Upper Tribunal (Immigration and asylum chamber), 2016-10-07, [2016] UKUT 443 (IAC) (MST and Others (national service – risk categories) (CG))

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeUpper Tribunal Judge H H Storey, Upper Tribunal Judge McWilliam
Date07 October 2016
Published date23 December 2016
CourtUpper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
Appeal Number[2016] UKUT 443 (IAC)
Hearing Date20 June 2016
Subject Matternational service – risk categories) (CG

Upper Tribunal

(Immigration and Asylum Chamber)

MST and Others (national service – risk categories) Eritrea CG [2016] UKUT 00443 (IAC)


Heard at Field House

Decision & Reasons Promulgated

On 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10 & 20 June 2016

















For the Appellants: Mr S Knafler, QC, Ms A Benfield, Mr T Hussain, instructed by Immigration Advice Service, Fountains Solicitors and Roelens Solicitors

For the Respondent: Mr B Rawat, Mr R Harland, instructed by Government Legal Department

For the Intervener: Ms L Dubinsky and Mr T Pascoe instructed by Baker & McKenzie LLP/UNHCR

Country guidance

1. Although reconfirming parts of the country guidance given in MA (Draft evaders – illegal departures – risk) Eritrea CG [2007] UKAIT 00059 and MO (illegal exit – risk on return) Eritrea CG [2011] UKUT 00190 (IAC), this case replaces that with the following:

2. The Eritrean system of military/national service remains indefinite and since 2012 has expanded to include a people’s militia programme, which although not part of national service, constitutes military service.

3. The age limits for national service are likely to remain the same as stated in MO, namely 54 for men and 47 for women except that for children the limit is now likely to be 5 save for adolescents in the context of family reunification. For peoples’ militia the age limits are likely to be 60 for women and 70 for men.

4. The categories of lawful exit have not significantly changed since MO and are likely to be as follows:

(i) Men aged over 54

(ii) Women aged over 47

(iii) Children aged under five (with some scope for adolescents in family reunification cases

(iv) People exempt from national service on medical grounds

(v) People travelling abroad for medical treatment

(vi) People travelling abroad for studies or for a conference

(vii) Business and sportsmen

(viii) Former freedom fighters (Tegadelti) and their family members

(ix) Authority representatives in leading positions and their family members

5. It continues to be the case (as in MO) that most Eritreans who have left Eritrea since 1991 have done so illegally. However, since there are viable, albeit still limited, categories of lawful exit especially for those of draft age for national service, the position remains as it was in MO, namely that a person whose asylum claim has not been found credible cannot be assumed to have left illegally. The position also remains nonetheless (as in MO) that if such a person is found to have left Eritrea on or after August/September 2008, it may be that inferences can be drawn from their health history or level of education or their skills profile as to whether legal exit on their part was feasible, provided that such inferences can be drawn in the light of adverse credibility findings. For these purposes a lengthy period performing national service is likely to enhance a person’s skill profile.

6. It remains the case (as in MO) that failed asylum seekers as such are not at risk of persecution or serious harm on return.

7. Notwithstanding that the round-ups (giffas) of suspected evaders/deserters, the “shoot to kill” policy and the targeting of relatives of evaders and deserters are now significantly less likely occurrences, it remains the case, subject to three limited exceptions set out in (iii) below, that if a person of or approaching draft age will be perceived on return as a draft evader or deserter, he or she will face a real risk of persecution, serious harm or ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 or 4 of the ECHR.

(i) A person who is likely to be perceived as a deserter/evader will not be able to avoid exposure to such real risk merely by showing they have paid (or are willing to pay) the diaspora tax and/have signed (or are willing to sign) the letter of regret.

(ii) Even if such a person may avoid punishment in the form of detention and ill-treatment it is likely that he or she will be assigned to perform (further) national service, which, is likely to amount to treatment contrary to Articles 3 and 4 of the ECHR unless he or she falls within one or more of the three limited exceptions set out immediately below in (iii).

(iii) It remains the case (as in MO) that there are persons likely not to face a real risk of persecution or serious harm notwithstanding that they will be perceived on return as draft evaders and deserters, namely: (1) persons whom the regime’s military and political leadership perceives as having given them valuable service (either in Eritrea or abroad); (2) persons who are trusted family members of, or are themselves part of, the regime’s military or political leadership. A further possible exception, requiring a more case specific analysis is (3) persons (and their children born afterwards) who fled (what later became the territory of) Eritrea during the War of Independence.

8. Notwithstanding that many Eritreans are effectively reservists having been discharged/released from national service and unlikely to face recall, it remains unlikely that they will have received or be able to receive official confirmation of completion of national service. Thus it remains the case, as in MO that “(iv) The general position adopted in MA, that a person of or approaching draft and not medically unfit who is accepted as having left Eritrea illegally is reasonably likely to be regarded with serious hostility on return, is reconfirmed, subject to limited exceptions…”

9. A person liable to perform service in the people’s militia and who is assessed to have left Eritrea illegally, is not likely on return to face a real risk of persecution or serious harm.

10. Accordingly, a person whose asylum claim has not been found credible, but who is able to satisfy a decision-maker (i) that he or she left illegally, and (ii) that he or she is of or approaching draft age, is likely to be perceived on return as a draft evader or deserter from national service and as a result face a real risk of persecution or serious harm.

11. While likely to be a rare case, it is possible that a person who has exited lawfully may on forcible return face having to resume or commence national service. In such a case there is a real risk of persecution or serious harm by virtue of such service constituting forced labour contrary to Article 4(2) and Article 3 of the ECHR.

12. Where it is specified above that there is a real risk of persecution in the context of performance of military/national service, it is highly likely that it will be persecution for a Convention reason based on imputed political opinion.


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