Iraqi refugee caught by the good character requirement

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
11 March 2021

We acted on behalf of an Iraqi national in an application for reconsideration of a refusal of her naturalisation as a British citizen.  The applicant is an Iraqi national who came to the UK with her husband and children and claimed asylum in the UK.  There were several aspects to the international protection claims by the family.  Following an appeal the asylum application was successful.  When she applied with all her family members to be naturalised as a British citizen, the family member’s application were successful but hers was denied on the basis that the Secretary of State was not satisfied that she was of good character because of work under Saadan’s dictatorship.  We argued that the decision maker made a mistake in the consideration of whether she was of good character in that they acted unfairly, not inviting her to provide further submissions with regard to this allegation before refusing her application, and relied incorrectly on records of her asylum interview. In support of the reconsideration we provided her witness statement and an expert report by Dr Alan George, together with documentary evidence relating to her circumstances in her country of origin. The expert report itself identified errors and misconceptions which were contrary to the background evidence about Iraq and the nature of the Iraqi state under Saddam Hussein.

The Secretary of State has guidance on what the good character requirements are, which are set in relation to War Crimes, crimes against peace or humanity or genocide, and if there is information to suggest that a person has been involved in international crimes, etc., this information must be considered against information from reputable sources and where an applicant has denied involvement in such crimes, the Secretary of State has to take a variety of factors into account before refusing the application.  For example, how long such an association took place, how long was an individual’s involvement, what evidence of rehabilitation is available etc.  Whilst it is the case that naturalisation is discretionary, in deciding whether or not to grant naturalisation the Secretary of State must exercise her power reasonably and have good reasons not to be satisfied that the person is of good character.  

In addition, we argued that in refusing nationality, the decision maker not only did not take country information into account accurately, or the facts of the case appropriately into account, they also failed to consider the impact on her private life as she could not rely on Iraqi nationality to travel with her family and invited them to reconsider the decision.