Categories
All Countries Saudi Arabia

2020 RLLR 92

Citation: 2020 RLLR 92
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: October 21, 2020
Panel: Stéphane Hébert
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Jessica Lipes
Country: Saudi Arabia
RPD Number: MB8-20274
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00945
ATIP Pages: 000027-000034

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

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

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       You allege the following: you have a friend named [XXX].

[3]       You are a [XXX]-year-old male from Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, your parents and siblings are all in Jeddah with the exception of a brother who is living in California, United States of America (USA).

[4]       When you were still seventeen years old, you were invited by your friend [XXX] to gather with a teenage group including boys and girls at his compound in Al Durrah Al Aros Beach, which is a residential area in Jeddah.

[5]       This was a second home for [XXX] family, but that house was not their main residence.

[6]       You alleged having been there in the past to gather with your friends and you never had a problem.

[7]       You stated that your gathering was disrupted by four religious police assisted by two regular policemen who broke the door and handcuffed you, before taking you all in their truck and then to a religious police station.

[8]       Once at the religious police station, the girls’ parents were called, they were released and picked up by their respective family while the boys including you were sent to prison.

[9]       You and [XXX] were sent to Dar Al Moahaza prison and the other boys to Breman prison.

[10]    You alleged that the other boys were released due to their family’s political influence while you and [XXX] remained detained.

[11]     You were forced to study and memorized the Holy Koran and when you failed to properly answer, you were hit or beaten.

[12]     You appeared to a Court along with [XXX] a month after your arrest. Being a minor and without legal representation, you were not allowed to speak, got sentenced one year of prison and were flogged 127 times.

[13]     You benefitted from the Prince forgiveness and were allegedly released after 53 days, but not before you were flogged 127 times.

[14]     Upon your release, you were treated at home by your mother and resume school following an agreement with the school direction, allowing you to finish your high school.

[15]     Your family and yourself decided that it would be better for you to pursue your studies abroad considering this incident and you left the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the USA in 2011.

[16]     You obtained a University degree in [XXX], but during your stay in the USA, you returned only twice for one week each time as you did not like being there.

[17]     Upon your return in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2017 and after you had experienced religious freedom in the USA, you had more and more problems to comply with religious regulations.

[18]     You had difficulties at Panasonic in Jeddah as you had been challenged on your religious belief or practice when it was time for the compulsory prayer.

[19]     You have also been arrested and detained for a day and a half as a result of your nonconformity appearance, considering that wearing an earring in the Kingdom is not very common.

[20]     Based on your previous arrest, detention and torture, while you were still a minor for simply being with teenagers of your age including boys and girls, you developed [XXX] and [XXX] since your return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as you did not feel secure anymore and considering that you could not easily surrender your freedom of conscience.

[21]     On [XXX] 2018, you met [XXX], a childhood friend whom you have not seen for years.

[22]     Your discussion deviated to the lifestyle in the USA compared to the prevailing in the Kingdom and you expressed criticism toward the religion and the government.

[23]     Later on, you saw the same friend in a police uniform when on your way to the gym as you were driving your brother’s car, you were pulled aside and requested to accompany him to the station for further investigation.

[24]     You immediately and spontaneously started running in order to escape and you went to your apartment where you received a call eventually from your brother saying that the police had already come to the family residence.

[25]     Being already in possession of a valid US visa, you called a travel agency and booked the first flight for the USA the next day at 4:00PM.

[26]     The next day, you rushed to the airport, waited for your flight and entered the USA the same day on [XXX] 2018.

[27]     You testified that you simply wanted to leave your country at that time as you knew that with a previous police file, you would be mistreated due to your opinion toward religion and the Kingdom.

[28]     You came to Canada on [XXX] 2018, after being in the USA for two days during which you had done research on the web and you claimed asylum.

[29]     A warrant of arrest was issued against you on [XXX] 2018, while you were in Canada but was made aware of it on [XXX] 2020.

[30]     You are fearful to go back to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as you will be arrested and detained.

DECISION

[31]     I find that you are a refugee, pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA, as there exists a serious possibility of persecution, should you return to Saudi Arabia, on account of your: religion, political opinion.

Identity

[32]     I find that your identity as a national of Saudi Arabia is established by the documents provided, namely your passport which was seized by the Canadian Border Services Agency and accordingly, you have met your burden.

Credibility

[33]     I find you to be a credible witness and therefore believe what you alleged in support of your claim.

[34]     You testified in a straightforward manner and there were no relevant inconsistencies in your testimony or contradictions between your testimony and the other evidence before me.

[35]     Initially, the tribunal had to confront you on some interrogations pertaining to your subjective fears (failure to claim asylum in the USA and returns to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and the absence of supporting evidence concerning your conviction in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

[36]     The question of subjective fear was raised as I noted that you did not seek asylum in the USA where you studied from 2011 to 2017, and you returned to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia upon completing your University degree in the USA. However, the evidence indicates that you were only seventeen years old when you went to the USA and you testified that you had not made yet this decision to leave for ever your country, especially that you were missing your mother. This explanation seems reasonable in your alleged circumstances, especially the age factor and therefore does not raise significant concerns with respect to subjective fear or credibility

[37]     I further note that Refugee Protection Division (RPD) rule 11 requires you to provide acceptable documents establishing elements of your claim, or a reasonable explanation indicating why they were not produced.

[38]     You were indeed asked why you did not produce your court file and you stated that since you were a minor, your father had all the documents but forbid all discussions as they are still in Saudi Arabia and he is afraid of the repercussion of the family members, since it is of public knowledge that the Kingdom does not hesitate to pressure or persecute the remaining family members present in Saudi Arabia, to pressure the individual abroad to come back or comply with their request, and the claimant added that even his brother in California did not want to get involved and for the same reasons, did not issue any statement.

[39]     Ultimately, the claimant declared that without his father’s collaboration, he simply could not provide any document pertaining to his past arrest and detention as he was a minor unrepresented and all the documents were in the hands of his father who did not want to collaborate as he was extremely fearful of the potential consequences over the security of the family present in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

[40]     Moreover, during that period, a diplomatic crisis was opposing Canada and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom spying attempts over their nationals in Canada were observed as it more fully appears from the objective documentary evidence.

[41]     I therefore find the explanation to be reasonable and coherent with the objective evidence.

[42]     Finally, the following evidence establishes your allegations as set out above the warrant of arrest issued by the State (Exhibit 4, item E-19). After reviewing the said document, I have no reasons to doubt its authenticity. Consequently, considering the testimonial evidence and this supporting evidence, the tribunal may easily conclude that shall you return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you will be arrested and detained.

Objective basis

[43]     Given that there are no serious credibility issues with respect to your allegations, coupled with the documentary evidence set out below, I find that you have established a prospective risk of being subjected to the following harm(s): arrest, detention and torture.

[44]     This risk is corroborated by the following documents:

The DOS Report for 2019 (Exhibit 3- item 2.1) mentions:

“The law also penalizes anyone who challenges, either directly or indirect/y, the religion or justice of the king or crown prince(…).”

“Statements that authorities construed as constituting defamation of the king, monarchy, governing system, or Al Saud family resulted in criminal charges for citizens advocating government reform.”

-and-

Significant human rights issues included unlawful killings; executions for nonviolent offences; forced disappearances; torture of prisoners and detainees by government agents; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; criminalization of libel, censorship, and site blocking; restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and movement; severe restrictions of religious freedom; citizens’ lack of ability and legal means to choose their government through free and fair elections; trafficking in persons; violence and official discrimination against women, although new women’s rights initiatives were implemented; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity; and prohibition of trade unions.”

[45]     The Human Right Watch Report (Exhibit 3, item 2) states that:

“Surveillance is extensive inside Saudi Arabia, and even Saudis living abroad are vulnerable ta spying. In October, the University of Toronto’s citizen Lab found surveillance software on the phone of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi dissident living in Canada who was in regular contact with Khashoggi before this assassination”.

[46]     The Saudi Arabia World Report 2020 Events of 2019 from Human Right Watch (Exhibit 3, items 2-5) corroborated similarly situation for minor under the penal justice in Saudi Arabia in the following terms:

“Saudi Arabia applies Sharia (Islamic law) as its national law. There is no formal penal code, but the government has passed some laws and regulations that subject certain broadly defined offences ta criminal penalties. In the absence of a written penal code or narrowly-worded regulations, however, judges and prosecutors can convict people on a wide range of offences under broad, catch-all charges such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom.” Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest.”

[47]     Finally, the Report from Saudi Arabia: Freedom of the World from Freedom House 2019 (Exhibit 3, items 2-4), is well describing the socio-political reality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

“Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on extensive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism and ethnicity, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice. Working conditions for the large expatriate labor force are often exploitative.”

[48]     The above stated objective evidence is describing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a theocracy which persecute all forms of dissidence.

Nature of the harm

[49]     I have examined your claim under section 96 of the IRPA, as I conclude that the risk you describe constitutes persecution based on at least one of the grounds prescribed in section 96, specifically your religion and political opinion.

CONCLUSION

[50]     In light of the preceding, I conclude that you are a refugee, pursuant to section 96 of the IRPA. Accordingly, I accept your claim.

Categories
All Countries Iran

2020 RLLR 85

Citation: 2020 RLLR 85
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 11, 2020
Panel: Lesley Stalker
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Rasik Shah
Country: Iran
RPD Number: VB9-04273
Associated RPD Number(s): VB9-04292, VB9-04293
ATIP Number: A-2021-00800
ATIP Pages: 000164-000170

DECISION

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

[2]       In rendering these reasons, I considered and applied Chairperson’s Guideline 4 on Female Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Based Persecution and Chairperson’s Guideline 3 on Child Refugee Claimants Procedural and Evidentiary Issues. At the outset of the hearing, I maintained the designation of the principal claimant as the designated representative for her minor daughter, [XXX] Her son [XXX] turned [XXX] years old in [XXX] 2019 and so does not require a designated representative.

Allegations

[3]       The principal claimant fears gender-based persecution on the basis of her objection to strict gender-based roles for women in Iran. She is a painter and a poet who has used her art to decry what she has described as the tyranny of the Islamic regime against women. She says she endured two loveless arranged marriages which left her both broke and broken.

[4]       She also fears persecution on the basis of her religious beliefs and her imputed political opinion. The associated claimant [XXX] fears persecution due to his religious beliefs and his political beliefs. He says he believes in God but does not follow a particular religion. He rejects the mandatory Islamic, the mandatory imposition of Islamic beliefs on Iranian citizens.  And fears persecution due to his repudiation of a theocratic government in favor of a secular model.

[5]       The minor claimant [XXX] fears persecution on the basis of her gender. She objects to the strictures imposed on women in Iran, including the mandatory dress code. She also rejects the mandatory imposition of Islamic values on Iranian citizens. And says that she does not adhere to a particular religion.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[6]       I’m backing up here.

Determination

[7]       The Panel finds that the three claimants have established a serious risk of persecution in Iran based on their religious beliefs and in the case of the two female claimants, on the basis of their gender.

ANALYSIS

Identity

[8]       The claimants’ identities are confirmed by the testimony of the principal claimant and by their passports, certified true copies of which are on file.

Credibility

[9]       In refugee determine case, determination cases there is a presumption that claimants and their allegations are truthful. I found the three claimants to be credible witnesses.   They each endeavored to answer questions accurately and to elaborate on their answers when asked to do so. There were no material inconsistencies or contradution-, contradictions within or between their respective testimonies.  The principal claimant submitted a number of documents which corroborate her allegations. These includes a subpoena issued in [XXX] 2018 requiring her to attend a preliminary inquiry into whether she insulted the san-, sanctity of Islam.  This is found in Exhibit 4 at page 21.

[10]     She also submitted photocopies of her paintings and translations of her poetry which are collectively a heart-rending lament against the oppression of wislam-, oppression of women by the theocratic regime. In one poem she writes, I was a beautiful blossom., they shed all my pet-, petals before I bloom, not giving me a chance to see the spring. Another poem refers to the “beastly religious rules, those demons”.  And another says “religion is the lie of frauds.”

[11]     The principal claimant also filed a card attesting to her father’s membership in the Rastakhiz, R-A-S-T-A­K-H-I-Z Party and a death certificate which confirms her father’s death in [XXX] 1983. In her BOC, she said that her father was effectively assassinated because of his political beliefs.

[12]     The objective country evidence in the Immigration and Refugee Board’s National Documentation Package substantiate the claimant’s allegations concerning the lack of freedom of religious belief and the treatment of women. Based on the presumption of truthfulness and the corroborative evidence, I accept the allegations as set out in the princi-, principal claimant’s BOC and updated narrative as credible.

Well-Founded Fear of Persecution

[13]     I find that the principal claimant has established a well-founded fear of persecution based on her status as a woman and on her rejection of Islamic strictures on the people of Iran.

Profile of the Principal Claimant

[14]     The principal claimant’s profile is as follows. She says that her extended family has long opposed the regime. Her father was pursued by clerics in the early days of the revolution and eventually killed in a staged car accident. Her mother who is fearful for the safety of her outspoken and headstrong daughter, arranged for the principal claimant to marry an older man who worked for the regime when she, the principal claimant, was only [XXX] years old. When she was married, she was expelled by the school. After some incidents of abuse, the [XXX] bride fled her home and marriage. Her husband subsequently divorced her and she was allowed to complete high school.

[15]     Following the breakdown of this marriage, the principal claimant’s brother chaperoned her closely. She felt she was living in a prison of his creation. When she was [XXX], she married a 30-year-old man to escape the prison fashioned by her brother. The principal claimant and her husband have two children who are the associated claimants in this hearing. That marriage broke down when the principal claimant was in her early [XXX] and she again found herself marginalized as a divorced woman.

[16]     She began to teach art out of her home.  The classes became a center for discussion about various social issues. She wanted to take these ideas beyond her home, so registered at a university. However, her outspoken views created ongoing problems at the university and she had to drop out after three terms. She opened an art school but the ongoing pressure by Sepah, S-E-P-A-H and the Basij, B-A-S-I-J forced her to cut the male instructors from her school. She had to repeatedly write promissory letters to comply with the Iranian regime’s requirements.  And eventually, had to close the school altogether. She continued to pour her hopes, her anger and her pain into her poetry and her art.

[17]     In [XXX] 2018, she visited her sister in Canada. She was astounded to see a country in which women are treated with respect.  She returned to Iran only because her children were still there. Upon her return to Iran, the authorities continued their surveillance of her activities. On [XXX] 2018, they forced her over in her car.  When the officers started to humiliate and disrep-, disrespect her, she erupted in rage against Islam and its laws. She was arrested and released the following day upon posting a bond.

[18]     On [XXX] 2018 she received a subpoena ordering her to attend an inquiry on [XXX] the [XXX], 2018. A cousin informed her that she was not yet on a no-exit list, so she and her children flew to Turkey on [XXX] the [XXX] 2018. The claimants were only allowed to stay in Turkey for three months. The principal claimant reluctant-, reluctantly agreed to pay [XXX] to an agent so that she could get visas for her children to get to Canada.

[19]     The principal claimant returned to Iran in [XXX] 2018 to finalize her affairs and grant power of attorney to her brother. She did not return to her home and took precautions to remain undetected. Nonetheless, despite these precautions, she received a call saying that she was being followed and that she faced being killed. On [XXX] she learned that a second subpoena had been delivered to her home and she immediately returned to Turkey. The three claimants flew to Canada on [XXX], 2018.

[20]     The associated claimant, [XXX] who is [XXX] years old, testified about his religious and political beliefs. As noted above, he says he does not adhere to any religion. And refuses to participate in the religious rituals and practices which are demanded in many parts of Iranian life. He noted that he now faces the mandatory military service in Iran as a soldier. If he refuses to pray or to fast during Ramadan he faces flogging and other punishments including the extension of his military service. His mother testified that [XXX] is rebellious by nature. And she fears that his free-spirited actions will quickly bring him to the attention of the authorities.

[21]     The minor claimant, [XXX] is [XXX] years of age. She testified about her objection to the strictures imposed on women in Iran in the name of Islam, in the name of Islam.  Including the mandatory wearing of the hijab. The principal claimant testified that [XXX] hated having to wear the hijab in Iran. She recalled that when [XXX] was approximately [XXX] or [XXX] years old, the principal claimant picked her up from school by car on a hot day. Once in the car, [XXX] pulled her headscarf off. The religious police saw this and detained the principal claimant and [XXX] for a day. [XXX] was incensed by this and remains so to this day. [XXX] testified that she is not a practicing Muslim and that she does not believe in any religion.

Nexus

[22]     I find that the fears of the principal claimant and [XXX] are refle-, are connected to the refugee Convention grounds of religion, membership in a particular social group, namely gender.  And actual or imputed political beliefs. The fears of the associated claimant [XXX] are connected to the Convention ground of religion and political belief. I therefore assess their claims under Section 96 of the Act.

Subjective Basis

[23]     The principal claimant has described her fears of persecution persuasively and in detail. Her decision to return to Iran in [XXX] 2018 raises a question about whether she may have reavailed herself of the protection of her country. I find that her description about the precautions she took to remain undetected and her immediate flight back to Turkey when the second subpoena arrived have satisfied me that she had a sub-, has a subjective fear of persecution in Iran. And that her short-term return to the country in [XXX] 2018 does not undercut that subjective fear.

[24]     The associated claimant and minor claimant also established a subjective fear of persecution throughout their eloquent and pervasive testimony.

Objective Evidence

[25]     The objective evidence supports the fears of the three claimants. Reports in the National Documentation Package confirm that the Iranian State authorities continue to impose harsh restrictions on the rights of women. To arrest wome-, women rights activists, prohibit dissemination of information the government deems damaging and that the government maintains control on art and censors art production that is deemed to promote secularism or non-Islamic ideas about women’s rights and behaviors. And for this I, I’m referring to the information in the U.S. Department of State report found at Tab 2.1 of the NDP. Iran is a theocracy where ultimate power rests with the supreme leader and unelected institutions under his control.

[26]     The gender policies among the ideological pillars of the Islamic Republic and therefore, patriarchy is enforced by the State itself.

[27]     Legislation in Iran is based on Sharia law which generally regus-, reduce a woman as having only half the value of a man. The 2017 Global Gender Gap ranks Iran at 140 out of 144 countries. And for this, I refer to the report at Tab 5.1 at the NDP. Amnesty International states that violence against women and girls including domestic violence and early enforced marriage are widespread and committed with impunity as gender-based violence is not criminalized.

[28]     According to the Finnish Immigration Service sexual harassment is widespread and violence against women is commonplace in Iran. More than 50% of women have suffered psychological abuse. And more than 1 in 3 had suffered acts of physical abuse. Almost 1 in 3 of the surveyed women reported having experienced restrictions included, including limitations on contacts with friends and family. And limitations on their ability to pursue employment, education or participation in public affairs. The report also states that women feel compel-, compelled to tolerate violence inflicted not only by their husbands, but also by other family members for fear of shame, being ostracized or divorced. And because there are a lack of alternatives to the abusive environments. And for that, I refer to Tab 5.3 of the NDP.

[29]     Restrictions on women govern all aspects of their lives. Women cannot ride bicycles, enter stadiums, travel alone or choose their clothes. Female athletes have traditionally been barred from competing in international tournaments. All women, irrespective of religion, are required to cover their hair, skin above the wrist or ankle and below the neck and the contours of their body in public. And this last proposition is found in the Response to Information Request at Tab 5.4.

[30]     The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire such as, such as a hijab over the head or a long jacket, manteau, M-A-N-T-E-A-U or a full-length cloth covering, chador, may be sentenced to flogging and fined.  And this is the U.S. Department of State report at Tab 2.1. These laws are enforced with vigor. Approximately 730,000 women a year are arrested for failing to comply with the billing requirement.  And this is Tab 5.1 of the NDP.  However, there’s no consensus on what constitutes a proper hijab which leaves women vulnerable to the interpretation or whims of the enforcing officer.

[31]     According to the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation, cultural figures including musicians are targeted by the regime, regardless of whether they live in Iran as their work is deemed to be immoral.   And this is found in NDP Item 2.6. Solo female artists are prohibited from performing in front of audiences. And musicians are constan-, consistently banned, imprisoned and harassed by authorities.

[32]     And I find on a balance of probabilities that the restrictions or harassment that are imposed on musicians are likely to be equally applied to other forms of art, including painting or poetry, such as the work that the principal claimant has done. The country reports also indicate that the Iranian authorities demands strict adherence to Sharia laws and criminalize dissent.

[33]     The U.S. Department of International Religious Freedom report states that Iran’s constitution defines the country as an Islamic Republic and all laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. Conversion from Islam to another faith is punishable by death. An IRB Response to Information Request on the treatment of atheists in Iran found at Tab 12.14 of the NDP quotes sources as saying that atheism is not recognized in Iran. And under Iran’s Sharia law any Muslim who abandons his or her faith may face the death penalty for apostasy.

[34]     With the respect to the ability to freely express one’s opinion, the USDOS report at Tab 2.1 states that the law provides for the prosecution of persons accused of instigating crimes against the State or national security or insulting Islam. The government severely restricted freedom  of speech and of the press and use the law to intimidate or prosecute persons who directly criticize the government or raised  human rights problems. As well as to bring ordinary citizens into compliance with the government’s moral code. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 2018 annual report found at Tab 12.2 indicates that the government of Iran discriminates against its citizens on the basis of religion or belief. As all laws and regulations are based on the unique Ja’fari Shia Islamic criteria.

[35]     Under Iran’s Penal Code, mohareh-, moharebeh vaguely defined and often used for political purposes and Sabul-Nabi, S-A-B-U-L – N-A-B-I, insulting the prophet, are capital crimes. The same document notes that the Iranian government exercises strict control over expression  of religious ideas and dissent online as part of its broader censorship and targeted use of technology.

[36]     Upon reviewing the credib-, the claimants’ credible testimony and the country reports on Iran, I find that they have collectively and individually established  that they face a serious risk of persecution in Iran on the basis of their religious beliefs. And in the case of the two female claimants, on the basis of their gender. Given my finding that the claimants face a risk of persecution because of their religious beliefs, I’ve not assessed the risk they may face on the basis of their political opinions.

State Protection

[37]     Given that the State is the agent of harm, I find there’s no state protection available to them. Furthermore, given the State’s capacity and censorship laws and their laws against apostasy and blasphemy which extend throughout the country, I find they face a serious possibility of persecution throughout the country.

[38]     It is therefore, not possible for them to relocate to another location in Iran. There is no in-, viable internal flight alternative available to them.

CONCLUSION

[39]     For the foregoing reasons, I find that the claimants have established that they are Convention refugees pursuant to Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I therefore accept your claims.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Iran

2020 RLLR 67

Citation: 2020 RLLR 67
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: February 21, 2020
Panel: Jeffrey Brian Gullickson
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Joseph W. Allen
Country: Iran
RPD Number: MB9-14763
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00800
ATIP Pages: 000055-000057

REASONS FOR DECISION

INTRODUCTION

[1]       [XXX] is claiming refugee protection pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Her passport proves her identity and that she is a citizen of Iran.

[2]       In rendering my reasons, I have considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution.

ALLEGATIONS

[3]       The claimant’s religious view is “non believer” and does not follow Islam and refused to [XXX] it to her [XXX] as she was required by the [XXX] where she worked in Iran.

[4]       During her travels to Canada, she had posted photos of her where she did not wear a hijab or chador required for women in Iran. For this, persons at her [XXX] threatened to denounce her to Iranian authorities where she would be suspected of non-Islamic behaviour and for being a non­believer and disproportionately punished.

DETERMINATION

[5]       The claimant is a Convention refugee. She established a serious possibility of persecution for religion and imputed political opinion.

ANALYSIS

Credibility

[6]       She was credible regarding key elements of her claim.

[7]       There were numerous credibility concerns. They were not determinative.

[8]       The National Documentation Package (NDP) for Iran, dated 29 March 2019, Iran refers to severe corporal or other punishment for apostasy, un-Islamic behavior or behavior not consistent with state-prescribed morals consistent with Shia religious practice or behaviour (NDP, tabs 9.8 and 11.1). The NDP mentions that political dissidents are accused by state authorities of serious capital crimes either against Islam or against national security and subject lengthy arbitrary detention and mistreatment in detention (NDP, tab 1.14, p. 10; tab 2.1, pp. 4 and 16).

[9]       Given the above, I conclude that the claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution for religion in Iran for her non-Islamic view.

State protection

[10]     I find that there is clear and convincing evidence before me that the state is unable or unwilling to provide you with adequate protection, for reasons mentioned above.

Internal flight alternative

[11]     On the evidence before me, I find that there is a serious possibility of persecution throughout Iran for the claimant, for reasons mentioned above.

CONCLUSION

[12]     The claimant is a Convention refugee.

[13]     I accept her claim.

Categories
All Countries India

2020 RLLR 66

Citation: 2020 RLLR 66
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: January 14, 2020
Panel: Reisa Khalifa
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Fevziye Oguzer
Country: India
RPD Number: MB9-14037
Associated RPD Number(s):
ATIP Number: A-2021-00800
ATIP Pages: 000046-000054

[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim for refugee protection of Mr. [XXX], file MB9-14037, citizen of India. He is seeking asylum under s. 96 and s. 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Decision

[2]       The panel concludes that the claimant has established that he faces a serious possibility of persecution in India on the basis of religion. The panel therefore finds that he is a Convention refugee pursuant to s. 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and accepts his claim.

Summary of Allegations

[3]       The claimant’s detailed allegations are contained in his basis of claim form. The claimant fears for his life, if he were to return to India, due to his faith as a member of the Muslim minority religion in India. As a result of his religion, he has been targeted by members of an extremist Hindu group for his faith. He has been personally targeted and threatened on several occasions by a group of extremists.

[4]       On one occasion, he was pulled out of his car and threatened with a gun when he was on the way home from work in Pune (ph.). And then he had relocated to Mumbai and he was again threatened that at any time the orders could be sent for him to be killed.

[5]       The claimant has also observed similarly situated individuals being beaten and killed, and he has seen numerous videos, unfortunately, of this happening to members of the Muslim minority, in videos that have been uploaded from numerous locations throughout India, and, unfortunately, the people not being brought to justice.

[6]       So, the claimant has established that he faces the serious possibility of persecution based on his religion.

[7]       The claimant had relocated several times within India for the safety of himself and his family; and yet, he continued to receive threats. He lived for a while at a college residence and he lived at various hotels. He obtained a visa to the United States. He travelled to the United States several times to look into various opportunities, including possibly claiming refugee status, and he was told that it would be a process of eight to ten years where he would not be able to see his family and that there was a low chance of success. He also looked into possibly getting a job there, being sponsored by a possible employer, and that didn’t work out. He had also looked into coming to Canada based on points, coming as a permanent resident.  He looked into many different options and he was – at a certain point, he had – his US visa had been cancelled and he went to try to find out why and he was unable to obtain an answer from the authorities. He also obtained a Canadian visa. And after looking into many different possibilities that he testified to, he had finally come to Canada in [XXX] 2019. And the following month, in [XXX] 2019, he had claimed asylum here.

Analysis

Identity

[8]       The claimant’s personal and national identity as a citizen of India is established, on a balance of probabilities, by the documentary evidence on file, specifically his Indian passport.

Nexus to the Convention

[9]       The claimant’s allegations establish a nexus to the Convention. He faces persecution, based on his religious beliefs as a member of the Muslim minority faith in India. His claim, therefore, has been analysed under s. 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Credibility

[10]     The panel finds that the claimant is credible for the following reasons.

[11]     Testimony provided under oath is presumed to be truthful, unless there is a reason for doubting its truthfulness. In this claim, the panel has no such reason.

[12]     The claimant testified in a sincere detailed manner. He provided clear and compelling answers regarding the situations he faced, in which he repeatedly over the years was made to feel fearful as a Muslim living in India. For example, he had been willing to pay extra money considered a personal tax to a rickshaw driver because of his faith. He was forced to participate in prayers of the Hindu faith at his office, even though it wasn’t his personal belief, as he was pressured to do so in order to keep his job, in order not to face persecution at work. And several years ago, he stopped wearing his traditional prayer outfit that would normally be worn on Fridays because of fear of being persecuted for his Muslim faith. These are just some of the examples that he provided. But perhaps the most compelling example was when he stated that just speaking to his wife on the phone in a taxi, he had made, as he had said, the mistake of greeting her in a traditional way of his faith, and that this mistake had led to his life being threatened by the taxi driver on another occasion. And just the very fact that the claimant would consider it to be a mistake to greet his own family with a traditional greeting demonstrates the level of fear that he was subjected to.

[13]     The claimant also provided testimony regarding him having personally observed videos that had been uploaded by Hindu extremist groups, killing without fear of repercussions, beating and killing members of the Muslim minority faith, and how he had seen (inaudible) similarly situated individuals being persecuted and there not being an legal repercussions.

[14]     So, the panel found that all of his testimony added to the credibility of his claim and demonstrated that he had actually experienced these things, and that he had not only a subjective fear but also an objective basis for this fear throughout his life, being raised to sort of hide his religion and then, more recently, over the years, that the atmosphere was becoming increasingly hostile towards members of his faith, and that this was being encouraged by the current régime.

[15]     So, the panel did have concerns about – well, one concern about the fact that there were some contradictions regarding the dates.  And so, the claimant had repeatedly said that he is bad with dates, that he has trouble remembering exact dates when things happened. However, when the panel weighs this against the quality of his testimony and all the information he provided, including the order in which the events occurred, he provided lots of details of the events and who was present and his thought process and what was said to him and what was done. And so, all of these details outweigh the concern that the panel would have about the claimant not remembering certain dates. They were far outweighed by the quality of his testimony and also by the documentary evidence that he provided and the objective documentary evidence that’s in the National Documentation Package.

[16]     The claimant provided a considerable amount of documentary evidence in support of his allegations and some of the most relevant evidence includes:

Exhibit C-1, the pages from the letter of his job at [XXX] (ph.);

Exhibit C-2, a payslip from his job, when he returned to Mumbai at the [XXX] (ph.);

Exhibit C-3, a letter and piece of identification from a co-worker who had observed him being followed and people asking about him, and who personally was told by the claimant about his situation;

Exhibit C-4, a letter and piece of identification from the claimant’s wife, explaining in detail and in a very compelling and emotional fashion in the letter about the situation that the whole family has been subjected to.

Exhibit C-5 shows some text messages with the person at the college hostel who had helped him to arrange the claimant to stay there briefly;

Exhibit C-6 shows hotel booking when he was also trying to stay away from his home to protect his family and also to not be tracked by the agents of persecution.

[17]     The claimant also provided documentary evidence in the form of newspaper articles regarding the situation in India and the current régime and how, unfortunately, there is an encouragement of violence against Muslims in India. And these are Exhibits C-7, C-8, C-9, C-10 and 11, which document beatings and killing of members of the Muslim minority faith in India in regions all around the country, to show the widespread nature of this persecution.

[18]     So, I will indicate some of the national documentary evidence that corroborates the testimony of the claimant of the persecution that he would face if he were to return to India, and that corroborates his experience when he was in India.

[19]     Tab 2.3 details the government’s failure to prevent attacks on Muslims and the encouragement of the régime of anti-Muslim activity. And this was also mentioned by the counsel.

[20]     Now, Tab 12.1 indicates that authorities are not prosecuting the harming of non-Hindu individuals, which was also mentioned by counsel.

[21]     There’s Tab 12.5 that discusses the current régime’s complicity in violence against minority religions.

[22]     Tab 10.7 – also Tab 12.9. That talks about the killing of Muslims that have been accused of either eating or selling beef. And the claimant had talked about the seriousness of being accused of eating beef could lead to someone being killed and learning that even in certain districts mutton is not even allowed to be eaten.

[23]     So, there is also discussion in Tabs 12.10 and 12.14 about the persecution of Muslims throughout India.

[24]     So, these are just some examples, particular examples, in the National Documentation Package that detail the persecution of Muslims in India and the current régime’s complicity, and even encouragement, in these attacks.

[25]     So, the panel finds that there were no relevant inconsistencies, contradictions or omissions between the claimant’s basis of claim form, his testimony at the hearing and the documentary evidence on file that were not reasonably explained.

[26]     So, for all these reasons, the panel finds that the claimant’s allegations are credible.

[27]     The panel finds that the claimant has established, on a balance of probabilities, that he is of the Muslim faith; that, as a result of his faith, he has been threatened on multiple occasions in India, including at gunpoint and including being told that at any point he could be just killed. And he has observed similarly situated individuals being persecuted, based on their membership in the minority Muslim religion. And so, he has established that he faces a serious possibility of persecution if he were to return to India.

State Protection

[28]     The panel finds that the claimant has rebutted the presumption of State protection with clear and convincing evidence that the authorities in India would be unable or unwilling to provide him with adequate protection.

[29]     The claimant provided credible testimony about the killing of, unfortunately, people of the Muslim faith – being killed, or beaten and then killed, and shown on videos without legal repercussions. And this was like common knowledge throughout India, unfortunately. And that – this is also reflected, this lack of adequate State protection, in the documentary evidence., Tab 10.7 and Tab 10.10. So, Tab 10.7, as is referred to by counsel, talks about the perception of the Muslim community, and how police target and victimise Muslims based on their identity and that there is a distinct bias, and that there’s actions that indicate bias against the Muslim community in India, and this is on a systemic scale. And this is something that was referred to by counsel and also discussed by the claimant as being fearful of the authorities. And specific examples – in Tab 10.10 of the National Documentation Package, it discusses human rights abuses being committed by police that are reported to be widespread and conducted with impunity. Persons from marginalised minority communities are particularly affected and excessive force by security forces are reported, including extra-judicial killing. As well in Tab 10.10, it also states that judicial corruption is widespread and that justice is often delayed or denied. There’s also mention in Tab 10.10 how lower levels of the judiciary in particular have been rife with corruption and most citizens have great difficulty securing justice through the courts. And research by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board’s Research Directorate indicted corruption within the Indian judicial system at different levels that affects the effectiveness of the courts. So, this is in addition to the other – to the credible testimony of the claimant and the documentary evidence put forth by counsel and discussed by counsel that demonstrates that there is a lack of adequate protection.

[30]     And so, the panel finds that if the claimant were to approach the authorities for protection in India, adequate protection would not be forthcoming to him.

[31]     Claimants are not required to risk their lives seeking inadequate protection, merely to demonstrate its ineffectiveness.

[32]     So, for all these reasons, the claimant has rebutted the presumption of State protection.

Internal Flight Alternative

[33]     For the reasons just described regarding the lack of State protection – as well as the fact that the national documentation that was produced by counsel, and also that’s in the National Documentation Package, shows that there are, unfortunately, attacks and killings of Muslims by extremists groups throughout India, in many regions throughout India, such that the panel finds that the claimant would face a serious possibility of persecution throughout India – the panel finds that there is nowhere in India that the claimant could relocate that could be safe and reasonable. And in particular, due to the current régime’s complicity, and even encouragement, of attacks on Muslims.

[34]     So, for these reasons, the panel finds that the agents of persecution have, on a balance of probabilities, both the means and motivation to harm and find the claimant throughout India.

[35]     So, the panel concludes that there is no viable internal flight alternative for the claimant in India.

Conclusion

For all of these reasons, the panel finds that the claimant has established a subjective fear of return to India that is objectively well-founded.

The panel concludes that the claimant has established that he faces a serious possibility of persecution in India, in accordance with s. 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

And the panel therefore finds that he is a Convention refugee, pursuant to s. 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and accepts his claim.

— Decision concluded

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.