Italy: Refugee status granted to Gambian citizen affected by serious mental illness

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On 28 August 2019, the Tribunal of Milan recognised the refugee status of a Gambian citizen suffering from a serious mental health issue on the basis that he belonged to a particular social group.

On 26 October 2017, the applicant appealed the decision of the Tribunal of Milan to reject his application for international protection. While his case was waiting to be heard, he was hospitalized several times and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. After an episode of violence inside the reception centre, the applicant’s right to reception was withdrawn. The hospital’s ethnopsychiatry department therefore recommended that his treatment continue in a specialised centre for vulnerable persons.

The Court noted that the Gambian health care system was ill-equipped to deal with the applicant’s mental illness. It was also highlighted that the current mental health legislation is outdated and, although the Gambian Constitution forbids discrimination against disability, lacks specific references to mental illness. The Tribunal of Milan highlighted the fundamental rights of individuals with mental illnesses are often violated, something exacerbated by social stigma surrounding mental illness. In particular, it found that the common perception in Gambia of people suffering of mental illness was they were “less human”, together with the association of this disease with witchcraft, implies that people affected by serious mental illness in the country are considered as part of a distinct group, both by the society and the national authorities.

The Court held that if returned to Gambia the applicant would face a well-founded fear of persecution based on his membership of a particular social group.

Thank you to Francesca Zalambani, Legal Assistant at ECRE, for assisting us with the summary. Based on an unofficial translation by the EWLU team.

Photo: Shannon O'Toole, December 2012, Flickr (CC)

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is pusexblished but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.


Membership of a particular social group
Vulnerable person