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The Correct Test for Cessation of Refugee Status

In a judgment given in September 2021 in PS (cessation principles) Zimbabwe [2021] UKUT 00283 (IAC), the Upper Tribunal considered the correct approach to cessation of refugee status. This was in reference to the country guidance in CM (EM country guidance; disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC). 

Facts of PS (cessation principles) Zimbabwe 

The appellant, PS, in this case is a Zimbabwean citizen born in 1978. Her involvement in Zimbabwe’s opposition party in 1999 led to her detention in September 2002. Following her release from detention, she entered the UK as a visitor on 11 September 2020. Her leave was extended as a student until October 2007. PS claimed asylum on 24 January 2008 and was granted refugee status on 13 February 2008.  She was later granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2013. 

PS was convicted of manslaughter of her youngest child, alongside her husband, on 09 November 2015. PS and her husband were sentenced to 8 years and 9.5 years imprisonment respectively. Her refugee status was revoked in March 2018 and she was issued with a  deportation order in September 2018. 

The respondent rejected PS’s claim that it would be a breach of her human rights to be deported to Zimbabwe. On 10 September 2018, PS appealed both decisions to revoke her protection status and refuse her human rights and protection claim pursuant to s82(1) Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The appeal was dismissed in the First-Tier Tribunal on the basis that PS “constituted a danger to the community” and there had been “a durable and significant change in the circumstances relevant to her asylum claim.” 

On appeal, the Upper Tribunal accepted that the First-Tier Tribunal had made a material error of law, and their decision should be set aside. The issues in dispute to be determined by the Upper Tribunal were summarised as the following: 

  • Has the respondent displaced the burden upon her in establishing that the appellant’s refugee status should cease?
  • In any event, would the appellant’s deportation to Zimbabwe breach Article 3 of the ECHR? 

The Upper Tribunal’s decision 

The Upper Tribunal dismissed the appeal under s. 84(3)(a) Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 but determined that PS had succeeded in establishing that the decision to revoke her protection status is contrary to the Refugee Convention. 

The Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal under s. 84(2) Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 on the basis that the deportation of PS to Zimbabwe would constitute a breach of Article 3 ECHR.

The Test For Cessation of Refugee Status

The correct approach to cessation of refugee status is summarised in the headnote of the judgment which confirms the relevant test to be applied, having consideration for whether the circumstances in which status was granted have “ceased to exist”. UTJ Plimmer states:

“It is therefore for the SSHD to demonstrate that the circumstances which justified the grant of refugee status have ceased to exist and that there are no other circumstances which would now give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons covered by the Refugee Convention. The focus of the assessment must be on: (i) the personal circumstances and relevant country background evidence including the country guidance (‘CG’) case-law appertaining at the time that refugee status was granted and; (ii) the current personal circumstances together with the current country background evidence including the applicable CG.”

In the case of PS, the Home Office had failed to show that the circumstances which led to her grant of asylum had ceased to exist taking into consideration the country guidance of CM (EM country guidance; disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC).

It is clear that despite her refugee status, PS was still subject to deportation from the UK on the basis that she constituted a danger to the community. She was saved from removal due to the Upper Tribunal’s determination that deporting her from the UK to Zimbabwe would constitute a breach of her rights under Article 3 ECHR. 

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For expert advice and assistance with an application or appeal in relation to refugee status, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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