Citation: 2019 RLLR 91
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 12, 2019
Panel: Stephen Rudin
Counsel for the claimant(s): Katherine M Macdonald
RPD Number: TB8-01528
Associated RPD Numbers: TB8-01583, TB8-01584
ATIP Number: A-2020-01459
ATIP Pages: 000055-000061
REASONS FOR DECISION
[l] [XXX], and [XXX], (the claimants) are claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).1
 Pursuant to Rule 55 of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) Rules, these claims for refugee protection were heard jointly.2 The principal claimant is [XXX]. Each claim was decided on its own merits, and decisions were made for each claimant.
Appointment of a Designated Representative
 The IRPA requires the designation of a representative for all claimants less than 18 years of age. The children in this claim are aged three and seven.
 In accordance with subsection 167(2) of the IRPA,3 and Rule 20 of the RPD Rules,4 on February 5, 2018, the RPD designated [XXX] to be the representative for the minor claimants for the purposes of this claim for refugee protection.
 The complete story alleging the basis of the claimant’s fear is captured in the Basis of Claim Form (BOC),5 and amendment to the principle claimant’s BOC.6 The associate claimants rely on the principle claimant’s BOC.7 Their allegations can be summarized as follows.
 The claimant alleges that she and her children fear returning to Syria. As a Sunni Muslim, and a person who was born and has lived in Saudi Arabia, she fears that if they were to return, they would be detained, tortured, and possibly face death because of her father’s affiliation as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 The claimant alleges that many of her family members have been targeted by the current Syrian regime because they were perceived as being opponents of the govermnent.
 Believing that they could not remain in Saudi Arabia as they had no status, and because they feared returning to Syria, the claimants, accompanied by the principle claimant’s mother-in law, former husband and two of her sisters-in-law, left Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on [XXX], 2018, and arrived in New York on the same day. On [XXX] 2018 the claimants flew to Buffalo, and crossing at the Peace Bridge into Canada, made their applications for refugee protection.
 For the reasons that follow, the panel finds that the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution on a Convention ground, and on a balance of probabilities, would be subjected to a risk to life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, or a danger of torture upon their return to Syria.
 Therefore, the panel finds that the claimants are a Convention refugees, and have a well founded fear of persecution or hmm should they return to Syria.
 For the following reasons, on a balance of probabilities, the panel finds that the principle claimant is a citizen of Syria. She established her citizenship by providing a photo copy of her Passport.8
 For the following reasons, the panel notes that the associate minor claimants are stateless. The minor claimants were born in Saudi Arabia. The principle claimant’s former husband is a Palestinian, who was working in Saudi Arabia on a temporary residence permit. According to their birth certificates, the minor claimants were born in Saudi Arabia.9 Although the habitual residence of the minor claimants was Saudi Arabia, they had no entitlement to permanent status or claim against Palestine. Moreover, the minor claimants hold Palestinian Passports and travel documents, which limited their entry to Syria.10
 In assessing this claim, the panel focused on the credibility of the claimants’ allegations of the risk of persecution or harm they might face upon their return to Syria because of their perceived political opinion.
 The panel is cognizant of the difficulties faced by the claimant in establishing their claims. These include cultural factors, the environment of the hearing room, and the stress inherent in responding to oral questions through an interpreter. The panel has taken these considerations into account in arriving at its determination.
 For the following reasons, on a balance of probabilities, the panel found the principal claimant to be a credible witness, and therefore believed what she alleged in support of their claims. Although her testimony sometimes focused on the current situation in Syria and had to be reminded to address her specific fear as it related to a nexus to the IRPA, she testified in a straight forward manner and there were no relevant inconsistencies in her testimony, or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence before the panel.
 The claimant testified that her father and brother were believed to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and as early as 1980 fled Syria to live in Saudi Arabia, where he claimant was born. She further testified that her brother was wanted by the Syrian authorities because of the possible family link to the Muslim Brotherhood, and his avoidance of compulsory military service. Further, when the claimant entered Syria for her wedding celebration in 2011, the claimant testified that she was suspected at the border of being involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, and believed that she was fortunate not to have been arrested.
 For the following reasons, on a balance of probabilities, the objective evidence indicates that there is more than a mere possibility that the claimants would face persecution or harm if they were to return to Syria.
 The United States Department of State 2018 report notes that:
[t]here continued to be a significant number of reports of abuse of children by the Syrian government… [There are] regular reports of detention and torture of children younger than age 13, in some cases as young as 11, in government detention facilities.11
 The International Religious Freedom Report indicates that:
… [m]embership in the Muslim Brotherhood or “Salafist” organizations is illegal in Syria and punishable to different degrees, including by imprisonment or death.
The personal status law on divorce for Muslims is based on an interpretation of sharia implemented by government-appointed religious judges. In interreligious personal status cases, sharia takes precedence. A divorced woman is not entitled to alimony in some cases; a woman may also forego her right to alimony to persuade her husband to agree to the divorce. Additionally, under the law, a divorced mother loses the right to guardianship and physical custody of her sons when they reach the age of 13 and of her daughters at age 15, when guardianship transfers to the paternal side of the family.
An individual’s birth certificate records his or her religious affiliation. Documents presented when marrying or traveling for a religious pilgrimage also list the religious affiliation of the applicant.12
 The same document noted that, “[t]here were continued media reports the government and its Shia Muslim militia allies [consisting mostly of foreigners] killed, arrested, and physically abused members of opposition groups which were predominantly Surmi Muslim.”13
 The panel has chosen to rely on the documentary evidence of the Syria National Documentation Packages (NDP), because it originates from a variety of reputable independent sources, which, reasonably, is expected to be knowledgeable with respect to the situation in Syria. The documentary evidence is seen as reliable, probative, detailed information, so as to provide the panel with a thorough understanding of the political situation in Syria.
 On the basis of the totality of the evidence and the cumulative findings noted above, in the specific instances of this case, the panel finds that the claimants have satisfied their burden of establishing more than a mere possibility that they would face persecution should they return to Syria. Based on the forgoing reasons, the panel finds that because of the principle claimant’s perceived relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood, there is more than a mere possibility that the claimant would face persecution or harm should she return to Syria.
 In regard to the minor claimants, for the following reasons the panel finds that their claims for refugee protection should be accepted. They have never lived in Syria, and with their immediate family now in Canada, there is no one in Syria to care for them. Further, in a decision of the Honourable A.W.J. Sullivan of the Ontario Court of Justice, the principle claiman) has been granted joint custody of the minor claimants.14 In making this finding, the panel is guided by the principle expressed in Baker, that although not determinative, the best interests of the child is an important factor in humanitarian and compassionate considerations that must be given substantial weight.15
 Therefore, based on the foregoing reasons, the panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees, and their claims are accepted.
(signed) Stephen Rudin
November 12, 2019
1 The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c.27, as amended, sections 96 and 97(1).
2 Refugee Protection Division (RFD) Rules SOR/2012-256 [RPO Rules], Rule 55.
3 IRPA, supra, footnote 1, section 167(2).
4 RPD Rules, supra, footnote 1, Rule 20.
5 Exhibits 2-4, Basis of Claim Forms (BOCs).
6 Exhibit 10. Amended BOC.
7 Exhibit 2, BOC – TBS-01528.
8 Exhibit 1, Package of Information ftom the Referring CBSA/CIC, Copy of Passport.
9 Exhibit 9, Personal Disclosure, at pp. 19-20 and 23-24.
10 Exhibit 8, Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) Materials, Copies of Palestinian Passports.
11 Exhibit 5, National Documentation Package (NDP) for Syria (March 29, 2019), item 2.1.
12 Ibid., item 12.1.
14 Exhibit 9, Personal Disclosure, at pp. 38-41.
15 Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration),  2 S.C.R. 817.