Citation: 2022 RLLR 17
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: August 23, 2022
Panel: Doug Armstrong
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Ronald Yacoub
RPD Number: VC1-06944
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-01960
ATIP Pages: N/A
REASONS FOR DECISION
 These are the reasons for the decision in the claim of XXXX XXXX, who claims to be a citizen of Lebanon, and is claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
 In rendering my reasons, I have considered the Chairperson’s Guideline 4: Gender Considerations in Proceedings Before the Immigration and Refugee Board.
 The specifics of the claim were set out in the narrative of the claimant’s Basis of Claim (BOC) Form and in her oral testimony. In summary, in 2004 she married a man named XXXX XXXX (XXXX) and had two daughters with him. However, through means such as recording his conversations, the claimant learned by 2013 that XXXX is gay. XXXX was threatened by this and told the claimant to move out, and he said that if the claimant told anyone about his sexuality, he would kill her.
 XXXX divorced the claimant; the divorce was finalized in XXXX 2014, with XXXX having full custody of their children. The claimant continued receiving phone calls from XXXX threatening that he would kill her if she tried to come near their daughters or if she told anyone about his sexuality. In XXXX 2014, the claimant met a man named XXXX XXXX (XXXX) who lived in the United States of America (USA) and was visiting his father in Lebanon. They began dating.
 In XXXX 2015, the claimant went to the USA, and soon her mother, brothers and sister also moved there. The claimant reconciled with XXXX, and in XXXX 2015 they were married. XXXX applied to sponsor the claimant as a US permanent resident, but this application was denied twice, in 2018 and in XXXX 2019. The second denial letter said that XXXX had gone on vacation with another woman. This notice ended their marriage, and the claimant returned to her parents’ house in Michigan.
 The claimant realized that she would be forced to return to Lebanon, and she was barred from making a refugee claim in the USA. She decided to come to Canada, and on XXXX XXXX, 2019, she entered Canada irregularly by boat. She alleges that she cannot return to Lebanon, as she fears violence and persecution by XXXX and his contacts, and because she would be at risk as a divorced woman in Lebanon.
 I find that the claimant is a refugee, pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA, as there exists a serious possibility of persecution, should she return to Lebanon, on account of being a member of a particular social group as a woman fearing gender-based persecution.
 I find that the claimant’s identity as a national of Lebanon is established by the documents provided, particularly a certified true copy of her passport in Exhibit 1.
 I note that the claimant lived in the USA from XXXX 2015 to XXXX 2019. However, this does not constitute a country of reference, considering the evidence that she only had temporary status in that country.
 When a claimant swears to the truth of certain allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true unless there be reason to doubt their truthfulness. However this presumption does not apply to inferences or speculation.
 I find the claimant to be a credible witness and therefore believe what she alleged in support of her claim. She testified in a straightforward manner, and there were no relevant inconsistencies in her testimony or contradictions between her testimony and the other evidence before me.
 I note that the claimant did not seek asylum in the USA when she was there from XXXX 2015 to XXXX 2019. However, the claimant’s evidence is that she married XXXX, an American citizen, in XXXX 2015, and he sponsored her for permanent residence as his spouse. By the time U.S. authorities denied their application for the second time, in XXXX 2019, the claimant was barred from making an asylum claim because more than one year had elapsed following her entry to the USA. This is consistent with my understanding of USA immigration law, so this explanation seems reasonable in the claimant’s alleged circumstances, and therefore does not raise significant concerns with respect to subjective fear or credibility. I find it was reasonable for the claimant not to apply for asylum during this time, because she married a U.S. citizen and she had status while waiting for a decision about her application for permanent residence.
 The claimant disclosed documents in support of her claim. These include, in Exhibit 5, a translated divorce certificate at pages 5-6, a translated letter from her sister XXXX at pages 48-51, a translated letter from XXXX XXXX XXXX at pages 52-54, a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to XXXX at pages 8-15, and copies of counselling and psychotherapy records. In Exhibit 6, the claimant disclosed a photograph of herself with a translation of the handwritten caption. The divorce certificate corroborates the claimant’s relationship with XXXX, and the two letters from XXXX and XXXX both corroborate the threats from XXXX to which the claimant was subjected. The U.S. immigration letter corroborates the claimant’s activities in the USA and the reasons she left for Canada. The counselling and psychotherapy records also corroborate the claimant’s account of her treatment by XXXX and her fear of returning to Lebanon, and the photograph corroborates the claimant’s description of a threatening note that was left on her door in XXXX 2015. After reviewing the documents, I have no reasons to doubt their authenticity.
 Considering the evidence, I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant endured a history of mistreatment from XXXX including physical violence, and that he divorced the claimant while keeping custody of their children. I find that the claimant believes XXXXto be gay or bisexual, and that XXXXhas threatened the claimant multiple times, including threats to kill her, if she discusses his sexuality or if she tries to see their daughters.
 The objective evidence provides support for the allegation that XXXXfears being perceived as a gay man in Lebanon.
 Item 6.4 in the National Documentation Package (NDP) notes how the LGBTQ community is ostracised in Lebanon. While there may be growing acceptance in Beirut, the report also describes police abuses against LGBTQ individuals, raids on LGBTQ establishments, and it states that LGBTQ individuals are unable to live openly in Beirut without facing severe harassment and discrimination. “Homosexuality in Lebanon is illegal, and social stigma of same-sex relationships persists, especially in conservative areas.”
 Item 6.5 in the NDP reiterates much of this and notes that LGBTQ individuals are highly vulnerable to both state and social violence because of their sexual orientation. This report also talks about the risk of individuals who are part of the LGBTQ community to face family violence, which may include death threats, physical abuse, or being shunned.
 I find, based on the objective evidence, that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution based on her status as a woman in Lebanon. Gender-based violence in Lebanon is tolerated, ignored, and perpetuated in Lebanese society. The claimant’s BOC and testimony referred to multiple incidents of verbal and physical abuse by XXXX, who also controlled other aspects of her life such as not wanting her to finish high school. XXXXthreats continued after they divorced, even when she changed her phone number, and the claimant fears that he will one day follow through with his death threats.
 This past abuse demonstrates a prospect of continued violence that can be characterized as serious, sustained, and systematic human rights violations amounting to persecution. As the claimant’s fear of persecution is based on her membership in a particular social group, her allegations form a nexus to the Convention. The objective evidence corroborates the fact that gender-based violence in Lebanon is a serious problem.
 A Response to Information Request (RIR) cites an estimate that one woman a month is killed by a family member in Lebanon, usually her husband. It goes on to state that gender-based violence is serious and widespread, and women are also victims of discrimination both in law and practice. Furthermore, women cannot depend on family to prevent violence as they rarely receive their family’s support. Finally, the RIR finds that customs and beliefs have ‘normalized’ violence against women in Lebanon.
 The RIR indicates that Lebanese women are victims of discrimination in both law and practice. It describes how there are no official statistics on domestic violence in Lebanon and cites a UN report stating that “gender-based violence is prevalent in Lebanon in different forms, including domestic/marital physical, sexual and psychological violence.” The RIR quotes another source who states that “there was a broad consensus that domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a serious and widespread problem in the country.”
 The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that until recently, discussion of gender-based violence was subject to strong taboos, considered to be private and a matter of concern only for religious courts. It indicates that there are no official national statistics on the prevalence of gender-based violence and notes that the issue of violence against women is largely ignored by local and religious authorities. The report goes on to describe how “honour crimes” are difficult to measure, but 66 women were identified as being murdered in an “honour crime” over an 8-year period.
 The U.S. Department of State (DOS) reports that the law criminalizes domestic violence, calls for provision of shelters, gives women the ability to file a restraining order against the abuser, and assigns special units within the ISF to receive domestic violence complaints. However, although the law provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for battery, religious courts could cite personal status law to require a battered wife to return to a home shared with her abuser. Some police, especially in rural areas, treated domestic violence as a social, rather than criminal, matter.
 The Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) states that according to international observers, despite many advantages and acquired rights, women in Lebanon continue to face discrimination at numerous levels. It reports that a Domestic Violence Law was passed in 2014, but a March 2018 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report noted that the Domestic Violence Law did not require religious courts to adhere to civil court rulings relating to domestic violence, leaving women trapped in abusive marriages; and that some religious courts issue obedience and cohabitation rulings against women, requiring them to return to the marital home.
 Documents disclosed by the claimant also support the risk to the claimant as a woman in Lebanon. One February 2021 article at pages 7-9 of Exhibit 5 notes that, according to the Internal Security Forces (ISF), “cases of domestic violence against women skyrocketed by 96% during Lebanon’s strictest lockdown.” A December 2021 article at pages 10-15 of Exhibit 5 reported that figures shared by the ISF said that domestic violence reports in Lebanese homes doubled in the previous year. The article quoted one lawyer who said, “We have never witnessed this much violence against women.”
 The evidence reveals that domestic violence in Lebanon is widespread. Based on the past violence suffered by the claimant, the threats to harm her further and the treatment of women in Lebanon generally, I find that there is a serious possibility of persecution if she returns to her country.
 I find that there is no operationally effective state protection for the claimant in Lebanon.
 While the U.S. DOS report for Lebanon at item 2.1, indicates that Lebanon criminalizes domestic violence, the law provides for shelters and protections, and Lebanon is making progress in improving the police and judicial management of domestic cases, the report also states that “NGOs and activists criticized the domestic violence law, claiming that it does not sufficiently protect victims or punish abusers, who they alleged often received disproportionately light sentences.”
 The RIR at item 5.2 quotes a report that states that “in most cases, police ignored complaints submitted by battered or abused women.” Another source stated that “even tough
women could theoretically go to a police station in order to submit a complaint against anyone who subjects them to violence, it rarely happens because women know that they do not have legal protection against domestic violence” and that source goes on to indicate that police often do not take complaints of these women seriously. This is consistent with the claimant’s testimony that following one incident when XXXXhit and threatened her in about 2014, she went to the police to make a written complaint, but they made excuses and did not help.
 The OECD report at item 5.3 indicates that while some shelters exist that are run by NGOs, overall capacity to house victims is limited. The report also indicates concerns with the lengthy process required for a woman to obtain a protection order in the country.
 The country condition documents indicate that the government in Lebanon has taken steps with respect to gender-based violence. I considered that state protection does not mean that the state must provide perfect protection or always be successful in providing protection, but that it must be adequate. However, the country conditions documents, as a whole, indicate that those steps have not translated to operationally effective state protection.
 Given the country conditions, I find that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection with clear and convincing evidence establishing that there is no operationally effective state protection available to her in Lebanon.
Internal Flight Alternative
 I also examined whether a viable internal flight alternative (IFA) exists for the claimant. Potential IFA locations of Tripoli and Tyre were identified at the start of the hearing. The test is comprised of two prongs, both of which must be satisfied before an internal flight alternative can be found. The first is that the claimant is not at risk of persecution, torture, or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in the internal flight location; the second is that it is not objectively unreasonable for the claimant to relocate there.
 The second prong of the IFA test may be stated as follows: would it be unduly harsh to expect the claimant to move to another, less hostile part of the country before seeking refugee status abroad? The courts have set a very high threshold for what makes an IFA unreasonable in all the circumstances. (Thirunavukkarasu  1 F.C. 589 (C.A.))
 On the evidence before me, I find that it would be objectively unreasonable for the claimant, in all the circumstances, including those specific to her, to relocate to another place in Lebanon.
 In North America the claimant worked XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX, but as of the hearing date, she is a 39-year-old high school graduate who has never held a job in Lebanon. The only relative she has remaining in Lebanon is a sister, who is trying to leave the country. The claimant’s ability to support herself in another city is therefore quite limited, particularly given income inequality and other disadvantages women experience.
 The claimant testified that Lebanon is a small country and anywhere she went, XXXXwould find out. She said that XXXXhas acquaintances and contacts at the airport and in the government, and her counsel submits that eventually someone will recognize the claimant and tell XXXXof her whereabouts.
 The 2021 World Factbook for Lebanon found at item 1.5 indicates that Lebanon is a small country, approximately 10K square KMs, which is described as one-third the size of the state of Maryland, and roughly 5.5M people with the majority living in the capital Beirut.
 The DFAT report referred to earlier considers the ability of single women such as the claimant to relocate:
DFAT assesses that the ease with which an individual is able to relocate internally depends to a large degree on their individual circumstances, including whether they have family or community connections in the intended area of relocation, and their financial situation. Internal relocation is generally easier for men and family groups. Single women, particularly those fleeing family violence, are less likely to have access to sufficient support services and are likely to face societal discrimination in the form of harassment, particularly in rural and more conservative areas.
 Given the size of Lebanon, the threats against the claimant, the fact that the claimant and her ex-husband are still in contact with their children, the prevalence of violence against women, and the lack of state protection noted previously, I find that the claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution throughout Lebanon. Accordingly, I find that there is no internal flight alternative available to the claimant in Lebanon.
 Having considered all the evidence, I conclude that the claimant is a refugee, pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA. Accordingly, I accept her claim.
(signed) Douglas Armstrong
August 23, 2022
 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27.
 Exhibit 2.
 Maldonado v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration),  2 F.C. 302 (C.A.)
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 1.13: BTI 2020 Country Report — Lebanon. Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2020.
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 5.2: Family violence, including legislation, state protection and services available to victims (2011-November 2013). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 22 November 2013. LBN104656.FE.
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 5.3: Lebanon. Social Institutions and Gender Index 2019. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 7 December 2018.
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 2.1: Lebanon. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2020. United States. Department of State. 30 March 2021.
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 1.3: DFAT Country Information Report: Lebanon. Australia. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 19 March 2019.
 Supra, footnote 9.
 Supra, footnote 5.
 Supra, footnote 7.
 National Documentation Package, Lebanon, 29 September 2021, tab 1.5: Lebanon. The World Factbook. United States. Central Intelligence Agency. 14 September 2021.
 Supra, footnote 10.