Citation: 2019 RLLR 38
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 10, 2019
Panel: Isis van Loon
RPD Number: VB9-00362
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000217-000225
 PRESIDING MEMBER: [XXX], the principal claimant, and [XXX], the minor claimant, seek refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I maintain the designation of [XXX] as the representative for the minor claimant pursuant to subsection 167(2) of the Act in Rule 20 of the Refugee Protection Division Rules. These claims were joined according to Rule 55 of the Refugee Protection Division Rules. When rendering my Reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.
 The principal claimant alleges that if she returns to Nigeria she will be forced to marry her brother-in-law, who has sexually assaulted her a number of times. The brother-in-law will also take her son and force him to undergo rituals. As well, the claimants are at risk from Fulani herdsmen, who burned down their village in [XXX] 2016, which forced the claimant to live with her missing husband’s family in their village.
 I find that the claimant has established she faces a serious risk of persecution on a Convention ground in Nigeria. My reasons are as follows. I also find the minor claimant faces a serious risk of persecution on a Convention ground.
 The claimants’ identities and citizenship as nationals of Nigeria was established by the principal claimant’s testimony and supporting documentation filed, including certified true copies of their passports in Exhibit 1.
 The principal claimant testified in a straightforward manner with no inconsistencies in her testimony or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence before me. I found her to be a credible witness and, therefore, have accepted as generally true the facts that she alleged in support of her claim. Unless I specifically note in my analysis, as I said, I found her generally credible and the minor claimant did not testify.
 The principal claimant provided the following relevant and probative documents in Exhibit 4. There was a Nigerian Police report from [XXX], 2015, reporting her missing husband; a medical report from [XXX], 2017, after a sexual assault, and numerous affidavits from friends and family, all attesting to the treatment by the principal claimant’s brother-in-law, as well as her subsequent actions. I found those documents were relevant and served to corroborate the principal claimant’s core allegations, in terms of nexus, I found the persecution the principal claimant faces has a nexus to the Convention ground of membership in a particular social group, as a woman at risk of sexual violence and forced marriage. With the minor claimant, there’s a nexus to that of a child at risk of literal abuse.
 In order to be considered a Convention refugee, a claimant has to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, including subjective fear and objective basis for that fear. Based on the testimony, supporting documents and country condition documents, I found the claimants do have a well-founded fear of persecution for the following reasons.
 In terms of subjective fear, the principal claimant initially attempted to resist the forcible advances of her brother-in-law, [XXX]. After a sexual assault by [XXX] on [XXX], 2017, she escaped with the minor claimant to [XXX]. [XXX] located her there within a week, continued to threaten her. With the assistance of her friend, she made arrangements to leave as quickly as possible and did so when they had sufficient funds, arriving in the USA on [XXX], 2017.
 Fearing Trump policies against refugees, she decided to come to Canada, which she did [XXX] of 2017, and claimed asylum. Based on her actions and the timing thereof, as well as her credible testimony, I found the claimants have adduced sufficient credible evidence to establish a subjective fear of persecution in Nigeria.
 The principal claimant testified about the series of events that started with the disappearance of her husband on [XXX], 2015. She reported this to the police and checked in with them, but no progress on the investigation had occurred. When the Fulani burnt her home on [XXX], 2016, she fled to her husband’s village to stay with her in-laws there. In [XXX] of 2016, her brother-in-law [XXX] sexually assaulted her. On [XXX], 2017, the family had a meeting where they decided that tradition should be followed or bad things would happen in their village and to them and this meant that the principal claimant would have to marry her brother-in-law [XXX] as they believed by that time that her husband was deceased.
 She refused to follow this tradition and fled after [XXX] sexually assaulted her with a weapon on [XXX], 2017. Sam located the claimants in [XXX] about a week later and threatened them again that they needed to undergo the ritual and the principal claimant needed to marry him. She testified about the specific ritual that was to be undergone by both her and her son, where they were to be cut and marked in various areas and have cow’s blood and other things rubbed into these during an event that would take about three days.
 She also spoke of [XXX] (phonetic), a woman from her husband’s village that she knew. She met her after she got married and a similar type of thing happened. Her husband went missing at the hands of the Boko Haram or the Fulani herdsmen and, according to tradition, the people would force the woman to marry the husband’s brother. This woman, however, [XXX], she refused and she was killed when she refused to marry the brother by the brother. This was in 2014 and apparently she knew that [XXX] had gone to the police and the police said that they couldn’t do anything and said it was just a family matter. In effect, the country documentation confirms that these traditional things are often treated as a family-related incident and the police tend not to get involved. The country documentation evidence also confirms that sexual violence against women is common and that ritual activities continue. Based on all the evidence before me, I found the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution if the were to return to Nigeria and be found by [XXX].
 In terms of state protection, except in situations where a state is in complete breakdown, states must be presumed capable of protecting their citizens. I found, however, that adequate state protection would not be reasonably forthcoming in this particular case. The principal claimant described how she had not reported the sexual assaults by [XXX] as she was afraid the same thing would happen to her as happened to Nagosi and she described how [XXX] actually threatened to kill her if she did report to police.
 There are a number of laws that exist to protect women against violence and these have been strengthened by the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act in 2016. However, they are not effectively implemented in practice and are quite variable. There is no comprehensive law for combatting violence against women and, as a result, victims and survivors had little or no recourse to justice, according to the NDP 2.1. Police response is often poor and despite the existence of some laws, the persecution rates for domestic violence are low. It’s uncommon for cases to reach persecution. The burden of proof is on the victim according to NDP 5.3. Additionally, there are few shelters and restraining orders provide minimal, if any, protection in practice.
 In a Response to Information Request from the IRB, a doctoral candidate states about victims of ritual practices that to his knowledge the police response is not recognized and institutionalized. He further stated that based on his direct observation and research experience over five years in Southern Nigeria, that Nigerian police officers tend to be discriminatory in their treatment of victims of ritual practices, particularly for women, and that this attitude is formed by customary norms and the subjugation of women in most Southern Nigerian societies.
 The same source added that a lack of trust in the police also inhibits the reporting of ritual practices, especially by women. Furthermore, according to this source, police officers are themselves often a part of the culture in which ritual practices take place and they can have difficulty recognizing whether ritual practices are criminal or not and they weigh the evidence also against the religion rights and intent of the ritual practices.
 Similarly, another source noted that because Nigerian police officers themselves come from communities where different rituals apply, they have to respect the culture and traditions and they’re reluctant to provide protection to someone who is refusing to undergo a ritual. So I find that in terms of both the sexual violence and the traditional and ritual aspects of this that state protection would not be adequate nor reasonably forthcoming for the claimants in this case and, therefore, the presumption of state protection is rebutted.
 At the beginning of the hearing, I proposed several cities as internal flight alternatives, Benin City, Port Harcourt or Abuja. The principal claimant testified that there are family members of her in-laws in both Port Harcourt and Abuja, so I primarily focused from then on, on Benin City. An internal flight alternative arises when a claimant, who otherwise meets all the elements of the definition of a person in need or protection or as a Convention refugee in their home area of the country, nevertheless is not in need of protection because they would live safely elsewhere in that country.
 There is a legal test, which has two prove to be satisfied that the claimants would not face a serious possibility of persecution in the part of the country in which I found an IFA exists and conditions in the part of the country considered to be an IFA must be such that it would not be unreasonable, in all the circumstances, including those particular to the claimants, for them to seek refuge there.
 If either prong of the internal flight alternative test fails, then there is no viable internal flight alternative. I’ve started, in fact, with the second prong about whether or not the proposed IFAs are reasonable. At the beginning of the hearing I proposed, as I said, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Benin City, but primarily focused on Benin City. Having found the claimants face a serious possibility of persecution from the agent of harm, I have turned to the second prong of the IFA test, the test used in Canadian refugee jurisprudence, to assess whether a claimant could travel to and remain in a safer area of their countries, whether it would be unduly harsh to expect the claimant to do so. There’s a very high threshold for this unreasonableness test. It requires nothing less than the existence of conditions which would jeopardize the life and safety of a claimant in travelling to or relocating to a safe area and it requires actual and concrete evidence of such conditions.
 I’ve considered whether it would be reasonable to expect the claimants to travel to and relocate in any of the proposed IFAs. An IFA has to be realistically accessible. If a claimant would encounter physical danger travelling there, if they would encounter persecution while en route or they would otherwise be barred from travelling to an area then an IFA location would not be viable. However, the Nigerian Constitution provides for the right to travel within Nigeria. The country condition documents show that Nigerians, including women, can and do move freely throughout most of the country, including the IFA proposed cities.
 With respect to the burden of proof, the Court of Appeal in Rasaratnam (phonetic) has held that once an IFA is raised, the onus is on the claimant to show that they don’t have one. The burden, as I said, is fairly high in order to show that an IFA is unreasonable. In fact, the Federal Court of Appeal stated that to show an IFA is unreasonable requires nothing less than the existence of conditions jeopardizing the life and safety of a claimant in relocating to that place.
 The Chairperson identified the Refugee Appeal Division decision for TB7-19851 as a jurisprudential guide. I’ve considered this guide and the decision of the Refugee Appeal Division in which the jurisprudential guide in question is based analyzes the viability of an internal flight location within Nigeria for single women. That concludes more broadly than internal relocation and Nigeria is generally considered to be viable for refugee claimants fearing non-state actors. In this case, the RAD decision established there are several large multilingual, multi-ethnic cities in South and Central Nigeria which include the IFAs mentioned, where persons fleeing non-state actors may be safely able to establish themselves, depending upon their particular circumstances.
 There’s a non-exhaustive list of factors that may be considered in determining whether the conditions in an IFA render it objectively unreasonable for the claimant. These factors are travel, transportation, language, education, employment, accommodation, healthcare, culture, (indiscernible) and religion. Additionally, the Chairperson’s Gender Guidelines specifically instruct decision makers to consider whether and how these factors affect women in the IFA.
 The cm before me is both a single woman and the mother of a young son, so she’s a single mother, unlike the single woman who had no children in the jurisprudential guide case. The principal claimant has some post secondary education, but in this case her work experience is quite limited. She worked partly while as a student and then on her husband’s farm after she was married. So she does have some experience in farming.
 The principal claimant testified, and the country documents support this, there are real difficulties for women in obtaining employment and housing and that this is exacerbated when a woman does not have family assistance and support. Family can help members to find housing, as well as work. In Nigeria, women need adult male members of family or other males to provide references and sign for them, particularly with respect to housing. Usually this is done by male family members. The claimant herself stated that if she had family in the IFA she could rely upon them to care for her son, if she was able to find work, and that she would need to support herself and her son. Her family has to date refused to support her and, in fact, advised her to follow the traditional practices that her brother-in-law has been demanding.
 She initially fled to [XXX] to stay with her sister, but her sister turned her out. So her family has told her to follow traditional practices, marry [XXX] and undergo the ritual that will ensure her husband’s ghost did not return to haunt the family. I’m satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that these claimants have no family support in Nigeria and this will negatively impact their ability to find housing and employment, as well as assisting with childcare.
 According to the jurisprudential guide, unemployment is generally high in Nigeria and work can be difficult to find. There are more female-headed households in the south than in the north and it is generally easier for women to obtain work in the south than in the north but, quite frankly, this is not saying a lot and it certainly doesn’t say that it is easy for women to find work. The J.G. says that where a claimant has achieved post secondary education or has meaningful work experience, they may be in a better position of securing employment than the average Nigerian.
 This claimant does have some post secondary education, but her Nigerian work experience is limited to farming and some past office work that she did as a student. Additionally, she has a young child, the minor claimant, in her care, and without family or contacts, she would have to find a way to ensure safe childcare while she worked if she was able to find work. She has no connections in the IFAs. She speaks a different dialect from the locals and she would face great difficulty in finding employment, which is sometimes based on indigeneship or family connections. The J.G. states that in order for a single woman to get a reasonable job in — they were talking about Port Harcourt or Ibadan in that case, or presumably other large cities, she would need to have the help of someone influential or rich and also that it is easier for single women with high education and high social status to use this status to give them access to people who are in power who could assist her to find work. I’m satisfied that the principal claimant, as a single mother, albeit with some degree of education, but with limited work experience and with no high status standing and, therefore, no connections that that would bring, she would face extreme difficulty in finding work.
 The NDP 5.9 shows that it can be difficult for women to find housing, in part due to the cost and in part if they do not have male assistance. While the north of the country is once again even worse, the south is still very difficult for women. In particular, the ability to find gainful employment, according to NDP 13.1, is a key factor in finding housing. I’ve already discussed my views on the difficulty this claimant faces in finding employment and I am satisfied that without work she would have great difficulty in supporting herself and her son in terms of housing, as well as food and other necessary item and the Nigerian state has little to no social supports available to assist her.
 The claimant stated the indigeneship would be a factor, making it difficult to relocate. The documents show that this is less of an issue in large cities, such as Benin City. However, there are difficulties for those who are not indigenes. The EASO states that indigenicity facilitates settling in a given area. However, it does not constitute a requirement. This document notes that non-indigenes, such as the claimants, without familial connections or financial means, may find relocation more difficult. The claimant also testified that language would be an issue as she does not speak local dialects. While she does speak some English and, in fact, testified occasionally in English during the hearing, I am still cognizant that despite English being an official language of Nigeria, her inability to speak the local dialects would also put her at a disadvantage among those who do not speak English and who might potentially assist her with housing or employment.
 The claimant also testified that single mothers are frequently discriminated against and seen as sexually available, which leads them to experience high levels of sexual violence and sexual harassment. She said this was both through work and potentially with landlords. The country documents show that women in general and single women or women heading households do indeed experience high levels of this mistreatment, particularly when there are no family members, most likely male family members, to protect them. I accept as a single mother that the claimant would be more vulnerable to gender-based mistreatment than would a woman who was supported with or by a adult male and family.
 In terms of religion, the country evidence shows that Christianity is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in the south, and thus I don’t find religion, in itself, to be a barrier to relocation. A recent Response to Information Request said that sometimes religious communities can assist in the process of resettlement in some of the similar cities to Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja. While religious community may, in fact, be helpful despite the principal claimant’s belief that it would be largely limited to the occasional donation of food, I’m not satisfied that we can rely on religious assistance to be sufficient to overcome the more serious impediments to the claimants in resettling that I have already mentioned with respect to lack of family support, housing and extreme difficulties in obtaining employment.
 Finally, I further note that the principal claimant testified of having an anxiety attack which necessitated a 911 intervention here in Canada. Her demeanour during the hearing clearly demonstrated emotional fragility and she broke down several times during the hearing, necessitating time to compose herself in order to continue. Her emotional state is supported by a psychological assessment in which she was diagnosed with [XXX] and [XXX] in [XXX] of 2029. That’s Exhibit 4, pages 35 to 40. She has attended counselling as a psychologist recommended, based on their assessment and she said that she plans to continue.
 Based on the psychologist’s findings, they concluded that, based on her trauma-related conditions with which they diagnosed her, it would impair her recovery if she had to return to Nigeria where she is convinced that [XXX] would find and harm her and the minor claimant. There are facilities for both basic medical and mental healthcare according to NDP 1.9. The country condition documents though show that Nigerians have to pay for healthcare, as well as education, and that access can be difficult for this reason. For a single mother with many impediments to finding access to money such as employment, I’m satisfied that she would face significant difficulties in accessing mental healthcare if she wished to continue treatment in Nigeria as well.
 The claimant testified there would be difficulties with education for her child and that she would be unable to pay fees if she was not employed as the country condition document I’ve just referenced shows that education comes with costs and concerns that the minor claimant would be negatively impacted with respect to his basic education. Having considered the conditions in the internal flight alternatives, particularly Benin City, and all the circumstances of this case, including those particular to the claimants, I find that the claimants have established on a balance of probabilities that it would be objectively unreasonable or result in undue hardship as those terms are understood in Canadian refugee law for them to seek refuge in the proposed IFAs of Benin City, Port Harcourt or Abuja.
 Based on the totality of the evidence, I’ve concluded the claimants are Convention refugees and accordingly, I have accepted their claims.
— DECISION CONCLUDED