Citation: 2021 RLLR 103
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 2, 2021
Panel: Zonia M. Tock
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Ian Hamilton
Country: Sri Lanka
RPD Number: VB9-08392
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-01778
ATIP Pages: N/A
REASONS FOR DECISION
- This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) concerning XXXX XXXX (the “claimant”) who is a citizen of Sri Lanka and is making a claim for refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act”).[i]
- I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act as he faces more than a mere possibility of persecution should he return to Sri Lanka. The nexus between the claimant’s allegations and the Convention is political opinion.
- The claimant’s allegations are contained in his Basis of Claim (BOC) form and the attached narrative.[ii] In summary, the claimant alleges that the Sri Lankan government is targeting him due to a perceived connection to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
- The claimant is an ethnic Tamil from Delft, which is an island off the coast of Jaffna. The claimant never supported the LTTE. However, in 2018, he began supporting the United Tamil Party and refused to support the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). As a result, the EPDP began accusing the claimant of being a member of the LTTE.
- The claimant was threatened and questioned numerous times. His movements were monitored, including his attendance at remembrance events, which resulted in him being accused of meeting with LTTE associates whenever he travelled to Vanni to visit his family. The claimant’s cousin was also a supporter of the United Tamil Party and shared with the claimant that he was being threatened by the EPDP.
- In May 2019, the claimant was attacked while walking home late at night. And a few days after that, his cousin was murdered. The claimant believes that both attacks were perpetrated by the EPDP. As a result, the claimant decided to leave Sri Lanka. He travelled to South America in XXXX 2019, and made his way to Canada where he made a claim for protection.
- The claimant’s identity as a national of Sri Lanka is established by the sworn statement in his BOC form[iii] and the certified copy of his Sri Lanka passport in evidence,[iv] as well as the numerous identity documents submitted in support of his claim.[v]
- There is a presumption that sworn testimony is true unless there is sufficient reason to doubt its truthfulness. In this case, I found the claimant to be a credible witness. His testimony was consistent and forthright and was supported by the documentary evidence before me. The claimant explained that he had not been political prior to 2018; however, he decided to support the United Tamil Party because they promised freedom and support for the Tamil people after the war. According to the claimant, he refused to support the EPDP, who works with the army and has a very strong hold of Delft.
- I find it credible that the claimant would refuse to support the EPDP and anyone associated with the Sri Lankan government, given that he witnessed firsthand the treatment of Tamils by Sri Lankan authorities during the war. Thus, I find it is credible that his experiences led him to support the United Tamil Party which purports to help the Tamil people. I also find it credible that the Sri Lankan government would become suspicious of the claimant’s activities since he refused to support the EPDP and instead, gave his support to the United Tamil Party.
- The claimant alleges that his cousin was killed by the EPDP and that he was assaulted by the EPDP. Although he does not have any confirmation that the EPDP were involved, he testified that he believes it was them due to the many threats received by both the claimant, and his cousin. I find it credible that the claimant fears the EPDP to the point of leaving Sri Lanka given that his cousin was also part of the United Tamil Party, he had also been threatened, and as per the evidence before me, the United Tamil Party also believes that the Sri Lankan government are responsible for the cousin’s death.[vi] Therefore, I find it credible that the claimant would flee Sri Lanka after he was attacked, and his cousin was murdered.
- I have also reviewed the documentary evidence provided in this case, and I find that it serves to corroborates the claimant’s allegations. I have before me evidence of the claimant’s support for the United Tamil Party, letters of support, and evidence of his cousin’s death.[vii]
- Based on the totality of the evidence before me, I accept the claimants’ allegations as credible.
- In 2019, Gotabaya Tajapaksa was elected in 2019. He was a former powerful war-time secretary of defense who was a key figure in the war against the LTTE. It is alleged that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by state forces under his control.[viii] The new president’s strategy has been to militarize Sri Lanka to suppress any dissent.[ix] Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the presence of security forces at checkpoints has increased and has been particularly severe in the Tamil Northern Province.[x] The evidence before me indicates that incidents of repression are on the rise and the government is using the pandemic to curtail freedom of expression by arresting critics.[xi]
- The evidence pertaining to the treatment of Tamils indicates that they are the most underprivileged ethnic group in Sri Lanka; they remain second-class citizens who continue to face harassment, mistreatment and human rights abuses.[xii] The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur indicated that he received frequent reports of intimidation and surveillance, particularly concerning memorial services.[xiii] This is consistent with the claimant’s testimony that he was monitored when he attended memorial services in Vanni. The authorities are also reported to use extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, custodial rape and torture which disproportionately impacts Tamils.[xiv]
- The extent of monitoring is reported to depend on one’s ongoing involvement with politically sensitive issues, including protests related to disappeared persons and links to Tamil diaspora.[xv] As mentioned, the claimant attended memorial services in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Furthermore, three of his siblings have left Sri Lanka, one of whom is residing in Canada. Therefore, it is credible that Sri Lankan authorities perceive his connection to his siblings as a connection to Tamil diaspora.
- Given the current government’s involvement in the war and the alleged crimes committed against the Tamils by the president, I find it credible that the current Sri Lankan government continues to target Tamils, particularly those it perceives as connected to the LTTE.
- Based on the evidence before me, I find that there is sufficient credible and trustworthy evidence to establish that the claimant has an objective basis for this subjective fear. As such, I find that he has a well-founded fear of persecution in Sri Lanka.
State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative
- There is a presumption that countries can protect their citizens. The claimant bears the burden of rebutting that presumption. However, in this case, the agent of persecution the claimant fears is the government of Sri Lanka; therefore, it would not be reasonable for him to seek the protection of that state. As such, I find that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection as there is clear and convincing evidence before me that it would be unreasonable for him to seek the protection of the Sri Lankan government, given that the state is the agent of persecution.
- In terms of an Internal Flight Alternative (IFA), the authorities are in control of the entire territory. Furthermore, they have numerous checkpoints, which have increased in numbers due to the COVID-19 outbreak.[xvi] Given the government’s control over the entire state, I do not find that a viable IFA is available in this case.
- For the above-mentioned reasons, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee, as such, his claim for protection is accepted.
[i] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27.
[ii] Exhibit 2.
[iii] Exhibit 2.
[iv] Exhibit 1.
[v] Exhibit 4.
[vi] Exhibit 4.
[vii] Exhibit 4.
[viii] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Sri Lanka, September 20, 2020, Item 2.15.
[ix] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.15.
[x] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.19.
[xi] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.19.
[xii] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.1, Response to Information Request (RIR) LKA200298.E.
[xiii] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.1, RIR LKA200298.E.
[xiv] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.1, RIR LKA200298.E.
[xv] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.1, RIR LKA200298.E.
[xvi] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.1, RIR LKA200298.E.