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In the asylum case, MSM (Somalia), the Court of Appeal has indicated strongly that the principles set out by the Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) and RT (Zimbabwe) are no less applicable where actual or imputed political opinion is the basis for a fear of persecution.

The respondent, MSM, had worked as a journalist in Somalia before seeking asylum in the UK after receiving threats from Al-Shabaab. The Secretary of State appealed against the Upper Tribunal’s ruling that MSM did indeed have a well-founded fear of persecution, arguing that it had run imputed and actual political opinion together. In particular, the Tribunal had not drawn the appropriate inferences with regard to imputed political opinion and as to whether a claimant could reasonably be expected to change his or her conduct in order to avoid persecution. The Court held that, notwithstanding some ambiguity in the language used, the Tribunal had indeed found sufficient evidence of actual political opinion and dismissed the appeal. In strong, if obiter, views the Court also indicated that there was no basis in the 1951 Convention or the EU Qualification Directive for requiring an asylum seeker to whom a political opinion was imputed, but not actually held, to take steps to avoid persecution, for example, by changing employment.

MSM was represented by Christopher Jacobs of Landmark Chambers and by Guy Goodwin-Gill of Blackstone Chambers, instructed by Joshua Chua of Duncan Lewis Solicitors.