The applicant who arrived in Australia on a visitor visa in October 2013 claimed in his Protection Visa application that he had converted from Islam to Christianity before he left his country. He also claimed that he had been baptised at a church in Australia after arriving here. By Shamsher Kainth www.SBS.com
The applicant claimed that he had ongoing fear for his life if he were to return to his country as a consequence of his religious conversion.
However, the Immigration Department concluded that he had fabricated his claims of conversion to Christianity. During his interview with an officer of the department, the applicant was told that his Facebook page still stated that he was a Muslim. The applicant, in his defence, had said that he did not use his Facebook page very regularly.
The actual decision record didn’t mention the Facebook information being the reason for refusal of the application.
As the applicant sought a review of the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, it was held that the information on his Facebook page was inconsistent with his claim to have converted to Christianity. The Tribunal upheld the refusal of Protection visa application.
In the Federal Circuit Court, the applicant’s legal representative said that the Tribunal’s decision had a procedural error as the Tribunal did not give the applicant clear particulars of the Facebook material. While the Immigration Minister’s representative countered this by claiming that the Facebook page wasn’t “information” within the meaning of the applicable act, it only had bearing on the applicant’s credibility.
However, Judge Dowdy held that the material on Facebook page was indeed “information”. “His Facebook page, at the very least, “undermined” his claim to have a well-founded fear of persecution and a potential for harm by reason of his asserted Christian religion.”
The Judge set aside the tribunal’s order considering that the applicant should have been given the particulars of information as the reason for the refusal of his visa application.
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