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2021 RLLR 77

Citation: 2021 RLLR 77
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 1, 2021
Panel: L. Bonhomme
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Howard C. Gilbert
Country: Slovakia
RPD Number: TB9-27381
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-27444
ATIP Number: A-2022-01778
ATIP Pages: N/A


[1]       The claimants, XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX, are seeking refugee protection from Slovakia pursuant to ss. 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”).[1]

[2]       The principal claimant, XXXX XXXX, is the mother of XXXX XXXX, the minor claimant. The principal claimant was appointed to be the designated representative of the minor claimant.


[3]       The panel finds the claimants to be Convention refugees on the grounds of their ethnicity, being members of the Roma community.


[4]       The details of the claimants’ allegations are more fully set out in the principal claimant’s Basis of Claim form (“BOC”).[2] In short, the claimants are of Roma ethnicity and have faced discrimination in relation to their education, employment, housing and health care. The claimants were assaulted on one occasion by skinheads and were unable to obtain police assistance.

[5]       The claimants fear returning to Slovakia because they believe they will continue to be persecuted and discriminated against due to their Roma ethnicity.



[6]       The claimants’ personal identities as citizens of Slovakia have been established by the claimants’ testimony and the certified true copies of their Slovakian passports on file.[3]

[7]       The claimants’ ethnicity as members of the Roma community has been established by the claimants’ testimony, a letter from the Roma Community Centre in Toronto dated October 15, 2020,[4] and the claimants’ use of an interpreter of the Romani dialect, Romungro, for their BOCs.

[8]       The panel finds on a balance of probabilities that the claimants are who they say they are, that they are of Roma ethnicity and that the country of reference is Slovakia.


[9]       The determinative issue in this claim is credibility. In making this assessment, the panel has considered all the evidence, including the oral testimony, documentary evidence entered as exhibits, and counsel’s written submissions.

[10]     Both claimants testified and the panel found them to mostly be credible witnesses. The claimants’ testimony was consistent with one another, for the most part consistent with the BOCs and with the documentary evidence. The claimants responded to all questions put to them by the panel, were able to provide details when asked and were forthcoming with information.

[11]     Unlike in other claims from members of the Roma community, these claimants did not raise any issues about the quality of their housing. The claimants resided in a mixed ethnic neighbourhood in the city of Poprad. However, the claimants did express a sense of insecurity in their housing situation. They were harassed by a racist neighbour and their home was vandalized with racist graffiti. The principal claimant reported to her XXXX how she feared letting her sons go outside owing to the danger to them from non-Roma members of the community and to feeling stressed if they did not return from school right away.

[12]     The principal claimant testified about the racist names she would be called and the way she would be mistreated in public spaces. The principal claimant described an incident that had occurred to her, her husband, and the associate claimant when they were disembarking from a bus in Poprad in May 2019. The family were physically attacked by a group of skinheads and verbally assaulted. The principal claimant’s description of this incident was consistent with her BOC and in response to questioning from the panel, she was able to spontaneously provide additional details.

[13]     The principal claimant provided detailed testimony of her unsuccessful job search efforts and discriminatory experiences with potential employers and provided specific examples, as requested by the panel. The principal claimant was unable to secure any employment while she resided in Slovakia and depended upon welfare benefits and her husband’s income from seasonal work.

[14]     The principal claimant did not attempt to embellish her evidence in relation to her treatment in the health care system. Although she described a discriminatory birthing experience and delays in being able to see doctors, the principal claimant was forthright in admitting that she received good care from the neurologist who was treating her for chronic back problems.

[15]     The associate claimant testified about his school experiences in Slovakia, including the substandard education he received and limited opportunities to advance due to his Roma ethnicity. The associate claimant is now seventeen years old and continues to attend school in Toronto. The associate claimant convincingly explained how he had seen his older brother attacked and was scared for his own life, especially now that he was older and a more likely target for skinheads in Slovakia.

[16]     The principal claimant’s eldest son fled to Canada in XXXX 2017 and made a successful refugee claim on the basis of his ethnicity as a member of the Roma community. He had been attacked at school and in the community on three occasions and although he attempted to obtain assistance from the police, he was unable to. This is corroborated by a copy of the decision submitted by the claimants.[5]  The principal claimant’s eldest son was in a motor vehicle accident in Toronto on XXXX 2018 and was seriously injured, resulting in his anticipated hospitalization in a near vegetative state for the remainder of his life. This is also corroborated by a letter from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute submitted by the claimants.[6]

[17]     The panel was concerned that the claimants had both returned to Slovakia from Canada and had not made a claim for refugee protection during one of their previous stays in Canada. The claimants first travelled to Canada together in XXXX 2018 in order to tend to their son and brother in the immediate aftermath of his accident. The principal claimant returned to Slovakia in XXXX 2019 and the associate claimant made two subsequent trips between Canada and Slovakia before he returned for the last time in XXXX 2019 with the principal claimant.

[18]     The principal claimant was questioned about her return to Slovakia. She explained that she needed psychiatric assistance that she was unable to obtain while she was in Canada and she knew that she would be legally allowed to return to Canada to visit her son as she had an Electronic Travel Authorization that enabled her to do so. The principal claimant testified that she did not make a claim for protection while she was in Canada the first time as she was focused on her son’s care. Further, the principal claimant had received advice from the community that her claim might not be successful as she herself had not experienced any violence in Slovakia and she did not want to run the risk of being unable to return to Canada in the future.

[19]     The claimants submitted a XXXX XXXX of the principal claimant dated August 19, 2020, completed by a doctor at XXXX in Toronto.[7] The report indicates that the principal claimant was seen by the psychiatrist three times, starting on May 28th. The report indicates that the principal claimant’s mental health deteriorated following her son’s accident and in the immediate months following, she was experiencing suicidal ideation, and in an acute anxiety state when not with her son. The principal claimant has been diagnosed with XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX for which she has been prescribed medication. The claimants also submitted medical documentation from Slovakia indicating that the principal claimant saw a psychiatrist there in April and May 2019.[8]

[20]     The claimants submitted an affidavit from the associate claimant’s father (and the principal claimant’s husband) who described his decision-making authority and rationale in relation to his son’s travels to and from Canada and his concerns about his education.[9] Basically, he did not want his son to miss school and attract the attention of child protection authorities. The claimants also submitted travel documents indicating that the associate claimant’s travels, aside from his initial short visit to see his brother immediately following the accident, coincided with school holidays.[10]

[21]     The panel finds that in consideration of the claimants’ circumstances, the minor claimant’s young age and dependence on his parents, and the principal claimant’s XXXX state, the claimants’ returns to Slovakia and failure to claim in Canada are reasonably explained.

[22]     The principal claimant’s eldest brother fled to Canada in XXXX 2012 and made a successful refugee claim on the basis of his ethnicity as a member of the Roma community and sexual orientation. This is corroborated by a copy of the decision and BOC submitted to the board.[11] These documents indicate that while in Slovakia, he was mostly resident in Poprad and was the victim of several physical attacks at school and in the community due to his ethnicity and that although he sought police assistance, he was in turn victimized by the police. The principal claimant testified that her family members’ experiences in Slovakia have contributed to her fears and belief that protection is not available to her in Slovakia.

[23]     The panel finds that the claimants have established on a balance of probabilities that they suffered from discrimination in their education, housing, employment and health care, that they were subject to a general atmosphere of insecurity and that they were violently assaulted due to their ethnicity in Slovakia on one occasion. The panel finds further that these cumulative experiences amounted to persecution and that there is a serious possibility that the claimants would suffer from discrimination amounting to persecution if they were to return to Slovakia.

[24]     Given the credible testimony by the claimants and the corroborating documentary evidence, the panel believes what the claimants have alleged in support of their claims and finds that their subjective fear of persecution on the basis of their Roma ethnicity is established, on a balance of probabilities.

Objective Basis: Slovakia

[25]     A review of the National Documentation Package for Slovakia indicates that members of the Roma community in Slovakia suffer social and economic exclusion and discrimination in almost all fields of life, including employment, education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, religious services and public transportation. The segregation of Romani children in schools, frequent misdiagnosis of Romani children as disabled, and inferior quality of education provided to Romani children continues despite policies and laws aimed to eradicate the inequality in the education system.[12]

[26]     Multiple sources indicate that the Roma population faces significant poverty and poor health outcomes. Recent government reports reveal that the life expectancy for Roma individuals is seven years below the general population. Roma settlements are described as suffering from a lack of basic facilities and infrastructure. Almost half of Roma households live in dwellings without a toilet, shower and bathroom and half live in neighbourhoods without a public sewage system. Many houses are built illegally, and Roma families face forced evictions.[13]

[27]     It is estimated that 70% of Roma job seekers from marginalized communities are unemployed. Additionally, the average wage for Roma individuals is 40% lower than non-Roma individuals and the employment situation is characterized by high job uncertainty and instability. The at-risk-of-poverty rate of Roma people in Slovakia is 87% compared to 13% in the general population.[14]

[28]     Based on the country condition evidence, the panel finds the claimants’ fear of return to Slovakia to have an objective basis. The claimants have established a well-founded fear of persecution in Slovakia.

State protection and internal flight alternative

[29]     States are presumed to be capable of protecting their own citizens, except in situations where the state is in a state of complete breakdown. To rebut the presumption of state protection, a claimant has to provide clear and convincing evidence of the state’s inability or unwillingness to protect its citizens. The more democratic the state’s institutions, the more the claimant must have done to exhaust all the courses of action open to him or her.

[30]     In Slovakia, there are numerous instances of high-level politicians and public officials making derogatory comments and hate speech about the Roma community creating an environment of state sanctioned mistreatment of the Roma population.[15]

[31]     The United States Department of State Report on Human Rights Practises for 2020 in Slovakia indicates that violence and threats of violence against Roma and other ethnic and racial minorities, including by security forces, is a significant human rights issue.[16] Another source documents numerous instances of the police attacking Roma settlements in the past ten years in Slovakia with apparent impunity.[17]

[32]     The claimants attempted to obtain state protection through the police following the attack on them in May 2019. Despite having the ability to investigate the attack further as there were bystanders and cameras in the vicinity, the police did not pursue the matter further and when the claimants followed up, the police denied ever having received a report from the claimants.

[33]     The panel finds that in this case, there is no state protection or viable internal flight alternative available to the claimants. The country information and the claimants’ own experiences are clear and convincing evidence that rebuts the presumption that adequate state protection is available to the claimants in Slovakia. Additionally, there is a serious possibility of the persecution throughout the country as the climate of racism and targeting of members of the Roma community exists throughout Slovakia.


[34]     Based on the totality of the evidence, the panel finds the claimants to be Convention Refugees and therefore their claims are accepted.

(signed) L. Bonhomme

November 1, 2021

[1] Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c.27, as amended.

[2] Exhibit 2.1: Basis of Claim Form -TB9-27381.

[3] Exhibit 1: Package of information from the referring CBSA/IRCC.

[4] Exhibit 4: Claimants’ disclosure package (personal documents – 2 parts & country conditions – 2 parts).

[5] Exhibit 6: Claimants’ disclosure (personal document) and POE amendments received December 11, 2020.

[6] Exhibit 4: Claimants’ disclosure package (personal documents – 2 parts & country conditions – 2 parts).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Exhibit 12: Claimants’ disclosure (personal documents) received September 17, 2021.

[9] Exhibit 11: Claimants’ disclosure (commissioned affidavit of Eduard Conka) received September 21, 2021.

[10] Exhibit 12: Claimants’ disclosure (personal documents) received September 17, 2021.

[11] Exhibit 4: Claimants’ disclosure package (personal documents – 2 parts & country conditions – 2 parts).

[12] Exhibit 13: Index of National Documentation Package for Slovakia — August 31, 2021 version.

[13] Ibid, Item 1.7 and Item 13.13.

[14] Ibid, Item 13.4.

[15] Ibid, Item 13.1.

[16] Ibid, Item 2.1.

[17] Ibid, Item 10.1.