Belgium: Unaccompanied minor given larger benefit of the doubt in refugee proceedings

In a case heard before the Belgian Council of Aliens Law Litigation (CALL) on 21 April, an unaccompanied minor from Djibouti saw an earlier decision to not grant refugee status overturned despite grave doubts about the coherence, consistency and lack of detail used in substantiating the applicant’s claims that she had left her country due to a well-founded fear of persecution.

The applicant had made a number of chronological and factual errors in her testimony to the asylum board in Belgium such as concerns place names and the time of elections in Djibouti, which had led to her claim being doubted. She had further asserted that she was at risk of forced marriage and female circumcision. This had been rejected due to evidence that rules existed in Djibouti to ban these practices, and the ability of her parents to protect her from either of these practices up until this point. However, the CALL said that a reading of the jurisprudence and attached information showed that the female circumcision rate in Djibouti is around 93%, and that infibulation is very common. The protection offered by the Djiboutian state and the efficacy of the laws against female circumcision has been reported in a document from CGRA’s research unit Cedoca to be weak, and the laws barely applied at all. With this in mind, the CALL said that the applicant could be said to be fleeing her country of origin due to fear of persecution in the sense of Article 1, Section A §2 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees due to her belonging to the social group of women. It further considered that an unaccompanied minor in these circumstances should be given a large benefit of the doubt, and thus granted the applicant refugee status.

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