator (Mr D Garratt) who dismissed her appeals on asylum and human rights grounds.
  2. Leave was granted solely upon Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights issues. In this regard we had before us in addition to the objective evidence, decisions of the Tribunal in Paul Owen [2002] UKIAT 03285, Sumah [2002] UKIAT 05588 and Barrie (HX/26555/2002), a decision promulgated as recently as 18 June 2003.
  3. The Adjudicator in considering the appellant's account concluded that although it contained some embellishment and minor inconsistencies, he was satisfied that she was credible in relation to the main events which the appellant had described in support of her claim.
  4. Indeed the appellant's claim for asylum was based upon her forced association with a rebel officer Colonel Iaku after she was kidnapped. The appellant claimed that she was seen as a member of the rebel group RUF because of her association with Colonel Iaku who was an RUF rebel leader. She was captured and she lived with members of this group for up to two years and was involved with their activities. She fought alongside them because she claimed she had no choice and that she regarded herself as a "captured member" of the RUF. Nonetheless it was the appellant's account that she fled with them to Liberia where, as far as she knew, Colonel Iaku remained. However it is not apparent from her statement as to how she was able to separate herself from Colonel Iaku. Nonetheless the Adjudicator accepted the appellant's claim that she was abducted and forced to work for and become the "wife" of a rebel leader who had moved the rebels during hostilities and only escaped from them with the assistance of a Liberian when the rebels were based in his country.
  5. For reasons which we do not intend to repeat, given leave was granted on human rights grounds only, it will suffice to note that the Adjudicator, for reasons which he canvassed in his determination more notably at paragraph 27, concluded there was nothing in the background information she had studied to suggest that the appellant was at real risk and that the appellant could:
  6. " continue her life in Sierra Leone and in particular in the Freetown area. I believe that she will be able to re-establish links with the remaining members of her family."

  7. In reaching those conclusions the Adjudicator took into account the evidence of the appellant's witness, Sulaiman Jalloh, who had brought to the appellant news of her father's death in May 2002, who having been captured by rebels and subsequently released, sadly later died. The Adjudicator continued however that there was no evidence to suggest the appellant's father was at risk from the authorities on account of his capture. Further there had been no mention that the appellant's siblings were affected by the hostilities and the Adjudicator therefore concluded that the appellant would be able to make contact with surviving relatives on her return.
  8. The Adjudicator then considered the appellant's Human Rights appeal and concluded at paragraph 31 of his determination as follows:
  9. "Taking into account the appellant's story I believe that there was, whilst she was in Sierra Leone and Liberia, a risk of loss of life and rough treatment. That was on account of the appellant's involvement in hostilities and because she was a captive who, at times, was mistreated by Colonel Iaku. But the issue for me to consider is whether, if returned, there are substantial grounds for believing that the appellant's rights under these two Articles will be infringed. Taking into account my findings of fact and the current situation in Sierra Leone, I am not satisfied that there is such a risk. The appellant can in my view return to Sierra Leone and disassociate herself with former rebel involvement and the specific risk to her of coming across Colonel Iaku and those of his group who would recognise her is, in my view, low. The authorities would not, I find, take an interest in her in the changed situation."

  10. The grounds of appeal contend that the Adjudicator failed to consider the risk to a single young woman with no means of support returning to Freetown in the current climate, and reference is made to the decision in Paul Owen which was before the Adjudicator where the Tribunal stated that a single young man returning to Sierra Leone would be "placed in a camp where conditions are described as "sub-human" and face medical conditions described as some of the worst in the world". They proceeded to allow the appeal under Article 3.
  11. The grounds refer to the US State Department report which states that many women, especially those who have been displaced and with few resources, are forced to turn to prostitution as a means of support.
  12. The grounds contend that in light of the credible evidence presented to the Adjudicator, the return to Sierra Leone would result in her being either forced to live in sub-human camps or forced to turn to prostitution to support herself. The Adjudicator failed to consider this evidence. There was of course the Adjudicator's finding at paragraph 27 of his determination that he believed that the appellant could continue her life in Sierra Leone, and in particular the Freetown area and would be able to re-establish links with the remaining members of her family.
  13. When the appeal first came before us on 26 June 2003 reference was in particular made to the statement of Mr Sulaiman Jalloh dated 23 October 2002 which stated:
  14. "I was also very close to one of Aminata's (the appellant's) aunties Jamilatu who lived in Freetown in another house. We went to secondary school together in Freetown and I visited frequently. Sometimes I could see Aminata at her auntie's house."

  15. It was submitted by Mr Montilla who at that hearing represented the respondent, that the above extract suggested that the appellant's aunt might be in Freetown but that there were no clear findings on this issue and the appellant had adduced no evidence as to whether her aunt still lived in Freetown.
  16. Mr Montilla submitted that in those circumstances the appellant had not established a real risk of being returned as a single homeless female and to be subject to Article 3 by virtue of such a circumstance.
  17. Further objective evidence had been submitted by the respondent which included that of Relief Web of May 2003 headed "Sierra Leone: Humanitarian Situation Report".
  18. In this regard Mr Montilla invited us to find (in reliance on Relief Web and other objective evidence, not least that in the Relief Web report sub-headed "Sexual Exploitation and Abuse" where reference was made to the initiatives of working groups which were in place by various bodies to combat such a risk), that even if the appellant was returned as a single homeless female her circumstances would not engage a breach of Article 3.
  19. Mr Deve who at that hearing represented the appellant, had sought instructions from his client as to the situation relating to her aunt which the statement of Mr Jalloh had referred, and indeed as to the appellant's siblings and step-relatives to which her own letter of 29 November 2002 referred. We asked Mr Deve if he had any instructions as to where they were living, where they were housed, and whether such relatives were living with the appellant's aunt in Sierra Leone and more particularly in Freetown.
  20. Mr Deve advised us that he had no instructions in that regard and requested an adjournment to enable oral evidence to be called in relation to the appellant and Mr Jalloh. In granting the adjournment request we made it clear that the evidence given was to be on the issue with which we were seized, namely whether or not this appellant on return to Sierra Leone as a single woman was at real risk of suffering Article 3 treatment. We made appropriate directions in that regard to include a further statement of the appellant relating to the circumstances in which she would find herself if now returned to Sierra Leone, to include evidence relating to all family members now living in Sierra Leone and a further statement from Mr Jalloh in relation to these matters.
  21. Prior to the restored hearing on 20 August 2003 the Tribunal received further statements from the appellant and from Mr Jalloh, each signed and dated 8 August 2003.
  22. In the appellant's further statement she explained that she had two brothers and two sisters. Her brothers were aged 18 and 10 respectively. Her sisters were aged 16 and 14 respectively.
  23. The appellant's late father had two brothers and one sister, all of whom were dead. The appellant's mother, now deceased, had a sister called Jamilatu who used to live in Wellington in the eastern part of Freetown, but the last time the appellant had spoken to her was before 1999 before the attack on Freetown. The appellant claimed that she had unsuccessfully tried to telephone her from the United Kingdom.
  24. The appellant had met Mr Jalloh in August 2002. He was the first person from Sierra Leone that she had got to know in the United Kingdom. Mr Jalloh's brother, Amadu, used to live in Freetown but had to move to a village because his house burned down in 1999. He had difficulty supporting his own family in his village and Mr Jalloh sent him money from time to time to assist. Occasionally Amadu called them from Freetown.
  25. The appellant explained that on one occasion in November 2002 when Mr Jalloh to check on the health of his sister who lived in Freetown he spoke to Amadu and asked him to check the appellant's aunt's house.
  26. Approximately a month later ,Amadu called to state the house was partially burned and there was no further news of the appellant's aunt. The appellant maintained that she was unaware as to the location of her siblings and had hoped that she would be able to trace them provided that Amadu Jalloh had traced her aunt. In the event her siblings were under 18 and even if she could find them they would not be able to provide the appellant with any support.
  27. Mr Sulaiman Jalloh's statement confirms the position and further clarifies that he is unable to speak to his brother very often because there are no telephones in the village in which his brother now resides. However when Amadu travelled to Freetown he called Mr Jalloh. In that regard Sulaiman Jalloh had spoken to his brother on one occasion between August and November 2002 but he had forgotten to ask him to speak to the appellant's aunt because the conversation centred on the fact that their sister had been taken seriously ill. In November 2002 Mr Jalloh had called his sister to see how she was feeling and Amadu was present and he was able to speak to him and asked Amadu if he could find the appellant's aunt or her family.
  28. Approximately a month later he heard from Amadu that their sister had died and further that the appellant's aunt's house was half burned and uninhabitable. Mr Jalloh explains he was not surprised at this news as Jamilatu lived in Wellington, an area of Freetown the rebels entered in 1999 and which had seen some of the worst incidents of violence especially as they retreated through the same area.
  29. Both the appellant and Mr Jalloh gave oral evidence before us. We have to say that we found it most surprising that according to each of them they had been unaware of the possibility that the Red Cross could assist the appellant in an effort to locate the whereabouts of her family members in Sierra Leone. Our conclusion that this aspect of their evidence was not credible is reinforced by the fact that it was apparent to us that the appellant was an intelligent and articulate witness who indeed before coming to this country had trained for one year in Sierra Leone to qualify as a nurse. More particularly, Mr Jalloh was currently employed as a Court Interpreter with the Immigration Appellate Authority. It was therefore even more surprising to us to learn from him that he had not appreciated the potential assistance that the Red Cross could provide. We did not believe the evidence of the appellant and Mr Jalloh in this regard but we are mindful of the positive credibility findings made by the Adjudicator in relation to the appellant's account and we therefore approach our deliberations on the issue as to whether the appellant's return would cause a breach of Article 3 on the basis of taking the appellant's account at its highest. That account amounts to her insistence that she is unaware as to the whereabouts of her remaining family who could be in camps or living in a neighbouring country.
  30. Further it is the appellant's account, supported by Mr Jalloh, that she would therefore return to Sierra Leone homeless without any viable means of support and as such vulnerable in the current climate in Sierra Leone, not least as a single young woman. Mr Jalloh made clear to us that his brother's home in Freetown has been destroyed, thus causing him to live in a family home in a village a day's travel from Freetown in the north of the country where he has apparently eight wives and 30 children. Mr Jalloh explained to us that the only reason he was able to make contact with his brother Amadu in Freetown in order to ascertain the present position was because he was in Freetown having undergone an eye operation and was for that purpose staying with their sister. There would be no prospect of Amadu, who had apparently been asked on the matter, being able to afford the appellant any accommodation in his village, however temporary. Mr Jalloh insisted that the same would apply in relation to his sister in Freetown who lived in a house together with her husband and his extended family and their children which in turn they shared with another family in over-crowded conditions.
  31. We have decided to dismiss this appeal.
  32. We are mindful of the Tribunal decision in Paul Owen promulgated in July 2002. In that case on the issue of the Article 3 claim the Tribunal had before them a CIPU Report of October 2001 which referred to the international assistance being given to Sierra Leone and outlined a number of aid programmes then in operation. However it is apparent that the Tribunal placed significant weight on the fact that at that time thousands of Sierra Leoneans were returning from Guinea because of attacks and ill treatment by RUF forces and Guinean forces. The CIPU Report went on to state:
  33. "Some of these IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) were housed in camps but many live in Freetown. This large influx together with a lack of resources to deal with them, caused tension between local residents and returning IDPs."
  34. The Tribunal noted that the Country information in referring to the problems for returning Internally Displaced Persons at border areas did not yet indicate that risks of maltreatment in terms of Article 3 to returnees (from the RUF still in the border areas) were below the level of a reasonable likelihood. In addition it appeared the likelihood of the appellant, Mr Owen, of finding a home or accommodation or any form of support in his district was highly remote. The Tribunal noted that the appellant was a young, independent and fit man:
  35. "who would be returning to a city that appears to be going through the benefits of a period of peace and growing commercial activity. Set against this he is a returnee with no apparent home to return to or any other family support systems. He would thus be thrown into the general melee of expecting support from international agencies, along with a mass of other internally displaced persons and returnees. He would thus be, at best, placed in a camp where conditions are described as "sub-human" and face medical conditions described as some of the worst in the world. Beyond this the possibility of being relocated to other camps outside of Freetown does not, on the current information, look to be a viable alternative." (The typed emphasis is ours).

  36. The Tribunal therefore concluded that it would be unduly harsh or unreasonable to expect Mr Owen to relocate to Freetown. But significantly the Learned Chairman, Mr A R Mackey, concluded as follows:
  37. "With the improving situation, it may be that within a year or so our decision would be a different one, however, we must make the decision this time and we conclude that the risks to him are still real and that relocation to Freetown would not provide him with meaningful protection and it would be unduly harsh."

  38. In common with the Tribunal in Paul Owen, who recognised what they described at the time as an "improving situation" we have assessed the situation in Sierra Leone as it stands as at the date of our decision and considered whether the risks to this appellant on return are real such as to engage Article 3. We have concluded that it would not be the case in the light of the current objective evidence and the particular circumstances of this appellant.
  39. In this regard we are mindful of the recent decision of the Tribunal in the unreported case for which we gave leave (not opposed by Mr Revindran) to Ms Saunders to tender in evidence in Barrie which indeed related to the situation of a single female appellant where her circumstances were not dissimilar to that of the appellant before us. It is noteworthy that the case of Paul Owen was indeed put before the Tribunal and carefully considered. Unlike the Tribunal in Owen the Tribunal in Barrie had the benefit of more recent objective evidence, not least a CIPU report dated October 2002.
  40. From this report the Tribunal noted that there was a very considerable UN presence in the country of some 17 thousand and that in September 2002 the Security Council had voted unanimously to extend the mandate by a further six months, although it felt sufficiently confident in the progress made to agree to a policy of reduction in the size of that mission. The Sierra Leonean government had welcomed that extension of the UN presence.
  41. Reference was made to paragraph 6.58 of the CIPU report in which the Home Office Guidelines indicated a considerable improvement, though clearly much progress had to be made particularly on the economic front. Tension with the RUF still remained. But the government had gained control over most of the country and there had been attempts to extend the rule of law and allow people to re-settle.
  42. The Tribunal noted from the report that:
  43. "Applicants may claim a fear of return because of uncertainty regarding the prospects of long term peace, or a fear they will not be safe in government-held areas. However cases on this basis are unlikely to be well-founded."

  44. The Tribunal in Barrie noted that the report of the ICG dated 12 July 2002 appeared to underline the view of the Home Office not least in noting the "great strides towards peace and stability that had been made in Sierra Leone".
  45. At paragraph 23 of the determination the Learned Acting Vice President, Mr M W Rapinet, stated there were further extracts of the ICG report which merely served to underline the view earlier expressed that the position in Sierra Leone was one of continued improvement and a vastly improved security situation for the ordinary people of the country.
  46. Mr Rapinet continued inter alia, as follows:
  47. "We would conclude on an analysis of this objective evidence that this particular appellant would not be subjected to any further persecution were she to return to her own home are now.
    However we would accept that she may have concerns, bearing in mind the appalling treatment she has suffered in the past and bearing in mind that all the reports which we have studied and to which we have referred above do refer to a continuing tension. It may well be, therefore, that the appellant would have a fear for her own safety in her home town. This being so we would consider that it would not be unduly harsh for her to relocate to Freetown. The Home Office Guidelines state at page 5:
    "Freetown and the surrounding area are under Sierra Leonean government control. The government has extended its authority to most of the country and whilst isolated incidents of violence can occur, there does not appear to be any attempts by any party or group to target specific individuals or a concerted campaign of violence."

    We bear in mind that the appellant's fear is at the hands of the RUF. It is clear to us from the extract that we have referred to above but also from other objective evidence before us, notably the CIPU report and the ICG report, that the Freetown area is one of comparative safety. It may well be that it is overcrowded now by reason of the number of refugees that have taken refuge there in the past and it may well be that a number of refugees are still accommodated in camps. These circumstances however do not in our view, make it unduly harsh for the appellant to relocate to Freetown. There is no evidence that she is in ill health or in any way incapacitated or in any circumstances which would render it unduly harsh for herself to relocate."

  48. The Tribunal dismissed the Article 3 appeal and in so doing pointed out they were following the guidelines set out in the Tribunal determination in Kacaj.
  49. As we pointed out to Mr Revindran in granting leave to the respondent to tender the above unreported case, we were of course mindful that each case must be determined on its own particular facts and issues. Ms Saunders informed us that they were indeed unaware of any recent Tribunal decision which on similar facts had reached a contrary view but we clarified to Mr Revindran that we were nonetheless mindful of the possibility that there might indeed be such decisions but that notwithstanding them, our considerations focused on this appellant's particular circumstances.
  50. Those circumstances are that she is a young woman who appears to be in good health. Indeed there was no medical evidence submitted to suggest to the contrary. She is educated and indeed had, whilst living in Sierra Leone, completed one year of a Nursing Training Course.
  51. We are of course mindful that whilst in this country she has married a Sierra Leonean citizen, who did not give evidence before us, but who we were told, presently enjoys the benefit of Exceptional Leave which does not expire until 2005.
  52. As Ms Saunders for the respondent rightly reminded us, the situation in Sierra Leone remained one of ever-increasing improvement and indeed one of optimism, and we have noted the series of Humanitarian Situation Reports prepared by Relief Web on Sierra Leone which as Ms Saunders pointed out are updated on a monthly basis and provide a continuing picture of the evolution of improvement within that country.
  53. The Relief Web report of July 2003 notes that the security situation in Sierra Leone including border areas remained calm and stable with social and economic activities at normal level. It goes on to report inter alia that from 14 to 27 July 2003 the World Food Programme (WFP) supported a total of 47,711 beneficiaries with 917 tons of food countrywide and that a total of 45.8 tons of food was despatched to 3,000 beneficiaries at Gondola Camp and 26.6 tons of food to 1,647 beneficiaries at Tiama Camp. The report reflects the fact that far from Sierra Leoneans fleeing the country, Sierra Leone is receiving considerable influx of refugees from Liberia seeking safety and refuge, many of whom are being accommodated in camps across the country.
  54. It is noted in the 18 July 2003 report that countrywide WFP supported a total of 146,235 beneficiaries with 2,088 tons of food between 30 June and 13 July. There is clearly a committed and worldwide campaign to provide humanitarian support and relief to Sierra Leone and to assist in the restoration of its infrastructure.
  55. The June 2003 report refers to the announced intention of the European Union to provide US$258 million in assistance to Sierra Leone in the next five years to help rebuild the country after a decade of civil war to implement the government's poverty reduction strategy. It is meant to contribute to the establishment of an efficient link between out-phasing relief action, ongoing rehabilitation programmes and long out of term development objectives.
  56. Reference is made to a three day partnership meeting held on 22 May in Freetown by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) where the Secretary General together with other humanitarian bodies including the ICRC gave what is described as a "contextual overview" of Sierra Leone.
  57. The report continues:
  58. "The overview entailed political, socio-economic and the humanitarian challenges facing the nation's transition from emergency relief to development. A thorough review of the strategic plan included the recruitment, management and retention of volunteer staff, problem analysis, objectives, strategies, achievement of programmes and commitment by partners to fund programmes."

  59. The meeting attracted partners from the Swedish, British, Netherlands, German, Danish and Spanish Red Cross Societies. Pages 17 to 18 of the report relates to the camps and the efforts to improve matters within them.
  60. We have noted a detailed US Embassy Press Release on Sierra Leone issued by the Embassy in Freetown on July 15 2003 which announces the contribution of the United States of over $272 million to Sierra Leone's recovery during the current fiscal year. The announcement continues:
  61. "Of this amount $209 million funds schools and hospital construction, police training, humanitarian assistance, economic development projects and UN peace keeping operations. The remaining $63 million was contributed in the form of debt relief.
    The significant portion of the American contribution to Sierra Leone's recovery is devoted to housing stability and long term prospects of peaceful development. Specifically in fiscal year 2003 the US Congress appropriate $144,850,000 to support the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). That is in addition to the $516 million the US government had already invested in UNAMSIL as of January 1 2003."

  62. The report points out that the US government's contribution to Sierra Leone's recovery is not charity and continues:
  63. "Rather, it is intended as an investment in the people of Sierra Leone who are prepared to exert effort to improve their country and to make a better future for themselves and their children. We are proud to be a partner in that effort. This partnership involves the entire US Mission (Embassy) to Sierra Leone."

  64. Reference is further made to the activities of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) which operates three different divisions out of the Embassy dealing with developments, humanitarian assistance and food relief and is itself contributing over $34 million to Sierra Leone in fiscal year 2003 for the use of building schools and including rehabilitating health, water and sanitation services to feed refugees, returnees and indeed to re-unite families, to assist market women to Improve their businesses. The report as a whole makes for impressive reading.
  65. We find particularly noteworthy a further report of Relief Web dated 9 July 2003 which is sub-headed "Sierra Leone: Facilitating, the Re-integration of War Affected Women". It makes reference to the efforts of the "Women in Crisis Project" which supports more than 400 women and girls many of whom suffered terribly during Sierra Leone's recently concluded civil war. The report acknowledges that thousands of Sierra Leonean women have turned to commercial sex work to survive but there is a consequent rise in HIV/AIDS. It is explained that the Women in Crisis Project supports women who lost their families during the war and have nowhere else to turn. It continues:
  66. "UNFPA is supporting "offering counselling and training, clinics offering services to prevent and treat sexually-transmitted infections and the building of a new vocational training centre, where women can learn fabric tying and dying, tailoring and hairdressing skills. The three-storey structure will also have a health clinic, staffed with nurses provided by the Ministry of Health."

  67. The Relief Web Humanitarian Situation Report of May 2003, a detailed report, sets out the situation as regards refugee health in the camps. Reference is made to the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a number of the camps and that of the Norwegian Refugee Council to reduce housing congestion in Jembe Camp.
  68. Further it is reported that the UNHCR and the government of Sierra Leone have undertaken a refugee census on 19/21 May 2003 which covered all eight refugee camps in the country, and put into effect a process of registration to ensure better protection and assistance to refugees.
  69. Ms Saunders for the respondent drew our attention to the Relief Web report of 20 June 2003 which showed that operations had begun for the WFP to provide the second two-month food ration supply to those Sierra Leoneans who had repatriated during the month of April. The majority of the 13,000 Sierra Leonean returnees returned to WFP operational areas in Kilahun District.
  70. In this regard Ms Saunders drew our attention to the fact that Kilahun Way Station provided wet feeding and accommodation for mostly women and children.
  71. She further drew to our attention the Relief Web Report of 30 June 2003 which reports as follows:
  72. "All refugees will receive at least two months of WFP food aid to help them rebuild their lives with further assistance given to vulnerable populations."

  73. Ms Saunders submitted that such initial aid would indeed be available to the appellant on her return should she require it.
  74. We were also referred to the Relief Web report of 6 May 2003 which though mindful of the overcrowding in Freetown with people "eager to rebuild their lives" and which included many girls and women who lost their families in the war and were struggling to survive, refers to the Women in Crisis Project which offers a lifeline to women who have nowhere else to turn.
  75. The report is mindful of the thousands who returned to commercial sex work but points out that since 2001 the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been providing support to bolster services including centres offering counselling and training clinics which offer services to prevent and treat sexually-transmitted infections. Reference is made to a new three-storey vocational training centre where women continue to learn fabric tying and dying, tailoring and hairdressing skills. The report continues:
  76. "There will also be a health clinic to which the Ministry of Health has promised to assign nurses. Additional funding is needed to complete construction, pay teachers who are now volunteering their time said participants."

  77. It was noteworthy that Mr Revindran although urging us to find that the appellant as a single young woman returning to Freetown in such circumstances would suffer inhuman and degrading treatment as a consequence, acknowledged that he had to accept that the picture in Sierra Leone was one of continued improvement but submitted that although there might well be "a significant change in six months to a year" the situation on the ground at the moment remained problematic. He submitted that although the objective evidence revealed worthy initiatives these did not constitute real change.
  78. We find that although there is much still to be done, that since the end of the civil war, the peaceful long term development of the country has continued with marked improvement, in terms of living conditions and infrastructure, an increasing level of investment and a worldwide commitment to enhancing the stability of the country. and long term prospects for peaceful development in the country. Therefore and though mindful . Therefore though mindful not least to the Human Rights Watch report which highlights the fact that widespread social problems still remain regarding the conditions for women in Sierra Leone, despite local and international efforts to address these issues, the picture is one of constant improvement, not persistent decline
  79. Freetown may well be a difficult place to live in for the majority of its citizens ravaged as it has been by years of civil war. The quality of life is no doubt far from good for many of its citizens. However the appellant is young, healthy and educated. Apart from the possibility of her relocating members of her family and/or indeed returning to Sierra Leone with her husband, even as a single woman in Sierra Leone the available evidence does not persuade us that there is a real risk of the appellant being subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment on her return. We conclude that the evidence in this case falls short of social hardship of such severity that to remove the appellant would expose her to a risk of hardship such as to constitute a breach of Article 3.
  80. We remind ourselves that there is a high threshold to be crossed, particularly in cases such as this where the allegation is one of a lack of social welfare provision in a country to which a person is to be removed. Although it may prove initially difficult for the appellant to establish herself in Freetown and involve a degree of hardship and discomfort, we do not find that it would be unduly harsh to return her there.
  81. Indeed we note that in Sumah, a decision promulgated in December 2002 the Tribunal, though bearing in mind the report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women of August 2001 commented that even giving full weight to that assessment he did not feel those materials established a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3.
  82. We find the Adjudicator was right to conclude that the appellant's circumstances did not engage Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  83. The appeal is therefore dismissed.
  84. N H Goldstein

    Vice President

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