Categories
All Countries Venezuela

2021 RLLR 32

Citation: 2021 RLLR 32
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: January 20, 2021
Panel: Daniel Mckeown
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Panteha Yektaeian
Country: Venezuela
RPD Number: TB9-17206
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-17230
ATIP Number: A-2022-00665
ATIP Pages: 000158-000162

DECISION

[1]     MEMBER: Okay, I have considered the testimony and other evidence in this claim and I am now prepared to render my decision. The claimants are XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX and his mother, XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX. They seek refugee protection against Venezuela pursuant to s. 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]     For the following reasons, the Panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees and this claim is accepted.

[3]     CO-CLAIMANT: Thank you.

[4]     CLAIMANT: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

[5]     MEMBER: Mister Interpreter, you can pause at this point, and I will let you know when you can resume.

[6]     For ease of reference, these reasons will make reference to the claimants by their first names.

[7]     This claim was based on the following allegations. XXXX has a history of political involvement in Venezuela, he has participated in numerous protests and often engaged with and clashed with Venezuelan police during these protests. He has travelled to Panama and Argentina in 2014 and again in 2017, to avoid the heated situation in Venezuela and also for educational purposes and other personal reasons related to his sexual orientation.

[8]     XXXX and his mother fled Venezuela for the final time on XXXX XXXX XXXX 2019. Shortly after he left, he learned that he received notifications that he was under investigation. XXXX had no political involvement in Venezuela since 2014, she fears returning to Venezuela because she was targeted for extortion by a taxi driver after a traffic accident.

[9]     Since the first hearing, XXXX has amended her claim to include an allegation that she is also targeted because of her son’s political activity. Since the prior hearing, she has learned that an investigation has been opened against her as well.

[10]   The identities of the claimants were established on the basis of their Venezuelan passports, the originals of which were seized by the Minister.

[11]   The Panel’s primary concern in this claim with respect to the credibility of XXXX extortion by a taxi driver. Given that XXXX had no political involvement herself since 2014, XXXX appeared to have no nexus to any Convention ground. That was simply not plausible given the limited political involvement she had even to that point, which was limited only to attending demonstrations. There was no realistic or plausible evidence that she was targeted by Venezuelan authorities for this involvement.

[12]   The Panel was also concerned about her narrative of extortion by a taxi driver that — last contact that XXXX had with the taxi driver was in XXXX 2018 and XXXX did not leave Venezuela until XXXX 2019. Clearly there was no threat to XXXX from the taxi driver and accordingly she would not fit the definition of a person in need of protection, let alone a Convention refugee.

[13]   However, the Panel has since received credible evidence that XXXX has been identified as a person of interest on the Tascón List. This is a list containing the names of persons known to be opponents of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Madura, and who have voted against him. XXXX gave credible evidence as to how she found out about this list and the fact that she was on the list. Essentially, she found out about that through her legal counsel, who is now representing her at this hearing.

[14]   Counsel has previously represented clients who have had access to that list and an affidavit was provided by Counsel’s assistance.

[15]   XXXX has also provided disclosure of the notice of investigation she received dated XXXX XXXX XXXX 2020. The Panel had no reason to question the authenticity of this document or of the authenticity of the evidence surrounding the Tascón List, especially coming from Counsel, who is an officer of the court.

[16]   Accordingly, despite concerns with other elements of XXXX claim, the Panel is prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt based on the strength of the Tascón List evidence, the notice of investigation, and also based on the strength of her son’s profile and evidence.

[17]   Given the strength of the XXXX claim and evidence, it is not implausible that Venezuelan authorities have also targeted XXXX as a means of getting to XXXX.

[18]   In respect to XXXX claim, the Panel had no significant concerns.  XXXX spoke about his political involvement and background. He spoke about his attendance at protests and his clashes with police and about his reluctance to seek their help when he was robbed.

[19]   The Panel had no reason to question any of XXXX testimony. He was straightforward and direct, he elaborated his allegations spontaneously and with a level of detail that one would expect of a person who had actually lived through the experiences that he described. There were no inconsistencies and there did not appear to be any attempt to embellish his evidence. Where the Panel did have concerns, they either had reasonable explanation or otherwise they were minor in nature and did not affect the outcome of this claim.

[20]   The Panel found XXXX testimony was compelling. XXXX evidence was supported by the notices that he was under investigation, several letters of support, and extensive copies of his Facebook postings, which provided excellent detail about his political involvement. The Panel found this documentation was compelling and there was no reason to question any of its authenticity.

[21]   Can everyone still hear me?

[22]   CLAIMANT: Yes.

[23]   MEMBER: Okay.

[24]   CLAIMANT: Yes.

[25]   MEMBER: Where the Panel did have concerns, again, they were either reasonably explained or minor in nature and did not undermine the evidence in support of this claim.

[26]   The National Documentation Package for Venezuela supports these allegations. The Panel has access to credible and reliable sources, such as the United States Department of State report and the CIA Factbook. These documents make clear that the government of Venezuela is conducting a brutal campaign of oppression against political dissent of any kind. Over 2,000,000 Venezuelans have fled the country as refugees, and a large majority of these refugees have come from the upper and the middle classes. These claimants clearly fit that profile.

[27]   Sorry, Counsel, we lost you for a moment.

[28]   COUNSEL: Yeah, my apologies.  Internet — I have mentioned this to the screen, I am hot spotting [inaudible] so we are fine, thank you.

[29]   MEMBER: Did you miss anything that I should go over?

[30]   COUNSEL: No, I am good. Thank you.

[31]   MEMBER: These claimants certainly fit that profile given their employment and education history, given the political and economic profile of the claimants. The Panel finds that they are indeed at significantly high risk if they were to return to Venezuela.

[32]   [inaudible] the state is the agent of persecution, the claimants have rebutted the presumption that state protection would be adequate and forthcoming to them. Likewise, there is no location in Venezuela they could go where they would not face a serious possibility of persecution. They have no viable internal flight alternative.

[33]   The claimants are presumed to be truthful unless there is a reason to believe that they have not been credible. I did have some concern, especially with XXXX claim. The adverse evidence in this case is not sufficed to undermine the credibility of the claim as a whole.

[34]   Okay, Mister Interpreter, you can start again.

[35]   INTERPRETER: Yes.

[36]   MEMBER: For all of these reasons, the Panel finds that this claim is credible. The claimants’ fear is well-founded. The claimants face a serious possibility of persecution in Venezuela on account of their political opinion. The claimants are Convention refugees, and this claim is accepted.

[37]   Thank you both very much for being here and for speaking with me, and I have no doubt that the past year has been very stressful for you, waiting to get back to this hearing.

[38]   So, I thank you very much for your patience and for coming back to speak with me again.

[39]   And Counsel, for your assistance, thank you very much as well.

[40]   COUNSEL: Thank you.

[41]   MEMBER: Mister Interpreter, thank you as well.

[42]   INTERPRETER: You are welcome.

[43]   CLAIMANT: We are very grateful to you and really appreciate your contribution that you have made to our security and our protection. Thank you.

[44]   MEMBER: Thank you very much.

[45]   INTERPRETER: Thank you.

[46]   MEMBER: Everyone have a wonderful day.

———-REASONS CONCLUDED———-

Categories
All Countries Zimbabwe

2021 RLLR 4

Citation: 2021 RLLR 4
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: May 5, 2021
Panel: Meredith Rose
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Johnson Babalola
Country: Zimbabwe
RPD Number: TB9-15167
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-00210
ATIP Pages: 000133-000135

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: All right. So, this is the decision for XXXX XXXX XXXX. The file number is TB9-15167. Now, I have considered your testimony, and the other evidence in the case, and I am ready to render my decision orally.

[2]       Now, you are claiming to be a citizen of Zimbabwe, and claiming refugee protection pursuant to s. 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and today, I do find that you are a Convention refugee for the following reasons.

[3]       Now, the full allegations in your claim are set out in the Basis of Claim form, as well as the amendments. To summarize those, you allege a fear of persecution as a result of, first of all, your perceived political opinions as a member of the opposition, and, you know, those are your actual political opinions as well, as you have now joined the MDC, and, in your testimony, you have also alleged that you have supported the MDC. You allege that there is no state protection for you, or any internal flight alternative.

[4]       Now, your personal identity as a citizen of Zimbabwe has been established by the testimony, as well as the supporting documents, primarily, the certified copy of your passport, found in Exhibit 1. So, I do find on a balance of probabilities that identity and country of reference have been established.

[5]       Now, your testimony today was generally credible. There were no significant inconsistencies or discrepancies in your testimony today, and your testimony about the MDC is consistent with the documentary evidence. You testified in some detail about the history, and the current status of the MDC, you spoke quite knowledgably about the current government, and you also testified about your activities here in Canada, and you were able to elaborate on the information in your Basis of Claim form. While you have previously maintained a very low profile in terms of your political activities, I do accept your testimony about what you knew to be the risks about being a vocal supporter of the political opposition, and so, that did limit your participation when you were in Zimbabwe. So, I do accept that you were genuinely a supporter of the MDC, and your family also has links to the MDC, as your uncle was quite high-profile within the party. I also have a sample of your activities on social media, and that includes the post on Twitter that was commented on by the leader of the MDC party, Nelson Chamisa. This does demonstrate an ongoing engagement on social media, where you are clearly expressing your opposition to the regime in Zimbabwe.

[6]       In addition, there is also supporting documents, which include your MDC membership card and support letter from the MDC here in Canada, as well as a medical report, and affidavits, which are consistent with, and corroborate, your allegations in your Basis of Claim form. So, I did find your testimony was very straightforward, and you did not elaborate, or try to embellish your claim in any way. So, I accept what you have alleged in your testimony, and in your Basis of Claim form, and I find you have a subjective fear of return to Zimbabwe.

[7]       I do find that there is a link between what you fear and one of the five Convention grounds, specifically, your political opinions, and so this claim has been assessed under s. 96.

[8]       Now, looking at the country condition documents, the information in there indicates that the ZANU-PF government does continue to crack clown on dissenting voices. Authorities routinely suppress the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly using lethal and excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrations. Civil society space is continuing to shrink as a consequence. State security agents continue to use excessive force in dispersing protests and assemblies, opening fire on protesters. So, the information in the NDP also corroborates your allegations about what occurred to you in XXXX of 2019, so, during nation-wide protests in XXXX XXXX XXXX of 2019, following the announcement of the fuel price increase, security forces responded with lethal force, killing at least 17 people, shooting and injuring 81 people, and arresting over 1,000 suspected protesters during door-to-door raids. Following the protests, security forces rounded up and detained hundreds of people, many of whom brought before courts on charges of public violence and criminal nuisance.

[9]       With respect to your social media activities, the information in the NDP also confirms that the government is intolerant of critical online commentary and activism, often invoking vaguely written laws to arrest users. Numerous individuals were arrested for their activities online, and self-censorship remains common among Zimbabweans. The arrest of human rights defenders and opposition figures over their online activism, as well as the government’s threatening statements about posting critical content, increased fear, and inhibited expression, according to local observers. So, the documentary evidence therefore does clearly establish in Zimbabwe, political opponents face serious, sustained, and systemic human rights abuses, as well as threats to free political expression, that cumulatively amount to persecution. So, I do find that you have established a well-founded prospective risk of being subject to a serious risk of persecution if you return to Zimbabwe.

[10]     Looking at the issue of state protection, or internal flight alternative, as the agent of persecution in your particular case is essentially the state, or the supporters of the ruling regime, I do not find that state protection would be reasonably available to you, and, as the government of Zimbabwe does remain in control of its territory, there is nowhere else in Zimbabwe you could safely reside. So, there is no internal flight alternative available for you.

[11]     So, based on all of this evidence, I do find you to be a Convention refugee, and your claim is therefore accepted.

[12]     Thank you.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 149

Citation: 2020 RLLR 149
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 3, 2020
Panel: M. Bourassa
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Henry Igbinoba
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: TB8-13768
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-00210
ATIP Pages: 000053-000061

REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       The claimant, XXXX XXXX XXXX claims to be a citizen of Nigeria, and is claiming refugee protection pursuant to s. 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).i

[2]       The panel has received and considered post-hearing evidence,ii namely updated medical reports.

DETERMINATION

[3]       Having considered the totality of the evidence, the panel finds that the claimant, is a Convention refugee pursuant to s. 96 as he has established a serious possibility of persecution based on a Convention ground, namely his perceived political opinion.

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The allegations are set out in the claimant’ s Basis of Claim form.iii In short, the claimant alleges that if he were to return to Nigeria, he fears for his life at the hands of the state security apparatus, especially the military, due to his perceived political opinion based on his perceived membership in the Indegenous People of Biafra (IBOP).

[5]       The claimant alleges that he operated a business at XXX in Umuahia in Abia State. He XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX at the XXXX XXXX XXXX in Lagos to see and provide services to his customer base in Umuahia. He would shuttle between his business in Umuahia and his home is Lagos.

[6]       He alleges that in XXXX 2016, he was was detained, interrogated and mistreated by the military on suspicion of involvement with the IPOB and released without being charged.

[7]       The claimant alleges that he went to his nearby home village of XXXX XXXX to stay with relatives and recover. At the end of October 2016, he received a call from a business colleague who informed him that the military had returned to his shop at XXXX. The claimant returned to Lagos to live with his wife and family. He alleges that he remained very scared and largely stayed inside the house. He did not experience any problems after his return to Lagos.

[8]       The claimant alleges that he and his wife had planned a trip to Canada to celebate an important anniversary that had to be delayed because of what had happened to him. They left Lagos on XXXX 2018.

[9]       The claimant alleges that his wife received a call while in Canada informing her that the “Bale” or local chief had sent men looking for her as her same sex relationship had been exposed. They separated and the claimant remains estranged from his wife. The claimant also fears the police and the “Bale” of the area where they formerly resided and that he risks being arrested because of his estranged wife’s issue.

[10]     The claimant alleges that the military have come to his home village looking for him, most recently on November 20, 2019, and that there is nowhere in Nigeria where he would be safe.

NEXUS

[11]     The panel finds that there is a link between what the claimant fears and one of the five Convention grounds, namely, his perceived political opinion as a perceived member of the IPOB.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[12]     The panel finds that the claimant’s personal identity and nationality as a citizen of Nigeria and his Igbo ethnicity have been established on a balance of probabilities. This has been established through the claimant’s testimony and the supporting documentary evidence filed that includes his passport, a copy of which was provided to the Board by IRCC/ Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”).iv

CREDIBILITY

[13]     Considering the totality of the evidence, the panel finds the claimant to be a credible witness and therefore believes what he has alleged in support of his claim as set out in oral and written testimony. The panel notes that the claimant’s estranged spouse has a separate claim for refugee protection based on her own personal circumstances. She did not appear as a witness nor did she submit any evidence in support of the claimant’ s claim.

[14]     The claimant testified credibly and in detail that he was detained, interrogated, and mistreated by the military in XXXX            2016 on suspicion of involvement with the IPOB and released without being charged. He described in detail how he was arrested by the military who entered his shop asking about IPOB materials, which he denied having. He was taken along with other men to a military barracks where he was detained, beaten and interrogated about the IPOB, its leadership and activities and the whereabouts of Emma Powerful. He denied any involvement with the IPOB. Two days later, he was taken to his home where they saw XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX that he used in his XXXX and was accused of being an engineer technician for Radio Biafra. They also went to his shop in XXXX where they found various XXXX that he was repairing or had for sale. He was taken back to the barracks and subjected to further interrogations and beatings. He alleges that he lost XXXX XXXX as a result of the beatings. He remained in detention for a further 10 days and was released. The document issued to him by XXXX showing that he owned a business there and his driver’s licence were retained. He testified that he was never charged, and no conditions were attached to his release.

[15]     The Panel finds the claimant’s account of events in Umuahia is plausible in light of the objective documentary evidence regarding the treatment of members and suspected members and supporters of the IPOB by joint military and police operations throughout the south-eastern region of Nigeria during this time period.v The panel also notes that the documentary evidencevi refers to Radio Biafra and its main host, Emma Powerful, and its role in organizing protests and calling for boycotts. According to one source, the broadcasts are illegal and are conducted live from an undisclosed location in Nigeria.

[16]     The claimant also provided evidence of his business registrationvii which the panel found to be credible.

[17]     The claimant also provided an affidavitviii from C.C. who owns a shop in XXXX XXXX

as the claimant that corroborates the claimant’s account of his detention by the military arrest as a suspected member of the IPOB and the military’s return trip to XXXX and to the claimant’s shop while he was recovering in his village. The panel finds the affidavit to be credible.

[18]     The claimant also provided an affidavitix from U.I., a cousin, that corroborates the claimant’s account of his condition and that he cared for the claimant in the village of XXXX XXXX Umuahia in Abia State. The panel finds the affidavit to be credible.

[19]     The claimant also provided an affidavitx from M.O.O., that states that the military and plain clothed security agents came to the village on XXXX 2019 and arrested IPOB members and others and also came to the family house in search of the claimant. The panel finds the affidavit to be credible.

[20]     The claimant also submitted reports from C.E. with XXXX XXXXxi hearing clinic that references the claimant’s history of head trauma by the Nigerian military and corroborates hearing loss in          XXXX. The claimant testified that he receives ongoing treatment from a psychotherapist and submitted two reports into evidence.xii

[21]     Considering the totality of the evidence, the panel finds on a balance of probabilities that the claimant has a subjective fear of returning to Nigeria due to his perceived political opinion as a perceived member of the IPOB. He has established that he is a person of previous interest to the state security apparatus, especially the military, and that he was detained, interrogated and mistreated by the military in Umuahia in Abia State on suspicion of involvement with the IPOB and released without being charged and that the military continue to look for him.

OBEJCTIVE BASIS

[22]     The Board finds that the claimant’s allegations are supported by the documentary evidence, namely the national documentation package for Nigeriaxiii and claimant’s disclosure, xiv and that the claimant could face a serious possibility of persecution should he return to Nigeria on account of his perceived political opinion as a perceived member of the IPOB.

[23]     The panel considered the following documentary evidence.

[24]     It was reported by Amnesty International (AI) in September 2016xv that on several occasions security forces have used excessive force against pro-Biafran activists who have attended protest marches or attempted to do so across south-eastern Nigeria. AI has documented cases of arrest, enforced disappearance and often killing of supporters and members of various pro-Biafran groups. Scores of Biafran independence supporters were in detention for attempting to hold or participate in peaceful assemblies, many of them since January 2016.

[25]     Another AI reportxvi from November 2016 refers to its research that shows a disturbing pattern of hundreds of arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment by soldiers during and after IPOB events, including arrests of wounded victims in hospital, and torture and other ill-treatment.

[26]     Other sources in addition to AI xvii report on members and supporters of IPOB as well as bystanders being injured or killed by police and military in Onitsha on May 30, 2016 during protests held to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1967 Biafra war. According to AI, this resulted in at least 17 deaths and 50 injuries and was the consequence of excessive and unnecessary use of force.

[27]     AI also noted that between August 2015 and May 2016, there were at least five similar incidents in Onitsha alone where the police and military shot unarmed IPOB members and supporters. AI reported that the military opened fire on peaceful IPOB supporters and protesters and that killing and mass arrests of members and supporters by joint military and police operations happened in October, November and December 2015.xviii

[28]     Sources also stated that Nmamdi Kanu, the leader of the IPOB, was jailed on charges including treason which is punishable by death and kept in custody until April 2017 despite the court ordering his release.xix Four IPOB members who were arrested with Nnamdi Kanu in 2015 were jailed and charged with treasonable felony. They were granted bail in June 2018.

[29]     The Nigerian military launched Operation Python Dance II in September 2017. The military raided Kanu’s home as part of the operation. AI indicated that ten IPOB members were killed and twelve injured by the military and the military noted that the deaths occurred during their attempt to arrest Kanu at his home.xx

[30]     Sources indicated that the Nigerian military designated the IPOB as a terrorist organization in September 2017.xxi Also, five south eastern states including Anambra banned all IPOB activities in September 2017.  Sources indicate that the Abia State Police Commissioner stated, subsequent to the terrorist designation and the ban on IPOB activities, that anyone caught with Biafran materials would be arrested and prosecuted.xxii According to other sources, the Anambra Police Commissioner indicated the ban would be enforced and anyone involved in the activities of the IPOB would be charged with terrorism, which carries a minimum sentence of twenty years and a maximum sentence of the death penalty.xxiii

[31]     Other sources reported that in September 2017, sixty pro-Biafra supporters who participated in an IPOB rally which left a police officer dead and a police station nearly burned down, were charged and jailed for conspiracy, terrorism, attempted murder and membership in an unlawful society.xxiv

[32]     Other sources indicates that 112 women in Owerri were arrested during an August 2018 protest regarding the whereabouts of Kanu and subsequently detained and charged with treason and unlawful assembly.xxv

[33]     Other sources indicated that 51 people were arrested in December 2018 for being m possession of different emblems of the IPOB.

[34]     Other sources indicate that Enugu State Joint Security Patrol teams found Biafra insignias on 140 individuals going to a funeral. All 140 individuals were arrested and charged with terrorism and sent to prison by the magistrate court until their case could be heard at the High Court.

[35]     The panel has also considered recent documentary evidence from June 2020xxvi that refers to the arrest of IPOB protesters in Abia state that were to be brought to the police headquarters in Umuahia, the same location where the claimant operated his business. More recent documentary evidence from August 2020 refers to clashes between IPOB members and the police, army and Department of State Services operatives when the police attempted to arrest them.xxvii

[36]     Considering all of the evidence, including the claimant’s credible account of events that he is a person of previous interest to the state security apparatus, especially the military, and that he was detained, interrogated and mistreated by the military in Umuahia in Abia State on suspicion of involvement with the IPOB and that the military continue to look for him and the documentary evidence with respect to the treatment by Nigerian authorities of actual or perceived members and supporters of the IPOB, the panel finds that the claimant would face a serious possibiity of persecution should he return to Nigeria based on his perceived political opinion as a perceived member of the IPOB.

STATE PROTECTION

[37]     Based on the claimant’s personal circumstances as well as the objective country documentation as referred to above, the panel finds on a balance of probabilities that it is objectively unreasonable for the claimant to seek protection from authorities in Nigeria. The state security apparatus, especially the military, is the agent of persecution. Therefore, the panel finds that there is no adequate state protection available for the claimant in Nigeria.

INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE

[38]     With regards to an internal flight alternative (“IFA”), this is not a viable option as Nigerian authorities have effective control over the territory. Based on the objective documentary evidence as set out above, the panel finds that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Nigeria and as such there is no viable IFA.

CONCLUSION

[39]     Based on the totality of the evidence, the panel finds that the claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution based on his perceived political opinion as a perceived member of the IPOB. Therefore, the panel finds that the claimant is a Convention refugee and accepts his claim.

(signed)    “M. Bourassa” M.BOURASSA

November 3, 2020 Date

i Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27, as amended, sections 96 and 97(1)(b).

ii Exhibit 18, post-hearing evidence.

iii Exhibit 1.

iv Exhibit 2.

v Exhibit 7, Response to Information Request NGA 106308.E, 28 June 2019.

vi Exhibit 13,

vii Exhibit 9, item 6.

vii Exhibit 7, item 6

viii Exhibit 9, item 1.

ix Exhibit 9, item 2.

x Exhibit 17.

xi Exhibit 18, post-hearing submissions and Exhibit 9, item 5.

xii Exhibit 18, post-hearing evidence and Exhibit 7, item 4.

xiii Exhibits 3 and 13.

xiv Exhibits 16 and Exhibit 10, item 5, Nigeria: The lndigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), including objectives, structures, activities, relations with other Biafran independence groups and treatment by authorities.

XV Ibid.

xvi Exhibit 10, item 2.

xvii Ibid.

xviii Ibid.

xix Exhibit 13, NGA 106308.E, 28 June 2019.

xx Ibid.

xxi Ibid.

xxii Ibid.

xxiii Ibid.

xxiv Ibid.

xxv Ibid.

xxvi Exhibit 16.

xxvii Ibid.

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2020 RLLR 146

Citation: 2020 RLLR 146
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 2, 2020
Panel: Zonia M. Tock
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Gabriel Ukueku
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: VC0-01443
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000184-000189

REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) concerning [XXX] (the “claimant”) who is a citizen of Nigeria and is making a claim for refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act“).[1]

DETERMINATION

[2]       I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Act, for the following reasons.

ALLEGATIONS

[3]       I will briefly summarize the claimants’ allegations, which are found in his Basis of Claim (BOC) form[2]. The claimant is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is a group striving for the independence of Biafra. The claimant considers himself a freedom fighter as he has not only become a member of IPOB but has risen in its ranks to become a member of the [XXX] team. As such, he was responsible for [XXX] about the group and its activities, as well as mobilizing Biafrans to join peaceful rallies.

[4]       In 2018, the claimant’s father was killed by Nigerian military officers after they raided his home trying to arrest the claimant. The claimant’s father tried to prevent the claimant’s arrest, which resulted in his death. Soon thereafter, the claimant travelled to Canada for a conference. While in Canada, the claimant’s nephew was killed by the Nigerian authorities. As a result, the claimant remained in Canada for seven months. However, he did not make a claim for protection because his wife and children were still in Nigeria and he wanted to ensure they were safe. In [XXX] 2019, the claimant was advised that the situation was improving, thus he returned to Nigeria.

[5]       However, in [XXX] 2019, an IPOB member alerted the claimant that the Nigerian military were on their way to his house. This allowed the claimant and his family to flee the area. The claimant’s wife and children escaped to Cameroon while the claimant travelled to Canada and made a claim for protection. While in Canada, the claimant has become part of the IPOB Calgary League and continues to support the cause.

Identity

[6]       The claimant’s identity as a national of Nigeria is stablished by the sworn statement in his BOC form and the certified copy of his Nigerian passport[3] before me.

Nexus

[7]       The claimant alleges that he will be persecuted by the Nigerian government due to his membership in IPOB. I find there is a nexus between this allegation and the Convention ground of political opinion. As such, I have considered this claim under both sections 96 and 97(1) of the Act.

Credibility

[8]       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 heartfelt and passionate. The claimant became emotional when asked to explain why he chose to join IPOB. He testified that his parents had taught him about the injustices committed against the Biafran population during the 50s and 60s, and he also observed the continued targeting of Biafrans by the Nigerian government. The claimant testified that the Biafran community did not want to be part of Nigeria because of the way the country is being managed and because of the injustices committed against the Biafran people.

[9]       The claimant was also able to credibly explain what appeared to be inconsistencies in the evidence before me. For example, the claimant was asked why he did not make a claim for protection during the [XXX] 2018 to [XXX] 2019 period that he was in Canada. The claimant’ s father had been murdered prior to his travels to Canada and his nephew had also been murdered while the claimant was in Canada, thus it would be reasonable to expect that the claimant would make a claim for protection at that time. However, the claimant explained that during that trip, his wife and children were still in Nigeria. His top priority is their safety, thus he had to ensure he could travel back to keep them safe. I find this explanation to be credible given that once the claimant was able to secure his family’s safety in Cameroon, he made a claim for protection.

[10]     I also questioned the claimant regarding a newspaper article in evidence which indicates that the claimant and his wife were missing after a raid by the military.[4] The article is dated November 2019; however, the military raid which led to the claimant leaving Nigeria took place in [XXX] 2019. The claimant explained that there was a second raid of his home, where his belongings were destroyed by the military. This second raid took place in [XXX] 2019, and that is the one being referenced in the article. I find this explanation to be credible as the claimant mentioned a second raid of his home in his BOC form.

[11]     I have also considered the documentary evidence before me, including evidence of the claimant’s membership in IPOB Calgary,[5] his membership in IPOB in Nigeria,[6] and the continued targeting of IPOB members in Nigeria.[7]

[12]     Based on the totality of the evidence before me, I accept the claimants’ allegations as credible.

Country Conditions

[13]     I have reviewed the National Documentation Package (NDP)[8] before me and I find that Country condition information before me establishes that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution in Nigeria.

[14]     The evidence before me is that IPOB is a separatist organization considered to be a secessionist group which argues that the people of Biafra have been politically, socio­economically and culturally marginalized in Nigeria.[9]

[15]     There are reports of extrajudicial executions, use of excessive force by military, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and evidence of peaceful gatherings being dispersed by the firing of live ammunition with little or no warning.[10]

[16]     The President’s stance on Biafran independence is described as dismissive at best, and at times hostile.[11] However, in 2017, the Nigerian military designated the IPOB as a terrorist organization; a label which has been rejected by international observers.[12] A Response to Information Request (RIR) before me indicates that following that designation, IPOB members have been targeted:

The Abia State Police Commissioner stated, subsequent to the terrorist designation and the ban on IPOB activities, that anyone caught with “Biafran materials would be arrested and prosecuted.”

The Anambra Police Commissioner, quoted by the Punch, a Nigerian news publication, indicated the ban would be enforced and anyone involved in the activities of the IPOB would be charged with terrorism, which carries a minimum sentence of twenty years and a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

Since August 2015, the security forces have killed at least 150 members and supporters of the pro-Biafran organization IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) and injured hundreds during non-violent meetings, marches and other gatherings. Hundreds were also arbitrarily arrested.[13]

[17]     Considering that the Nigerian government has labeled the IPOB as a terrorist organization and that they continue to target members of the IPOB, I find that there is more than a mere possibility that the claimant would be persecuted if he returns to Nigeria.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[18]     In this case, the agent of harm is the government. The authorities are targeting members of IPOB and have labeled them a terrorist organization. As such, it would not be reasonable to expect the claimant to turn to the state for protection.

[19]     In terms of an internal flight alternative (IFA), the government of Nigeria is in control of the entire state. Its persecutory declaration is in place in the entire territory; thus it would not be feasible for the claimant to move elsewhere in Nigeria and be safe. As such, I do not find that an IFA exists in this case.

CONCLUSION

[20]     For the reasons outlined above, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee. As such, his claim is accepted.


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

[2] Exhibit 2.

[3] Exhibit 1.

[4] Exhibit 4.

[5] Exhibit 4.

[6] Exhibit 7.

[7] Exhibits 4 and 5.

[8] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Nigeria, July 31, 2020.

[9] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 Response to Information Request (RIR) NGA105658.E.

[10] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 RIR NGA105658.E.

[11] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.2 RIR NGA105658.E.

[12] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.5 RIR NGA106308.E.

[13] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 13.5 RIR NGA106308.E.

Categories
All Countries Cameroon

2020 RLLR 144

Citation: 2020 RLLR 144
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 25, 2020
Panel: Bonita Small
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Larry W. Smeets
Country: Cameroon
RPD Number: VB9-09903
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000174-000177

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: So, these are the reasons for the decision in the claim of [XXX], a citizen of Cameroon who is claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       The allegations are that the claimant fears persecution at the hands of the Cameroon State authorities on the basis of his political views and in particular, his affiliation with the Southern Cameroons National Council, also known as the SCNC.

[3]       My determination is that I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee.

[4]       In terms of identity, I note that the claimant did enter the country on a false identity, i.e. using a passport that is not in his name. He has explained to me, in my opinion, plausible reasons for doing that because he had a warrant outstanding for him in his country and that was his only way of leaving safely. Since that time, he has provided a copy of his passport and his birth certificate and I’m satisfied based on his testimony and the offering of these documents, that he is who he says he is.

[5]       So, I am not, I don’t have a problem with the issue of identity.

[6]       In terms of credibility, I do note that the Minister filed an initial intent to intervene in this matter on the basis of credibility. However, withdrew that intention to intervene late last week.

[7]       So, in terms of my assessment of credibility, when a claimant swears to tell the truth of certain allegations, this creates a presumption that those allegations are true, unless there is reason to doubt their truthfulness. In assessing whether a claimant’s statements are believable, we consider whether the facts presented are detailed, plausible and consistent.

[8]       I find that these criteria are met in this case. I found the claimant convincingly relayed what had happened to him in his written evidence and in his oral testimony.

[9]       I found him to be a credible witness, as it pertains to the central allegations regarding his claim.

[10]     In essence, the claimant has provided evidence that due to his negative experience growing up, as an anglophone in a francophone environment, where he was taxed heavily in the business that he was in, he decided to try to fight l guess, in, for lack of a better word, against the power that the francophones were imbuing in the country. And he decided to join the SCNC, which is an organization known for trying to encourage the rights of anglophones and reduce marginalization of anglophones in his country. As part of his membership in this organization, he participated in the organization of protests and arranged for transportation of the members to and from marches. He was detained for the first time in 2011 for about seven days, after participating in a march to promote the vision of an independent anglophone Cameroon. He recalls being forced into a cell with about five hundred people, where there was no toilet and he was denied food and drink. In 2016, he was again detained but this time was released after about one day. The third and final march he participated in took place on [XXX] the [XXX], 2017. From that march, he was charged with a number of offences and imprisoned in Buea for approximately four months, from [XXX] 2017 until [XXX] 2018. Eventually, he was released on bail after getting help from his lawyer and his family. In [XXX] 2018, his drivers had been transporting food to a village called [XXX] (ph). They heard gunshots, parked the trucks and ran. The village ended up being burned by the State military. The claimant did not appear for the trial of, on the charges that he was charged with because he feared that he would not receive due process. He went into hiding for about a year and was informed by his lawyer that an arrest warrant had been issued for him in [XXX] 2018. Finally, he obtained a visitor for fear of being discovered in his country, he obtained a visitor to, visa to Canada under a false name and left Cameroon on [XXX] 2019. He has not seen his family since [XXX] 2018.

[11]     I find that the claimant has provided solid corroborative evidence that supports his allegations. For example, he has provided a copy of his membership card with the SNC-, SCNC, I’m noting that he’s contributed from the years 2013, 2019. I’ve also been provided with a copy of the warrant, which the claimant testified today was provided to him by his lawyer. I’ve also been provided with copies of the boarding pass that he used to get out of his country, which shows that it was in a different name than it-, the name given, which supports his subjective fear that he would have been arrested had he used his real name if he’d gone to the airport, or if he had gone through the airport on his own name. And I also have an affidavit from his lawyer, who supports his political beliefs and also the chronology of events, as it pertains to the arrest warrant and the jumping of bail.

[12]     So, based on these documents and based on the testimony and the narrative of the claimant, I find that there is sufficient evidence on the balance of probabilities, that supports the claimant’s credibility.

[13]     In terms of the Nexus, I find the Nexus here is a Convention ground of political opinion and I’ve also looked at the country documents and find that they do also support the claimant’s political beliefs. Cameroon, a bilingual and multicultural company-, country that was known for its stability and its strong alliances with France and the U.S., is apparently slipping into a protracted human rights crisis, in the largely anglophone northwest and southwest regions that border Nigeria. Since late 2016, anglophone activists who have long complained of the regions perceived marginalization by the francophone majority, have mobilized significant segments of the anglophone population to demand more political autonomy or succession and this is found in Exhibit 3, the National Documentation Package at Tab 2.7. In a recent Freedom House report of 2019, it’s noted that the conflict between security forces and separists-, separatists in the anglophone northwest and southwest regions has intensified, resulting in widespread civilian deaths and displacements and that’s found in Tab 2.3 of the National Documentation Package. Human Rights Watch reported that government forces killed civilians in a context of the ongoing anglophone crisis. And security forces have set houses on fire, burning to death at least four elderly women left behind by their relatives. They’ve committed extrajudicial executions, burned property, carried out arbitrary arrests and tortured detainees. A Human Rights Watch report documented a range of abuses by both sides in the anglophone regions, including arson attacks on homes and schools. According to the International Crisis Group, government forces and armed separatists killed over 420 civilians since the crisis has escalated in 2017 and that’s at NDP 2.5.

[14]     In my view, the country conditions demonstrate a serious problem between the government and the anglophone activists, of which the claimant is one. I considered his profile as a member of the SCNC and the fact that he has a warrant out for him right now, and the fact that he has testified that the police came to his house looking for him. He used a fake passport to get into this country but has since provided a copy of his real passport. But I understand that using the fake passport was part of his, supports his subjective fear. I’ve considered that he holds a political view that is critical of the government and I have considered the documents that show how the government treats individuals who they perceive to have an opinion that is opposite to them.

[15]     Based on this evidence, I find that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution and I find that he faces a serious possibility of persecution from the State, if he were to return to Cameroon, by reason of his political opinion, both real and imputed. In terms of state protection, given that the State is the agent of harm, I find there is no state protection available to the claimant and that it would be objectively unreasonable for him to have sought state protection.

[16]     I find that the presumption of state protection has been rebutted.

[17]     And in terms of an internal flight alternative, given the States’ capacity and pattern of treatment of the critics of the government, given that he has an outstanding warrant for his arrest, I find that he faces a serious possibility of persecution throughout Cameroon.

[18]     Accordingly, I find there is no alternative flight available to the claimant.

[19]     In conclusion, I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee and I accept his claim.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Venezuela

2020 RLLR 143

Citation: 2020 RLLR 143
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 2, 2020
Panel: Kerry Cundal
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Leonardo Jose Di Leone Velasquez
Country: Venezuela
RPD Number: VB9-08424
Associated RPD Number(s): VB9-08444, VB9-08453, VB9-08454
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000169-000173

REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) in the claim of the principal claimant, [XXX] and his spouse, [XXX] as citizens of Venezuela and their two minor children, [XXX] and [XXX] as citizens of the United States of America (U.S.) who are claiming refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act“).[1] The claimants’ identities have been established on a balance of probabilities by copies of their passports.[2]

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The claimants fear return to Venezuela because they fear persecution due to their political opinion, namely their opposition and political activities, including supporting the Action Democracy opposition party against the regime. The claimants provided further details in their Basis of Claim (BOC) forms.[3] The claimants provided corroborative documents including identity documents, membership in the Action Democracy political opposition party, letters of support and screenshots of social media posts against the current regime.[4] The panel has reviewed and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.[5]

Determination

[3]       The panel finds that the principal claimant and the associate claimant, his spouse, have established that they are Convention refugees pursuant to section 96 of the Act for the reasons that follow.

[4]       The panel finds that the two minor associate claimants are neither Convention refugees pursuant to section 96 nor persons in need of protection pursuant to subsection 97(1) of the Act for the reasons that follow.

Credibility and Well-Founded Fear of Persecution

[5]       The claimants testified in a straightforward and consistent manner, consistent with their BOC and supporting documents. The panel finds that the claimants are credible witnesses. The principal claimant and designated representative for his two minor children, the associate claimants, testified that they do not have any fears of return to the U.S. for their two American children. He confirmed that that they are citizens of the U.S. Accordingly, the panel finds that their claims fail under both section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Act.

[6]       He testified that he fears that he will be imprisoned, beaten and killed because of his political opposition if he returns to Venezuela. The two adult claimants testified that they left Venezuela in 2004 due to the persecution and threats they suffered during the Chavez regime. They testified that they did not have citizenship, permanent residence and had never made an asylum claim in the U.S. The principal claimant testified that he was able to obtain renewable work permits during their time in the U.S. He testified that they never returned to Venezuela. The two adult claimants testified that they continue to be politically active through social media, helping with humanitarian aid for opposition in Venezuela and participating in protests against the Maduro regime in Miami where they were living. The female adult claimant testified that she also fears gender-based persecution including rape by security forces as she has seen media reports regarding female opposition members who have suffered this kind of persecution in Venezuela.

[7]       The objective evidence supports the claimants’ fear of return to Venezuela because of their political opposition to the current government. The objective evidence indicates that ‘”civilian authorities’ control over the security forces declined and was deeply politicized.”[6] There are no independent government institutions remaining today in Venezuela to act as a check on executive power and “a series of measures by the Maduro and Chávez governments stacked the courts with judges who make no pretense of independence. The government has been repressing dissent through often-violent crackdowns on street protests, jailing opponents, and prosecuting civilians in military courts. It has also stripped power from the opposition-led legislature.”[7]

[8]       Further, the objective evidence indicates that authorities persecuted political opposition in Venezuela:

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces, including government sponsored “colectivos”; torture by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; widespread arbitrary detentions; and political prisoners. The government unlawfully interfered with privacy rights, used military courts to try civilians, and ignored judicial orders to release prisoners. The government routinely blocked signals, interfered with the operations, or shut down privately owned television, radio, and other media outlets. The law criminalized criticism of the government, and the government threatened violence and detained journalists critical of the government, used violence to repress peaceful demonstrations…[8]

[9]       Based on the totality of the evidence, the panel finds that the claimants have established a nexus to political opinion and that they would face a serious possibility of persecution because of their political opposition against the current regime.

State Protection and Internal Flight Alternative

[10]     Given that the state is the agent of harm, the panel finds that there is no state protection available to the claimants. Further, given the state’s capacity and ongoing interest in arbitrarily detaining and abusing citizens who oppose the government, the panel finds that the claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution throughout Venezuela and it is not objectively reasonable in all of the circumstances including their particular circumstances to relocate anywhere in Venezuela. Accordingly, the panel finds that there is no internal flight alternative available to the claimants.

CONCLUSION

[11]     For the forgoing reasons, the panel finds that the principal claimant and the associate claimant, his spouse, have established that they are Convention refugees pursuant to section 96 of the Act and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada therefore accepts their claims.

[12]     For the forgoing reasons, the panel finds that the two minor associate claimants are neither Convention refugees pursuant to section 96 nor persons in need of protection pursuant to subsection 97(1) of the Act and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada therefore rejects their claims.


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

[2] Exhibit 1.

[3] Exhibit 2.

[4] Exhibit 4.

[5] Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) Chairperson’s Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution, Ottawa, Canada, March 1993, updated November 1996.

[6]Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Venezuela, September 30, 2020, Item 2.1.

[7] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.3.

[8] Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.1.

Categories
All Countries Venezuela

2020 RLLR 140

Citation: 2020 RLLR 140
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: January 14, 2020
Panel: Kari Schroeder
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Leonardo Jose Di Leone Velasquez
Country: Venezuela
RPD Number: VB9-03821,
Associated RPD Number(s): VB9-03830, VB9-03834
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000154-000157

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claims [XXX] as the principal claimant, [XXX] as the associate claimant, and [XXX] as the minor claimant, as citizens of Venezuela who are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and Subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Allegations

[2]       The following is a brief synopsis of the allegations put forward by the claimants. The principal claimant worked for the [XXX] for 13 years. He is opposed to President Maduro’s government and fears persecution because of his political views. The claimant does not support any particular political party but has attended several street rallies and protests. While employed with the [XXX] the claimant heard about minor incidents of corruption and reported them to his superior. However, in his last year of working with the company, the claimant noticed some incidents of corruption that involved millions of dollars. He and two other [XXX] worked to expose this corruption in [XXX] of 2018 after the claimant no longer worked there. While the claimant was in the United States, he learned that the [XXX] were arrested, the claimant inquired with a lawyer and after confirming there were no charges against him, returned to Venezuela in [XXX] of 2018.

[3]       The claimant became politically active again upon his return, he began receiving threatening phone calls in [XXX] of 2019, in [XXX] his son was threatened and fled the country. The claimant continued to receive calls in which he was accused of consp-, conspiring against the state and hindering business deals with the [XXX]. The claimants left Venezuela on [XXX] of 2019, they did not claim protection in the United States. They learned that a group of soldiers had visited their home on [XXX], 2019 and confiscated the claimants’ computers.  The claimants fear that if they return to Venezuela, they will experience detention, further intimidation, or be killed.

Determination

[4]       I find that the claimants are Convention refugees pursuant to Section 97 of the Act for the reasons that follow.

ANALYSIS

[5]       The claimants’ identities have been established today through certified copies of their passports on file and I am satisfied that they are both and as well as the minor claimant, nationals of Venezuela. In terms of credibility, there is a presumption of truth applied to all claimants, unless there is a reason to doubt their allegations. Today, both claimants testified and they were credible and straightforward witnesses, they offered canor-, candid and spontaneous testimony and did not embellish, even when given the opportunity to do so. There were no material contradictions between your testimony and the Basis of Claim forms that would cause me to doubt their allegations.

[6]       The principal claimant testified that he noticed, starting in 2014, that some purchases for the contract of services with [XXX] were taking place in a very irregular manner, outside of Venezuela laws. The claimant testified that this generated some very intense discussions with his boss, who did not respond positively. The claimant refused to approve these processes and so his boss delegated that responsibility to someone else. As the claimant rose in the company, he had access to more and more information. He testified that starting in 2017, he was involved in some very large purchases and noticed that the company was purchasing extremely expensive equipment from out of the country, which in the claimant’s view was unnecessary. He filed a complaint, along with two other employees, [XXX] named [XXX] and [XXX], to the Prevention and Control of Losses in mid-2017. He hoped that this would prompt an investigation and an audit, he met directly with that manager and was hoping that some action would be taken, however, nothing was done. The claimant decided to leave the [XXX] in [XXX] of 2017 because of political pressure and because he had angered some higher up people. He clarified that at that time he had become more politically active, participating in more demonstrations as well as volunteering and coordinating logistics, to ensure people’s presence at demonstrations. He also distributed water and food and would assist people who were injured, the claimant believes that this made him more visible. The claimant testified that he supported all opposition parties, although he did some volunteer work for the Democratic Action Party. After the claimant left the company at the beginning of [XXX] of 2018, the claimant met with the two other [XXX] and gave them some of the additional information he had, to add to their complaint, he then left for the United States to visit his brother. That was when he learned about the detention of [XXX] and that [XXX] had fled the country to avoid detention. The claimant spoke to a lawyer and returned in [XXX] 2018 once he felt it was safe. In [XXX] 2019, the claimant testified that he began to receive threatening phones from the Colectivos.

[7]       The claimant believes that when the armed soldiers visited his home in 2019 that they were searching for some sort of further information about the complaints they had made. When I asked the claimant, what had prompted him to ramp up his political activity in 2017, he testified that through his position with [XXX] he was watching money being given freely to other countries. While people in his country were starving and being denied access to basic services, such as water and healthcare. The claimant spoke of his country as being in the clutches of a dictatorship and a criminal organization, he described Juan Guaidó as the only constitutionally legitimate president.

[8]       I also questioned the associate claimant today and she testified that she would accompany her husband in all demonstrations that was also not affiliated with any particular party. The claimant testified that she has never been directly threatened herself but that her children were. She described how at the end of [XXX] of 2019 when the Colectivo-, Colectivos called they threatened their son directly. They knew information about their son, including his routine and his place of study, they then threatened to kill him and he had to leave the country. The associate claimant testified that she participated in approximately 50 to 60 protests, beginning around 2014, she continued her participation, even when her husband was in the United States for several months. And so, I accept that her political opinions exist separate and apart from the principal claimant. She described the regime as malignant, the claimant also believes that their lives would be in danger if they were to return. Finally, the principal claimant testified that his former colleague [XXX] is still in detention to this day.

[9]       I have documentary evidence to corroborate the claim, including an activism certificate from the Democratic Action Party. As well as of-, as a copy of the complaint that the principal claimant made to the prevention and control of lasses. I have several letters corroborating events which took place in Venezuela before the claimants left. Based on the totality of the evidence, I accept that both claimants are opposed to the regime and have expressed anti-government political opinions, both through street protest and in the case of the principal claimant through anti-corruption complaints. Given that the claimants’ house was raided, I also find that the minor claimant has established a subjective fear of returning despite her young age. I find there is a Nexus between the claimants’ allegations on the Convention ground of political opinion. The duty of this Panel is, therefore, to determine whether the claimants’ fears are well-founded, having accepted the claimants’ allegations, I turn to the evidence on the treatment of political opponents in Venezuela.

[10]     The objective evidence before me corroborates the claim, on [XXX] of last year, the government organized snap Presidential elections that were neither free nor fair. Nicolás Maduro was re-elected through this deeply flawed political process, which much of the opposition boycotted and the international community condemned, and this can be found at Document 2.1 of the National Documentation Package. The evidence also confirms that several thousand people have been detained in connection with anti­government demonstrations in Venezuela. The government routinely detains political opponents, including lesser-known activists or people whom the government believes have links to the political opposition. The government has issued an indefinite ban on all protests.

[11]     According to a report by Freedom House, also in the NDP, Venezuela is one of two countries in the Western hemisphere along with Cuba to be rated as not free by Freedom House. Political prisoners are subject to torture and other human rights abuses. There is pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces and in government offices. Several hundred people have been killed or harmed in protests. Non­-governmental organizations also publish reports that authorities generally mistreat, abuse, and threaten to kill detainees. Civilian political prisoners were routinely held in military prisons, those found guilty of insulting the President are subject to lengthy prison terms in abhorred conditions. Opponents of the government are frequently harassed and intimidated by the National Guard, the Savane, and members of the Colectivos, family members of political opponents are also targeted.

[12]     Therefore, based on the totality of the evidence before me, I find that the claimants have established through sufficient reliable evidence that they face a serious possibility of persecution if they return to Venezuela because of their opposition to the current government and the evidence establishing that political opponents are persecuted. Further, given that the State is the agent of harm in this case, l find that there is no operationally effective state protection available to the claimants. I also find that there are no internal flight alternatives available to the claimants in their particular circumstances because opponents of the government face a risk of persecution throughout the country. I, therefore, find that the claimants face a serious possibility of persecution in Venezuela, no matter where they live.

CONCLUSION

[13]     I find that the claimants are Convention refugees pursuant to the Act and the Board, therefore, accepts their claims, today.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Venezuela

2020 RLLR 139

Citation: 2020 RLLR 139
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 28, 2020
Panel: Persia Sayyari
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Molly Joeck
Country: Venezuela
RPD Number: VB9-01283
Associated RPD Number(s): VB9-01290, VB9-01293, VB9-01294, VB9-01295
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000141-000153

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claims of Rayner Enrique [XXX] (the principal claimant); his spouse, [XXX] (the associate claimant), and their minor children, [XXX] and [XXX] (the minor claimants).

[2]       I have appointed [XXX] as the designated representative for his minor children, [XXX]and[XXX].

[3]       The principal claimant claims to be a citizen of Venezuela.

[4]       The associate claimant and the minor children all claim to be dual nationals of Venezuela and Colombia.

[5]       All of the claimants are seeking refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).[1]

DETERMINATION

[6]       I find that [XXX] is a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of IRPA as he has established a serious possibility of persecution in Venezuela due to his political opinion.

[7]       I find that [XXX] and [XXX] are not Convention refugees under section 96 nor persons in need of protection under section 97(1) of IRPA because although they have established a serious possibility of persecution in Venezuela due to their political opinion, they have not established a claim against Colombia, where they hold nationality.

ALLEGATIONS

[8]       The claimants’ allegations were set out in their Basis of Claim forms[2] and oral testimony. To summarize, the claimants fear persecution from Venezuelan authorities due to their political opinion.

[9]       All of the claimants were born in Venezuela and are citizens of Venezuela. The associate claimant and the minor claimants also obtained Colombian citizenship through the Colombian consulate while living in Venezuela. They held a right to Colombian citizenship because the associate claimant’s parents were dual nationals of Venezuela and Colombia.

[10]     In 2005, the associate claimant founded a [XXX] and became its president. From 2007 onwards, the principal claimant also worked there as the company’s [XXX] and [XXX]. The company distributed [XXX] for the [XXX] Venezuelan companies [XXX] and [XXX].

[11]     Since 2012, the adult claimants have been active members and supporters of Primero Justicia, an opposition political party in Venezuela. In [XXX] 2017, the adult claimants attended a large protest against the decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to dissolve the opposition­ led National Assembly. The next day, a plain-clothes police officer named [XXX] overhead the principal claimant discussing the protest with a customer in his store. He subsequently returned with 12 officers, arrested the principal claimant, and seized the store’s merchandise.

[12]     Police interrogated the principal claimant about his participation in the protest. They released him after he agreed to pay a bribe of $[XXX] worth of [XXX]. In [XXX] and [XXX] 2017, COBIS twice returned to the claimants’ store demanding bribes. The second time, the principal claimant refused and filed a complaint about COBIS with the Attorney General’s Office.

[13]     The claimants started having technical problems with an [XXX] which they used to do business with [XXX] The principal claimant made inquiries and the president of [XXX] told him their access was intentionally suspended because the principal claimant had been identified by COBIS as a government opponent.

[14]     In [XXX] 2018, COBIS and four other men stopped all of the claimants in a parking lot when they were leaving a restaurant. COBIS told the principal claimant he was an “enemy of the homeland” who needed to be careful. The principal claimant filed another complaint about COBIS with the Attorney General’s Office.

[15]     On [XXX] 2018, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) summoned the principal claimant to an interview, claiming they wanted to gather more information about his two complaints against COBIS. A SEBIN officer asked the principal claimant about his travel history and business activities and accused him of being an American spy. He gave the principal claimant a summons for a second interview about “crimes against public order and against the nation’s independence and security.”[3] The claimants fled Venezuela on [XXX] 2018.

Identity

[16]     The claimants’ identities have been established on a balance of probabilities by copies of their Venezuelan passports.[4]

Credibility

[17]     I find the claimants to be credible. They provided straightforward and spontaneous testimony. There were no relevant inconsistencies within their testimony or between their testimony and the documentary evidence before me. The claimants also provided a number of documents to support their claim, including:

  • The two complaints made by the principal claimant to the Attorney General’s Office in [XXX] 2017 and [XXX] 2018;
  • Invoices related to the claimants’ business activities with [XXX];
  • The two summons from SEBIN issued to the principal claimant;
  • The adult claimants’ Primero Justicia membership cards.

[18]     These documents were consistent with the claimants’ allegations and I have no reason to doubt their authenticity. I thus accept the claimants’ evidence as credible and I believe their allegations.

Countries of Reference: Principal Claimant

[19]     I find on a balance of probabilities that the principal claimant is a national of only Venezuela and that he does not have a right to citizenship in Colombia.

[20]     The principal applicant is married to a Colombian citizen and is the father of three children with Colombian citizenship. He does not currently hold any type of visa or residency permit in Colombia. He testified that when he inquired with officials at the Colombian consulate in Venezuela about how he could obtain residency or citizenship through his family relationships, he was told the process was discretionary and his chances would be “better as an investor.”

[21]     The principal claimant’s testimony accords with country condition evidence indicating that the process for him to obtain citizenship in Colombia is discretionary. The National Documentation Package (NDP) for Colombia outlines the steps for him to obtain Colombian citizenship. First, he must apply for a temporary three-year visa. The authorities who process applications for those visas retain discretion to require an interview and additional documentation before granting applications. Second, if he is successful in obtaining a temporary three-year visa, he would become permitted to apply for a five-year resident visa. Third, if he was successful in obtaining the five-year resident visa, he would become permitted to apply for Colombian citizenship.[5]

[22]     Given this evidence, I find on a balance of probabilities that the principal applicant does not have a right to citizenship in Columbia because the right is not automatic under the law.

Countries of Reference: Associate Claimants

[23]     According to sections 96 and 97 of IRPA, a claimant must establish his or her claim against each country of nationality. The claimants indicated on their Basis of Claim forms and narratives that all of the associate claimants are dual nationals of Colombia and Venezuela. They confirmed this in their oral testimony. I find on a balance of probabilities that the associate claimants are dual nationals of Colombia and Venezuela and must therefore establish their claims against both countries.

The Claim Against Venezuela

Well-Founded Fear Of Persecution

[24]     The claimants have established a well-founded fear of persecution in Venezuela.

[25]     The adult claimants are members of Primerico Justicia, an opposition party, and have demonstrated their opposition to the Venezuelan government by attending public protests. They are known to be politically opposed to the Venezuelan government by members of the police force, by the president of a [XXX] company, and by the SEBIN. Immediately before the claimants fled Venezuela, the SEBIN demonstrated an intention to investigate the principal claimant for “crimes against public order and against the nation’s independence and security.”[6] SEBIN chose to investigate the principal claimant after he complained about extortion against the [XXX] of which the associate claimant is the president. The adult claimants testified that this investigation shows that Venezuelan authorities have singled them out for political persecution and that their entire family is now at risk.

[26]     Country condition evidence corroborates the claimants’ testimony. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, massive demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro took place in 2017, fueled by discontent with his authoritarian practices and frustration over Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.[7] The government responded with “widespread and systematic use of excessive force and arbitrary detentions against demonstrators,” as well as “patterns of other human rights violations, including violent house raids, torture and ill-treatment of those detained in connection with the protests.”[8]

[27]     The crackdown subsequently extended beyond the protests. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has reported “since the end of July 2017, security forces, notably the intelligence services, have continued to use arbitrary and unlawful detentions as one of the main tools to intimidate and repress the political opposition or any person perceived as a threat to the [g]overnment for expressing dissent or discontent.”[9] Security forces including the SEBIN “have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture such as electric shocks, severe beatings, rape, suffocation with plastic bags and chemicals, mock executions and water deprivation.”[10] According to a research report prepared by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, sources report that “supporters of the government see Justice First as a “right-wing group” or “coup-mongers” and an “enemy of the government.”[11]

[28]     I note that the OHCHR has documented cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees’ families and the detention of children.[12] This corroborates the adult claimants’ testimony that their entire family could face persecution if returned to Venezuela.

[29]     I find the evidence before me is adequate to establish that the principal claimant became a target for investigation by SEBIN due to his political opposition to the Venezuelan government and that all of the claimants now have a well-founded fear of politically-motivated persecution from Venezuelan authorities due to their political opinion.

State Protection

[30]     I find that state protection would not be reasonably forthcoming to the claimants in this case.

[31]     A claimant is required to approach the state for protection if protection might reasonably be forthcoming. However, a claimant is not required to risk their life seeking ineffective protection of a state, merely to demonstrate that ineffectiveness. The jurisprudence indicates that the test for a finding of state protection is whether the protection is adequate. It is not enough for there to be existing relevant legislative or procedural framework for protection if the police or other authorities are not able or willing to effectively implement those protective provisions.

[32]     In this case, when the principal claimant attempted to approach the Attorney General’s office for protection from a police officer who was extorting him, it resulted in SEBIN opening an investigation against the principal claimant for crimes against the state. He received no meaningful protection from the Attorney General’s office.

[33]     Country condition evidence indicates that although arbitrary detention and mistreatment of political dissidents is not legal in Venezuela, this behaviour has been condoned by the state and the state has blocked efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for it. According to the

OHCHR, efforts made by the Attorney General’s Office to identify state agents who had perpetuated human rights abuses were blocked by Venezuelan security forces – “particularly the Bolivarian National Guard.”[13] The OHCHR identified instances where evidence about abuses disappeared from case files and cases where security forces allegedly responsible for killing demonstrators were released despite judicial detention orders. The “OHCHR received information on only one case where investigations had led to the opening of the trial of the alleged perpetrators.”[14]

[34]     Given that the state is the agent of harm in this case and the country condition evidence indicates that state authorities are unwilling to protect the claimants, I find that state protection would not be reasonably forthcoming for them.

Internal Flight Alternative

[35]     I find there is no viable internal flight alternative for the claimants. Venezuelan authorities including the police and the SEBIN are the agents of harm. Venezuela has effective control over the entirety of its own state and there is no evidence before me to suggest that their desire or ability to persecute the claimants would vary from region to region. As such, I find the claimants face a serious possibility of persecution throughout Venezuela.

The Claim Against Colombia

Risk of Harm

[36]     I do not find that the associate claimant or the minor claimants face a well-founded fear of persecution or a risk to their lives, a risk of cruel and unusual punishment, or a risk of torture in Colombia.

[37]     At the hearing, the associate claimant testified she did not wish to return to Colombia because she does not know anybody there and would have difficulty financially supporting herself and her children. She also testified that Venezuelans living in Colombia face discrimination in housing and employment, and she would be readily identifiable as Venezuelan by her accent.

[38]     News articles submitted by the claimants indicate that thousands of Venezuelans have fled their country for Colombia in recent months, with approximately 800,000 Venezuelan migrants (both documented and irregular) currently living there.[15] Some Colombians have expressed xenophobia towards Venezuelans that includes verbal and physical violence, the refusal to rent Venezuelans property, and the refusal to employ Venezuelans.[16] Colombian officials, including the president of Colombia, have denounced xenophobia against Venezuelans and called for tolerance,[17] and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has launched a campaign in Colombia to generate empathy towards Venezuelan migrants.[18]

[39]     Counsel submitted there is a serious possibility that xenophobic discrimination would interfere with the associate claimant’s right to obtain housing and employment in Colombia. Counsel pointed out that these rights are listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that board members should consider such international instruments when assessing persecution.

[40]     To be considered persecution, mistreatment must be sufficiently serious. To determine whether mistreatment qualifies as “serious”, I must examine: 1) what interest of the claimant might be harmed; and b) to what extent the subsistence, enjoyment, expression or exercise of that interest might be compromised. While the experiences of persons with similar profiles must be considered in determining whether ill-treatment is systemic, each case must be determined on its own facts.

[41]     I agree with counsel that the right to work and the right to housing are important interests and that in certain cases, inference with those rights can constitute persecution. However, I do not find the evidence adequate to establish that the associate claimants or the minor claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution in Colombia for the following reasons.

[42]     In the present case, neither the principal claimant nor the associate claimant indicated that they feared persecution in Colombia while preparing their Basis of Claim forms. To the contrary, they explicitly said in their narrative that they decided not to move to Colombia because they feared the principal claimant might be deported from there to Venezuela. According to their narrative,

While we were considering ways to leave Venezuela, we considered whether Colombia might be an option. […] We didn’t want to take the chance of applying for a residency permit [for the principal claimant] and waiting for months only to find out it had been refused. […] In the meantime, our lives would be in danger in Venezuela. We needed to go somewhere where we knew we would be safe, and protected against removal to Venezuela. It was clear that that [sic] this would not be the case for [the principal claimant] in Colombia, and [our] family was not willing to be separated.[19]

[43]     I sympathise with the claimants’ reluctance to go to Colombia when it was uncertain whether the principal claimant would be able to obtain legal residency there. Given that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in Venezuela, it is reasonable that they would choose not to live in Colombia to avoid the possibility of the principal claimant being deported back to Venezuela. However, there is nothing in the claimants’ narrative to indicate that they ever feared persecution within Colombia.

[44]     I have also considered the associate claimant’s personal circumstances. The associate claimant holds a [XXX] in [XXX] and successfully established a [XXX] business in Venezuela. According to the claimants’ Basis of Claim narrative, this business “thrived” until the [XXX] field became subject to a state monopoly in Venezuela.[20] Although the associate claimant and her children could be identified as Venezuelans by their accents, they also hold the benefit of Colombian citizenship. If returned to Colombia, they would not be crossing the Venezuelan land border with many irregular migrants seeking amnesty, shelter and employment while lacking citizenship status in Colombia. Although they may face xenophobic discrimination, I do not find that their ability to find housing or work would be compromised to a level that rises to persecution.

[45]     For these reasons, I find the evidence insufficient to demonstrate that the associate claimant or the minor claimants would face a serious possibility of persecution in Colombia.

CONCLUSION

[46]     I find that [XXX] is a Convention refugee and I accept his claim.

[47]     I find that [XXX] and [XXX] are not Convention refugees nor persons in need of protection and I reject their claims.


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

[2] Exhibits 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5.

[3] Exhibit 4, page 88.

[4] Exhibit 1.

[5] Exhibit 5, National Documentation Package, Colombia, 31 May 2019, tab 3. 7: Requirements and procedures for a person born in another country to Colombian parents to acquire citizenship; requirements and procedures for the spouse and child of a citizen to obtain permanent residency; rights and social benefits available … Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 9 July 2014. COL104916.E.

[6] Exhibit 4, page 88.

[7] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.10: Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch; Foro Penal. 29 November 2017.

[8] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.10: Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch; Foro Penal. 29 November 2017.

[9] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.9: Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. June 2018.

[10] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.9: Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. June 2018.

[11] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 4.4: Information on the political party Justice First (Primero Justicia), including membership procedures, structure and leadership at the national level and in Maracaibo (2014-May 2016). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 11 May 2016. VEN105518.E.

[12] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.9: Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. June 2018.

[13] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.9: Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. June 2018.

[14] Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package, Venezuela, 30 August 2019, tab 2.9: Human rights violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. June 2018.

[15] Exhibit 4, page 147.

[16] Exhibit 4, page 149.

[17] Exhibit 4, page 150.

[18] Exhibit 4, page 144.

[19] Exhibit 2.1.

[20] Exhibit 2.1.

Categories
All Countries Iraq

2020 RLLR 138

Citation: 2020 RLLR 138
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: September 14, 2020
Panel: Roderick Flynn
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Ronald Yacoub
Country: Iraq
RPD Number: TB9-32420
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000138-000140

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is a decision in the refugee claim of [XXX]. The file number in this matter is TB9-32420. [XXX], you are claiming to be a citizen of Iraq and you are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       Based upon the totality of the oral and documentary evidence provided at the hearing, and before the hearing, I find you to be a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for reason of your imputed political opinion. And so, imputed political opinion is just a fancy way of saying what others think you believe. It’s not necessarily what you do believe. But I accept your evidence as credible that others, including the militias that you said have threatened you, believe that you support Jewish influence and foreign influence in Iraq. That’s what I mean by imputed political opinion, it’s not what you actually believe but what others think you believe.

[3]       So, just to review the allegations, you described that in [XXX] 2019 in an outdoor festival in Babel, a discussion between you and your daughter was overheard. You innocently talked about the history of the – a mosque close to your home. Including the fact that it had originally been settled by Jewish people. When your remarks were overheard, they were misinterpreted including by the sister of a prominent leader of the Militia Group, AAH. When you described that the large mosque near your home had originally been settled on land owned by Jews, she and others loudly denounced you and she said under sharia law people who supp – such as yourself should be liquidated. You allege that if you return to Iraq, there’s a strong likelihood you will be harmed or killed by militia members who both believe strictly in sharia law and dealing with violence of people – with people who dissent from those beliefs. You testified there’s no state protection for you and no viable internal flight alternative.

[4]       Your identity as a citizen of Iraq has been established by your testimony and your passport which have been filed as exhibits at the hearing. I find on a balance of probabilities that identity and country of reference in Iraq have been established.

[5]       I find, also, that there’s a nexus between your fear of persecution in Iraq and the political belief that you support Israel and Jewish and foreign influence in Iraq. This political belief has been mistakenly but (unintelligible) described to you by members of AAH. Therefore, I’ve assessed your claim under Section 96 of the IRPA.

[6]       In terms of credibility, I find you to be a very credible and consistent witness. I believe what you’ve – you’ve told me in your Basis of Claim and your oral testimony. That you have been targeted by extremist militias who somehow believe that you support Jewish influence and foreign influence in Iraq. I accept your evidence that your innocent remarks about the history of a local masque have been misinterpreted as some sort of political statement. Particularly, I accept your account that a week after the – the remarks, the local mo – mayor and a militia leader attended your home demanding that you visit the local militia headquarters to discuss your comments. Indicating that, as a widow who is now [XXX] you wanted your son to attend the meeting with you, you successfully asked for a deferral for 30 hours. You immediately took steps to leave your home. First staying with your son’s friend before taking a flight arranged for you to Canada by your son, in Ottawa. You credibly outlined that if you return to Iraq you face a possibility of being harmed or killed. Not only for being identified as a supporter or foreign interests but for – for disrespecting the militia, AAH, by failing to show up for the meeting.

[7]       You’ve provided extensive documentation in support of your claim, including multiple identity documents, confirmation of your husband’s untimely death and statements for – from your son. You’ve also provided country documents showing the influence of militias in Iraq and how dissenters and other activists are dealt with by militias in Iraq. Based upon the evidence provided, I find that your subjective fear of persecution is established by your credible testimony and supporting documents.

[8]       The objective evidence from the NDP for Iraq shows that individuals who are perceived as deviating from religious and political norms are targets for violence. Particularly, women and widows are identified as being vulnerable. Item 5.3 of the NDP states, and I quote “Widows or divorced women can face discrimination or violence on the streets targeted by anti-women death squads who target women they believe to be acting contrary to Islam.” Based upon the objective documentation in the NDP, as well as your credible evidence, I’m satisfied your fear of persecution is well founded and that you would face violence at the hands of militias if you were to return. Accordingly, I find that you have established a well­ founded fear of persecution in Iraq on the grounds of your imputed political belief.

State Protection

[9]       The obj – objective documentation from Iraq indicates widespread violence in various areas of Iraq with little reliable state protection available. The security – the NDP also supports your oral evidence that protection from authorities in Iraq is complicated by the fact that a number of militias have been recruited to be part of the government apparatus. Given the widespread incidence of violence in Iraq and the objective documentation confirming limited protection and resources for people like you who need help, I find that the presumption of state protection is rebutted in this case and that there will be no adequate state protection available to you if you were to return.

[10]     I’ve also considered whether there is viable state – internal flight alternatives for you if you were to return. You are a widow currently in your [XXX]. You have credibly testified that realistically, there is nowhere else for you to live on your own in Iraq and to be away from harm. Particularly as you testified you had no male sponsor at the time you lived in Iraq. As 5.3 of the NDP points out, women are restricted in their movement and choice of where to live under the personal status law. Based upon your credible evidence provided, including the fact that the conditions described in the objective documentation seemed to prevail throughout the Country, and specific to your circumstances that the options for widows and single women are limited in Iraq, I’m satisfied there is a serious possibility of persecution for you throughout Iraq and therefore you have no viable internal flight alternative.

[11]     So, based upon the totality of evidence before me, I conclude that you face a serious possibility of persecution on the grounds of imputed political opinion in Iraq and therefore I find you to be a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the IRPA. In short, I accept your claim.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Turkey

2020 RLLR 127

Citation: 2020 RLLR 127
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 16, 2020
Panel: Josée Bouchard
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Rebeka Lauks
Country: Turkey
RPD Number: TB8-30121
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-01106
ATIP Pages: 000071-000076

DECISION

[1]       MEMBER:  This is the decision for following Claimant, [XXX], File Number TB8-30121.  You are claiming to be a citizen of Turkey and are claiming refuge protection pursuant to section 96 and 97 (1) one of the Immigration and Refuge Protection Act. I have considered your testimony and the other evidence in the case.  And I am ready to render my decision orally.  I find that you have established a serious possibility of persecution in Turkey by virtue of your imputed political opinion and your membership in a particular social group namely because of your familiar relationship to your father. The specifics of your claim are said out in the narrative of your Basis of Claim Form filed as Exhibit 2. The following is a summary your allegations.

[2]       You are a citizen of Turkey. You fear persecution at the hands of Turkish authorities and members of the Justice and Development Party or AKP… AKP. Because of your imputed political opinion as a former [XXX] who is perceived to be a member or supporter of Gulenist Movement and oppose to the government and AKP… AKP. You also allege a fear of persecution at the hands of Turkish Authorities and Members of the AKP because of your membership with the particular social group namely your familiar relationship to your father who is under investigation for his imputed membership in the Gulenist Movement.  You allege that there is no state protection for you or an Internal Flight Alternative. Your personal identity as a citizen of Turkey has been established by your testimony and the supporting documents filed as Exhibit 1, namely your passport issued by the government of Turkey and your Turkish Identity Card. I find that on the balance of probabilities, identity and country of reference have been established. I find that there is a link between what you fear in one of grounds under section 96 of the Immigration and Refuge Protection Act, namely political opinion and membership in a particular social group. Therefore, I assessed your claim under section 96 of that act. The test under section 96, is whether there is a serious possibility of persecution should you return to Turkey and I have found that you have met that test.

[3]       In terms of your general credibility, I found you to be a credible witness and I therefore believe what you have alleged in your total… oral testimony in your Basis of Claim Form. Your evidence was detailed and consistent both internally and with your documentation. Throughout the hearing you were articulate, responsive and forthright. You are able to elaborate on your narrative and gave detailed explanations to the questions. Your claim was well supported and I know that no material inconsistencies or omissions searched at presumption of truthfulness could be rebutted.

[4]       Specifically you have established on a balance of probabilities of following. In [XXX] 2012, you joined Turkish Armed Forces as a [XXX]. You were also chosen to attend in [XXX] 2016, training at the [XXX] (phonetics) second main [XXX]. You filed documents in support of this claim. You heard about the July 15, 2016 coup attempt which according to the authorities, more specifically the Justice And Development Party or AKP was conducted by the Gulenist Movement. You heard about the attempt that day while visiting your parents. Your [XXX] ordered you to return to the [XXX] which you did that day. You were ordered to stay at the [XXX] until [XXX] 2016. On July 31, 2016, Decree 669 ordered the closer of ail military schools and aca… academies. All cadets of military academies and military high schools including [XXX] were dismissed from the military. You filed excerpts of Decree 669 in support of your claim.  The stated aim of the decree was to take the necessary measures to fight against terrorism. The AKP in power during attempted coup blamed the Gulenist Movement and labelled it a terrorist movement. You justified that the dismissed [XXX] were perceived as affiliated to a terrorist organisation the Gulenist Movement. Decree 669 provided that senior [XXX] up to graduate would still receive Diplomas from different Universities.

[5]       You received your Diploma from [XXX] University in [XXX].  The Diploma states that it is issued pursuant to Decree 669. You filed the Diploma as an exhibit. You believe that, this confirms that you have been a permanently blacklisted by the regime as a terrorist. You had several former [XXX] classmates who have had to flee Turkey and become refugees elsewhere who have been killed by lynching and who have been sentenced to life imprison for their imputed affiliation with the Gulenist Movement. In [XXX] 2017, you filed a petition to the Ankara 6th administrative court to get reinstated into the military. You filed as an exhibit the decision of the court rejecting your petition. On [XXX] 2018, the police raided the house of your closest friend and former [XXX] classmate. He had to flee to Germany, where he is now a refugee. That is when you realize that you would also be targeted. On [XXX] 2018, arrest warrants were released for 120 [XXX]. You hid until you had the means to leave for Canada on [XXX] 2018.

[6]       In [XXX] 2020, your uncle and father informed you that there is a warrant for your arrest. Your father tried to get further information about the charges, but was not provided with such information. You filed statements from your uncle and father and supported this claim along with an official document informing your father that the charges against you are confidential, but providing a file number for the case against you.

[7]       Before the coup attempt, your father was a [XXX] in the General Directorate of [XXX].   He was dismissed on [XXX] 2017 by decree 679. He later learned that… that he was named as Gulenist Movement follower. Your father filed a petition to the Ankara 16th administrative court to be reinstated into the [XXX]. You filed as an exhibit the decision of the Ankara 16th administrative court, rejecting your father’s petition. You filed the decision of the Ankara 25th administrative court supporting your claim that there is an on-going investigation into your father’s imputed involvement with the Gulenist Movement.  You testified that one of your former [XXX] classmates was arrested just last week by the Turkish authorities.

[8]       You also produced a significant amount of documentation in support of your claim. These documents include the following filed as Exhibit 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3, your [XXX] identification card supporting the claim that you were a [XXX] in the [XXX]. The authorities in Turkey announced that 95 percent of [XXX] were followers of the Gulenist Movement. Your [XXX] and [XXX] indicating that they were issued in accordance with decree 669. Your Turkish [XXX] student vacation document confirming that you stayed at the [XXX] (phonetics) second main [XXX] for two weeks following the coup attempt.

[9]       Record document from the Ankara 16th administrative court, supporting the claim that your father petitioned to reverse your dismissal as a [XXX]. A letter of support from a close friend and former [XXX] supporting the claim that he was targeted by the authorities and is now a refugee in Germany. It also supports that the claim that some of your former [XXX] colleagues were sentenced to life imprisonment after the coup attempt.

[10]     Letters from your and uncles supporting the claim that in [XXX] 2020, the authorities approached your uncle looking for you and told your uncle that there was an arrest warrant against you. A petition made by your father in [XXX] 2020, requesting to know the crime for which you are sought by police, the authorities released the number of the case against you, but no further information. Documents supporting your claim that your father was [XXX] with the General Directorate of [XXX] that he was suspended after the attempted coup and eventually dismissed. A decision from the 25th administrative court of Ankara from the summer of 2020 supporting a claim that there is an on-going investigation against your father. There is no reason for me to cast any doubt on the voracity of these documents and as such, I pla… place great weight on these documents to support the allegation and overall claim.

[11]     I find that your subjective fear is established by your credible testimony and I believe what you have alleged on a balance of probabilities.  The objective country reports are consistent with your evidence about the plight of former [XXX] who are imputed to be followers of the Gulenist Movement. The National Documentation package for Turkey dated March 31st, 2020 at exhibit 3 item 1.7 states that the Gulenist Movement is a term used to describe those who follow the US based Islamic Cleric Fethullah Gulen. The movement is not a political party neither is it a religion. The Gulenist Movement is believed to have a large number of sympathizers in Turkey, some estimate the number to be in millions.

[12]     In May 2016, the Turkish government declared that the Gulenist Movement was an illegal terrorist organisation and in June 2017, the Supreme Court appeal ruled that the Gulenist Movement is an armed terrorist organisation. The coup attempt of the 15th July, 2016 was attributed by the Turkish Government to members of Gulenist Movement.  A state of emergency was put in place in Turkey a few days after the coup. And this has been renewed since then. By September 2017, 21 emergency decrees had been issued and the scope of the emergency law had been broadened to include those who belong to, connect to or have contact with the Gulenist Movement.  One of the emergency decrees provided that, officials involving… involved in putting down the coup, tackling-related threats and implementing state of emergency measures would not face prosecution. Since the 2016 coup attempt, authorities have dismissed or suspended more than 45,000 police and military personnel, and more than 130,000 civil servants, dismissed one-third of the judiciary, arrested or imprisoned more than 80,000 citizens and closed more than 1,500 non-governmental organisations on terrorism-related grounds primarily for alleged ties to the movement of cleric Fethullah Gulen whom the government accuses of masterminding the coup attempt and designated by the government as the leader of the Fethullah terrorist organisation.

[13]     Exhibit 3, item 8.7 states that in the period between the unsuccessful coup in 2016 and March 2017, the Turkish government fired more than 22,000 sol… officers, soldiers, and cadets for alleged links with the Gulen Movement. In March 2017, the then Turkish Minister for National Defense announced that those fired consisted of 6,511 officers and 16,409 soldiers and military cadets. The latter group consisted of 4090 cadets at military colleges, 6,148 training centres for non-commissioned officers including privates and corporals and 6,179 at University Military Training Institutions.

[14]     In January 2019, the Turkish authorities reported that at least 58 Generals and 629 Senior Officers have been sentenced to life imprisonment for involvement in the failed coup and for links with the Gulenist Movement. In January 2019, the Turkish authority also arrested 63 people on charges of involvement with the Gulenist Movement including 46 helicopter pilots in active service. Earlier that month, more than 100 soldiers and former cadets at Military Training Institutions were arrested throughout Turkey.

[15]     The claimant filed at Exhibits 5.1 and 5.2, several recent articles about the continued persecution of former military cadets. For instance in September 2017, internet news reported that arrest warrants have been released for 69 former cadets. In November 2017, Turkish media Memurlar reported that 30 cadets were among the 240 taken into custody. In December 2017, Memurlar reported that dismissed cadets were among 62 suspects taken into custody. In March 2018, the Turkish states news agency Anadolu agency reported that former cadets were among the 19 suspects arrested in Manisa and Usak.  In March 2018, Anadolu reported that among 35 suspects apprehended for their imputed support of the Gulenist Movement were dismissed soldiers and military school students. In March 2018, The World Bulletin reported among 20 suspects arrested in the northern Kastamonu province were on duty soldiers and former cadets. In June 2018, a pro-Turkish news agency The Daily Sabah, reported that former military cadets were among the 102 suspects for which arrests warrants were issued. On July 3rd, 2018, Anadolu reported that a dismiss cadet was among the 13 suspects arrested in Eastern Turkey.

[16]     You feel being targeted by the Turkish authorities for imputed political opinion, but also for your relationship with your father who is targeted for his imputed membership into the Gulenist Movement.

[17]     The NDP or National Documentation Package for Turkey and Exhibit 3 at item 2.1 provides a basis for that fear. United States Department of State report notes that family members of targeted individuals are also at risk of persecution. It states that, using anti-terror legislation, the government targeted family members to exert pressure on wanted suspects. Government measures included cancelling the passports of family members of civil servants suspended or dismissed from state institutions as well as those who had fled authorities.

[18]     Exhibit 3 item 13.6, the United Kingdom’s Home Office reports that members of families of people who are critical of the government will be targeted.  If the police cannot find the person they are looking for, they will take another family member. This was very common during the emergency.  Families were threatened by phone and their houses were raided. A report of the Asylum Research Consultancy found at Exhibit 3 item 1.4 also notes following his visit to Turkey in September 2016, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights found that a series of measures of particular concern to the commissioner are those which target directly or are liable to affect family members of suspects in an automatic fashion.

[19]     In addition to the evictions termination of lease agreement and freezing up assets of the said suspects, which are likely to create unnecessary hardship and victimisation for family members. The commissioner notes other measures of an administrative nature such as a possibility of annulling passports of spouses of suspects who are themselves not under investigation and the unlimited access by administrative authorities to the personal data of family members of suspects.  This approach raises extremely serious concerns. The commissioner is worried that such measures will inevitably fuel the impression of guilt by association already voiced by many of their interlocutors. In the opinion of the commissioner, any measure treating family members of a suspect also as potential suspect should not exist in democratic society even during a state of emergency.

[20]     As you have established, your subjective fear and an objective basis for that fear, I find you will have established of well-founded fear of persecution.

[21]     I turn now to state protection. When making a refugee claim, the claimant must establish on a balance of probabilities that adequate state protection is not available. There is a presumption that state protection is available and the onus is on the claimant to provide and clear and convincing evidence to be part of such… such protection.

[22]     In this case, the agent of persecution is the state that is the persecution you would face should you return to Turkey as at the hand of authorities. This is supported in part by the investigation conducted by the authorities against the claimant’s father for his imputed political opinion as a supporter of the Gulenist Movement and also the evidence said that there is an arrest warrant against you for your imputed political opinion as a supporter of the Gulenist Movement. The country condition documents outlined in this decision also support the claim that the authorities are the perpetrators and persecutors of those involved or perceived to be involved in the Gulenist Movement.

[23]     Accordingly, I find that there is no state protection available for you. I have also considered whether a viable Internal Flight Alternative exists for you, the agent of persecution is the Turkish government. The evidence reviewed above confirms that oppressive treatment of those suspected of supporting the Gulen Movement is nationwide. I find that there is a serious possibility of persecution for you throughout tricky and therefore find that there is no viable Internal Flight Alternative.

[24]     In conclusion, based on the totality of the evidence, I find you to be a convention refugee because you have demonstrated a serious possibility of persecution in Turkey by virtue of your imputed political opinion and membership in a particular social group, namely your familial relationship with your father who is imputed to be a supporter of the Gulenist Movement. I accept your claim.

[25]     CLAIMANT: Thank you very much.

[26]     COUNSEL: Thank you Madam Member.

[27]     MEMBER: Welcome to Canada.

[28]     CLAIMANT: Thank you so much.

[29]     MEMBER: Thank you very much for your detailed testimony. (voice overlapping). Thank you Mr. Interpreter for coming at the last minute and doing such a good job on the interpretation.

[30]     INTERPRETER: Thank you Madam.

[31]     MEMBER:  And thank you Counsel, this was a very well documented file. And 1.           1 thank you for your work.

[32]     COUNSEL: Thank you.

[33]     MEMBER: And this concludes our hearing.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-