Citation: 2019 RLLR 202
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: May 27, 2019
Panel: J. Schmalzbauer
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Ruth Williams
RPD Number: VB8-00857
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2020-00518
ATIP Pages: 002780-002786
REASONS FOR DECISION
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) in the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX (the “principal claimant”) and his spouse, XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX (the “associate claimant”), as citizens of Egypt, who are claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act”).1
 The following is a brief synopsis of the allegations that the claimants put forth in the Basis of Claim (BOC) forms.2 The claimants fear political persecution due to their religion, as Coptic Christians. The claimants submit that they have since 2011, enduring increasing harassment, discrimination and violence due to their religious identity. The claimants had lived in a city known for its Christian population.
 The claimants were both professionals in XXXX. They had owned and operated a local XXXX. In precipitating their decision to leave Egypt and seek safety for their three children and themselves, the XXXX and the principal claimant was attacked by religious extremists. He was first threatened in the XXXX, then the XXXX was attacked and damaged, and a threatening letter was left, against his children being kidnapped.
 They fled the local area and made their arrangements to leave Egypt and come to Canada and seek protection.
 The panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees, as they do have a well- founded fear of persecution related to a Convention ground in Egypt.
 The panel is satisfied on a balance of probabilities in the claimants’ identities as nationals of Egypt, considering the certified copies of their Egyptian passports.3
Well-Founded Fear of Persecution
 The duty of this panel is to find if there is sufficient credible or trustworthy evidence to determine that there is more than a mere possibility that the claimants would be persecuted if they returned to Egypt. The claimants submit that they fear persecution due to their faith and identities, as Coptic Christians.
 The claimants testified in a very detailed, genuine and credible manner throughout their testimony. Both were able to reasonably convey their personal and professional circumstance in Egypt. They supported their testimony and allegations by presenting their business documents. They also submitted letters and pictures of support in documenting the events that precipitated their claim in Canada.4 The testimony before this panel was detailed and genuine as to their circumstances in Egypt, including the numerous attacks and threats against them and their minor children. Although they had travelled to Canada previously, without making a claim; I am satisfied in their explanation that they had a professional and comfortable life and at the time of previous travels it was less of a risk to continue to live in Egypt, however, their change in circumstances and the threats against them have increased, resulting in them leaving their lives behind and seeking protection. I take no negative inference against not previously seeking protection when in Canada. Overall, I accept the claimant’s allegations as presented.
 The objective evidence reports that approximately 90 percent of Egypt’s population is Sunni Muslim and approximately ten percent is recognized as Christian.5 Approximately ten percent of Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, while other Christian communities constitute less than two percent of the population.
 Egypt’s constitution describes freedom of belief as absolute and it provides adherents of Islam, Christianity and Judaism the right to practice their religion freely.6 However, the country condition evidence reports that sectarian attacks against Christians continue, including church bombings committed by the Islamic State (IS), forced displacement, physical assaults, arson attacks and blocking of church construction.7 A Response to Information Request (RIR) before me lists numerous and serious attacks committed against Coptic Christians in 2016 and 2017.8 There is evidence that high level officials, such as the President, are making efforts to promote religious freedoms. For example, President Sisi has pledged to respect freedom of belief and has made visits to Coptic Christian masses.
 Increased attacks by IS in February 2017 lead to the largest wave of collective displacement in Egypt since the June 1967 war. Furthermore, two bombings in April 2017 led to President Sisi declaring a three-month state of emergency in the country.9 Additionally, the United States (U.S.) Department of State Report (DOS) indicates that lethal sectarian violence continued over the year, and included mob violence and vigilantism, for example, in May 2017, there was a terrorist attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians.10 However, despite these efforts, there are still reports of secular violence.
 For example, the 2017 U.S. DOS International Religious Freedom Report states that religious minorities continue to face significant threats of sectarian violence.11 The report outlines violence targeted toward Christians specifically because of their religion. Furthermore, authorities fail to protect minority victims and demand that charges be dropped in the spirit of reconciliation.12 Furthermore, there are numerous reports of Christian churches being targeted as well as the protest of building new churches. There have been cases of churches being burned down and vandalized, as well as Christian homes being similarly targeted.13
 The same report states that:
ISIS claimed responsibility for multiple other attacks, including suicide bombings against two churches during Palm Sunday services, attacks against passengers on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims, and a spate of attacks on individual Christians in northern Sinai and elsewhere. An assailant killed a Coptic Orthodox priest in Cairo and injured another; a court sentenced the assailant to death for murder. According to press reports, three noncommissioned officers and a security guard allegedly tortured and killed a Christian police conscript. His family reported in a videotaped interview that he was “tortured and killed for his faith.” …
On April 9, twin suicide bombings at Coptic Orthodox churches killed 45 people during Palm Sunday services. One struck St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Alexandria, where Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was leading the service. The attacker detonated a bomb at the gate of the church compound after being refused entry by security. The other attack occurred in the city of Tanta in the Nile delta, where a suicide bomber detonated himself among the front pews of the church. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned Muslims to avoid Christian gatherings in Egypt. …
Terrorists affiliated with ISIS carried out a series of attacks against Christians in northern Sinai after having issued videos and other public statements calling on pious Muslims to kill them. On January 30, masked assailants shot Coptic Christian Wael Milad in his shop, according to press reports. Eyewitnesses told media outlets that on February 11 an attacker shot Christian veterinarian Bahgat William in the head, neck, and stomach as he was leaving his clinic. Attackers killed Adel Showky on the same day in al-Arish’s Samaran neighborhood, according to press reports. On February 16, two assailants on a motorbike gunned down Coptic Christian schoolteacher Gamal Tawfiq as he was walking through a crowded marketplace between his home and school, according to press reports. On February 22, the corpses of two local Christians, Saad Hanna and his son Medhat, were found on the roadside in al-Arish. Saad’s body showed gunshot wounds; Medhat’s showed signs of having been burned alive, according to press reports. Following these attacks and additional threats, hundreds of Christians fled Sinai during the first several months of the year for other parts of Egypt, according to press and church sources. According to an international NGO, several families told human rights activists they wanted to return to their homes, but were skeptical that this would be possible. Subsequently on May 6, gunmen shot and killed Nabeel Saber Ayoub, a Copt who had fled al-Arish with his family but returned briefly to complete school paperwork for his son and to check on his house and barber shop, according to press reports. Violent attacks against individual Christians were not limited to northern Sinai.14
 The claimants’ situation, which I accept, is in line with the objective evidence, of targeting of violence, kidnapping and harassment, followed by reconciliation efforts rather than protective efforts by authorities.
 I find that the claimants’ as Coptic Christians would more likely continue to be targeted for their religion and are subject to murders, kidnappings, physical assaults, bomb attacks, disappearances and forced displacement. As such, I find there is more than a mere possibility that claimants would be persecuted due to their religion if they return to Egypt.
 I do acknowledge the efforts of the state to recognize and promote religious tolerance in Egypt, as the 2017 U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom report indicates that since 2014, President Sisi has made significant strides to address religious freedom concerns. However, despite notable progress, the number of violent attacks targeting Christians increased. Furthermore, discriminatory laws and policies remain in place and continue to negatively impact Christians, including blasphemy laws and limits on conversion from Islam. Further the evidence before me is that the government frequently failed to prevent, investigate or prosecute crimes targeting members of religious minorities, which fosters a climate of impunity. As in the situation of the claimants, in reporting the issues to police, they were advised to reconcile or leave things, in order to keep the peace. I find that given the objective evidence of increasing violence directed towards Christians in Egypt, that is unabated despite the state’s efforts and given the claimants own experiences of violence without authorities being willing or able to protect or even assist them, I find that the claimants would not have access to adequate operationally effective state protection in returning to Egypt.
Internal Flight Alternative
 The panel finds that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Egypt. Although, the country condition information before me indicates that larger urban centres are safer for religious minorities. The United Kingdom Home Office states that:
Cities, such as Cairo and Alexandria, have large, socio-economically and culturally diverse populations which co-exist, for the most part, peaceably. Many people move to different parts of Egypt for social and economic reasons.15
 The claimants lived in what was once a religiously diverse city with a high Christian populace, the situation in Egypt, is that extremists, are targeting persons of the Christian faith, the claimants as having more than many, as owning a local pharmacy, would continue to come under attack as there is almost no evidence before me that even living in a urban center with a large Christian population, can protection one from the violence throughout Egypt. Therefore, I find that claimants would face similar persecution for their Christian faith, throughout Egypt.
 For the foregoing reasons the panel finds that XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX and XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX are Convention refugees as set out in section 96. Therefore, their claims are accepted.
(signed) J. SCHMALZBAUER
May 27, 2019
1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27.
2 Exhibit 2.
3 Exhibit 1.
4 Exhibits 5 and 6.
5 Exhibit 3, National Documentation Package (NDP), Egypt, March 29, 2019, Item 12.1.
6 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.1.
7 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.4.
8 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.8 Response to Information Request (RIR) EGY105805.E.
9 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.8 RIR EGY105805.E.
10 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 2.1.
11 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.1.
12 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.1.
13 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.1.
14 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 12.1.
15 Exhibit 3, NDP, Item 1.5.