Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2020 RLLR 56

Citation: 2020 RLLR 56
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: October 9, 2020
Panel: R. Moutafova
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Peter J Wuebbolt 
Country: Pakistan 
RPD Number: TB8-13720
Associated RPD Numbers: TB8-13781, TB8-13786, TB8-13787
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000177-000188


REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       [XXX] (father and a principal claimant), his wife [XXX] (mother and an associate claimant), and their two children [XXX] (the adult child-claimant) and [XXX] (the minor claimant), are citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (hereafter Pakistan). They are claiming refugee protection pursuant to s. 96 and s. 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act1, hereafter “the IRPA“.

[2]       The claims were heard jointly pursuant to Rule 55 (1) of the Refugee Protection Division Rules2.

[3]       The principal claimant was appointed as the designated representative for the minor claimant.

[4]       The Chairperson’s Guideline 43Women Refugee Claimant’s Fearing Gender-Related Persecution was used to help assess the circumstances of this claim that may affect findings of fact and findings of mixed fact and law.

Procedural history

[5]       The claims were heard on May 31, 2019, however the member of the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB did not render decision on the merits of the claims. The IRB decided to administratively re-hear the claims in a DeNovo hearing, presided over by another member of the Refugee Protection Division of the Board. This DeNovo hearing was held on September 17, 2020

DETERMINATION

[6]       The panel finds on a balance of probabilities that the claimants are Convention refugees on the grounds of their views on religion which places them as Members of a Particular Social Group. Their religious views are of moderate Sunni Muslims with humanitarian and liberal mindset, who do not support the Jihad and the fundamentalism in Pakistan, and who are against the religious extremists’ methods of suiciding attacks against their perceived enemies.

[7]       The reasons are as follows.

ALLEGATIONS

[8]       The complete story alleging the basis of the Claimants’ fear is captured in their Basis of Claim (BOC) forms4, and was expanded upon in testimony by the three adult claimants. In short, the claimants fear that they will be harmed or killed by religious extremists and fundamentalists in Pakistan stemming from their unsuccessful attempt to recruit the son of the family (the adult child-claimant) as a Jihadist solder and a suicide bomber.

[9]       Both parents are university educated individuals from Karachi. The family has only one son – the adult child-claimant, who is hafiz, a person who has memorised the Quran in Arabic language (the native language of the claimants is Urdu.). For this purpose, since the age of four he had attended a special religious school and had completed six classes, where he had studied also subjects from the general educational curriculum. He had obtained two Certificates for his achievements in the memorizing of the Quran.

[10]     Then he continued his education in a secular, international private school in Karachi. As a devoted Muslim, in performing his duties to volunteer and help those in need, and also to maintain his memory about the verses of the Quran, he attended the [XXX] 3 days at the end of each week. There he was teaching the Quran to younger children who were from poor families and were receiving free board, food and religious education in the [XXX] at the mosque. The adult child-claimant was also praying in this mosque with his father on the Fridays.

[11]     In the month of [XXX] 2017 several unknown and unintroduced men began appearing at the classes with the children (students) and began talking about Islam and about Jihad. They interpreted for the children some Qur’anic passages that refer to the Jihad and explained the meaning of the Quran as requesting the true Muslims to be part of Jihad. They spoke about the purpose in life as per the Qur’an and that being a better Muslim means fight against the non­believers like Christians, Ahmadi, Shia Muslims, etc. The men were not friendly, they tried to instill fear in the students and warned them to keep secret the meetings with the men and threatened them with death if they would dare to speak with anybody else about these teachings. The unknown men gave away written materials with information, purporting to be the right interpretation of the Qur’an and appealing to the readers to be true Muslims and followers of the Qur’an by joining Jihad.

[12]     These materials were found inadvertently by the mother of the adult child-claimant (the associate claimant) and alarmed her. She asked her son for explanation, but he was very scared and did not tell her anything about the source of the materials. She sent her husband (the PC) to the [XXX] to inquire what is happening and the source of the materials.

[13]     The father attended the [XXX] and was assured by the management that there is no danger of fundamentalism of the students there. However, the extremists continued to visit the classes in the [XXX] and the adult child-claimant became more and more scared with each visit. The mother continued to invite explanations from her son about the Jihad literature and he eventually confided what is going on. Thus, the parents prohibited their adult child-claimant to continue to teach in the [XXX], which was not taken well by the administration there.

[14]     The management of the [XXX] tried multiple times to pressure the claimants to send back their son and initially the claimants were providing medical-problem-excuses for their son not attending any more. Eventually they got the courage to state, that their son – the adult child­ claimant is not going to attend any mote and immediately they were threatened over the phone by the administrator of the [XXX]. They started receiving calls from unknow persons threatening that they will regret if disobey and do not send again the son back to the [XXX]. The claimants filed a complaint with the police on [XXX] 2018.

[15]     Further, the threatening phone calls continued and even on one occasion unknown people visited the family, angry from the disobedience to the orders the son to return to the [XXX]. They repeated the death threats against the entire family again.

[16]     Few days later, on [XXX] 2017 a stone with a life-threatening letter around it was thrown through the window of the claimants. The letter was accusing them as infidels, deserving to be killed, because they vive western education of their children and engage in un-Islamic activities. A second complaint was immediately filed with the police5, which did not investigate any of the complaints.

[17]     The adult child-claimant fell ill from fear. When recovered, he did not go any more to the [XXX], but he continued to attend his international high school. The commute to and back from the private school was arranged with a special school bus. Nevertheless, one day an unknown person attempted to pick up the boy after school. The security prevented the attempt and alarmed the administration and the family.

[18]     The Police refused to accept any more complaints and to be involved in a such religios issue, which they pretended to be a minor, unimportant dispute about the education of the son. Understanding that no protection is coming, the scared family moved immediately to Islamabad, where they stayed with a cousin. The threatening phone calls continued on the cell phone of the mother, insisting that the adult child-claimant get back to the [XXX]. The claimants arranged their travel to Canada and arrived on [XXX] 2018. They were planning that the PC would be able to make some alternative arrangements for their safe return and residence back in Pakistan.

[19]     The PC, who was working for the [XXX], and could not take a longer leave from his job, returned in Karachi on [XXX] 2018. He took precautious measures and stayed at his brother, visiting his home rarely only at night to pick documents and things of necessity.

[20]     Encouraged that everything seems calm, one night, on [XXX] 2018, the PC stayed in the house and on the next day, when leaving for his prayer, he saw many abusive slogans painted on the house. He left quickly for his brother, but on his way he was attacked and shot at by two individuals on a motorbike. The PC arrived back in Canada on [XXX] 2018 and the entire family applied for refugee protection three days later.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[21]     The panel finds, on a balance of probabilities, that all claimants have provided sufficient documentation to establish their personal identities and citizenship in Pakistan, based on their testimony and the certified true copies of their Government of Pakistan passports.6

Religious identity

[22]     The panel is satisfied that the mother and associate claimant are Shia Muslim and that the father and principal claimant are Sunni Muslim, based on the testimony of the adult claimants, the donation receipts from [XXX] and personal documents provided into evidence7. The claimants explained that they are cousins and the differences in their religious views have never been an issue, because the extended family has broad, liberal, humanitarian views on religion and on the individual liberty.

[23]     The panel accepts, on a balance of probabilities, that the adult child-claimant, is hafiz, a person who had memorised the Quran. He submitted two Certificates from the [XXX] from 2011 and 2012 for his achievements in memorization of the Holy Quran8. The claimant testified personally about his study experience and was able to demonstrate his knowledge by reciting verses from the Quran by heart in Arabic language. The panel is satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the adult child-claimant is a Sunni Muslim and hafiz.

NEXUS

[24]     The panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees in that they have a well-founded fear of persecution from religious extremists due to their humanitarian and liberal religious views on Islam, and, thus, the nexus to the Convention is their membership in a particular social group.

CREDIBILITY

[25]     All three adult claimants provided testimony. The panel finds that the claimants are credible on the material aspects of their claims – specifically the panel finds that the adult child­ claimant is hafiz and that while teaching classes of poor children, boarding and studying in the local [XXX], he had been identified and targeted by extremists over a couple of meetings, who tried to pursue him to join Jihad and become a suicide bomber.

[26]     Generally speaking, the claimants’ testimony was direct, sincere, detailed and spontaneous. Overall, the panel did not find any contradictions, inconsistencies, omissions or implausibility regarding any aspects of their account which could have undermined the credibility of their statements. They provided many details of the events, that have led to their fleeing Pakistan. In coming to this finding on credibility the panel also considered the numerous claimant-specific documents tendered into evidence9 by the claimants to support their allegations, namely: school documents, reports to the police, First Information Reports to the police, affidavits from eye eyewitnesses of the kidnapping incident from the school, letters of support from family members, letters from [XXX] from Pakistan and from Canada about the affiliation of the claimants, birth and death certificates, employment history records.

[27]     The panel finds that the claimants were credible witnesses and did not find any discrepancies or inconsistencies between their testimony and the documents they submitted. The panel finds, that the evidence before the panel establish, on a balance of probabilities, that the adult child-claimant was a victim, together with the [XXX] boarding school children, of persuasion to join the Jihad and attempt to be recruited as a suicide bomber. When his parents intervened and stopped him from further attending the [XXX] and meetings with the religious extremists, the entire family was targeted for harm by the particular individuals, belonging to the religious extremists and fundamentalists in Karachi, Pakistan.

Objective basis of future risk

[28]     Based on the credibility of the claimants’ allegations, and the documentary evidence set out above, the panel finds that the claimants have established a future risk to their lives and that they will be subjected to violence at the hands of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, owing to their identities of mixed family of Shia and Sunni Muslim, who has liberal and moderate religious views and is against Jihad, promulgated by religious extremists and fundamentalists.

[29]     The objective documentary evidence that corroborate the allegations of the claimants are found in many documents: In item 1.18 of the NDP on Pakistan (NDP)10 the UK Home Office informs about the report of the UN Secretary General (UNSG) on Children and armed conflict, dated 16 May 2018, where is noted:

“The United Nations continued to receive reports of the recruitment and use of children, including from madrasas, and allegations of the use of children by armed groups for suicide attacks. In January [2017], TTP released a video showing children, including girls, being instructed in how to perpetrate suicide attacks.”

Further, the UK Home Office advises that According to the USSD human rights report for 2017:

“Nonstate militant groups kidnapped boys and girls and used fraudulent promises to coerce parents into giving away children as young as 12 to spy, fight, or die as suicide bombers. The militants sometimes offered parents money, often sexually and physically abused the children, and used psychological coercion to convince the children the acts they committed were justified. The government operated a center in Swat to rehabilitate and educate former child soldiers.”

[30]     The suicide attacks are already part of the contemporary mode of terrorism of the militant groups. Item 7.1 of the NDP about the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group in Pakistan from the Research Directorate of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada reports that JeM was the first jihadi organization to launch suicide attacks (…) in 2002. Sources indicate that the group’s attacks are aimed at killing the maximum number of people, including security force personnel and civilians, targeting the Pakistani state and sectarian minorities. Despite bans on JeM’s activities, the group continues to operate openly in different areas of Pakistan and has claimed to have 300 suicide bombers available to attack (…).

[31]     In a June 2010 article11, The Economist quoted a Lahore-based political analyst as saying that:

“[t]he Punjab government is not only complacent, there is a certain ambivalence in their attitude’ towards extremists…..They compete for the religious vote bank”‘ (The Economist 3 June 2010). The same source states that as the death toll grows, so do concerns that even the appearance of official tolerance gives these organisations legitimacy……The Federal Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, declared that an “operation” was needed to clear out the Punjabi groups. He claimed that 44% of Pakistan’s madrassas – Islamic seminaries – are based in south Punjab and that groups like (…..) Jaish-e­Mohammed are “part of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Reavailment

[32]     The panel had concerns about the reavailment of the PC back to Pakistan after arriving in Canada and leaving his family here. The PC testified that he was having a lucrative employment in the [XXX] in Karachi and that he was not planning to seek refugee protection in Canada, when he fled Pakistan with his family after the incident, that looked like an attempt of kidnapping of his son. The PC testified that the family was planning to re-locate somewhere in Pakistan and he returned to maintain his job while obtaining re­ assignment or finding another solution for re-location. However, upon his return in Pakistan, although the precautionary measures, he became a victim of an assassination attack and his house was vandalized with abusive slogans with religious context. This made him re-assess the threats from the religious extremists and fundamentalists for the entire family and to find them real and inevitable. This is when he decided to seek protection from Canada.

[33]     The panel finds, on a balance of probabilities, that the explanations of the claimant were reasonable and credible and that in the circumstances, the PC’s individual return to Pakistan does not amount to re-availment demonstrating a lack of subjective fear.

State Protection

[34]     The claimants alleged that the state is unable or unwilling to provide them with adequate protection. The objective documentary evidence indicates that there is a lack of rule of law in Pakistan, including a lack of due process and a lack of government accountability. This means that abuse often goes unpunished, fostering a culture of impunity amongst perpetrators. The claimants have previously sought police protection in Pakistan, which was not provided to them due to unwillingness of the Police to be involved in such sensitive religious issue with violent agents of persecution/harm. The NDP contains numerous reports that outline deficiencies and inaction from state authorities in situations such as those, alleged by the claimants. There are reports that law enforcement authorities are often unwilling, or even when they are willing, are unable to protect from the attacks of religious extremists. Pakistani authorities have faced criticism for their failure to protect religious violence, for permitting militant organizations to operate with impunity, and for not investigating and punishing the groups responsible for violent attacks.12 The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom described the response of the Pakistani government as “grossly inadequate state protection for Shia Muslims.”13 That same report notes that “the government has proven unwilling or unable to crack down on groups that repeatedly plan, conduct, and claim credit for attacks, or prevent future violence.”14

[35]     Further the reports inform that:

“Pakistan’s police system suffers severe deficiencies in a number of areas, including equipment, technology, personnel, training, and intelligence capability. They are considered one of the most corrupt institutions in Pakistan. There have also been reports that the police have often failed to protect members of religious minorities, women and the poor.”15

[36]     In addition, the News International, a Pakistani newspaper, stated in a 3 March 2014 article that, according to the NISP, there are a total of 60 banned organizations in Pakistan, including JeM, and although the government has taken steps to ban certain organizations, “metamorphism” of these groups and “implementation gaps” remain a challenge for the government’s internal security mechanisms.

[37]     The panel, therefore, concludes that the claimants have rebutted the presumption of state protection with clear and convincing evidence.

Internal flight alternative (IFA)

[38]     The panel inquired as to whether the claimants could relocate to Hyderabad or Multan, or DG Khan and live safely. The male claimant testified that nowhere is safe for them in Pakistan and they would be at high risk of harm by the extremist organizations who would try to hurt him and his family.

[39]     The panel finds that there is a well-founded fear of persecution which exists throughout the country, and there’s a serious possibility of persecution throughout Pakistan for the claimants. The conclusion is based not only on the statements by the claimants above, but also on evidence in the NDP, which indicates that, in general, an internal flight alternative would not be available where there is a likelihood that persons such as the claimants would be persecuted by extremists for their perceived un-Islamic position with respect to Jihad.

[40]     There are reports within the documentary evidence that given the wide geographic presence and reach of religious extremists or anti-Shia militant groups, a viable internal flight alternative would generally not be available to individuals at risk of being targeted by such groups, as is the family of the claimants, which is of mixed reldigion: Sunni and Shia Muslim and which opposed involvement of their son in Jihad. The panel finds that there is a serious possibility of the claimants being persecuted throughout the country given their profile and the reach of the agents of persecution.

[41]     Given the objective documentary evidence cited above regarding state protection and the claimants’ testimony the panel finds that there is no viable IFA for these claimants in Pakistan at this time.

CONCLUSION

[42]     Based on the analysis above and to the relevant provisions of IRPA, the panel concludes that the claimants do have a well-founded fear of persecution on Convention grounds and, therefore, are Convention refugees, within the meaning of section 96 of IRPA.

[43]     Therefore, the panel accepts these claims for refugee protection.

(signed)           R. Moutafova

October 9, 2020

1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. (2001), c. 27, as amended.
2 Immigration and Refugee Board, Refugee Protection Division Rules, SOR 2012/256.
3 Chairperson ‘s Guideline 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution: Update, Guidelines Issued by the Chairperson Pursuant to Section 65(3) of the Immigration Act, IRB, Ottawa, November 25, 1996, as continued in effect by the Chairperson on June 28, 2002, under the authority found in section 159(1)(h) of the IRPA.
4 Exhibits # 2.1, 2.2, 2.3.
5 Exhibit # 8: Disclosure – Personal documents.
6 Exhibit # 4.1.
7 Exhibit # 8.
8 Idem.
9 Idem.
10 Exhibit # 3 – NDP on Pakistan, version from 31 March 2020.
11 Idem, item 7.1.
12 Idem, item 1.8: UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Members of Religious Minorities from Pakistan, January 2017.
13 Idem, items## 12.5 and 1.22.
14 Idem, item 12.5.
15 Idem.

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2020 RLLR 44

Citation: 2020 RLLR 44
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: September 25, 2020
Panel: D. Marcovitch
Counsel for the Claimant(s): John Savalgio 
Country: Pakistan
RPD Number: TB9-15066
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000100-000105


REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       The claimant, [XXX] claims as a citizen of Pakistan and seeks refugee protection pursuant to subsections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA“).1

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The claimant’s allegations are fully set out in his Basis of Claim (BOC) form2 and amendment.3 In summary, the claimant is a [XXX] man who was born to a Sunni Muslim family in Sialkot, Punjab province on [XXX]. He alleges a fear of persecution from the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (“LeJ”) as a result of his conversion from the Sunni sect to the Shia sect and his active Shia religious practices.

[3]       On or about [XXX] 2019, the claimant traveled from [XXX]. Then, on or about [XXX] 2019 the claimant travelled from [XXX] Canada, via [XXX] and arrived in Canada on [XXX] 2019. On or about June 11, 2019, the claimant’s refugee claim was referred to the Refugee Protection Board (the “Board”).

DETERMINATION

[4]       I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to s.96 of IRPA.

ANALYSIS

Nexus

[5]       I find that the claimant has a nexus to the Convention ground of religion, based on his allegations of having converted from the Sunni to Shia sect and consequent persecution alleged.

Identity

[6]       I accept, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant is a citizen of Pakistan on the basis of his Islamic Republic of Pakistan passport4 which was seized by Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees Canada (IRCC) when the claim was filed.

[7]       Further, I also accept on a balance of probabilities that the claimant converted from the Sunni sect to the Shia sect of Islam, based on his testimony and support letters from friends, [XXX] officials, religious leaders and family. I find on a balance of probabilities that the letters from the claimant’s father and the [XXX] of the [XXX] that the claimant’s father belonged to, establish that the claimant was formerly a follower of the Sunni Islam sect.

Credibility

[8]       I had certain issues with the claimant’s credibility stemming from the fact that he paid the equivalent of approximately [XXX] CAD to an agent, while he was still working in [XXX] in order to secure Visa’s to various countries around the world, including Canada. I note that the claimant spent this money after converting to the Shia sect, but prior to having any threats made against his life in Pakistan. I asked the claimant why he would have spent [XXX] CAD to get the Visa’s if there were no threat to his life. The claimant testified that he did so just to be safe in case he experienced problems related to his Shia conversion or feared for his safety. I find that such an explanation is unreasonable in these particular circumstances. I find that spending such a significant amount of money for a ‘just in case’ situation where he would not have used the Visa’s if nothing transpired on his return to Pakistan, is implausible. I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant spent [XXX] CAD to get the assistance of an agent and associated travel visa’s because it was always his intention to leave Pakistan even though he had not yet experienced any persecution at the time the Visa’s were acquired.

[9]       However, having made the above noted findings, I recognize that the above noted issues neither go to the core of the claim, nor should the implausibility finding, without more, lead to a negative decision.

[10]     While the above noted issues certainly raise questions, by inference, as to the credibility of the claimant’s allegations concerning what happened to him after he returned to Pakistan from [XXX], I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant has provided sufficient corroborative evidence of his faith and activities once he was back in Pakistan, that I am unable to deny the credibility the allegations that go to the heart of his claim.

[11]     I note that the claimant provided hospital records and a First Information Report (“FIR”) that corroborate his allegations of having been attacked and injured after he left his [XXX] on [XXX] 2019. The claimant’s allegations in his BOC regarding this attack and the details contained in the FIR largely corroborate each other. The primary difference is that the FIR does not mention the LeJ as the claimant’s attackers, but rather as local, unknown extremist persons.

[12]     I also accept, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant fled [XXX] and went to [XXX] prior to leaving Pakistan based on the support letter from [XXX], who the claimant stayed with in [XXX].

Well-Foundedness

[13]     There is considerable documentary evidence5 before the panel that supports the claim that there are significant problems in Pakistan for Shia Muslims in general and Sunni to Shia Converts in particular.

[14]     I note that in a Response to Information Request at NDP Item 12.56 it is stated that, “[s]ectarian violence in Pakistan has historically targeted individuals, places of worship, shrines and religious schools, however Shi’a traditionally represented a higher proportion of the casualties,” noting that Shia face threats from anti-Shia militant groups, including Lashkar-e­ Jhangvi (LeJ), which “seeks to have Shi’a declared ‘non-believers’ or apostates,” as well as from Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), also known as Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), LeJ al-Alami, and other factions of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Australia 20 Feb. 2019, para. 3.99).” I find that the claimant’s fear of persecution in Pakistan is well-founded.

State Protection

[15]     The UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines For Assessing the International Protection Needs of Members of Religious Minorities From Pakistan7 dated January 2017, states, that “[T]he government has been criticized for failing to protect Shi’ite Muslims from attacks, and for allowing militant organizations to operate with impunity by failing to investigate and punish those responsible for violent attacks against Shi’ites in Pakistan.”

[16]     Further, the same UNHCR document notes that “[E]ven where the police have been present they have reportedly been unable to stop attacks; analysts have described the authorities as indifferent, incompetent or even complicit in the violence and discrimination against Shi’ites.”

[17]     As a result, and given that authorities in Pakistan did not appear to assist/protect the claimant beyond taking the FIR, I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant did not receive adequate state protection in the past and nor would he receive it in the future. I find that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection.

[18]     The claimant testified that should he return to Pakistan today, he would be killed by the LeJ or other extremist religious militant groups due to his Shia religious activities. Based on the evidence adduced, I find on a balance of probabilities that the claimant came to the attention of the LeJ and is currently being pursued to stop his Shia activities. I find that while the claimant has only recently become an active and outwardly practicing Shia convert in Pakistan, I find that the evidence suggests that the LeJ has been looking for him in locations other than his home town of Sialkot and they also have his photograph as shown on the placard for the [XXX] mourning event on [XXX] 2019. I therefore find that there is no Internal Flight Alternative for this claimant because the LeJ tracked him down to a friend’s house in Lahore and have therefore shown a continuing interest in the claimant.  Further, even if the claimant were able to safely relocate in the short term to Hyderabad, I find that his active faith and sponsorship of [XXX] activities would create a serious possibility that he would eventually be found and persecuted in the future.

[19]     Therefore, based on the totality of the evidence adduced, I find that there is more than a mere possibility that the claimant will be persecuted by religious militant groups on account of being a Sunni to Shia convert and perceived to be active in Pakistan’s Shia Muslim community.

[20]     In light of my finding that the claimant is a Convention refugee, it is unnecessary to consider his claim under s.97(1).

[21]     This claim is accepted.

(signed)           D. Marcovitch

September 25, 2020

1 The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C.2001, c. 27, as amended by the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, S.C. 2012, c.17 (the “Act” or “IRPA”).
2 Exhibit 2.
3 Exhibit 7
4 Exhibit 1.
5 Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP) for Pakistan (March 31, 2020) and Exhibit 5.
6 Exhibit 3, NDP (March 31, 2020), tab 12.5: Situation and treatment of Shia [Shi’a, Shi’i, Shiite] Muslims, including Hazaras and Turi, particularly in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Hyderabad; state response to violence against Shias (2017-January 2020). Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 15 January 2020. PAK106393.E.
7 Exhibit 3, NDP for Pakistan (March 31, 2020), item 1.8, at p. 54.

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2020 RLLR 33

Citation: 2020 RLLR 33
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 7, 2020
Panel: Samantha Bretholz
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Tony Manglaviti 
Country: Pakistan 
RPD Number: MB8-20495
ATIP Number: A-2021-00655
ATIP Pages: 000016-000023


REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       [XXX] (the Claimant), a citizen of Pakistan, claims refugee protection in Canada pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)1.

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The Claimant alleges that he was working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a [XXX] while his wife and son were residing in Pakistan with his parents and siblings. The Claimant discussed how there was a general atmosphere of apprehension over [XXX] in the UAE, as foreign workers were beginning to be replaced with local Arab employees. On one of his biannual trips to visit his family in [XXX], Pakistan, he befriended [XXX] (the Mullah), a cleric at the mosque in his village, given that he was of the view that in the, not too distant, future he might be sent back to Pakistan from the UAE and he was looking to make connections in his home town. He developed a relationship with the Mullah and he introduced the Claimant to [XXX] ([XXX]) while on a subsequent trip to Pakistan in [XXX] 2018. The Claimant stated that [XXX] tried to pose himself as a scholar of Islam and contemporary issues, and they would speak about the greatness of Jihad.

[3]       The Claimant returned to the UAE in [XXX] 2018 to continue working. In [XXX] 2018, the Claimant stated that he received a call from [XXX] asking him to donate one million rupees for the Taliban Jihad. The Claimant refused, stating that the Jihad of [XXX] is sedition, and he would not pledge one penny to this cause. The Claimant stated that [XXX] responded by stating that the Taliban would have to now get involved to handle this case.

[4]       On [XXX], 2018, the Claimant stated that his family in [XXX] received a letter from the Taliban stating that if he did not pay, then they would kill him upon his return to Pakistan. In [XXX] 2018, the Claimant alleges to have received a call while in the UAE telling him to pay and that if he didn’t comply there were people in the UAE that would take care of him. The Claimant stated that the caller accurately described his daily movements, visits and schedule which led him to believe that he was being watched and followed in the UAE. Fearful that both his job was not secure and fearing for his life in Pakistan, the Claimant left the UAE for the United States of American on [XXX], 2018, to claim asylum.

[5]       Following his departure from the UAE, the Claimant alleges that the Taliban issued a fatwa (the Fatwa) against him stating that he was a kafir (an infidel), they have added his name to a “hit list” and information about him has been passed on to their expansive networks throughout Pakistan to find and kill him. Following the issuance of the Fatwa, the Claimant stated that police attended at his family’s home in [XXX] looking for the Claimant, and stated that he is to appear at the police station for the purposes of investigating a religious complaint. He further asserts that the police continue to attend at his family’s home every 3-6 months looking for him.

[6]       In an amendment to his Basis of Claim form (BOC)2, the Claimant advanced that in [XXX] 2020 his relatives stated that the Fatwa was being distributed at a mosque in Karachi, which is located at the other end of Pakistan, over [XXX] km away from [XXX].

[7]       The Claimant fears the Mullah, [XXX], the Taliban, the Pakistani police and now the general population who would glean favour for killing an infidel.

DETERMINATION

[8]       Having considered the evidence and the Claimant’s testimony in its entirety, the Panel concludes that the Claimant has established a serious possibility of persecution, based upon his imputed religious opinion.

[9]       For the reasons that follow, the Panel finds that the Claimant is a “Convention refugee” under Section 96 of the IRPA, and accepts his claim.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[10]     The Claimant’ s personal and national identity as a citizen of Pakistan is established, on a balance of probabilities, by way of a certified true copy of his Pakistani passport, including the United States Visa that the Claimant used to travel to the United States3.

Credibility

[11]     The Panel finds the Claimant to be a credible witness and believes, on a balance of probabilities, the key allegations of his claim. The Claimant testified in a straightforward, spontaneous, detailed, and sincere manner. The Panel did not find that the Claimant embellished his story or tried to exaggerate the allegations during his testimony.

[12]     The Panel also noted that there were no significant contradictions, inconsistencies, or omissions between the Claimant’s Basis of Claim BOC, his testimony at the hearing or the documentary evidence submitted. The testimony of the Claimant also included additional details which were not in the BOC and added to the credibility of the story.

[13]     The Claimant spoke and wrote in detail about his views of Islam. He is more open-minded, liberal and egalitarian given the years he has spent in a more moderate society, in the UAE. He described the various threats against him which began with demands, then led to telephone calls, visits by the police and ultimately culminated in the issuance and distribution of a fatwa.

[14]     The Panel believes, on a balance of probabilities, that the Claimant is targeted and continues to be targeted by the Mullah, [XXX], members of the Taliban and the police (collectively, the Agents of Persecution). Given that there was an announcement at the local mosque declaring that a fatwa was issued against the Claimant by the Taliban, the Claimant contends that he can become a target of any extremist who believes it is their duty to kill him in the name of religion.

[15]     In furtherance of the foregoing, the Claimant also disclosed a number of supporting documents, including a letter from the Taliban4, the Fatwa5, a letter from his Pakistani lawyer6, an affidavit from his father7 and his wife8, and a recent letter of public gathering with the Mullah and XXXX as guest speakers9, all of which are uncontradicted and which corroborate the Claimant’s testimony.

Objective Evidence

[16]     The objective documentary evidence provides that blasphemy and other offences relating to religion are criminalized in Pakistan under Articles 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Punishment for blasphemy is death10. “The introduction of the blasphemy laws in the [Pakistani] Penal Code has reportedly fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance (…). The blasphemy laws have also come under strong criticism for fuelling extremist violence and targeted attacks against individuals from religious minority groups11.” “In 2017, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported an increase in blasphemy-related violence, use of religious rhetoric, incitement of hatred and discrimination against minority groups. The HRCP noted the government failed to repeal discriminatory laws. Local and international observers report increasing misuse of blasphemy laws, and a widening of actions considered chargeable blasphemy offences12.”

[17]     While Pakistani’s blasphemy laws purport to protect religious sentiments, sources have expressed concerns over the use of the laws by individuals apparently for other motives. These motives might include, and consistent with the case at hand, personal or religious disputes. The effect of these laws violates the rights to life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, and freedom of opinion and expression13.

[18]     Further, the law has been described as vaguely formulated, and enforced by the police, prosecutors, and judiciary in proceedings that often violate the right to a fair trial, including the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence where prosecution proceed on the basis of unfounded accusations by complainants. Death sentences have been imposed, in violation of international law, on people convicted of blasphemy14.

[19]     Religious clerics, such as the Mullah in the foregoing case, hold significant power in the registration of blasphemy cases. Their opinions are frequently sought by complainants, and often also by the police as part of their investigation. Faced with pressure from religious clerics and their supporters, the police may forward a case to the prosecutor on the basis of insubstantial evidence. Police rely on fatwas from local clerics to determine whether the allegations amount to blasphemy, even though they have no legal evidentiary value15.

[20]     The laws have created an environment in which some people, including complainants and their supporters in blasphemy cases, believe themselves entitled to take the law into their own hands, while the police stand aside. The laws have been used as a cover for perpetrators of mob violence16.  There is a lack of a consistent, robust and timely response by the authorities to situations of such violence. The lack of response, and the failure to prosecute rigorously and promptly those responsible, leads to a climate of impunity for perpetrators of further such attacks17.

[21]     Given the foregoing, together with the numerous articles on blasphemy provided by counsel18, the Panel finds that the Claimant’s allegations are consistent with the objective evidence and therefore the Panel concludes that his subjective fear is objectively well founded. In addition to the articles on blasphemy, counsel also submitted numerous articles regarding the continued pervasiveness of the Taliban in Pakistan19.

[22]     The Panel concludes that the Claimant has met his burden of proof and has demonstrated that he would face a serious possibility of persecution based on a Convention ground if he returns to Pakistan.

State Protection

[23]     The Claimant fears religious fundamentalists/extremists, in particular the Taliban, the Mullah and [XXX]. The Panel notes that the documentary evidence provides that there is a general lack of rule of law in Pakistan20, including a lack of due process, poor implementation and enforcement of laws and frequent mob violence and vigilante justice with limited accountability21.

[24]     The power wielded by the religious clerics, combined with the high level of corruption within the police force and the lack of political will in Pakistan to address said corruption leads the Panel to conclude that adequate state protection would not reasonably be likely to be forthcoming to the Claimant, should he return to Pakistan. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Claimant has rebutted the presumption of adequate state protection.

Internal Flight Alternative (IFA)

[25]     The Panel finds that the Claimant has a credible fear of being persecuted by Muslim extremists, including the Taliban, throughout Pakistan and that, therefore, there is no possibility of a viable internal refuge anywhere in that country. The Panel is guided by the documentary evidence which provides that if the agents of persecution are armed militant groups, they may not be safe anywhere due to their wide geographical reach22. The Taliban is a major terrorist group in Pakistan focused on conducting terrorist attacks against the military and civilians in Pakistan23. Growing religious extremism in Pakistan threatens its security and stability, as well as freedom of expressing and other fundamental human rights24. Besides the militant groups’ ability to find the Claimant, there are examples in the documentary evidence where vigilante justice was perpetrated against people accused of blasphemy by religious clerics.

[26]     Given the totality of the foregoing, the Panel finds that the Claimant has a credible fear of being persecuted throughout Pakistan and that, therefore, there is no possibility of a viable IFA anywhere in that country.

CONCLUSION

[27]     Having considered the evidence, including the relevant documentary evidence and the Claimant’s testimony, the Panel determines that the Claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution should he return to Pakistan based on his imputed religious opinion.

[28]     The Panel, therefore, finds that the Claimant is a “Convention refugee” pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA.

[29]     The Panel, therefore, accepts his claim.

(signed)           Samantha Bretholz

December 7, 2020

1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c, 27, as amended.
2 Document 2-Basis of Claim Form (BOC). Document 4-Exhibit C-1: Update to the BOC of [XXX].
3 Document 1-Package of Information from  the referring Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)/Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): Passport.
4 Document 4-Exhibit C-3: TTP Letter.
5 Document 4-Exhibit C-4: TTP Fatwa.
6 Document 4-Exhibit C-6: Lawyer Letter.
7 Document 4-Exhibit C-7: Affidavit from [XXX].
8 Document 4-Exhibit C-8: Affidavit from [XXX].
9 Document 4-Exhibit C-5: Notice Public Gathering.
10 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 1.13: DFAT Country Information Report: Pakistan, Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 20 February 2019.
11 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 1.8: UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Members of Religious Minorities from Pakistan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, January 2017, HCR/EG/PAK/17/01.
12 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 1.13: DFAT Country Information Report: Pakistan, Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 20 February 2019.
13 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 12.31: “As Good as Dead“: The Impact of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan, Amnesty International, 21 December 2016, ASA 33/5136/2016.
14 Ibid.
15 Supra, note 14.
16 Supra, note 14.
17 Supra, note 14.
18 Document 4-Exhibit C-11: Documents regarding Blaphesmy.
19 Document 4-Exhibit C-10: Documentary Evidence Taliban.
20 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 2.1: Pakistan. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2019, United States, Department of State, 11 March 2020.
21 Ibid.
22 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 1.17: Country Policy and Information Note. Pakistan: Christians and Christian converts. Version 3.0, United Kingdom, Home Office, September 2018.
23 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 1.6: Pakistan: Country Report, Asylum Research Centre, 18 June 2018.24 Document 3-National Documentation Package, Pakistan, 31 March 2020, tab 12.4: Pakistan. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2019 Annual Report, United States, Commission on International Religious Freedom, April 2019.

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2019 RLLR 36

Citation: 2019 RLLR 36
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: January 22, 2019
Panel: Michal Fox
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: VB8-04811
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000203-000209


[1]       PRESIDING MEMBER: [XXX], [XXX], and [XXX] claim to be citizens of Nigeria and the United States. You claim refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       At the hearing the claimant was appointed the designative representative to the minor claimants, [XXX] and [XXX].

Allegations from the Basis of Claim forms, Exhibits 2.1 and 2.2

[3]       The claimant, [XXX] is a citizen of Nigeria. The claimant is Yoruba and is from the western part of Nigeria, from [XXX] (ph). The claimant is a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She attends the Kingdom Hall two times a week and preaches as well.

[4]       The claimant is the mother of the minor claimants, [XXX] and [XXX]. [XXX] is a citizen of Nigeria, being born there on [XXX], 2013. The minor claimant [XXX] is a US citizen, born in the United States on [XXX], 2017.

[5]       The claimant’s mother and father were from [XXX] – state, Nigeria. On [XXX] 2012 the claimant married her husband, [XXX]. He’s from Delta State and he is [XXX] by ethnicity.

[6]       The claimant’s family were quite hostile to the claimant. They were against this inter-tribal union and the claimant became a Jehovah’s Witness. She wasn’t born into that religion and the husband’s family rejected not only her but that their son and brother became Jehovah’s Witness as well before he married the claimant.

[7]       The claimant’s Ogun state ethnicity being Yoruba but mostly her religion is the main reason of their hatred toward her. On several occasions the claimant was attacked and beaten by the claimant’s family so that she would get away from her husband. Her husband’s sister threatened to kill her if she didn’t step away from the marriage and it is because of this that she developed psychological problems.

[8]       In [XXX] 2015, she had a heated confrontation with a sister-in-law and thereafter miscarried at ten weeks of pregnancy.

[9]       The claimant was verbally attacked so many times that she would go to her parents’ home in Ogun state for refuge. One time was in [XXX], 2017. Her husband’s family followed her there and set the house ablaze. Her room was set on fire and all of her personal documents were burned. The claimant’s family went to the police but they refused to get involved.

[10]     The claimant herself was born in to a different Christian religion or sect called Church of Christ Family and her own family rejected her for becoming Jehovah’s Witness. They turned against her. They burned her clothes. They burned her religious publications and study materials. She was beaten, denied access to food and locked out for attending Christian meetings.

[11]     Her father showed up at the Kingdom Hall and embarrassed her. Her father threatened to burn down the Kingdom Hall if the claimant did not leave there and he threatened to disown her for being part of the Jehovah’s Witness community.

[12]     She was forced out of her home and the elders of the church had to take her in. The claimant supported herself without her family’s support when she went for higher education.

[13]     Many occasions when the claimant’s husband and herself were going for the door to door ministry, his family members would mock them and throw rocks at them and yell insults. They became fearful that there were people going to kill them because of their religious beliefs.

[14]     The claimants left Nigeria, came to United States, where the minor claimant was born. The claimants thereafter came to Canada and applied for refugee protection.

For the claim of the minor claimant [XXX]

Determination

[15]     I find that the claimant is not a Convention refugee in that she does not have a well-established fear of persecution for a Convention ground in Nigeria. I also find that the claimant is not a person in need of protection in that her removal to Nigeria would not subject her personally to a risk to her life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment and in that there are no substantial grounds to believe that her removal to Nigeria will subject her personally to a danger of torture.

Analysis

[16]     The minor claimant is a citizen of United States. See Exhibit 1, her US birth certificate. As well, the claimant averred in Basis of Claim form that the minor claimant is a citizen of the United States.

[17]     At the hearing, in consultation with the claimant, who is the minor claimant’s designated representative, counsel stated that the claimant has no claim per section 96 and 97 against the United States.

Conclusion

[18]     For the foregoing reasons, I conclude that the minor claimant [XXX] is not a Convention refugee and not a person in need of protection and I therefore reject her claim.

The claims of [XXX]

Determination

[19]     I find that you are Convention refugees and that you do have a well-founded fear of persecution in Nigeria by reason of religion and race or ethnicity for the following reasons.

Analysis

[20]     Your identities as nationals of Nigeria are established by your testimony and supporting documentation filed, namely your Nigerian passports found in Exhibit 1.

[21]     I have found you to be a credible witness and I therefore believe what you have alleged in support of your claim. You testified in a straightforward manner and you corroborated your case with extensive documentary evidence, found in Exhibits 4 through 10.

[22]     I find your fears to be well-founded for the following reasons.

[23]     You have been attacked and even had part of your house burned down by family members due to you and your husband’s conversion to be Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years and also because of your husband’s family rejecting you due to your tribe being Yoruba while they are Osoko – O-S-O-K-O.

[24]     You’ve had stones thrown at you and at your husband when you were preaching your religion to others.  You’ve been threatened with death and abused verbally countless times. You also had a miscarriage due to the violence perpetrated against you for these very reasons and you still grieve this child to this day.

[25]     There is clear and convincing evidence before me that the state is unable or unwilling to protect you.

[26]     You filed police complaints on two times, see Exhibit 6 at page 3 and 4, and Exhibit 5 at page 16 and 18. Even neighbours filed police diary notices based on – to the police – about what they saw. Even when the agents of harm had been identified the police did nothing to investigate or take action.  It would be futile to expect protection in the future when the police, with the full evidence from even your neighbours, about who the agents of harm are, failed to take any action whatsoever in your case.

[27]     I have considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for you. On the evidence before me, I find that you would not be at risk in Port Harcourt. The claimants fear family members who reside in Delta, Lagos and Ogun state. She fears no one in Port Harcourt. The jurisprudential guide addressed this issue in decision TB7-19581. It states that those who fear non-state actors who have a viable internal flight alternative under such facts.

[28]     The claimant has no family members in Port Harcourt as well. She fears that perhaps family members of her husband would show up or visit Port Harcourt as Delta state is right next door, an hour away. I find that her evidence is speculative that such a risk of harm would take place. I thus find there’s no serious possibility of persecution in Port Harcourt.

[29]     However, on the evidence before me I find that it is objectively unreasonable in all the circumstance, including those particular to the claimants, for the claimants to seek refuge in Port Harcourt for the following reasons.

[30]     Psychological evidence is central to the question of whether an internal flight alternative is reasonable and cannot be disregarded. See the case of Cartaga — C-A-R-T-A-G-A – v. Canada, 208.FC.289.   In this case, the court noted that in considering whether internalflight alternative was unreasonable, the Board must take into account a claimant’s fragilepsychological state. See also Okafar v. Canada — O-K-A-F-O-R – 2011.FCl.002 andmore recently Kayhonini v. Canada-K-A-Y-H-O-N-I-N-I-2018.SC.1300.

[31]     In this case the claimant has a long history of mental health issues that only arose in her life after she converted to be a Jehovah’s Witness.  The psychological stress of losing her own family in this conversion compounded with the persecution she faced by her own family and her husband’s family, induced depression and psychosomatic illnesses since about 2013.

[32]     She’s been hospitalized for this in Nigeria. She received psychotherapy and has been medicated for her psychological condition since that time. The claimant continues to receive treatment here for these conditions. See Exhibit 4, page 10.

[33]     The [XXX] hospital in [XXX], in Exhibit 5 at page 4, specifically refers to when the claimant was hospitalized there for a week to address her psychological conditions that this was caused by the family violence towards here.

[34]     The report states that the violence perpetrated against the claimant by her in-laws on account of her religion and different ethnicity caused her poor sleep, headaches, weeping spells and low mood. The claimant was placed on anti-depressants. She deteriorated medically despite these interventions and had to change medications.

[35]     Even here in Canada, Exhibit 9, the claimant’s physician stated that her medical concerns today include depression and migraine type headaches, which were both pre-existing conditions diagnosed in Africa. The claimant is on various medications and to this day meets with her doctor every two to three months.

[36]     The claimant testified that because of all of her fears which started due the persecution she faced in Nigeria and with all of her worries and being rejected by everyone in her world, she would have epileptic attacks all over her body. Here in Canada she still has this condition but it is manageable with medication and ongoing assessment by her physician.

[37]     The claimant stated that with fears about Nigeria, she will be debilitated. She fears that she will run into someone from her family and they will tell others and that she will be attacked. With such a condition she would not be able to hold a job because she would miss more work because of her fears.

[38]     She had at times stopped working in Nigeria due to her – due to the physical condition that she suffered which was psychological in nature. The claimant also stated that she won’t be able to parent the minor claimant and her other child because she’d become so debilitated due to fear.

[39]     The claimant stated that with her fears that she is not safe in Nigeria, in Port Harcourt, just with those fears her psychosomatic symptoms will debilitate her and this is exasperated because of the claimant’s religion.

[40]     The claimant’s religion as Jehovah’s Witness requires her to go out as much as possible and spread the word. Jehovah’s Witness goes out every week, almost two days a week and weekends here in Canada, knocking on doors on strangers’ homes in unknown areas that are designated by her church. This would be the same, she did this also in Lagos, she did this in Ogun state, she did this in the United States. She would also have to do this – she would also want to do this and is required to do so in Port Harcourt.

[41]     She takes her children with her when she witnesses. This is essential to her religion. And that’s every week. If she were to return to Port Harcourt in Nigeria she would go into new areas, much more than other people do, knocking on doors, worrying that she will see someone on this street or that street who might know someone in her family, who might be visiting because of the closeness of Delta state and just this fear that she’ll be harmed once again, the claimant would psychologically fall apart.

[42]     The claimant has a chronic condition. It’s only ameliorated here but it’s not disappeared, even with medication and ongoing assistance and psychotherapy.

[43]     I find that due to the chronic nature of the claimant’s psychological condition just worrying about her situation and in conjunction with the way that she practices her religion, which is protected by a Convention ground, that she would be in a constant state of fright and dysfunction based on that she would be witnessing on average two times a week and sometimes even more if she were to return to Nigeria.

[44]     Even here she says, where she can witness freely, she still has her condition. In Nigeria it would be complete debilitation. The claimant said that she would be terrified, hyper-vigilant at all times, worrying. The claimant has suffered persecution in the past and that harm she carries with her emotionally and psychologically and physically.

[45]     Similarly, the internal flight alternative is unreasonable for the minor claimant as his mother will not be able to parent him. She will be recurrently disabled physically due to her psychosomatic illnesses and depression that have already caused her to be hospitalized, to lose work. She will not be able to support her child and take care of him when she is in so much pain herself. That pain will only be increased if she’s returned to Nigeria.

Conclusion

[46]     For the foregoing analysis, I conclude that the claimant [XXX] and [XXX] are Convention refugees and I therefore accept their claims.

[47]     That is the end of my decision.

—PROCEEDINGS CONCLUDED

Categories
All Countries Turkey

2019 RLLR 32

Citation: 2019 RLLR 32
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 19, 2019
Panel: D. McKeown
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Nasser Hashemi
Country: Turkey
RPD Number: TB9-15470
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-15505
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000183-000185


[1]       MEMBER: I have considered the testimony and other evidence in this claim, and I am now prepared to render a decision.

[2]       The Claimants are [XXX] and [XXX]. They seek refugee protection against Iran pursuant to sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. For the following reasons, the Panel finds that the Claimants are Convention refugees, and this claim is accepted:

[3]       This claim is based on the following allegations:

[4]       The Claimants are citizens of Iran but have lived in Turkey on work permits since 2013. The Claimants started attending church in Turkey in December of 2017 and have continued attending church ever since that time. The Claimants arrived in Canada on [XXX] — excuse me — in [XXX] of 2018 as visitors. While they were here, they continued to develop their faith as Christians and they decided to seek protection here. They signed their Basis of Claims on June 12th, 2019.

[5]       The identities of the Claimants were established on the basis of their Iranian passports, the originals of which were seized by the Minister.

[6]       The Panel’s primary concern about this claim was the appearance on the face of the allegations that the Claimants were misrepresenting themselves as genuine Christian followers in order to gain immigration status in Canada. That possibility was suggested on the face of these facts, wherein the Claimants only sought protection in Canada in June 2019, despite having been here as Christians since [XXX] 2019. The Claimant explained that they came to Canada initially simply as tourists and had no intention to seek protection here when they initially arrived. It was not an easy decision to make to leave their country and families behind, so it was not until April 2019 that they finally decided they could never return to Iran again.

[7]       The Panel was concerned about why the Claimants were still in Canada in April 2019 if it was only their intention to come here as tourists. The Claimant explained that originally they had a round-trip return ticket to leave Canada after one month, but they extended their stay simply because they enjoyed being here. The Claimants then sought advice from immigration consultants about trying to remain in Canada on student visas.

[8]       The Panel is very concerned about this testimony. It does appear to the Panel on its face that the Claimants were not simply in Canada with the intention of visiting, but rather, that they did have the intent to immigrate. However, while the Panel is significantly concerned, the Panel cannot at this time unequivocally conclude on a balance of probabilities that immigration was their actual underlying intention. The Panel is not prepared to conclude that this concern over their delay undermines their presumption of truthfulness nor the ultimate threshold that they must meet which is a serious possibility of persecution. Despite the Panel’s concerns, in all other respects the Panel found that this claim was credible.

[9]       The Claimant spoke about his life — their life in Iran and then in Turkey. He spoke about how they became interested in Christianity and how their conversion was a slow and drawn out process, occurring over many months. The Claimant also spoke about how his education in Christianity developed so fast and so early that he was even considering becoming a pastor.

[10]     The Panel find this testimony was compelling. The Claimant was consistent, straightforward, and spontaneous, and there did not appear to be any attempt to embellish this part of the Claimant’s testimony. Where the Panel did have any other concerns, they were either reasonably explained or minimal in nature, and did not ultimately impact on the credibility of this claim. While the Panel has its concerns, therefore, on a balance of probabilities the Panel is prepared to accept the Claimants’ conversion to Christianity as genuine.

[11]     The Panel has access to credible and reliable sources in the National Documentation Package, such as the U.S. Department of State Report, which makes clear that apostasy is punishable by death in Iran. The Panel is satisfied that the Claimants fit the profile of persons at a high risk of persecution. Whereas 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 Iran the Claimants could go where they would not face a serious possibility of persecution. For all 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 Iran on account of their religion. The Claimants are Convention refugees, and this claim is accepted.

[12]     Just for one more point of clarity. Where this Panel has referred to the Claimant in the singular throughout this — these reasons, that refers to the male Claimant, although these reasons apply to both Claimants equally.

[13]     Thank you both very much for being here. Thank you very much, Mr. Interpreter, thank you.

[14]     INTERPRETER: You’re welcome.

[15]     MEMBER: Everyone have a good afternoon.

— HEARING ADJOURNED

Categories
All Countries Iran

2019 RLLR 31

Citation: 2019 RLLR 31
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 21, 2019
Panel: M. Hayes
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Olha Senyshyn
Country: Iran
RPD Number: TB9-11210
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-11276, TB9-11290, TB9-11291
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000179-000182


REASONS FOR DECISION

On November 21, 2019, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) heard the claims of [XXX] who claim refugee protection under sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). On that same day, the panel rendered its oral positive decision and Reasons for decision. This is the written version of the oral decision and Reasons that have been edited for clarity, spelling, grammar and syntax with added references to the documentary evidence and relevant case law where appropriate.

INTRODUCTION

[1]       I have considered your testimony, and the other evidence in the case, and I am ready to render my decision orally.

[2]       These are the reasons for the decision in the claims of [XXX] (the Principal Claimant or PC), [XXX] (the male claimant), [XXX] and [XXX], who claim to be citizens of Iran, and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

ALLEGATIONS

[3]       The allegations of your claims are fully set out in your Basis of Claim (BOC) forms. In short, you allege that you, the PC, practiced Christianity in secret in Iran, and your home was raided by intelligence officers who searched the house and arrested and detained you overnight. You were released on bail and called to court later that month. You, the male claimant, were suspended from your job as a [XXX] and [XXX] as a result of the charges of apostasy against your wife. Fearing further detention and mistreatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities because of the PC’s conversion from Islam to Christianity, you fled to Canada to make refugee claims.

DETERMINATION

[4]       I find that you are Convention refugees as you have established a serious possibility of persecution.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[5]       I find that your identities as nationals of Iran are established by the documents provided, including certified true copies of your Iranian passports, and the testimony of the PC.

Nexus

[6]       I find that you have established a nexus to section 96 by reason of your religion.

Credibility

[7]       I found you, the PC, to be a credible witness. There were no material inconsistencies between your testimony and your BOC, and other documents before me. Your testimony about your Christian faith appeared to be heartfelt. Based on your testimony, the documents you have provided, and the information in your BOC forms and narrative, I note no serious credibility issues. You submitted two letters from the Pastor of your church in Toronto that corroborate that the four claimants attend church regularly and have done so for the past eight months, and the three adult claimants are on a waiting list to be baptized. You also submitted the court summons that you received by mail in Iran, the letter suspending the male claimant from work, as well as a support letter from a friend who is a Pastor at an Iranian Christian Church in California. I have no reasons to doubt the authenticity of the evidence, and accept, on a balance of probabilities, that you are practicing Christians, and that the PC was accused of apostasy in Iran.

Well Founded Fear of Persecution

[8]       Your subjective fear of persecution as Christian converts is objectively well founded. Based on the country condition evidence in the National Documentation Package (NDP) for Iran, March 2019, the country condition documents submitted by you, and your credible allegations, I find that you have a well-founded fear of persecution in Iran by reason of your conversion to Christianity.

[9]       The preponderance of the documentary evidence corroborates that one of the most significant human rights problems in Iran is the severe restriction on civil liberties such as freedom of religion.1 Iranian law prohibits citizens from converting from Islam to another religion and Christian converts are not recognized as Christian under the law. Christians who convert from Islam experience arrest, detention, and high levels of harassment and surveillance. Many Christian converts are forced to practice their religion in secret.2 Severe human rights violations targeting religious minorities, especially Christian converts, continue.3

Nature of the harm

[10]     The harm you would face upon return to Iran, detention and mistreatment by the authorities, clearly amounts to persecution.

State protection

[11]     Since the state is the agent of persecution in your case, I find that it would be objectively unreasonable for you to seek the protection of the state and, therefore, you have rebutted the presumption of state protection.

Internal flight alternative

[12]     I find that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Iran, given the documentary evidence that the authorities operate similarly throughout the country. Therefore, I find there is no viable internal flight alternative.

CONCLUSION

[13]     Based on the analysis above, I conclude that you are Convention refugees and accept your claims.

1 Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP) for Iran (March 29, 2019), Item 2.1.
2 Ibid., Item 12.1.
3 Ibid., Item 12.2.

Categories
All Countries China

2019 RLLR 29

Citation: 2019 RLLR 29
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: November 18, 2019
Panel: Mary Lipton
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Doy Maierovitz
Country: China
RPD Number: TB9-04529
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-04596
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000170-000174


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision for 45-year-old claimant, [XXX], file number TB9-04529, and her 19-year-old daughter, claimant [XXX], file number TB9-04596. I have carefully considered the evidence in this case and have decided to render my decision today orally. You will receive your notice of decision in the mail and your council will also received a copy.

[2]       The claimants, [XXX] and [XXX], claim to be citizens of China and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I find that you are Convention refugees for the reason that you have established that you face a serious possibility of persecution in China base on your Falun Gong practice and spiritual beliefs.

[3]       The allegations are fully set out in your Basis of Claim Form, sign on January 16, 2019. To summarize, you a mother and daughter from China, alleged that your fear persecution in China because of your Falun Gong beliefs and involvement in the practice of Falun Gong. Your mother introduced you to Master Lee’s book Zhuan Falun in [XXX], 1997, while you were a senior at the [XXX], and before the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners started in July 1999. At that time, people were already talking about the book and you were curious, so you began to read it during your winter holidays. You were profoundly impacted by the theory and principals described in the book as they reverberated with your own thinking about the universe, time, space and the human body. You have been studying and practicing Falun Gong since then.

[4]       After the persecution in 1999, you and your family were constantly harassed by the PSB. You were arrested and detained eight times from October 1999 to September 2008. The last being for four years during which you suffered abuse and torture and went on hunger strikes. Upon release since September 2008, you continued practicing Falun Gong in secret and your health improved quickly. Although the psychological scar of your experiences in prison remained.

[5]       You introduced your daughter to Falun Gong and by 2016, she was reading the Zhuan Falun on her own. Although you were busy with your career, you continued to be monitored by the PSB who would harass your husband. Fearing persecution for your daughter and yourself by Chinese authorities who have banned Falun Gong everywhere in China, you decided that you and your daughter would leave the country. You planned to leave China after your daughter had arrived safely in Canada in [XXX] 2018 and after the [XXX] 2018 was over. You applied for a passport in [XXX] 2018 and for a visa to Canada in [XXX] 2018.

[6]       After repeating attempts by the PSB to locate you, you went into hiding until the end of the summit and waited until [XXX] 2018 to move forward with your plan to come to Canada to rejoin your daughter. You left China for Canada on [XXX], 2018, from the [XXX] city airport and you wanted to avoid the [XXX] and [XXX] airports for fear of detection. Once in Canada, you immediately got involved with the Falun Gong community along with your daughter who had already been in contact with the community. You both filed for refugee protection on January 16, 2019.

[7]       I find that you have established your identities as nationals of China, on a balance of probabilities, through your testimony and the supporting documentation you presented including your Chinese resident identity cards in Hukou and copies of your passports issued by the People’s Republic of China which you provided to authorities at the time you formalized your claim.

[8]       You have also presented today at the hearing, your original resident identity cards, your Hukou and your marriage certificate. You testified in a straightforward, spontaneous and unhesitating manner and you answers to the questions, the Panel posed about the central aspects of your claim were detailed and unrehearsed. There were no material inconsistencies in your testimony or contradictions between your testimony and the other evidence before the Panel.

[9]       Your testimony was consistent in content and chronology with this and the other documents you provided. In particular, your testimony about your practice of Falun Gong and in China and Canada, and your knowledge of Falun Gong was detailed, natural and clearly based on your personal experience as a practitioner. Although, I initially had concerns with the delay in claiming refugee protection in Canada, you explained that you approached the Falun Dafa Association for support in [XXX] 2018 who investigated you for two months and who referred you to council who spent the rest of time with you and your daughter gathering data and documents.

[10]     Your claim was extensively corroborated with supporting documentation which includes photographs of your participation in various Falun Gong activities in Canada, supporting letters from five Falun Gong practitioners in Canada including two supporting letters from your-, for your daughter, a supporting letter from your mother, who introduced you to Master Lee’s Book, the Zhuan Falun, in [XXX] 1997, supporting letters from your brother, sister and   husband, supporting letter from the Falun  Dafa waist drum band in Toronto of which you are a member, a news report from [XXX] a website that reports on the worldwide Falun Gong community about your [XXX] at the [XXX] provincial women’s prison where you were imprisoned from 2004 to 2008, dated June 3rd, 2005. You have also provided a decision on re-education through labour documents, a detention notice, an arrest notice, an expert opinion, conclusion from the prison in [XXX] where you were detained, the indictment, the criminal judgments, the criminal ruling and a release certificate.

[11]     More significantly, there is also the letter of support from the Falun Dafa Association [XXX] dated [XXX], 2019. The Panel has taken particular note of the letter written on your behalf from the Falun Dafa Association which verifies your Falun Gong practice here in Canada. The Panel places great weight on that letter which is supported by an Immigration and Refugee Board response to information request on the Falun Dafa Association [XXX]. In that response to information request, it states that the asso-, association set out that credibility is very important because it can save the lives of genuine practitioners who risk persecution if returned to China. They therefore only support those practitioners who are known to them and take serious steps to determine the validity of each individual claim before agreeing to support them. The document goes on to provide the list of those people that are responsible for signing these support letters and I note that in the [XXX] region it is [XXX]. The letter that you had provided is from [XXX] and he confirms that you are both Falun Gong practitioners. I find that this letter corroborates your identity as a Falun Gong practitioner with respect to you and your daughter.

[12]     In the letter, Mr. [XXX], who [XXX] president of the Falun Dafa Association [XXX], went over the rigorous procedures for the Falun Dafa Association supporting a Falun Gong practitioner in his letter. While a letter of support from the Falun Dafa Association is not determinative of any refugee claim in the Panel’s experience, such a letter is a relatively rare occurrence and is certainly one piece of evidence that the Panel takes seriously. In this case, we have a letter from the Falun Dafa Association [XXX].

[13]     For these reasons, the Panel finds that you have established, on a balance of probabilities, your Falun Gong practitioner identities and the Panel believes that your commitment to your spiritual practice is genuine. On the basis of your credible and consistent testimony and because of his consistency with the documentary evidence you have presented which I accept, the Panel believes what you have alleged, namely that you were both Falun Gong practitioners, that you were arrested and detain, that you were abused and tortured by the Chinese authorities and harassed for being a Falun Gong practitioner. And I find that you have established that you have a subjective fear of persecution in China based on your Falun Gong practice and identity as a Falun Gong practitioner with respect to you and your daughter.

[14]     The objective evidence is also consistent with your account of fearing persecution as Falun Gong practitioners in China and Canada. Specifically, I have considered the objective documentary evidence in Exhibit 3, namely the National Documentation Package, known as the NDP for China, version 31 October 2019. At Item 2.1 of the NDP, the U.S. Department of State confirm of the People’s Republic of China is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party commonly known as the CCP is the paramount authority. Repression and cohesion persist including as against members of banned religions and or sp­, spiritual practices such as Falun Gong. In Item 12.23, an Immigration Refugee Board response to information request on the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners contains information that further confirms that there is a serious possibility that the practice of Falun Gong will be met with persecution.

[15]     In Item 12.22, a 2008 report by the Falun Dafa Information Center states that family members of those who practice Falun Gong have suffered various degrees of persecution ranging from lost of employment to detention and torture. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2019, annual report in Item 12.2 indicates that the Chinese government has classified Falun Gong as an evil cult. Under article 300 of the Chinese criminal code, belonging to a banned group such as the Falun Gong is punishable with three to seven years of imprisonment or more. Throughout 2018, authorities harassed, detained, intimated Falun Gong practitioners simply for practising their beliefs. There were reports that many of the detainees suffered physical violence, psychiatric abuse, sexual assault, forced drug administration, organ harvesting and sleep deprivation. Items 2.1 and 12.23 also reference the State’s use of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and torture against Falun Gong practitioners.

[16]     Base on the credible evidence provided by you, with respect to your Falun Gong activities both in China and in Canada, as well as the documentary evidence before the Panel, the Panel finds that your fear of persecution in China at the hands of Chinese government has an objective basis and therefore, you have a well-founded fear of persecution.

[17]     Having found that, you face a well-founded fear of persecution, on the basis of being Falun Gong practitioners, the Panel must consider whether state protection is aval-, available to you or whether you could safely live elsewhere in China without facing such risks. In this case, the Panel finds that the State is the agent of persecution. It is the state authorities who have outlawed the practice of Falun Gong whom you fear. The Panel, therefore, finds, on a balance of probabilities, that it is objectively unreasonable for you to seek the protection of the State.

[18]     The Panel has also considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for you. On the evidence before this Panel, I find, on a balance of probabilities, that there is a serious possibility of persecution for you throughout China given that the State is the agent of persecution and is in control of the whole country. The Panel, therefore, finds that there is no viable internal flight alternative for you in China. Based on the forgoing analysis and considering the totality of the evidence before the Panel, I therefore find that you are a Convention refugees and I accept your claims.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2019 RLLR 27

Citation: 2019 RLLR 27
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: October 17, 2019
Panel: Dian Forsey
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Roger Rowe
Country: Nigeria
RPD Number: TB9-02164
Associated RPD Number(s): TB9-02208, TB9-02229, TB9-02230, TB9-02231, TB9-12232
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000162-000164


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is a decision for the claimant in file number TB9-02164. The male claimant was appointed the designated representative for the four minor children. I have also considered the Guidelines 3 and 4 with respect to look at-, looking at the evidence today. One deals with women and the other one deals with child-, with children that are before me. I’m sure Counsel’s familiar with those Guidelines.

[2]       I have considered your testimony and the other evidence in this case and I am ready to render my decision.

[3]       You are claiming to be citizens of Nigeria and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). I find that you are a-, that you are Convention refugees and persons in need of protection for the following reasons.

[4]       You alleged the following, that you are citizens of Nigeria and of no other country. The documentation on file provided by your Counsel, which were in the form of your passports, your US visas, your educational documentation, the documentation with respect to your role within your church as a Pastor and Deacon for the female claimant, clearly, and the birth certificates also of your children, provide a basis for me to-, to declare that you are indeed citizens of Nigeria based on your testimony and supporting documentation filed in the Exhibits.

[5]       Therefore, on a balance of probabilities that your identity and country of reference have been established. In terms of your general er-, credibility, I’ve found that you are ere-, were credible witness and therefore I accept what you have alleged in your oral testimony and in your Basis of Claim form. In support of your claim, you provided document-, documents confirming your role as a Pastor and your wife’s role as a Deacon within the Christian Church.

[6]       You in fact performed your duties for more than seven years in that church in Nigeria. You continue today to be a parishioner of churches within Canada, which confirms to me that you are following your Christian faith. Your testimony was straightforward and in keeping with your Basis of Claim form and there were no significant inconsistency or admissions in your evidence today. Your evidence was clear, there were times when you had an opportunity to exaggerate your claim, but you did not do so. So, I find therefore that you are credible with respect to the fear that you have in returning to Nigeria.

[7]       I find there is a link between your fear, there’s no–, no link between your fear and one of the five Convention grounds, therefore I’m going to assess the claim under Section 97, and that is the fear upon your return to Nigeria given your profile. The objective evidence supports your allegations that individuals in your circumstances face being persecuted by persons that you have named as Kingsman and their-, and their group and organization, this is also supported by the documentary evidence quoted by the Counsel. It speaks of the difficulty of leaving such cults once you are born into it. In this particular case, however, it appears to be particularly offensive to them, because you have become a Christian and in fact a Pastor within the Christian Church. And that was clear from the evidence in your BOC and in your oral evidence today.

[8]       You have also provided me two police report and the originals of those police reports. The law and principle are clear that they do provide protection in some matters in Nigeria, but in your particular case, the practice is not always available to claimants who are bringing forth complaints about cults or the cult activity towards them. The police also appear as Counsel has alleged in his submissions under Chap. 2, page 12, and that the police appear to be discriminatory toward women with respect to traditional rituals. The claimant has spoken of those traditional rituals when speaking to me about the rituals that were performed, that would be performed on his family should he return to Nigeria.

[9]       The claimants also-, claimant has also-, principal claimant has also testified that he is strong within his Christian faith and does not believe in these traditional rituals that occur within his family-, the main group of his family. He has also indicated to me that he swore to his father that he would not take on the chieftainship of-, of this family group. He also would not take it on because of-, he would lose his marriage to his wife who is a strong Christian person. He’s also fearful for his children should he take on any such position. And indeed, his own beliefs would prevent him from taking on such a role.

[10]     Therefore, I find that you face a risk of serious harm, as set out in Section 97, should you return to Nigeria today. I find that adequate state protection would not be available to you were you to seek it in Nigeria. The objective evidence that I’ve stated already indicates that would not be possible for you, and more likely than not, they would continue to inform you that you should settle matters within your family and within that group.

[11]     You have testified that you made attempts to seek state protection, as we-, as I’ve just spoken about, and that the State was not forthcoming to you, and in fact advised you that you should settle it among yourselves. In light of the objective con-, country documentation which counsel has referred to and is in the documents from the Board, I find that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of state protection based on your personal circumstances as well as the do-, objective documentary evidence. I find that adequate state protection would not be available to you should you return to Nigeria.

[12]     I’ve also considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for you and identified Abuja and Port Harcourt as the possible IFA locations. I’ve also that the failure to claim in the US is reasonable under their circumstances that you found yourself in that particular time and place. The Panel finds that th-, your efforts also to seek state protection is reasonable in the circum-, that your efforts to seek state protection is reasonable under the circumstances that you found yourself in, in that particular time and place in Nigeria, and I have two report-, police reports that both indicate they had referred you back to the group to be able to negotiate some sort of arrangement with them. Which seems highly unlikely given the documentation about these cults.

[13]     The-, in this particular case, I just want to point out that the claimant’s profile is heightened by his work within his Christian Church as a Pastor. He would be well known and would make it even easier to find in Nigeria, should he be seriously sought by these groups of people, and there’s no doubt from the evidence that he would be continued to be sought by this group, should he return to Nigeria.

[14]     The country documentation indicates that the situation for individuals, in circumstances such as yours, would be the same throughout the country because of your profile as a Christian Pastor in the church. So, having considered your personal circumstances, I found it unreasonable for you to relocate in either of the IFA locations. I therefore find it would not be reasonable in the circumstances that you have indicated to reside in any of the IFAs. As such, I find there is no viable flight-, internal flight alternative for you and or your family in Nigeria today.

[15]     Therefore, based on the totality of the evidence, I find you to be a person-, to be a person in need of protection, your claim is therefore accepted.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2019 RLLR 24

Citation: 2019 RLLR 24
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: June 26, 2019
Panel: Keith Brennenstuhl
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Kristina Cooke
Country: Pakistan
RPD Number: TB8-27592
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000151-000155


REASONS FOR DECISION

On June 26, 2019, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) heard the claim of [XXX] who claims refugee protection under sections 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). On that same day, the panel rendered its oral positive decision and Reasons for decision. This is the written version of the oral decision and Reasons that have been edited for clarity, spelling, grammar and syntax with added references to the documentary evidence and relevant case law where appropriate.

INTRODUCTION

[1]       These are the reasons for the decision in the claim of [XXX], who claims to be a citizen of Pakistan, and is claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The allegations are fully set out in the claimant’s Basis of Claim form. The claimant identifies her religion as the Shia sect of Islam. Her problems arose during her teaching of her grade 10 students, when she spoke out against terrorist acts that had happened the day before when a girls’ school was destroyed in a nearby province. She expressed her view that the real culprits were Madrasahs and that they were incubators for terrorism. She talked about terrorist organizations including the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) saying that people who gave them refuge were equally culpable for their terrorist acts.

[3]       Accused of preaching religion and speaking out against Sunnis, the principal terminated the claimant’s employment the next day. Rumours spread that she had been terminated because of her involvement in “immoral activities”.

[4]       Three days later, while waiting at a bus stop, two men on a motorbike drove by and fired two gunshots around her. She registered a First Information Report (FIR) at the police station. On the same night, she received a call on her cell phone from a man claiming to be a member of LeJ, saying the attack earlier that day had been a warning from them and that they would not tolerate a Shia pervert who was involved in spreading hatred in school against Sunni Islam.

[5]       She relocated to [XXX] and changed her cell phone number. A week later, she learned from her former neighbour that two men knocked at her door and had inquired about the claimant, indicating that the claimant was on their hit list. She contacted the police to update them on the situation but they had nothing to update her with or help to offer.

[6]       The claimant raised funds for an airline ticket and visa and fled Pakistan to the USA. Shortly thereafter she made her way to Canada where she made her refugee claim.

[7]       The claimant is afraid of returning to Pakistan because she has been targeted by the LeJ for spreading, what is perceived to be, anti-Sunni sentiments.

DETERMINATION

[8]       I find that the claimant is a Convention refugee as she has established a serious possibility of persecution should she return to Pakistan based on the grounds in section 96.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[9]       I find that the claimant’s identity as a national of Pakistan is established by the documents provided, including a certified true copy of her Pakistan passport.

Nexus

[10]     I find that the claimant has established a nexus to section 96 by reason of religion.

Credibility

[11]     The claimant’s evidence is, on the balance, internally consistent, inherently plausible, and consistent with the documentary evidence on country conditions in Pakistan. Furthermore, the allegations are corroborated by personal documents that I do not have sufficient reason to discount, including corroboration of the claimant’s identity as a Shia, and as a teacher, and that she was terminated from her teaching position on the false allegation of spreading hatred against Sunni Islam. The FIR supports her allegation that you were fired upon by two unidentified persons on a motorbike. I, therefore, find this evidence to be credible and that the allegations are probably true.

Objective basis of future risk

[12]     Based on the credibility of her allegations, and the documentary evidence set out below, I find that the claimant has established a future risk that she will be subjected to threats, violence and even death at the hands of Sunni militant groups if she were to return to Pakistan.

[13]     Country condition documents indicate that Shia Muslims face increasing threats in Pakistan. They are being systematically targeted and shot dead by Sunni militants who do not consider them as Muslims. There is a general lack of effective state protection for those Shia Muslims who are targeted by Sunni militant groups. The Pakistani government’s response to violent attacks against Shia is characterised as grossly inadequate; it is described as lacking political will to address violence against Shia. Militants targeting Shia Muslim act with “impunity” (National Documentation Package (NDP) for Pakistan (January 31, 2019), Item 12.5). Shi’ites, according to the UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Members of Religious Minorities from Pakistan (Item 1.8) face a growing threat of sectarian attacks with attacks primarily targeting ordinary individuals. I should add that the claimant would have a heightened vulnerability in that she is a female educator as well. Anti­Shi’ites speech reportedly permeates all sectors of society, and extremist groups are reported to have publicly called for the killing of Shi’ite individuals and have used methods to instill fear and force them to flee. According to a document entitled Everything has shattered- rising levels of violence against Shi’a in Pakistan (Item 12.23), the Pakistani government completely fails to protect its Shia population and has not been able to successfully counter allegations that it is protecting militants.

Nature of the harm

[14]     The harm that the claimant would face if she were to return to Pakistan clearly amounts to persecution.

State protection

[15]     The objective evidence confirms that state protection, as it relates to sectarian violence against Shia, is ineffective as already canvassed earlier. I am satisfied, therefore, that the claimant will not be able to avail herself of adequate state protection in the face of persecutory acts from non-state actors if she must return to Pakistan.

Internal flight alternative (IFA)

[16]     I have considered whether a viable internal flight alternative exists for the claimant. According to the UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines, given the wide geographic reach of some armed militant groups, a viable IFA will generally not be available to individuals at risk of being targeted by such groups.

[17]     I am satisfied, given the claimant’s profile as a Shia’ female educator, she will face a serious possibility of persecution based on her profile and in particular her religious profile anywhere in Pakistan. Attacks by extremists targeting Shia in Pakistan is widespread (Item 12.23) and police often fail to protect religious minorities, including Shia, from attacks.

CONCLUSION

[18]     Based on the forgoing analysis, I conclude that you are a Convention refugee. Accordingly, I accept your claim.

Categories
All Countries Egypt

2019 RLLR 101

Citation: 2019 RLLR 101
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: August 8, 2019
Panel: C. Ruthven
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Zainab Jamal
Country: Egypt
RPD Number: TB8-08556
Associated RPD Number(s): TB8-08567
ATIP Number: A-2020-01459
ATIP Pages: 000130-000138


REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       These reasons and decision are in regards to the claims for protection made by [XXX] (principal claimant), [XXX] (elder female claimant), [XXX] (younger female claimant), and [XXX] (minor claimant).

[2]       Each is claiming protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.1 The panel heard the claims jointly, pursuant to Refugee Protection Division Rule 55.2

[3]       The principal claimant was the designated representative for the minor claimant.

ALLEGATIONS

[4]       The principal claimant’s full allegations are set out in his Basis of Claim Form, and related narrative.3 The two female claimants and the minor claimant each rely on the narrative of the principal claimant. All four claimants have practiced the Coptic Orthodox Christian faith from birth.

[5]       Each claimant fears the religious extremists in Egypt, based on a number of cumulative reasons, which relate to the practice of their faith. The principal claimant was anointed as a deacon in 2000. He has practiced his faith in Egypt, in the United Arab Emirates, and in Canada.

[6]       During his residence in Egypt, the principal claimant faced discrimination from those who discovered his Christian faith. He faced problems such as unfair academic treatment from the university authorities during his studies at [XXX], and later was the victim of threats from would-be customers and assaults at the hands of Muslim extremists in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

[7]       All four claimants also faced long-term threats of violence associated with attending their Coptic Orthodox Christian church in Egypt. The principal claimant was assaulted on several occasions when he departed his church late at night, and the younger female claimant faced harassment in Egypt because she did not wear a traditional Muslim head covering. She was physically assaulted on many occasions, including one incident where her hair was cut with scissors on the subway.

[8]       Subsequent to a physical assault outside church on February 18, 2018, where the younger female claimant was pushed to the ground during her pregnancy, the claimants decided to depart Egypt permanently. On [XXX], 2018, the claimants departed Egypt, and made their claims for protection in Canada the following month.

DETERMINATION

[9]       The panel finds that the four claimants are Convention refugees, pursuant to section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, based on the persecution they face in Egypt due to the practice of their Coptic Orthodox Christian religion.

Identity

[10]     The panel finds that the four claimants have each established their identity as nationals of Egypt, based on a balance of probabilities. Each of the four claimants presented a valid Arab Republic of Egypt passport.4 The panel finds no reason to doubt the authenticity of any of these four documents.

Credibility

[11]     The panel finds that the principal claimant testified at the hearing in straightforward and consistent manner, without the use of embellishments.

[12]     The panel finds that there are both cumulative factors, and immediate factors, which caused the four claimants to depart Egypt on [XXX], 2018.5 The panel further finds that these factors all directly, or indirectly, relate to the practice of their Coptic Orthodox Christian faith.

[13]     The principal claimant testified coherently about his service to the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt, including being an [XXX] in his village (talking about The Bible and bringing food and drink to poor families). The panel finds that this testimony was spontaneous, rich in personal details, and relevant to the corroboration of his faith.

[14]     In addition to the testimony provided regarding the Coptic Orthodox Christian faith of the four claimants, the claimants also presented a series of corroborating documents sourced to individuals and organizations in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada.

Membership and Participation in the Coptic Orthodox Church

[15]     The claimants presented an August 9, 2017 letter of support from the [XXX] confirmed that the principal claimant served as [XXX] to the church in Zagazig. [XXX] confirmed that the elder female claimant also attended liturgy and spiritual meetings at the parish in Zagazig.6

[16]     Similarly, [XXX] confirmed that the younger female claimant attended [XXX] in Giza, prior to her relocation to the United Arab Emirates.7

[17]     In regards to parish attendance during their residence in the United Arab Emirates, the claimant presented an undated letter from [XXX] of the [XXX] in Sharjah.8

[18]     The panel gave each of four letters lesser probative value, as none of the respective authors specified a timeframe for the service of the three adult claimants to their respective parishes in Egypt or the United Arab Emirates. Despite this, the panel notes that some religious background was established.

[19]     The [XXX] Coptic Orthodox Church in Oakville, Ontario presented two undated letters of support signed by [XXX], which (read together) confirmed the participation of all four claimants at their parish for a period of seven months.9

[20]     In addition to the above-mentioned direct involvement with the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, there were also several secondary documents presented which the panel finds corroborate a long-term practice of Christianity for the claimants and their family members in Egypt.

[21]     These documents include the presented Birth Certificate for the principal claimant and the younger female claimant,10 the Birth Certificate for the minor claimant,11 the Certificate of Baptism presented for all four claimants,12 the presented Confirmation of a Marriage Contract for the principal claimant and the younger female claimant,13 the Death Record for the elder female claimant’s spouse,14 and each Egypt Personal Identification Card (for the three adult claimants).15

[22]     The panel also notes the twenty-one presented photographs which depicted attendance at places of Christian worship for the claimants. Although not labelled or dated, the panel considered these photographs in conjunction with the principal claimant’s testimony, the presented letters of support, and the presented corroborating evidence related to the practice of the Coptic Orthodox faith by each of the four claimants.

[23]     Based on the testimony of the principal claimant, and in consideration of the corroborating evidence presented by the four claimants,16 the panel finds that all four claimants have established a subjective fear of returning to Egypt, based on the practice of their Coptic Orthodox Christian faith.

Objective Basis of the Claims

[24]     The panel finds that the overall objective evidence supports the four claims for Convention refugee protection.

[25]     The elder female claimant has only resided in Zagazig, Sharkia (when she was a resident of Egypt). This residential history included seven short periods between 2013 and 2018, in addition to the longer period of September 1990 to May 2013.17 Similarly, the principal claimant resided in Zagazig from September 1990 to May 2011, and then again from February 2018 to March 2018.18

[26]     The younger female claimant resided in El Doukki, Giza from May 1987 to June 2010.19 After she was married,20 she resided with the principal claimant and the elder female claimant in Zagazig from February 2018 to March 2018.21

[27]     The principal claimant has a maternal aunt who resides in Egypt.22 He testified that he keeps in communication with the wife of his brother, who resides in Zagazig. The younger adult female claimant only has her younger brother, as a family member in Egypt.23

Religious Profile of Egypt

[28]     Coptic Christians are a minority in Egypt but still constitute the largest single Christian community in the Middle East. The government estimates there are about five million Coptic Christians in Egypt, but the Coptic Orthodox Church estimates that there are between fifteen to eighteen million adherents in Egypt.24

[29]     Muslims and Christians live together in all parts of Egypt; however, there are larger concentrations of Christians in southern Egypt, especially in the governorates of Minia, Assiut, and Sohag, as well as in the big cities of Alexandria and Cairo. Christians are fewer in number in the Delta.25 There are suburbs in Cairo, other cities and some villages that are known to be Coptic Christian areas, but few are exclusively Coptic.26

Intimidation of Christians in Egypt

[30]     On August 30, 2016, Egypt’s parliament passed a new law on the construction and renovation of churches, which maintains restrictions and discriminates against the Christian minority.27 Coptic Christians in Egypt have suffered numerous cases of forced displacement, physical assaults, bomb and arson attacks, and blocking of church construction in recent years.28

[31]     The number and severity of violent incidents targeting Coptic Christians and their property has increased since 2015. This includes attacks by Daesh (alternatively known as Islamic State), which has stated its intent to target Christians and claimed responsibility for high profile bombings in Cairo, Alexandria, and Tanta in December 2016 and April 2017 resulting in scores of casualties.29

[32]     As such, the panel finds that the objective evidence supports the claims for Convention refugee protection for all four claimants.

State Protection

[33]     Successive Egyptian governments have failed to tackle a longstanding pattern of discrimination against Coptic Christians and rising incidences of sectarian violence, by bringing those responsible for sectarian crimes to justice. Instead of prosecuting those behind such violent attacks the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah al Sisi has continued to rely on state-sponsored reconciliation agreements, which in some cases have involved forcibly evicting Coptic Christians from areas where they are under threat.30

[34]     The Christian minority in Egypt remains underrepresented in the military and security services. Christians who were admitted at the entry level were seldom promoted into the upper ranks of government entities. Coptic Orthodox religious leaders appealed to the government to change the culture of a nation poisoned by extremism.31

[35]     The Abdel Fattah al Sisi government has sought to improve law and order, and has taken several highly visible steps towards bettering state relations with the Coptic Christian community. Al Sisi has vowed to bring the perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks to justice and has promised to rebuild churches damaged in sectarian attacks during the Morsi era. Despite these promises, recent incidents of anti-Christian violence over the past three years have been prompted or preceded by anger among some local Muslims over actual or alleged church construction. Even when authorities have made arrests, they have rarely prosecuted.32

Additional State Protection Considerations for the Female Claimants

[36]     The younger female claimant highlighted two physical attacks against her in Egypt, including a subway attack, and a more-recent February 18, 2018 attack when she was pregnant.33 As members of the wider Coptic Christian community, Coptic Christian women face discrimination and in some cases violence, from which they are not adequately protected by security forces.34

[37]     The panel finds that the documentary evidence is both clear and convincing, and that it rebuts the presumption of adequate state protection for each of the four claimants in Egypt. As such, the panel finds it unreasonable to expect any of the four claimants to seek redress or protection from the police or any other authorities in Egypt.

[38]     The panel also finds that adequate state protection would not be forthcoming to any of the four claimants, in each of their particular set of circumstances.

Internal Flight Alternatives

[39]     As a result of the above-referenced country condition documentation from the National Documentation Package, the panel finds that a viable internal flight alternative does not exist for any of the four claimants in any place in Egypt.

[40]     As such, the panel finds that there are no places or regions in Egypt which could offer any of the four claimants safety from the reasonable chance of persecution, in each of their particular sets of circumstances, namely as Coptic Orthodox Christians who practice their faith in Egypt.

[41]     The panel finds that the four claimants each have a well-founded fear of persecution throughout Egypt, and that there is no viable internal flight alternative for any of them.

CONCLUSION

[42]     Having considered all of the evidence, the panel finds that there is a serious possibility that each of the four claimants faces persecution in Egypt, based on their religion as Coptic Orthodox Christians.

[43]     The panel therefore accepts all four claims under section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

(signed)           C. Ruthven

August 8, 2019

1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27, as amended, sections 96 and 97(1).
2 Refugee Protection Division Rules, SOR/2012-256.
3 Exhibit 2.
4 Exhibit 1.
5 Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3, and Exhibit 4.
6 Exhibit 9.
7 Exhibit 9.
8 Exhibit 9.
9 Exhibit 9.
10 Exhibit 9.
11 Exhibit 10.
12 Exhibit 9 and Exhibit 10.
13 Exhibit 9.
14 Exhibit 10.
15 Exhibit 9.
16 Exhibit 8, Exhibit 9, and Exhibit 10.
17 Exhibit 1.
18 Exhibit 1.
19 Exhibit 1.
20 Exhibit 9.
21 Exhibit 1.
22 Exhibit 2 and Exhibit 4.
23 Exhibit 3.
24
25 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 5.7.
26 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 1.7.
27 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 12.8.
28 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 2.4.
29 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 1.7.
30 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 12.9.
31 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 12.1.
32 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 1.7.
33 Exhibit 3.
34 Exhibit 6, NDP for Egypt (29 March 2019), item 5.2.