Categories
All Countries Bahamas

2021 RLLR 18

Citation: 2021 RLLR 18
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: June 8, 2021
Panel: David Jones
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Nicholas Woodward
Country: Bahamas
RPD Number: VC0-03417
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2022-00665
ATIP Pages: 000074-000077

DECISION

[1]     On June 8, 2021 the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) heard the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX aka XXXX XXXX, who claims refugee protection under sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). On that same day, the panel rendered its oral POSITIVE decision and reasons for decision. This is the written version of the oral decision and reasons that have been edited for clarity, spelling, grammar and syntax, where appropriate. At the request of counsel for the claimant and with the direction of the presiding member, paragraph 1 of the decision was amended to correct an error in the spelling of the claimant’s name. The error in the spelling of XXXX has been corrected with thestrikethrough function and has been underlined to note the amendment of the transcript and replaced with the correct spelling of XXXX

[2]     MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX, originally filed under the name XXXX XXXX XXXX (ph) who is a citizen of the Bahamas seeking refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I also reviewed and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression.

ALLEGATIONS

[3]     The claimant fears persecution if she were to return to the Bahamas as a transgender person. Details of the claimant’s allegations can be found in the narrative attached to her Basis of Claim form and amendment to her narrative found at Exhibit 6. The following is a summary of allegations and testimony.

[4]     The claimant knew from a small child that her gender identity was not accurate, and she always saw herself as a girl. In 2016, the claimant came out to her family. I’m not going to detail all the incidents of abuse and discrimination described in her narrative, but I will note that it includes physical abuse from her father, receiving death threats after being in a documentary called the ‘The Underneath Transgenders in the Bahamas,’ numerous incidents of abuse at a workplace and being threatened with a knife while on a bus.

[5]     On XXXX XXXX 2019, a week after being threatened on the bus, the claimant applied for an ETA to come to Canada. The claimant did not have money to travel until she received assistance from a friend. On XXXX XXXX 2019, the claimant flew to Toronto. In June 2019 the claimant applied for refuge protection.

DETERMINATION

[6]     I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[7]     The claimant’s identity as a citizen of the Bahamas has been established on a balance of probabilities by her Bahamian passport located at Exhibit 1.

[8]     The claimant was born in the Bahamas to Haitian parents. When the claimant was 18, she applied for Bahamian citizenship and in the process, she had to renounce her Haitian citizenship. A copy of her renunciation of Haitian nationality dated XXXX XXXX 2018, can be found at Exhibit 5. As such I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant is a citizen of the Bahamas and no other country nor does she have status substantially similar to citizenship in any other country.

Nexus

[9]     The allegations establish a Nexus to a Convention ground for the claimant based on her particular social group, namely as a transgendered person.

Credibility

[10]   I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant is a transgender person. In making that finding, I’m relying on the principle that a claimant who affirms, to tell the truth, creates a presumption of truthfulness unless there are reasons to doubt their truthfulness. In this regard, the claimant testified in a consistent and straightforward manner that was consistent with her Basis of Claim form narrative and supporting documents. The claimant was able to speak about her experience with the difference between Canada and the Bahamas, her experiences with transphobia including violence in the work, at school, at home, and out in the public. The consequences of living openly in the Bahamas, the lack of legal protection against discrimination, the transphobic attitudes of the police, and the claimant answered specific questions when asked. There are no relevant inconsistencies in her testimony or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence. I find that the claimant was a credible witness.

[11]   The claimant also provided documents to support her claim. For example, Exhibit 5 contains eight (8) letters in support of the claimant including from the claimant’s doctor in the Bahamas as well as friends and colleagues both in the Bahamas and in Canada. Exhibit 5 also contains (inaudible) news articles of the claimant participating in a pride event, Ontario documents related to her name change and change of gender designation, and other photographs of the claimant. I have no reason to doubt the genuineness of these documents as it relates to the claimants’ gender identity and expression which is what puts her at risk. I give great weight to these documents to support the claimant’s allegations and overall claim. As such I find that the claimant has established on a balance of probabilities the facts alleged in the claim including a subjective fear of return to the Bahamas.

Objective Basis

[12]   The objective evidence supports the claimant’s fears of returning to the Bahamas. As background, the US Department of State Report for the Bahamas found at Item 2.1 in the National Documentation Package as found at Exhibit 3 indicates that the law does not provide anti-discrimination protections to LGBTI individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or characteristics and that LGBTI individuals face a social stigma and discrimination and were not adequately protected by law enforcement authorities. A response to information request found at Item 6.1 quotes a source that describes the Bahamas as a place where “hypermasculinity is valued and black men especially are expected to perform their masculinity in compliance with the hegemonic norm. Openly gay men, feminine men, or transgender people are seen as betraying manhood. These values are rigidly policed, and it is culturally acceptable to exert physical violence against men who betray these gender norms.”

[13]   That RIR cites other sources to indicate that the LGBTQ people feel being open about their gender identity or sexual orientation in the Bahamas due to fear of ostracization and physical violence. The RIR also indicates that LGBTQ people have been subject to violence including killings and that a lot of that violence goes unreported. Finally, the RIR further indicates that the police do not have any specific anti­LGBT policies. Individual officers often deride ridicule and abuse to LGBTI people who attempt to report violence against themselves and community members. The claimant also provided 14 news articles and reports found at Exhibit 5 to support her claim. These include articles about the Canadian government warning LGBTQ people about traveling to the Bahamas given the anti-LGBTQ sentiments in the country and the risk of violence. Other news articles describe specific incidents of violence including murder and attempted murder charging LGBTQ people in the Bahamas. Based on the totality of the evidence, I find that the claimant has established a well-founded fear as well as a serious forward-facing risk of persecution if she were to return to the Bahamas.

State Protection

[14]   With respect to state protection, the state is presumed capable of protecting its citizens and the claimant must establish on a balance of probabilities through clear and convincing evidence that the country’ s protection is inadequate. Given the country conditions noted above including the indifference of the authorities to crimes against LGBTIQ persons, I find that there is adequate state protection available to the claimant. The claimant’s testimony and narrative reflect the country’s conditions and its regard as the claimant has successfully attempted to obtain protection from the police and she described in her testimony that there is no one that she can seek protection from and that she has never been protected in the Bahamas. I find that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection with clear and convincing evidence.

Internal Flight Alternative

[15]   Give the country conditions outlined and above and the claimant’s testimony regarding the conditions being the same throughout the Bahamas and the small size of the country. I find that the claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution throughout the country. Currently, I find there’s no internal flight alternative available to the claimant.

CONCLUSION

[16]   For the foregoing reasons, I determine the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Board, therefore, accepts the claim.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Bahamas

2021 RLLR 16

Citation: 2021 RLLR 16
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 9, 2021
Panel: Hannah Gray
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Preevanda K Sparu
Country: Bahamas
RPD Number: VC0-03669
Associated RPD Number(s): VC0-03670
ATIP Number: A-2022-00665
ATIP Pages: 000061-000065

DECISION

[1]     MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division, the RPD, in the claim ofXXXX XXXX XXXX, the principal claimant, and her partner, XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX, the associate claimant of the Bahamas, who are claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the IRPA. I have considered and applied the Chairperson ‘s guidelines on women refugee claimants fearing gender-related persecution. And I have also applied and considered the Chairperson’ s guideline nine (9) proceedings before the IRB involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in this decision. I find that the claimants are Convention refugees pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA based on their well-founded fear of persecution in the Bahamas.

ALLEGATIONS

[2]     The specifics of the claims are stated in the claimants’ Basis of Claim forms and narratives and evidence. The claimants are a common-law couple from the Bahamas, who are aged XXXX and XXXX respectively. The principal claimant identifies as a masculine and transgender and the associate claimant identifies as a lesbian. While living in the Bahamas, the principal claimant realised that they were non-gender conforming at a very young age and later began to date women as they got older. The associate claimant began to identify as a lesbian around the age of XXXX. They experienced threats and harm while living in the Bahamas and most of their family members did not accept their sexuality.

[3]     The associate claimant was robbed in her home and her private photographs were leaked publicly. The principal claimant was threatened and physically assaulted in a nightclub in 2019, causing her to Jose vision in her eye.  The associate claimant and principal claimant both reported these incidents to the police. However, the police did not help. The associate claimant fled to Canada in XXXX 2019 as they feared for their safety and her godsister informed her that Canada was a safe haven for the LGBTQ community. She made her refugee claim at this time. The principal claimant had to recover from the assault in the Bahamas and then locate their passport and then they fled to Canada in XXXX 2019. They made their refugee claim in December 2019. They both fear returning to the Bahamas and being threatened or harmed by all of society due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[4]     I am satisfied with the identity of the claimants as citizens of Bahamas, which is established by their testimonies and the copies of their passports in evidence.

Credibility

[5]     When a claimant swears to the truth of allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true unless there is reason to doubt their truthfulness. I find no reason to doubt the truthfulness of the claimants. They testified in a straightforward, forthright, detailed and candid manner. There were no material inconsistencies, omissions or contradictions between the claimants’ testimonies and the other evidence in this case that were not reasonably explained, and they did not exaggerate or tailor their evidence. In summary, their testimonies were consistent with the other evidence on central aspects of their claims. I find the claimants also provided ample details to expand upon their allegations and they provided documentary evidence, which included medical reports and photographs from the physical assault of the principal claimant in 2019, XXXX assessments, photographs of them as a couple as well as with their friends from the LGBTQ community, letters of support from family and friends as well as support organisations, and country condition articles to name a few.

[6]     Both of the claimants travelled to the USA to visit family and friends between 2017 and 2018. When they were asked, if they considered making a refugee claim in the USA, the claimants testified that they did not. The associate claimant testified that she feared making a refugee claim in the USA as there had recently been a shooting at a gay club in Florida State and she feared that it would not be safe for them in the US. She further testified that her godsister who lived in Canada informed her that Canada was a country that offered refuge for the LGBTQ community. Based on their credible testimonies and reasonable explanation, I do not draw a negative inference on the claimants’ credibility based on their failure to claim refugee protection in the USA.

[7]     Given the principle claimant’s careful testimony and supporting documents, as well as the associate claimant’s testimony and supporting documents, I find that both of the claimants have established on a balance of probabilities the facts alleged in their claims, including that the principal claimant identifies as masculine and non-gender conforming and that the associate claimant is a lesbian and they are in a lesbian relationship. I accept on a balance of probabilities that they have faced discrimination, a robbery, and an assault due to their sexual orientation, as well as general mistreatment from family members due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. I therefore accept the subjective fear they have of returning to the Bahamas. In sum, I find that the claimants are credible witnesses.

Nexus

[8]     To qualify for refugee status under the refugee convention, an individual must demonstrate that they have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Based on the totality of the evidence, I find that the claimants have established a nexus to a convention ground, namely their membership in a particular social group as a lesbian woman and a non-gender conforming woman. Further, I find that the claimants face more than a mere possibility of persecution if they return to the Bahamas now. I will therefore assess this claim under section 96.

Well-Founded Fear of Persecution and Risk of Harm

[9]     I find that the claimants have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender identity as a common-law couple who are non-gender conforming and in a same-sex relationship. In addition, the principal claimant testified that they are non-gender conforming and have intentions to undergo gender-affirming surgery in the future. The claimants both face threats and harm in the Bahamas in the form of a robbery, exposure of private information such as photographs, and an attack in a bar due to their sexual orientation. They also testified that they faced mistreatment from family members when they disclosed their sexual identities.

[10]   The SOGIE guideline states under section 8.5.9.1 that individuals with diverse SOGIE may also face instances of harassment or discrimination that cumulatively amount to a well-founded fear of persecution. The SOGIE guideline goes further to provide a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider regarding cumulative discrimination amounting to persecution, including restrictions, unemployment, social services, health care, and harassment by the police. The objective evidence in the National Documentation Package for the Bahamas at item 6.1 indicates that there are no constitutional protections for sexual minorities in the Bahamas and no protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment legislation.  This report further states that same-sex marriage is not recognised in the Bahamas.

[11]   Homophobia permeates throughout cultural attitudes and it is culturally acceptable to exert violence against sexual minorities. This objective evidence also indicates that sexual minorities face violence, including killings in the Bahamas.

[12]   Sources in the NDP at item 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 further indicate that LGBT people are generally afraid to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity in the Bahamas and they don’t live out in the sense. Activists and openly LGBTQ people are often perceived as having nefarious international agendas to spread and normalise homosexuality. They are marginalised from mainstream employment and other social and civic spaces, and young people who are LGBTQ reportedly are in many instances subjected to psychological, spiritual and physical violence at the hands of their parents, guardians, teachers, and peers.

[13]   These sources indicate that the LGBTQ people in the Bahamas have been subject to violence, including killings and physical attacks. And indeed, the claimants provided a substantial amount of detail about some of the violence that they experienced or their friends experienced in the Bahamas. Therefore, I find that the claimants have demonstrated a well-founded fear of persecution on both a subjective and objective basis. I find the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution in the Bahamas based on their membership in a particular social group.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[14]   I find that there is clear and convincing evidence in the documentation that the state is unable or unwilling to protect… to provide the claimants with adequate protection. Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Bahamas in 1991. However, the government officials have conceded that a significant stigma against homosexuality still persists and there is no official mechanism to document and monitor human rights violations and no recourse available to victims of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation.

[15]   The objective evidence at item 6.1 of the NDP further indicates that there are no training programs or policies to counteract homophobia and sexual minorities do not have equal access to the law. There are also reports that the police insult and ridicule sexual minorities if they report crimes to them and their sexual orientation is discovered. Based on the totality of evidence, I find that, although there are some mixed evidence and some evidence of efforts by the state to make improvements, there continues to be an absence of operationally effective state protection available to sexual minorities such as the claimants.

[16]   Further, the objective evidence indicates at NDP item 5.3 that, in addition to the high levels of violence against women in the Bahamas, interlocutors noted that concern the apparent normalisation of violence against women and girls across the country. This normalisation of violence against women often leads to underreporting, as well as ridicule and stigmatisation of victims who do come forward. Ending such violence against women is one (1) of the most serious challenges facing the Bahamas today and where underreporting remains a concern reflecting a lack of trust in the justice system, as well as fear of ridicule and stigmatisation.

[17]   Given the absence of operationally effective state protection, as well as the small geographical size of the island country and the prevalence of homophobia and violence against sexual minorities and violence against women in the Bahamas, I find that the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution throughout the Bahamas and it is not objectively reasonable in all the circumstances including those particular to the claimants for them to relocate. Accordingly, I find that there is no internal flight available to the claimants.

CONCLUSION

[18]   For these reasons, I find that the claimants are Convention refugees under section 96 of the Act and I accept both of their claims. Thank you and thank you for sharing your experiences with me today.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Bahamas

2021 RLLR 7

Citation: 2021 RLLR 7
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: June 10, 2021
Panel: Kristy Sim
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Johnson Babalola
Country: Bahamas
RPD Number: VC1-03028
Associated RPD Number(s): VC1-03029
ATIP Number: A-2022-00210
ATIP Pages: 000214-000220

DECISION

This transcript constitutes the member’s written reasons for decision.

[1]       MEMBER: This the recording of a reserved decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of XXXX XXXX, the principal claimant, and XXXX XXXX XXXX, the minor claimant, file numbers VCl-03028 and VCl-03029. In assessing this claim, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution and the Guideline on Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (or the SOGIE Guideline).

[2]       The principal claimant provided a letter of consent from the minor claimant’s father as well as a copy of the minor claimant’s birth certificate, Exhibit 6. The claimants are citizens of the Bahamas are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and Subsection 97 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Their allegations are set out in full in the Basis of Claim forms at Exhibit 2.1, 2.2, and amended BOC narrative in Exhibit 10.

[3]       In summary, the principal claimant is a XXXX XXXX year-old woman who grew up in a Christian family. While she was in school, she found women beautiful but suppressed these feelings out of fear as her family, her religious community, and Bahamian culture is deeply homophobic. She found high school difficult due to her struggles over her own sexuality and her fear of being rejected. The principal claimant came to realize that she was bisexual and had her first romantic relationship with a woman in XXXX 2014. They met at work and kept their relationship secret. ln 2015, she entered a romantic relationship with a man with whom she had a child, the minor claimant, in XXXX XXXX. This relationship ended shortly thereafter. In XXXX 2016, when the claimant started her job at the XXXX XXXX she met XXXX XXXX (ph) whom I will refer to as her ex-partner throughout. They soon began a relationship; she did not discuss her bisexuality with him as she feared how he would react. The principal claimant said she was very much in love and the two of them moved in together along with the minor claimant over whom the principal claimant had full custody.

[4]       The principal claimant eventually learned that her ex-partner was having a relationship with another woman; however, she felt unable to leave him. They eventually worked out their differences and got engaged in XXXX 2017, although she describes this relationship as emotionally abusive and him as obsessive. The principal claimant got a second job in the XXXXof a XXXX where she met XXXX XXXX in XXXX 2018. They quickly formed a close friendship and eventually it became romantic. XXXX XXXX XXXX identifies as a lesbian. The two women professed their love for each other in XXXX 2018 but kept the relationship a secret. A few friends of theirs suspected them of being romantically involved, however, they were careful to socialize in a group usually after work and with other co-workers. The principal claimant is not aware of any safe spaces for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (or LGBTI) community.

[5]       The claimant went to Florida in XXXX 2019 with XXXX XXXX XXXX and some other friends. They were secretly intimate with each other on this trip but were not open about it to their friends. The principal claimant’s relationship with her ex-partner was deteriorating primarily due to her desire to be with XXXX XXXX XXXX. In XXXX 2019, her ex-partner went through her phone and saw messages between her and XXXX XXXX XXXX. He asked who it was, and the principal claimant brushed it off and responded that it was a misunderstanding. However, they argued, and the principal claimant left the home to clear her head and also to see XXXX XXXX XXXX. When the principal claimant returned late that evening, her ex-partner confronted her, and she confessed to being in love with XXXX XXXX XXXX. He was enraged and violently assaulted her. The minor claimant witnessed much of the violence including his mother being choked and her ex-partner saying that he would kill her. The principal claimant eventually grabbed a knife from the kitchen to defend herself, but her ex-partner knocked out of her hands and slapped her until she fell to the ground, then he walked away. She ran out of the home with her son and had a friend take her son to his grandmother’s house and her to the police station. The police were nonchalant and told her to first get treatment at the hospital. She went to the hospital and received stitches to her face. She returned to the police station to report the assault the police did not take a report but offered to take her back to the house to get her clothes which she did. There was no discussion of a restraining order or a protection order and the police told the principal claimant to find somewhere to stay that night.

[6]       The principal claimant followed up with the police by telephone, in person, and with emails as she intended to follow through on the assault charges against her ex-partner. However, nothing happened, and the police did not take the matter seriously. The principal claimant immediately moved into her mother’s home, stopped working at the XXXX XXXX and blocked all contact with her ex-partner. He stalked her wanting to know why she was not talking to him and demanding that she return to him and their relationship. He also followed her and XXXX XXXX XXXX as they left work one night until the principal claimant drove into the parking lot of the police station at which point, he left. He repeatedly tried to contact her on Facebook using different identities and demanding that she return to him. The principal claimant took her son to Disneyland with some friends in XXXX 2019 for a short trip. Her ex­ partner intercepted her as she attempted to board the flight as he had access to the XXXX XXXX and to this area of the airport through XXXX XXXX. He grabbed her arm and told her not to run as he would find her and make things bad for her if she continued to avoid him.

[7]       The night the principal claimant returned from Florida her ex-partner went to her mother’s house screaming at her to return to him and insulting XXXX XXXX XXXX, he also vandalized her car. The principal claimant called the police, but they did not come. XXXX XXXX XXXX convinced the principal claimant to go to the police station several days later, on XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019, to report these additional incidents. In explaining what her ex-partner had said and done, the police referred to the principal claimant and XXXX XXXX XXXX in a derogatory way, saying that they did not want to encourage this type of relationship. The principal claimant felt unsafe in Nassau and believed that her ex­ partner would be able to find her if she moved given how small the Bahamas are and his broad community connections through the XXXX XXXX. She also did not want to have to hide and deny her sexuality any longer.

[8]       Feeling like she had no option but to leave the Bahamas, she purchased a flight for her and her son and departed the Bahamas a few days later, on XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019. Her ex-partner accessed her private accounts and sent personal and explicit photographs and videos of her with XXXX XXXX XXXX and a previous same-sex partner to friends and family members including her parents. The principal claimant’s family members reacted with anger and told her that she was a disgrace. She is still estranged from her father and her siblings as a result of their learning about her sexual orientation. While her mother struggled with accepting the principal claimant, they eventually were able to re-establish a relationship. The principal claimant’ s sexual orientation was disseminated more broadly throughout the community as well. She fears that if she returns to the Bahamas she would be assaulted or killed by her ex-partner.

[9]       The principal claimant also fears mistreatment by members of the public on account of her sexual orientation. She fears that the minor claimant will be harmed by her ex-partner either directly or in witnessing her being abused and harmed by him and that her son will also be mistreated due to her sexual orientation. I find that the claimants are Convention refugees as they have a well-founded fear of persecution in the Bahamas. My reasons are as follows.

Identity

[10]     I find that the claimants’ identity as Bahamian nationals is established on a balance of probabilities by the principal claimant’s testimony and a copy of each of their passports in evidence at Exhibit 1.

Credibility

[11]     With respect to the claimant’s sexual orientation, she provided testimony that was candid and direct. She testified in a spontaneous and natural fashion about her sexuality and her same-sex relationships. She explained in detail how she met previous girlfriends, how they were able to be together, and why their relationships ended. I find that this testimony was genuine and consistent. The claimant provided corroborative documentary evidence of her sexual orientation including a letter from XXXX XXXX XXXX attesting to their relationship and how they are currently taking a break but remain in love. As well as messages exchanged between her and XXXX XXXX XXXX, photographs, and videos of the principal claimant and XXXX XXXX XXXX as well the principal claimant with a previous same-sex partner in the Bahamas. Letters of support from close friends of the principal claimant about how and when they learned about her sexual orientation. Messages exchanged between the principal claimant and women she was chatting with within Canada and a screen capture of the principal claimant’s registration with The 519 organization in Toronto and those are found in Exhibits 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10. The principal claimant also provided numerous articles about serious issues faced by the LGBTI community in the Bahamas and those are found at Exhibits 1 and 9.

[12]     With respect to the domestic abuse aspect of the claim, the principal claimant provided a detailed account of her ex-partner’s attack in her BOC narrative as well as in her oral testimony. The principal claimant explained what the minor claimant experienced and witnessed during this attack. She also testified about what she believes would happen if she were to relocate to another area in the Bahamas. The principal claimant’s response to my questions were emotional, genuine, and credible. The principal claimant also provided documentary evidence which corroborated her allegations of abuse including: a police report from XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019; an email sent by her to the police reiterating that she had been in several times with no progress and stating that she wants the matter to proceed, which was dated XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019; a video showing the damage to the principal claimant’s car by her ex-partner on XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019; a letter of support from a friend the night of her attack about having received several missed calls from the principal claimant; letters of support from friends and co-workers saying that the principal claimant never returned to work at the XXXX after the assault and that her ex­ partner was angry about her wanting to be with XXXX XXXX XXXX; messages in which the principal claimant was trying and locate the hospital records from the night of her assault; and photographs and videos of the principal claimant and her ex-partner; as well as a referral for XXXX treatment and support, and a XXXX report detailing the XXXX effects of domestic violence, Exhibits 5,7, and 9.

[13]     There were no material inconsistencies or contradictions within the principal claimant’ s evidence that caused me to question her credibility. I find her testimony was credible and was supported by corroborative documentary evidence as such I accept that the principal claimant is bisexual and that she has experienced domestic violence as a result of her relationship with XXXX XXXX XXXX and that her ex-partner stopped, threatened, and harassed her following his assaulting her in XXXX 2019.

Well-Founded Fear of Persecution

[14]     The principal claimant fears persecution in the Bahamas on account of her identity as a bisexual woman. The principal claimant also fears persecution from her abusive ex-partner. According to the Gender and SOGIE Guidelines, bisexual women and women facing domestic violence both constitute a particular social group. As such, I find that her claim for protection has a Nexus to the refugee convention ground of membership in a particular social group. The principal claimant fears the minor claimant would face persecution in the Bahamas as the son of a bisexual woman. The sexual orientation of a family member in an overtly homophobic country can result in adverse consequences and here I refer to the Federal Court case Corneille which is found at 2014 FC 901. I also find that if the minor claimant returns to the Bahamas, he would be at risk of witnessing his mother’s ex-partner subjecting her to further abuse or even murder. There is a Federal Court authority in the Modeste case at 2013 FC 1262 that children witnessing the abuse of a parent constitutes persecution in itself.

[15]     I find that the minor claimant’s fear of persecution relates to the Convention ground of membership in a particular social group namely children of bisexual women in an overtly homophobic country and children subjected to domestic violence. The objective evidence in the NDP indicates that sexual minorities including bisexual women face serious mistreatment in the Bahamas. Furthermore, I find that the principal claimant’s identity as a bisexual woman intersects with the risks that she faces from her ex­ partner in a way that elevates her overall risk of persecution. While same-sex sexual activity is not criminalized in the Bahamas, individuals who identify as LGBTI face widespread stigmatization and discrimination in the country and l refer here to NDP Items 2.1, 2.3, and 6.3. According to NDP Item 6.1, there is strong anti-gay attitudes in the Bahamas as “homophobia is permeated through cultural attitudes and is expressed in religion, music, and other expressions”. The same source notes that due to the strong stigma against homosexuality. Sexual minorities generally hide their sexual orientation out of fear of ostracism, exclusion, ridicule, and violence.

[16]     The claimants provided recent media reports about homophobia in the Bahamas even against tourists and that’s an Exhibit 5. Discrimination based on sexuality is not prohibited by law, so LGBTI individuals have no mechanism to seek redress from marginalization, systematic discrimination in the areas of employment and housing and that’s NDP 2.3, 6.1, and 6.2. Sexual minorities face discrimination without redress and cannot live openly without facing various forms of mistreatment including violence and I find this amounts to persecution. Moreover, the principal claimant faces an additional risk of persecution from her ex-partner who attacked and threatened to kill after learning that she’s bisexual and in love with a woman. He was infuriated, he continued to stalk and threaten her, and he refused to accept that she wanted to leave him for a woman. I find on a balance of probabilities that the principal claimant’s ex­ partner felt rejected and threatened by her sexuality and that this elevates the risk he poses to her and by extension the minor claimant who is at risk of witnessing the principal claimant being further assaulted or even killed by her partner.

State Protection

[17]     In all refugee claims, the state is presumed to be capable of protecting its citizens unless a claimant presents clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. In this case, I find that this presumption has been rebutted and that the protection would not be forthcoming. NDP Item 6.1 notes that LGBTI people experience difficulties if they turn to the police for protection that they faced smirking, ridicule, and insults if they are open about their sexual orientation which is certainly reflective of the experience of the principal claimant when she went to the police with XXXX XXXX XXXX. This same source reports that “if an LGBTI reports an incident of violence openly to the police, the police will come down against the victim and will say the person got what they deserved.” The US Department of State Report found at NDP Item 2.1 also indicates there is inadequate protection by law enforcement authorities for members of the LGBTI community. Based on this evidence I find that the principal claimant would not have adequate state protection from persecution due to her sexual orientation. I also find that the claimants would not have adequate state protection from the principal claimant’s ex-partner. While there is anti-domestic violence legislation in the Bahamas and some support for women fleeing violence, women’s rights groups there report a hesitancy from law enforcement to intervene in domestic disputes and that’s NDP Items 2.1 and 5.8. In the present case, the principal claimant reported her abuser to the police several times and attempted to follow up and move forward with assault charges. The authorities helped her to return to her home to get her personal effects the night of the attack but did not issue a protective or restraining order or pursued charges against her ex-partner. While she attended the station with XXXX XXXX XXXX, the nonchalance of the police turned to derision. In light of the circumstances, I find that state protection was inadequate. As the principal claimant lacks state protection from her abusive ex-partner, I find that the minor claimant also lacks state protection from the harm she fears namely bearing witness to violence against his mother.

Internal Flight Alternative

[18]     Finally, I’ve considered whether an internal flight alternative available to the claimants. At the start of the hearing, I proposed San Salvador. The first prong of this assessment is to determine whether on a balance of probabilities there’s a risk of persecution, a risk to life, cruel or unusual treatment or punishment, or danger of torture in the proposed internal flight alternative location. According to the objective evidence, the situation for LGBTI individuals is consistent throughout the Bahamas as a result I find there is no location within the Bahamas where the principal claimant would not face a serious possibility of persecution due to her sexual orientation. I also find that the principal claimant’s ex-partner is likely motivated to pursue her throughout the Bahamas. Given the small size of the country, his ability to monitor her movements through his employment at the XXXX XXXX and his strong connections within the community through his membership in the XXXX XXXX XXXX. I find that the ex-partner would also likely have the ability to locate the principal claimant anywhere in the country. As the minor claimant lives with the principal claimant solely, I find that he would also face a possibility of witnessing violence against his mother which I have found amounts to persecution. For these reasons, I do find the claimants have a viable internal flight alternative within the Bahamas.

CONCLUSION

[19]     Having considered the evidence, I find the claimants are Convention refugees under Section 96 of the Act and I accept their claims for protection. This matter is concluded.

(signed)  Kirsty Sim

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Bahamas

2019 RLLR 131

Citation: 2019 RLLR 131
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: September 9, 2019
Panel: M. Schnapp, P. Gueller, D. Willard
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Pablo Andres Irribarra Valdes
Country: Bahamas
RPD Number: TB8-18513
ATIP Number: A-2021-00256
ATIP Pages: 000077-000081


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: Okay, we are back on the record, counsel I am not going to need any questioning or submissions from you, so I am going to read my decision, just to let you know we have accepted your claim and I am just going to read the decision.

[2]       This is the decision in the claim for refugee protection of [XXX] File Number TB8-18513, you are claiming to be a citizen of the Bahamas and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

[3]       The panel has considered your testimony and the other evidence in this case and we are ready to render our decision orally. In assessing your claim, the panel has applied the Chairpersons guidelines, Guideline 9 on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression called the SOGI Guidelines.

DETERMINATION:

[4]       The panel finds that you are a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of IRPA on the grounds of your membership in a particular social group as a gay man. The panel finds that you would face a serious possibility of persecution in the future if returned to the Bahamas. The panel is accepting your claim.

[5]       Your allegations are set out in detail in your Basis of Claim Form. In summary, you allege a fear of pervasive discrimination including possible acts of violence from the community because of your sexual orientation as a gay man and also due to the community’s perception of you as a gay man.

[6]       You allege that if you return to the Bahamas, you will face stigma, social exclusion discrimination in many aspects of your life and from the community and this would include verbal insults and possible physical violence and that you cannot live openly and freely as a gay man in the Bahamas, without experiencing this kind of harassment, threats and discrimination and there is no safe place for you to live in your country.

[7]       In making this assessment, the panel considered all the evidence including oral testimony and documentary evidence entered as Exhibits.

IDENTITY:

[8]       The panel finds that your personal and national identity as a citizen of Bahamas has been established on a balance of probabilities by your testimony and the supporting documentation filed in Exhibits 1 and Exhibits 4, in particular the certified copy of your passport which was seized by CBSA when you started your refugee claim.

[9]       The panel finds that there is a link between what you fear on the refugee Convention grounds namely your membership in a particular social group as a gay man and someone who was perceived by the community and family members as being a gay man.

[10]     Therefore your claim falls under Section 96. In terms of your general credibility, the panel finds you to be a credible witness.

[11]     The testimony was straightforward and consistent with your Basis of Claim Form and other forms and there were no significant inconsistencies or omissions that went to the core of your claim.

[12]     You provided spontaneous details of you coming to understand and coming to accept your sexual orientation of being a gay man. You also provided details of the discriminatory and threatening incidents that you experience in the Bahamas. These were details that you would expect of someone who lived the experience as described.

[13]     You provided corroborating documentation including letters from multiple friends who know of your sexual orientation and knew of the negative treatment you experienced in the Bahamas as a result of being a gay man, screenshots and messages being circulated on social media which exposed your sexual orientation and your counsel’s request for police records to the Royal Bahamas Police Force dated August 14th, 2018, Your identity as an HIV positive individual that has been established on the panel’s view on the balance of probabilities by your oral testimony and corroborating medical documentation that was filed as corroborating evidence.

[14]     For someone who is grown up in the society where being on the LGBT spectrum is treated with contempt, ridicule by many as an abomination, the panel finds your testimony to be credible.

[15]     You testified without any obvious embellishments and in a fluid immediate way. Therefore the panel believes your core allegations of your refugee claim and your oral testimony and your Basis of Claim Form on a balance of probabilities.

[16]     The panel believes that you are a gay and due to homophobia in the Bahamas you struggled with this, and cannot lead a free and safe and open life in the Bahamas and that you face a serious possibility of persecution in the future in the Bahamas.

[17]     With respect to your subjective fear and in particular reavailment and delay in making a claim, you have established that you are subjectively fearful of returning to the Bahamas, therefore the panel finds you have a subjective fear of persecution in the Bahamas.

[18]     With respect to the two trips to the United States in 2016 and 2017, you explained that you accompanied your family members, including your mother and that you had not realized at that point that you were able to make an asylum claim in the United States based on sexual orientation.

[19]     With respect to you only claiming refugee status after approximately one month in Canada, your BOC indicated that you were concerned that you did so at the airport, you may be send back to the Bahamas and you needed time to find a lawyer to assist you with the process.

[20]     Therefore the panel accepts your explanations as reasonable and finds that this does not detract in any significant way from you holding a subjected well-founded fear that is forward-looking today and the fear of persecution would exist in the Bahamas.

OBJECTIVE BASIS OF RISK, PERSECUTION:

[21]     The panel finds that you have an objective basis for your fear because of the documented conditions for the Bahamas as per evidence in Exhibit 3 which is the National Documentation Package for Bahamas.

[22]     It states that based on the evidence in this package, that the claimant has his stated experience and instances of abuse for his sexual orientation in the Bahamas from strangers and homophobic attitudes you have experienced and from family members which is made out in the documentary evidence as well that this is an objective country reports in the situation of the Bahamas.

[23]     You described having to conceal your sexual orientation. Exhibit 3 of the NDP documents that LGBT people in the Bahamas are generally afraid to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. They fear if they are open about their sexual orientation they will be subject to ostracism, exclusion, ridicule and possibly violence.

[24]     Physical and psychological violence is typically directed to LGBT persons who lived openly in the Bahamas and LGBT persons have been subjected to violence including killings and physical attacks.

[25]     There are also reports of discrimination in various sectors such as employment and housing in Items 2.1, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 of the NDP package.

[26]     Given that the panel finds the claimant credible as a gay man, we find that you will not be able to live freely and openly in the Bahamas without risk of experiencing the above noted harms.

[27]     Further Mr. [XXX] has the additional vulnerability of being an HIV positive man and the NDP speaks of discrimination and some abuse against persons who are HIV positive.

[28]     Item 2.1 which is the United States Human Rights Report, Department of State Report notes that children in Bahamas who are HIV positive face discrimination with authorities often and they often don’t tell teachers the child was HIV positive due to the fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers.

[29]     Item 5.3 also speaks of discrimination and violence against people of HIV status and Item 6.1 is response to information request throughout the Bahamas which stated that LGBT groups in Bahamas who support people living with HIV have a difficulty getting international funding as it is supposed to be for their programs <inaudible> government does not want to be seen as supporting gay health initiatives.

[30]     This panel finds that as a person as a gay man living with HIV you would be even at heightened risk of discrimination and you may be harassed if you sought medical treatment for your condition.

STATE PROTECTION AND INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE:

[31]     The panel finds that there is a clear and convincing evidence that State protection would not be reasonably forthcoming in your case as per the evidence in Exhibit 3 of the National Documentation Package.

[32]     The NDP indicates that discrimination against LGBTQ members in the Bahamas is common place and the crimes against members of that community are rarely if ever resolved satisfactory.

[33]     Police do not take reporting of anti-LGBTQ crimes seriously, Item 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3 reports that LGBT people often experience difficulties if they turn to the police for protection and the Bahamas because they share strong anti-gay attitudes with the rest of the British Caribbean. The police smirk, ridicule and insult LGBT people if they are open about their sexual orientation.

[34]     So, based on the above the panel finds there is clear and convincing evidence that there is no adequate State protection for you in the Bahamas.

[35]     Lastly, the panel has considered whether there is a viable internal flight alternative available for you and on the evidence before us we find risk of physical harm and homophobic attitudes exist throughout the Bahamas.

[36]     So, there is a possibility of persecution throughout the country, therefore the panel finds there is no viable internal flight alternative available to you.

[37]     So, based on the totality of the evidence, the panel concludes that you are a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Act, and we therefore accept your claim, thank you.

[38]     COUNSEL: Thank you.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-