Citation: 2019 RLLR 62
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: October 29, 2019
Panel: David D’Intino
Counsel for the claimant(s): Michael Brodzky
RPD Number: TB8-10382
Associated RPD Number(s): TB8-10409, TB8-10410
ATIP Number: A-2020-01274
ATIP Pages: 000156-000166
REASONS FOR DECISION
 [XXX] (the principal claimant), her daughter [XXX] and her son [XXX] (the minor claimants), are citizens of Colombia and claim refugee protection pursuant to ss. 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).1
 The claimants’ allegations are fully set out in the principal claimant’s basis of claim (BOC) form2. To summarize, the principal claimant alleges a serious possibility of persecution on a Convention ground and a risk to life or of cruel and unusual punishment or treatment in Colombia by her ex-partner [XXX].
 The principal claimant was appointed as the Designated Representative for her minor children. She provided a written consent letter3 from her ex-spouse to take the children to Canada.
 In assessing the evidence of the principal claimant, I have considered the Chairperson’s Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.4
 The principal claimant is a Convention refugee, as she has demonstrated a serious possibility of persecution on a Convention ground, as a member of a particular social group – women fearing gender-related persecution.
 The minor claimants are also Convention refugees, as they have demonstrated a serious possibility of persecution on Convention ground, as members of a particular social group – family members of the principal claimant.
 The principal claimant was a credible witness. Her testimony was consistent with the evidence in her narrative and she provided documentation which was corroborative of certain aspects of her claim. Her evidence was free from material contradictions or omissions and I find that she did not embellish her evidence.
 As such, I make the following findings of fact:
a) The principal claimant met her former partner [XXX] in 2000 while working for his uncle’s company called [XXX]. She became pregnant after dating him for approximately one year and they moved in together in [XXX] of 2002;
b) [XXX] was affiliated with the Centro Democratico Party and worked on the campaign of one [XXX];
c) After living together for a while, [XXX] became verbally abusive by making hurtful comments about the principal claimant’s appearance. Once her daughter was born, the principal claimant became aware that [XXX] had other lovers and when she attempted to leave, [XXX] struck her, verbally accosted her, raped her and locked her in the apartment for three days;
d) On the third day, [XXX] came home with roses, food and apologies. He threatened the principal claimant that he would take their daughter away from him if she should ever leave;
e) [XXX] had asked his uncle, the couple’s employer, to start paying the principal claimant’s salary directly to him, as she was allegedly too irresponsible to handle the money herself. Thus, the principal claimant became totally dependent on her former partner;
f) In 2004, after being questioned by his uncle about bruises on her face, [XXX] forbade the principal claimant from working outside the home;
g) In 2012 the principal claimant became pregnant again, this time with a son;
h) In [XXX] 2013, while seven months pregnant, her former spouse raped her and beat her, causing her to enter a depressed state and to develop anemia which required hospitalization;
i) In [XXX] 2014, the principal claimant saw a psychologist who diagnosed her with [XXX] and [XXX];
j) In [XXX] of that year she worked up the courage to file a complaint with the Family Welfare Office. [XXX] showed up to a mediation session with a party colleague who convinced the social worker that the principal claimant was delusional. [XXX] later beat the principal claimant once again;
k) In [XXX] 2016, the principal claimant was alerted by her daughter’s teacher that [XXX] was unhappy and uncommunicative. She was taken to therapy where she was diagnosed with [XXX], [XXX] and [XXX] and ordered to attend further clinical intervention;
l) In [XXX] of 2017, [XXX] invited some of his associates over to the house for dinner. One was an unsavory youth nicknamed [XXX] made appalling comments about [XXX]’ s mature appearance, and referred to her as his “princess”. The youth was openly glaring at [XXX] the whole time;
m) In [XXX] of 2017, the principal claimant found her daughter’s diary while cleaning the house. In it were passages that referred to her inability to cope with the family abuse and that she would rather be dead;
n) At the end of that month, the principal claimant went to the Court in Tulua to seek a restraining order against [XXX]. When the official heard his name, he looked mockingly at the principal claimant and told her without evidence nothing could be done;
o) On Tuesday [XXX], 2017 XXXX came home livid because he learned about the judicial complaint. When the principal claimant showed him the psychiatrist’s notes about their daughter, he went crazy and began hitting the principal claimant and threatened to kill her and the doctor if she kept divulging that [XXX] has mental health issues;
p) On Saturday of that same week, [XXX] showed up with three men to the principal claimant’s stepmother’s home. The two ladies were alone at the time. The men flashed their firearms and began insulting them. [XXX] then bragged about his affiliation with the Los Urabeños criminal group and that he was sent by [XXX] to tell her she had 24 hours to return home or die, and if she disappeared, [XXX] promised him “her princess” as a present;
q) The principal claimant’s stepmother managed to record some of the conversation on her phone. The principal claimant then phoned [XXX] and threatened to expose him and his ties to the Urabeños if he did not leave her and her daughter alone;
r) On [XXX], 2017 the principal claimant called [XXX] and told him to provide her with a consent letter via post to her parents’ house, where it was retrieved by a neighbour;
s) The claimants left Colombia on [XXX], 2017 filed their basis of claim forms on March 28, 2018;
 Based on the above facts, I find that the principal claimant was the victim of physical, emotional and sexual abuse by her former spouse. As such, I find that she has a nexus to the Convention by virtue of her membership in a particular social group – women fearing gender related persecution. I find that but for her gender, she would not have been subject to the various forms of violence she suffered at the hands of [XXX].
 The minor claimants [XXX] and [XXX] in my view also have a nexus to the Convention as family members of the principal claimant. The effect of the household domestic violence on [XXX] is particularly acute as evidenced by the psychological documentation filed by the principal claimant. However, it is clear that both children have been threatened and face a future serious possibility of persecution as family members of the principal claimant should they return to Colombia.
 The principal claimant tried to leave the relationship three times, twice by filing complaints with the authorities. Each attempt was unsuccessful and resulted in future violence and sexual abuse.
 The principal claimant fled to her parents’ house on [XXX], 2017 and remained there until leaving for Canada the next month. She filed for refugee protection in Canada within a reasonable time, while she had lawful status in Canada courtesy of a previously obtained VISA;
 When the domestic violence began to affect her daughter, the principal claimant took steps to address the mental health issues which arose therefrom.
 All of these actions are consistent with a person that fears their spouse and therefore I find that the principal claimant has demonstrated a subjective fear of persecution.
 Exhibit 4 contains approximately 11 items, 36 pages in total. This documentation includes two psychological reports and one medical report, as well as excerpts from [XXX]’s journal which support the principal claimant’s allegations that [XXX] was abusive to the principal claimant and verbally abusive to the minor female claimant. It also supports the assertion that the abuse took such a toll on [XXX] that she was preparing to commit suicide.
 The principal claimant has also provided photographs5 and website print outs6 which show her spouse at various events with Senate candidate [XXX], Former President Alvaro Uribe and current President Ivan Duque, among others.
 The National Documentation Package (NDP) for Colombia indicates that domestic violence is so pervasive and normalized in that country, that it has become virtually invisible to authorities and citizens alike.7 Women are unlike to report such violence to the authorities as they fear being stigmatized or re-victimized by state institutions, and as such spousal abuse – and specifically spousal rape – remains a “serious problem” in the country.8
 In considering the totality of the documentary evidence, I find that the principal claimant has established an objective basis for her fear of persecution on a Convention ground, as well as the children’s fears.
 The principal claimant alleges that Colombia has failed to protect her from her husband to date and should she return to Colombia, the state would be unwilling or unable to provide her and her children with adequate state protection.
 According to the NDP for Colombia9:
According to the 2015 National Survey on Demographics and Health, 76.4 percent of women never sought help in cases of violence committed against them (Colombia 2015, 84). The same source indicates that, in cases where the violence was reported, 40.3 percent were reported at a police station, 37.2 percent at the FGR, 19 percent at a Family Commissary, 7.1 percent at “another institution,” and 2.4 percent at a court (Colombia 2015, 83-84). Of all reported cases by women victims of violence, the aggressor was penalized in 21.1 percent of the cases, the victim was summoned to conciliation in 29.5 percent of the cases, the aggressor was not penalized or did not appear in 28.2 percent of the cases, the aggressor was ordered not to go near the victim in 22.1 percent of the cases, and in 5.7 percent the aggressor was prohibited from going back into the home (Colombia 2015, 84). In 4.7 percent of the cases that were reported, the violence did not stop, and in 2.3 percent it got worse (Colombia 2015, 84).
A report sent to Congress by the President’s High Commissioner for Women’s Equality, regarding the implementation of Law 1257 of 2008, states that, in 2014, the FGN received 74,899 cases of intra-family violence, with charges laid in 10 percent of the cases and a conviction rate of 23 percent (Colombia 26 Jan. 2017). In 2015 the number of cases received was 85,040, with charges laid in 12 percent of the cases and a conviction rate of 24 percent (Colombia 26 Jan. 2017). The same report states that, despite the increase in the rate of charges being laid, that rate remains “very low, ” and the investigation and prosecution of intra-family violence cases remains “insufficient” and the conviction rate “deficient” (Colombia 26 Jan. 2017).
Country Reports 2016 states that, according to women’s groups such as Sisma Mujer, law enforcement response is “generally ineffective” (US 3 Mar. 2017, 37).
 The NDP further states that due to the prevalence of domestic violence throughout the country and a corresponding lack of resources, the state response to such violence is “insufficient”. As such, spousal abusers are able to act with relative “impunity” in Colombia.10
 This information certainly accords with the evidence of the principal claimant with regard to her attempts to obtain protection prior to her coming to Canada.
 This of course does not take into account the profile of the agent of persecution which in my view, only further supports the inference that state protection for this family is not available in Colombia.
 The ties between the political class and the various criminal groups in Colombia are well documented and date as far back as the 1960’s and 70’s.11 The principal claimant alleges that but for the threat delivered to her at her step-mother’s home, she would not have believed that [XXX] had ties to the Urabeños, but that was the threat and she believed it capable of being carried out.
 The National Documentation Package for Colombia (NDP) indicates that the Urabeños are now the dominant criminal band with the “biggest presence in Colombia” and the ability to “interfere at the national level.”12 The International Criminal Court describes the Urabeños as highly organized and able to exert effective control over its members.13 The Urabeños operate through a criminal network composed of nodes that “answer to central command,” and are known to use extortion, threats, killings, and other forms of violence including “kidnapping and selective assassination.”14
 On a balance of probabilities, and in light of the claimants’ particular circumstances, I find that there is clear and convincing evidence that the Colombian state would be unable to provide the claimant with adequate protection. The principal claimant provided reliable and trustworthy evidence of her efforts to obtain state protection, and aside from issuing a report and offering to investigate, the Colombian authorities did not provide specific protection measures.
 The NDP indicates that when victims of armed groups complain to Colombian authorities, the state is often unable to offer operationally adequate protection. This is due in part to the “overwhelming caseload” of prosecutors and “inadequate official investigation” which has “made it difficult to address threats, attacks and killings.”15 This is especially the case for those who are not “high profile”16 as the National Protection Unit (UNP) in Colombia focuses on persons “given their position or activities, [who] may be subjected to extraordinary or extreme risk,”17 such as well-known human rights defenders. The “vast majority of victims of criminal groups do not receive protection.”18
 The NDP indicates that authorities have “failed to curb the power of criminal groups” and crimes committed by neo-paramilitary groups are “sometimes committed with the collusion or acquiescence of the security forces.”19 Indeed, neo-paramilitary groups are known to use ties to Colombian officials in order to “avoid prosecution” and Colombian police officers have been seen “meeting with members of criminal groups, including the Urabeños.”20
 I note that Colombian authorities have undertaken efforts to capture members of the Urabeños.21 However, even if the perpetrators are incarcerated, they can continue to “use alliances outside to take revenge.”22 The preponderance of the evidence before me is both clear and convincing and rebuts the presumption of state protection in the claimant’s particular circumstances. I find on a balance of probabilities, that that the Colombian state is unable to provide the claimants with adequate protection from either [XXX] or the Urabeños.
INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE
 I also considered whether a viable Internal Flight Alternative (IFA) exists for the claimants in Barranquilla and Tunja. The former city is [XXX]-hour drive or [XXX] kilometers from her former residence and the latter [XXX]-hour drive or [XXX] kilometers.
 I must consider a two-prong test in order to determine the viability of an IFA location.23 Firstly, I must be satisfied that, on a balance of probabilities, the claimants would not face a serious possibility of persecution or section 97 risk in the proposed IFA. Secondly, I must be satisfied that it would not be unreasonable, in all of the circumstances, including those particular to the claimants, for them to seek refuge there.
 In determining whether [XXX] and the Urabeños have both the means and motivation to locate the claimant in the proposed IFA locations, I have considered the Urabeños area of operation, its ability to track its victims across Colombia, as well as its level of interest in the claimants. I have also considered the profile of the agent of persecution illustrated by the principal claimant in her testimony.
 With respect to [XXX], the principal claimant alleges that due to his involvement with the Centro Democratico party, he could use his “contacts” to locate her throughout Colombia. She further testifies that this could be done via access to government databases that contain biographical information which must be kept updated in order to access education, health care, exercise voting rights, etc.
 I have examined the NDP for Colombia, particularly Item 10.2 which is dedicated to privacy and data security. This document discusses the legal rights Colombians have over their own data and incidents of misuse. I do not find any support in this document for the claimant’s suggestion that [XXX] or his colleagues in the Democratic Party could track the principal claimant throughout Colombia or that they would even have access to any of these databases.
 The Urabeños are not present in Barranquilla or Tunja according to the NDP.24 However, the Urabeños have a national reach and the ability to operate across the country.25 Human Rights Watch notes that “that there have been documented cases of people being tracked down by the Urabeños after fleeing to other parts of the country.”26 The Urabeños as an organization don’t appear to have any interest in the claimants, save and except on the part of “[XXX]” who approached the claimant purportedly on behalf of [XXX].
 Neither the principal claimant nor her family members have heard from the Urabeños since this single incident in [XXX] of 2017. They have not heard from [XXX] since mid-2018. The principal claimant has no information regarding any recent attempts by either party to locate her and the children.
 I find that based on the information in the NDP and that filed by counsel, the Urabeños have the means to locate the claimant throughout Colombia should [XXX] direct them to do so. It does not appear they have a motive to locate the claimants on their own accord, but the [XXX] 17, 2017 incident demonstrates a willingness to intimidate and threaten the principal claimant and her family at the behest of [XXX].
 I therefore find, on a balance of probabilities that a viable IFA does not exist for the claimants in Colombia, including in Barranquilla and Tunja, which is both safe and reasonable for them.
 I find that the claimants are all Convention refugees pursuant to s. 96 of IRPA. The principal claimant has demonstrated a serious possibility of persecution on a Convention ground which exists throughout Colombia, as a woman fearing gender-based persecution.
 Her claim is therefore accepted.
 I find that the minor claimants both face a serious possibility of persecution as members of a particular social group – family members of the principal claimant. This possibility exists throughout Colombia, and I find that they too are Convention refugees as per s. 96 of IRPA.
 Their claims are also accepted.
(signed) David D’Intino
October 29, 2019
1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), SC 2001, c 27, as amended
2 Exhibit 2.1
3 Exhibit 4.
5 Exhibit 7.
6 Exhibit 8.
7 Exhibit 3. National Documentation Package for Colombia (May 31, 2019 version) Item 5.4 at pg 1.
9 Ibid at pgs 6-7
10 Ibid at pg 8.
11 NDP for Colombia. Item 7.20.
12 Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP) for Colombia Item 7.2, at p. 5, 13.
13 Exhibit 3 Item 7.15, at p. 3.
14 Exhibit 3 Item 7.2, at p. 12; Item 7.15, at p. 3, 4; Item 7.18, at p. 5.
15 Exhibit 3 Item 7.8, at p. 27; Item 1.7, at p. 19.
16 Exhibit 3 Item 1.7.
17 Exhibit 3, Item 7.3, at p. 1.
18 Exhibit 3, NDP for Colombia Item 7.15, at p. 20.
19 Exhibit 3, NDP for Colombia Item 7.15, at p. 19.
20 Exhibit 3, NDP for Colombia), Item 7.2, at p. 12; Item 7.15, at p. 15.
21 Exhibit 3, NDP for Colombia Item 7.15, at p. 19.
22 Exhibit 3, NDP for Colombia Item 1.7, at p. 33.
23 Thirunavukkarasu v. Canada (MEI), 1993 CanLII 3011, paras. 5-6, 14; Rasaratnam v. Canada (MEI),  1 FC
706, at p. 710.