Categories
All Countries Nigeria

2019 RLLR 27

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


DECISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2019 RLLR 24

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


REASONS FOR DECISION

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

INTRODUCTION

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

ALLEGATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

DETERMINATION

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

ANALYSIS

Identity

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

Nexus

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

Credibility

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

Objective basis of future risk

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

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

Nature of the harm

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

State protection

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

Internal flight alternative (IFA)

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

Categories
All Countries Egypt

2019 RLLR 101

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


REASONS FOR DECISION

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

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

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

ALLEGATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

DETERMINATION

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

Identity

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

Credibility

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

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

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

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

Membership and Participation in the Coptic Orthodox Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Objective Basis of the Claims

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

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

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

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

Religious Profile of Egypt

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

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

Intimidation of Christians in Egypt

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

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

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

State Protection

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

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

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

Additional State Protection Considerations for the Female Claimants

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

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

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

Internal Flight Alternatives

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

(signed)           C. Ruthven

August 8, 2019

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

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2019 RLLR 18

Citation: 2019 RLLR 18
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: March 11, 2019
Panel: J. Bousfield
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Lisa Rosenblatt
Country: Pakistan
RPD Number: TB8-18500
Associated RPD Number(s): TB8-18564, TB8-18565, TB8-18566, TB8-18567
ATIP Number: A-2021-01124
ATIP Pages: 000128-000131


DECISION

[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision in the claims of [XXX], [XXX], [XXX], [XXX], and [XXX].

[2]       They claims to be citizens of Pakistan from Sialkot, and are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Section 96 and 97 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[3]       COUNSEL: I am sorry. Can I interrupt for just one moment? [XXX], I know you have a little bit of difficulty expressing yourself, but your English is quite good in terms of understanding.

[4]       CLAIMANT: Sometime.

[5]       COUNSEL: Do you need the Interpreter to translate the decision, or…

[6]       CLAIMANT: No. Yes. It is okay.

[7]       INTERPRETER: It is okay?

[8]       CLAIMANT: Yes.

[9]       INTERPRETER: So, I do not have to translate.

[10]     CLAIMANT: No.

[11]     COUNSEL: Yes. I do not think she needs the Interpreter to translate.

[12]     MEMBER: Okay.

[13]     COUNSEL: She is quite, quite, good at understanding English.

[14]     MEMBER: The principal Claimant was designated representative for the minor Claimants.

[15]     The Minister intervened in this case on credibility grounds, but withdrew the intervention shortly before the hearing. Minister’s Counsel did not appear at the hearing.

[16]     I am satisfied that the Claimants are citizens of Pakistan, and as to their personal identity based on their passports which can be found in Exhibit 1.

[17]     The details of the allegations appear in the answers to the principal Claimant’s basis of claim form, which is Exhibit 2.1, and were elaborated upon by her in oral testimony during the hearing this afternoon.

[18]     The central allegations of a much longer narrative are the following.

[19]     The Claimants are practicing members of the Ahmadi faith. They have suffered a history of persecution in Pakistan because of their faith, including severe restrictions on their freedom of worship, ostracism, vandalism, assault, verbal abuse, threats, and harassment. Their Ahmadi relatives have also been persecuted.

[20]     They therefore came to Canada on temporary resident visas in mid June 2018, and initiated these in-land refugee protection claims shortly after their arrival. They are afraid of further religious persecution if they return to Pakistan, and that they will not be able to freely practice their religion.

[21]     For the following reasons I find that the Claimants are Convention refugees.

[22]     The affirmed testimony of refugee claimants is presumed to be true, unless it is internally inconsistent, inherently implausible, or contradicted by country documents. In this regard, I am relying on the Federal Court of Appeal decision in Maldonado. There was no such fault with the principal Claimant’s testimony in the hearing this afternoon.

[23]     Furthermore, the Claimants Ahmadi religion and the rest of the allegations in the case are confirmed by a substantial number of personal documents that I do not have sufficient reason to discount, including their passports indicating that they are Ahmadis, a travel permission from the minor Claimants’ father, a reliable Ahmadi certificate, Ahmadi identity cards, Ahmadi donation receipts, other Ahmadi documents, claim specific news reports, and a letter from the [XXX]. These documents can be found in Exhibits 1, 7, and 9.

[24]     Furthermore, the principal Claimant displayed reasonable knowledge of the Ahmadi faith in response to the religious knowledge questions I asked her during the hearing. I therefore find that the principal Claimant is a credible witness, that the Claimants are practicing members of the Ahmadi faith, and all of the rest of the allegations in this case are also true on a balance of probabilities.

[25]     Based on the credible allegations and the documentary evidence on country conditions before me, which can be found in Sections 1, 2, and 12 of Exhibit 3, which is the National Documentation Package for Pakistan for January 31, 2019, as well as in Claimant Exhibits 7 and 9, I am following Jurisprudential Guide TB7-01837 which holds that practicing members of the Ahmadi faith, like the Claimants, have a well-founded fear of persecution in Pakistan by reason of their Ahmadi religion, that adequate State protection is not available to them, and that they do not have viable internal flight alternatives.

[26]     I therefore conclude that the Claimants are Convention refugees. The claims are therefore accepted. Thank you for coming.

[27]     COUNSEL: Thank you very much.

[28]     CLAIMANT: Thank you.

[29]     MEMBER: Good afternoon.

[30]     INTERPRETER: Thank you, Mr. Member.

[31]     COUNSEL: So, I will give you your documents back, the originals. If you want to take the kids out to the reception area, I will meet you.

———- REASONS CONCLUDED ———-

Categories
All Countries Palestine

2019 RLLR 93

Citation: 2019 RLLR 93
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: July 17, 2019
Panel: S.S. Kular
Counsel for the claimant(s): Ronald Yacoub
Country: Palestine
RPD Number: TB8-01922
Associated RPD Numbers: TB8-01933, TB8-01961, TB8-01962, TB8-01963
ATIP Number: A-2020-01459
ATIP Pages: 000066-000079


REASONS FOR DECISION

[1]       The claimants [XXX] (the principal claimant) and [XXX] (the associate claimant), and their children (the minor claimants): [XXX] (the eldest son), [XXX] (the middle son) and [XXX] (the younger son) seek refugee protection pursuant to section 96 and subsection 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).1

ALLEGATIONS

[2]       The principal claimant was born in Iraq of Palestinian parents and the associate claimant was born in Iraq of Iraqi parents. The eldest son and the middle son were born in Baghdad, Iraq; the younger son was born in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These claimants lived in Iraq and in the UAE.

[3]       The principal claimant and the associate claimant were married in 2003. After the fall of the secular, but Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the claimants started to have problems. Their problems arose due to the principal claimant’s Palestinian origin and his Sunni Muslim religion, and their mixed marriage. The associate claimant is an Iraqi woman, of Shiite sect of Islam. Their marriage added exasperation to the associate claimant’s Shiite family, friends and acquaintances, and the community. In fear of his life, in 2006, the principal claimant fled Iraq and went to the UAE. He managed to get a job in the UAE, and was therefore, able to get a temporary residence permit. He then had his family join him in the UAE. Thereafter, the claimants resided in the UAE, until they came to Canada.

[4]       In November 2017, the principal claimant’s employment in the UAE was terminated. He looked for another job, but was unsuccessful in finding any.

[5]       In search of a permanent solution to their problems, the claimants decided to come to Canada and seek refugee protection.

[6]       At the time these claimants left the UAE, they were already in possession of visitor visas for the United States of America (U.S.) and Canada. On [XXX], 2017, the claimants arrived in the U.S. On [XXX] 2017, they arrived in Canada. They filed their claims at an inland office of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on January 24, 2018.2

[7]       The claimants allege that they cannot return to Iraq. The principal claimant alleges that he cannot return to Gaza in Palestine, because he would not be allowed to enter Gaza. The principal claimant alleges that he cannot return to the UAE because he has no job there and therefore, would not be allowed to return to reside there.

DETERMINATION

[8]       The panel finds that the claimants are Convention refugees pursuant to s. 96 of the IRPA.3

ANALYSIS

[9]       The claimants fear persecution in Iraq, primarily on account of the principal claimant’s Palestinian origin and his Sunni Muslim religion, and because he married a Shiite Iraqi woman. The associate claimant fears persecution in Iraq because she married a Palestinian Sunni Muslim. All claimants, including the minor claimants, fear persecution in Iraq as members of the principal claimant’s family.

Determinative Issues

[10]     The panel first determines each claimant’s country or countries of nationality, or if determined to be stateless, the country or countries of former habitual residence (CFHR).

[11]     Thereafter, the panel assesses if these claimants’ alleged fear of persecution in any of their respective country or countries of reference is well founded. If their fear of persecution is determined to be well-founded, then the panel assesses if they can return to their respective country or countries of reference.

Credibility

[12]     Credibility is an issue in every refugee protection claim. The panel finds that the claimants’ testimonies were generally consistent with their written evidence. The panel has assessed the claimants’ credibility with regard to their evidence relating to their allegations of persecution or risk of harm pursuant to s. 96 and ss. 97(1) of the IRPA.4

[13]     The principal claimant and the associate claimant provided testimony at their hearing. The panel finds these claimants to be credible witnesses.

Claimants’ personal and national identities

The principal claimant’s personal and national identity

[14]     The principal claimant was born in Baghdad, Iraq, to Palestinian parents. He is in possession of his Palestine travel documents that are issued to stateless Palestinians. Based on these claimants’ testimonies and the documents in evidence, the panel accepts that the principal claimant is who he says he is, and that he is a stateless Palestinian.5

Defining Country of Former Habitual Residence (CFHR)

[15]     The panel finds that the principal claimant is a stateless Palestinian, therefore, his claim must be assessed on the basis of his CFHR. As stated by the Court of Appeal in Thabet, “a person is not a refugee solely by virtue of statelessness”.

[16]     According to the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (UNHCR Handbook),6 for someone who is stateless to be considered a refugee, he or she must be outside of his or her country of habitual residence for one of the reasons set out in the definition of a “Convention refugee.” Paragraph 102 states the following:7

102. It will be noted that not all stateless persons are refugees. They must be outside the country of their former habitual residence for the reasons indicated in the definition. Where these reasons do not exist, the stateless person is not a refugee.

[17]     Furthermore, paragraph 104 of the UNHCR Handbook states the following:8

104. A stateless person may have more than one country of former habitual residence, and he may have a fear of persecution in relation to more than one of them. The definition does not require that he satisfies the criteria in relation to all of them.

[18]     In terms of case law, in Maarouf,9 the Federal Court indicates that “[t]he claimant must have established a significant period of de facto residence in the country in question.” According to those terms, a claimant must have been admitted to a given country and have had the intention of settling there for a certain period:10

… [A] “country of former habitual residence” should not be limited to the country where the claimant initially feared persecution. Finally, the claimant does not have to be legally able to return to a country of former habitual residence as denial of a right of return may in itself constitute an act of persecution by the state. The claimant must, however, have established a significant period of de facto residence in the country in question.

[19]     The Federal Court in Marchaud,11 found that studying for several years in a third country, such as the USA, is not sufficient for a CFHR. The Court indicated that the analysis should also include the connection of claimants to these countries.

[20]     More recently, the Federal Court in Al-Khateeb has provided a more fulsome test to discern what can be considered a CFHR:12

•           There can be more than one CFHR;

•           The Applicant’s birth in Gaza gives him status akin to nationality;

•           His rights of return and residence are also akin to the rights associated with citizenship;

•           There is no minimum period for residence to establish a CFHR;

•           CFHR’s are “former”. The fact that he was a habitual resident of Gaza many years ago is not a bar to it being a CFHR; and

•           He has family in Gaza and he is a Palestinian.

[21]     According to Al-Khateeb,13 a significant period of de facto residence is not restricted to the length of the residence.

[22]     The panel considers the totality of the claimants’ evidence, and the connections they have had in the country or countries of the principal claimant’s former habitual residence.

Is Gaza a CFHR for the principal claimant?

[23]     The evidence shows that the principal claimant was born to Palestinian parents in Iraq. His parents moved to Gaza in 1995, but he stayed in Iraq. The principal claimant has never visited Gaza. He is in possession of his Palestinian travel documents, which are issued to persons of Palestinian origin for the purposes of travel. The principal claimant acquired these documents in 2005 to go to the UAE.

[24]     Based on the claimants’ testimonies and the legal parameters of what is considered to be a country of former habitual residence, the panel finds that Gaza is not a country of former habitual residence for the principal claimant.

Is Iraq a CFHR for the principal claimant?

[25]     As mentioned above, the principal claimant was born to Palestinian parents in Iraq. His parents moved to Gaza in 1995, but he stayed in Iraq. The principal claimant and the associate claimant were married in 2003. Their eldest and middle sons were born in Baghdad, Iraq. Since these claimants’ problems in Iraq continued, in fear of their lives, in 2006, the principal claimant fled Iraq and went to the UAE. Later his family joined him in the UAE.

[26]     The totality of the evidence in this case shows that the principal claimant has established a significant period of de facto residence in Iraq.

[27]     Based on the claimants’ evidence, and the legal parameters of what is considered to be a country of former habitual residence, the panel finds that Iraq is a country of former habitual residence for the principal claimant.

Is the UAE a CFHR for the principal claimant?

[28]     The principal claimant has lived and worked in the UAE for a number of years. During his residency there, the evidence shows that he was able to enter and exit the UAE, without any significant difficulty. The principal claimant went to the UAE in 2006, secured a job, and thereafter, had his family join him there. The children have received formal schooling in the UAE. The evidence demonstrates that these claimants have significant personal, social or contractual connections in the UAE. The claimants have spent many years living in the UAE. They left the UAE to come to Canada.

[29]     The totality of the evidence in this case shows that the principal claimant has established a significant period of de facto residence in the UAE.

[30]     Based on the claimants’ evidence, and the legal parameters of what is considered to be a country of former habitual residence, the panel finds that the UAE is a country of former habitual residence for the principal claimant.

Personal and national identities of the associate claimant and the minor claimants

[31]     The associate claimant was born in Baghdad, Iraq, to Iraqi parents; she is an Iraqi citizen. The minor claimants, the eldest son and the middle son, were born in Baghdad, Iraq, to a Palestinian father and Iraqi mother; they are citizens of Iraq. The minor claimant, the younger son, was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE to a Palestinian father and Iraqi mother; he is a citizen of Iraq. Based on the totality of the evidence in this case, including certified true copies of their Iraqi passports in evidence, the panel finds that the associate claimant and the minor claimants are citizens of Iraq and no other country. Therefore, the panel finds that in their cases, the country of reference is Iraq only.

Claim of the principal claimant against Iraq

[32]     In Thabet,14 Justice Linden of the Federal Court of Appeal provides this answer to the question of how a stateless person who has habitually resided in more than one country could establish the merits of his or her claim for Convention refugee status:

In order to be found to be a Convention refugee, a stateless person must show that, on a balance of probabilities, he or she would suffer persecution in any country of former habitual residence, and that he or she cannot return to any of his or her other countries of former habitual residence.

[33]     The principal claimant is a stateless Palestinian; however, Gaza is not a country of former habitual residence in his case. He has lived in Iraq and the UAE; these are the two countries of former habitual residence for the principal claimant. The claimants allege that the principal claimant cannot return to Iraq or the UAE in his particular situation and circumstances.

[34]     The principal claimant was born in Baghdad, Iraq, to Palestinian parents. He lived in Iraq until 2006, when he was 29 years of age and moved to the UAE.

[35]     After the fall of the secular, but Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the claimants started to have problems. The Institute for Internal Law and Human Right report at item 2.4 of the National Documentation Package (NDP) for Iraq confirms this allegation, stating:15

After 2003, Palestinians were targeted by security forces and armed militant groups-mainly Shia’h. This persecution forced many to flee Iraq, go into hiding, or move to refugee camps such as Al Waleed. Of the estimated 35,000 in Iraq before 2003, only about 11,000 to 15,000 remain.

[36]     These claimants’ problems arose primarily due to the principal claimant’s Palestinian origin and his Sunni Muslim religion.

[37]     In respect to the Palestinians in Iraq, the documentary evidence from the UNHCR states the following:16

Palestinian refugees in Iraq, who arrived in the country during several waves of displacement since 1948, were never formally recognized as refugees by former Iraqi governments; however, they enjoyed a favourable protection environment in Iraq in line with key resolutions of the League of Arab States and the 1965 Protocol for the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab States (“Casablanca Protocol”). Although they could not obtain Iraqi nationality, were not permitted to vote, and were not required to perform military service, their socio-economic circumstances were on par with Iraqi nationals. However, following the fall of the former government of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, the situation of Palestinian refugees was reported to change dramatically as they became the target of hostility and harassment by segments of the Iraqi population, particularly armed militias, on account of their perceived association with and preferential treatment by the former regime, as well as their perceived support for Sunni militant groups. They were reported to be subjected to targeted attacks, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, bombings and mortar attacks in Al­ Baladiyat, the main Palestinian residential area in Baghdad, as well as discrimination, dismissal from employment, denial of education, and forced eviction from government and rented housing. By 2007, thousands of Palestinians had fled Iraq, mainly to Syria and Jordan. [footnotes omitted]

[38]     The principal claimant fled Iraq in 2006. At the hearing, the principal claimant also narrated the situation and circumstances of similarity-situated colleagues who have fled Iraq in fear for their lives.

[39]     In 2003, the principal claimant, a Palestinian Sunni Muslim, married the associate claimant, an Iraqi woman of the Shiite sect of Islam. Their marriage led to additional problems for him, as the associate claimant’s Shiite family, friends and acquaintances disapproved of their marriage. The documentary evidence does not clearly state any significant risks to mixed­ marriage couples; however, in these claimants’ particular circumstances, it became a real issue.

[40]     The claimants testified that the situation in Iraq today is the same as it was when the principal claimant fled Iraq in 2006. In this respect, the documentary evidence supports the claimants’ allegations. According to the “UNHCR Position on Returns to Iraq” report:17

… Since 2014, Palestinian refugees in Baghdad have increasingly been subjected to targeted attacks based on nationality and perceived affiliation with ISIS, including harassment, threats, arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention under the Anti­Terrorism Law, physical abuse, kidnapping, extortion, killings as well as house-to­house searches at the hands of both state and non-state actors. [footnotes omitted]

[41]     The aforementioned Institute for Internal Law and Human Right report indicates:18

The persecution of Palestinians was coupled with forcible evictions from government and privately owned housing, the destruction of Palestinian businesses and property, bombings and mortar attacks in Palestinian neighborhoods, and the termination of large numbers of Palestinian workers.

[42]     A report about Iraq from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) states that “[t]he Palestinians in Baghdad were targeted as allies of Saddam Hussein in the past, and now they are targeted as allies of the IS.”19

[43]     The documentary evidence in the Internal Law and Human Right report further shows:

… Palestinians in Iraq suffer from uncertain legal status, onerous challenges to updating and maintaining identity documents, and discrimination in access to basic services, housing, and employment. They continue to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, and apartment complexes in Al Baladiyat neighborhood in Baghdad are regularly raided by police and army.20

Palestinians report being terminated from work, forced from their homes, and face ongoing discrimination and arbitrary arrest.21

The treatment of Palestinians and the risks the community faces are ostensibly similar in the Kurdish region, in Baghdad, and in the south. The Palestinian community is highly visible and faces security risks from armed groups which can access community members virtually anywhere in Iraq. Given this, many Palestinians who were able to leave the country have tried to do so.22

[44]     The principal claimant fears persecution upon return to Iraq. Based on the totality of the evidence, including the country documentation, the panel accepts the principal claimant’s alleged fear of persecution upon return to Iraq today.

[45]     The panel finds that the claimants have met the burden of establishing that, on a balance of probabilities, there is more than a mere possibility that the principal claimant would face the alleged persecution upon return to Iraq today.

Can the principal claimant return to the UAE?

[46]     Regarding the principal claimant’s return to the UAE, the other country of his former habitual residence, the evidence shows that the principal claimant has no permit to legally return to the UAE. As such, he would not be allowed to enter the UAE to reside there, in his particular situation and circumstances today. The principal claimant’s residency in the UAE was tied to his employment there. The principal claimant has no job in the UAE at the present time. The evidence shows that the principal claimant looked for employment in the UAE in 2017, but was unable to secure any jobs. The panel accepts the principal claimant’s explanation in failing to secure a job in the UAE in 2017 as alleged. The panel finds that the principal claimant, in his particular situation and circumstances, would not be allowed to enter the UAE to reside there today.

[47]     Based on these reasons, the panel finds that the principal claimant, a stateless Palestinian person, would face persecution upon return to Iraq, and that he cannot legally return to the UAE, his other country of former habitual residence.

Claims of the associate claimant and the minor claimants against Iraq

[48]     The associate claimant and the minor claimants are citizens of Iraq and no other country.

[49]     These claimants fear persecution upon return to Iraq on account of the principal claimant’s Palestinian origin and his Sunni Muslim religion, and because the associate claimant, a Shiite Iraqi woman, has married a Palestinian Sunni Muslim. Due to the dire situation of Palestinians in Iraq, and these claimants being members of the principal claimant’s family, the panel finds that these claimants would face more than a mere possibility of persecution upon return to Iraq.

[50]     These claimants would have to use their personal identity documentation at various places, in order for them to live their lives in Iraq. For example, for the minor claimants to be registered for school, the associate claimant would be required to confirm her identity as their mother, by showing the authorities her marriage certificate and the minor claimants’ birth certificates. These documents clearly indicate these claimants’ link to the principal claimant, a Palestinian Sunni Muslim. Hence, they would be seen as having significant, practical associations with a Palestinian Sunni Muslim. Therefore, the panel finds that these claimants would also face persecution upon return to Iraq, as alleged in their particular situation and circumstances.

State protection in Iraq for these claimants

[51]     The panel finds that the claimants have rebutted the presumption of state protection, in their case. The principal claimant is a Palestinian Sunni, and the associate claimant is an Iraqi Shiite woman who has married a Palestinian Sunni. The associate claimant and the minor claimants, their children, face risk by familial association. The principal claimant testified that should he or any member of his family run into problems with Shia militias in Iraq, they could not expect adequate state protection because the police are often affiliated with the Shia militias.

[52]     The documents show that the state of Iraq is still struggling to optimally function, in the midst of continued sectarian conflict. Moreover, the evidence also shows that, particularly outside of Kurdistan, a culture of impunity exists for state actors and corruption is prevalent among government agencies.23

[53]     In general, the authorities in Baghdad are unable, and in the case of Sunni complainants, are likely to be unwilling to provide adequate state protection.

Internal flight alternative in Iraq for these claimants

[54]     With respect to an IFA, the evidence shows that the principal claimant and his family would not be safe anywhere in Iraq because he is a Palestinian Sunni, and the associate claimant is an Iraqi Shite woman who has married a Palestinian Sunni. The associate claimant’s relatives have never accepted their marriage. The associate claimant and the minor claimants, their children, face risk by familial association.

[55]     The panel finds that the risk these claimants face is the same everywhere in Iraq.

[56]     A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report entitled “UNHCR Position on Returns to Iraq” published on November 14, 2016, states the following:24

Where decision-makers consider the availability of an internal flight or relocation alternative, the burden is on the decision-maker to identify a particular area of relocation and to show that in respect of this location the requirements for the relevance and reasonableness of the proposed relocation alternative are met. In the current circumstances, with large-scale internal displacement, a serious humanitarian crisis, mounting intercommunal tensions, access/residency restrictions in virtually all parts of the country and increasing pressure exercised on IDPs [internally displaced persons] to prematurely return to their areas of origin following the retaking of these areas from ISIS, UNHCR does not consider it appropriate for States to deny persons from Iraq international protection on the basis of the applicability of an internal flight or relocation alternative. [footnotes omitted]

[57]     Given all of the circumstances and the situation as a whole for these claimants and in consideration of the “UNHCR Position on Returns to Iraq”, the panel finds that, at this time, these claimants do not have a viable IFA in Iraq.

CONCLUSION

[58]     The panel determines that the principal claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to s. 96 of the IRPA.25 Accordingly, the Refugee Protection Division accepts his claim.

[59]     The panel determines that the associate claimant and the minor claimants are Convention refugees pursuant to s. 96 of the IRPA.26 Accordingly, the Refugee Protection Division accepts their claims.

(signed)           S.S. Kular

July 17, 2019

1 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), S.C. 2001, c. 27, as amended, sections 96 and 97(1).
2 Exhibit 1, Package of information from the referring CBSA/IRCC, received January 26, 2018.
3 IRPA, supra, section 96.
4 Ibid., sections 96 and 97(1).
5 Exhibit 1, Package of information from the referring CBSA/IRCC, received January 26, 2018.
6 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (UNHCR Handbook), NCR/IP/4/REV.l, Reedited, Geneva, January 1992, UNHCR 1979.
7 Ibid., at para 102.
8 Ibid., at para 104.
9 Maarouf, Ayman v. M.E.I. (F.C.T.D., no. 93-A-343), Cullen, December 13, 1993. Reported: Maarouf v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1994] I F.C. 723 (T.D.); (1993), 23 Imm. L.R. (2d) 163 (F.C.T.D.).
10 Ibid.
11 Marchoud, Bilal v. M.C.I. (F.C., no. IMM-10120-03), Tremblay-Lamer, October 22, 2004, 2004 FC 1471.
12 Al-Khateeb, Mahmoud Issa Ahmad v. M.C.I. (F.C., no. IMM-2962-16), Simpson, January 11, 2017, 2017 FC 31, at para 18.
13 Ibid.
14 Thabet, Marwan Youssef v. M.C.I. (F.C.A., no. A-20-96), Linden, McDonald, Henry, May 11, 1998. Reported: Thabet v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1998] 4 F.C. 21 (C.A.); (1998), 48 Imm. L.R. (2d) 195 (F.C.A.).
15 Exhibit 7, National Documentation Package (NDP) for Iraq (March 29, 2019), item 2.4, pp.120-121.
16 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Relevant COI on the Situation of Palestinian Refugees in Baghdad (March 30, 2017), available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/58de48l04.html, p. l.
17 Exhibit 7, NDP for Iraq (March 29, 2019), item 1.12, pp.15-16, para 29.
18 Ibid., item 2.4, p.121.
19 Ibid., item 1.23, p.12.
20 Ibid., item 2.4, p.122.
21 Ibid., p.123.
22 Ibid., p.124.
23 Ibid., item 2.1.
24 Ibid., item 1.12, p.23, para 48.
25 IRPA, supra, section 96.
26 Ibid.

Categories
All Countries China

2019 RLLR 14

Citation: 2019 RLLR 14
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: December 18, 2019
Panel: Teresa Maziarz
Counsel for the claimant(s): Jordan Duviner
Country: China
RPD Number: TB8-14763
ATIP Number: A-2020-01124
ATIP Pages: 0000104-0000108


[1]       MEMBER: This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim relating to File Number TBS-14763, and to the Claimant, who is [XXX], [XXX]. The Panel has heard the claim at two sittings, on September 23rd, 2019 and December 18th, 2019, and is prepared to make a decision in the claim that is favourable to the Claimant.

[2]       The Panel finds that the Claimant is a Convention refugee in accordance with section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Given this decision, the Panel will not provide an analysis with regard to section 97(1) of the Act.

[3]       The Panel makes the decision in favour of the Claimant because she meets all of the elements of the definition of a Convention refugee.

[4]       Starting firstly with the unspoken element of identity, the Claimant has produced ample evidence of who she is in terms of her name and date of birth and country of citizenship of China, which includes a certified true copy of her passport that is found in Exhibit 1, the original of which has been seized by authorities when she made her claim for refugee protection in Canada. There are other supplementary documents which support her identity, as is noted in the exhibits.

[5]       The Panel did have a concern that her Canadian visa application provides a different account in terms of who her husband is and her family structure and her educational and work history. The Panel accepts on a balance of probabilities that it does not materially undermine the Claimant’s account of her identity. The Panel notes that in terms of her own identity, the application was made in the same name and date of birth and country of citizenship, and the Panel finds on a balance of probability that the other information was amended as she testified for the purpose of enhancing the likelihood of obtaining a Canadian visa in circumstances in which she was fearing persecution.

[6]       I would note in this regard, also, that having described herself as a XXXX in the Canadian visa application. And without any offence to the Claimant, she did not come across as a sophisticated witness who is indeed someone in that profession. Having said that, while she did not have such sophistication, she was eloquent in regard to her religious belief, and I’ll turn to that later.

[7]       The Claimant also satisfies the element of nexus in that she has established credibly a Basis of Claim that relates to the ground of religion. Specifically, the Claimant is an adherent of the Church of Almighty God, which is banned in China, and in that regard, she provided credible and trustworthy evidence in support of her faith. As noted in counsel’s submissions, she had a wealth of knowledge of the basis of her faith and she has letters of support that indicate she is an adherent of that faith, including a letter from one of the leaders of the faith in Canada, who discusses in his letter a verification process that the Claimant underwent.

[8]       The Claimant also had a witness who came and testified about how they hold meetings of worship in Canada, and that information was substantially consistent with the information provided by the Claimant. It was the witness’s opinion that the Claimant is a genuine worshipper of the faith of the Church of Almighty God, and while that is a decision for the Panel to determine, it’s still relevant testimony to consider the opinion of a worshipper of the same faith who attends the same meetings, as does the Claimant, in Canada at the same place of worship and location.

[9]       While the Claimant had some difficulty in terms of identifying some aspects of the Church of Almighty God as stated in her disclosures, I find that in the context of all of her knowledge that those concerns are remedied and are not determinative of the issue of credibility or of the issue of her genuineness of her faith. For example, I had asked — the Panel had asked at the first and second sittings about the view of the Church of Almighty God in regard to the Communist Party, and the answer provided, as I reflect further on the testimony, responded to what the church thinks in China of how the Communist Party treats its adherents, and so the Claimant went on to discuss how adherents are jailed, maltreated, et cetera. Further questions did not elicit the information that is in her disclosure; however, when counsel asked the question another way in terms of what name does the Church of Almighty God give to the Communist Party, the Claimant did answer correctly that it calls the Communist Party the Red Dragon.

[10]     The Panel was also concerned that the Claimant was unable to discuss what is said to be, in her disclosure, a core tenet of the Church of Almighty God, and that is to participate in essentially battling the Communist Party. I accept that the Claimant understood the question to be in terms of physically slaying Communist members of the government, which is against their core belief.

[11]     So those are just two examples. There were others, but as the Panel notes, in the context of the totality of the evidence of the Claimant’s knowledge of this faith, those concerns are no longer determinative of the claim and of the issue of credibility.

[12]     The Claimant has also continued her faith in Canada, and that is supported by, again, the witness who testified, by her own consistent testimony, by the letters of support, by the letter of one of the leaders of the church in Canada, and by the photographs that have been provided, as well as, earlier noted, her knowledge.

[13]     Turning to the element of the definition of a Convention refugee relating to prospective risk, the Claimant has credibly established on a balance of probabilities that she would face a reasonable chance of persecution in China if she were to return to that country. And while I have kept the videos or snapshots of the videos that were provided in her disclosure, I don’t make the finding on that basis. I make the finding on the basis that the Claimant has shown credibly on a balance of probabilities that she is a genuine adherent of the Church of Almighty God and that it is not reasonable to expect that she drop that faith and return to China, and also, the totality of her evidence shows that she would indeed continue in that faith, and as an adherent of that faith she would therefore be persecuted if she returned to China.

[14]     Now, I did consider the possibility of the Claimant’s activities in Canada coming to light to the Chinese authorities, and I have considered their response to information requests in that regard and other objective evidence in the disclosures, but I don’t find that to be a determinative factor because I don’t have sufficient evidence on a balance of probabilities to find that she would be identified from the snaps of the videos that are shown in Exhibit 6, wherein she does not appear to be named, and the name that is on those snaps has been placed after their printing for my benefit so that — or whoever the Panel were to have been — so that the Panel would know that she is in those snaps of the video. And in any case, it’s her genuineness and the likelihood that she would continue her genuine faith in the Church of Almighty God if she were to return to China that raises and meets the risk of a reasonable chance of persecution from Chinese authorities.

[15]     So turning to the matter of state protection. Given that the state is the agent of persecution, as is well-documented in the National Documentation Package for China, and in counsel’s and the Claimant’s own disclosures, there is no possibility of the Claimant receiving adequate state protection at the operational level relevant to her personal circumstances as a genuine adherent of the Church of Almighty God, and so therefore, that aspect of the definition of the — of a Convention refugee is also met.

[16]     Just to give one example from the Claimant’s evidence: There is, in Exhibit 6, starting at page 15, evidence from a professor from the University of Nevada that talks about the church in China. And that’s one example, but from what I understand is that if someone is indeed a genuine member of the Church of Almighty God then these documents support the reasonable chance of persecution of such members in China, as does, of course, the National Documentation Package that I’ve mentioned.

[17]     Turning to the matter of internal flight alternative. I find that because the state is the agent of persecution and has the means to find the Claimant in every part of the country, especially given that she would continue to express her faith as a member of the Church of Almighty God were she returned to China, that there is no viable internal flight alternative for her in China.

[18]     And — so I’ve given further consideration to the file and to some more testimony, but I believe that I have reviewed everything for the decision that is relevant to support the finding of the Claimant being a Convention refugee. Of course, the Panel’s examples are truncated and the record will speak for itself, not only in terms of the objective evidence, but also the Claimant’s testimony that demonstrates her genuine faith in the Church of Almighty God.

[19]     So for all of these reasons, I find that the Claimant is a Convention refugee in accordance with section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and that her claim is allowed.

[20]     Thank you, everyone for your participation. This hearing is concluded.

— HEARING ADJOURNED

Categories
All Countries Pakistan

2019 RLLR 13

Citation: 2019 RLLR 13
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: July 9, 2019
Panel: M. Vega
Counsel for the claimant(s): Ian Wong
Country: Pakistan
RPD Number: TB8-13766
ATIP Number: A-2020-01124
ATIP Pages: 000099-0000103


[1]       MEMBER: This is the oral decision in the case with respect to [XXX], file number TB8-13766. I have considered your testimony, Mr. [XXX], and I’m now ready to render a decision in this case. Okay.

[2]       You have made a claim to be a citizen of Pakistan and you are claiming refugee protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I find that you are a convention refugee for the following reasons:

[3]       Your allegations are found in your basis of claim form in summary and I won’t repeat them all. Basically, you were born into a Sunni family and you, yourself, partly because of your career as a [XXX], you became — and also because you were brought up to believe that — by your father that other — that religions were to be treated well, all of them, you become exposed to the Shia faith or the Shia sect of Islam and became friends with someone who was involved in the Shia faith and whose uncle was a guardian of one of the prominent imambargahs in Lahore.

[4]       And through this friendship you started answering questions, you started believing that this was the right path and that it was the right path for you. And you then converted in — first major interest known in 2016 and in 2017 you formally converted at the imambargah where this friend had taken you to.

[5]       And when this became known to your family, and this became known as a result of a beating that you received by extremist persons who had become aware of your being a convert to the Shia sect, and they beat you up.

[6]       And this was one of several encounters that you subsequently had with extremists associated to either the Sipah-e-Sahaba or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — and I’ll refer to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi from now on as the LEJ and the Sipah-e-Sahaba as the SSP. Okay?

[7]       So basically, your family members became aware of your conversion. They were very angry with you. All the family was angry, as were your friends who were also Sunnis, including your employer who was not happy about it either.

[8]       It would appear that the only — but despite their anger, you still were able to find some assistance from these family members — from some, with the exception of your eldest brother who is very involved in politics as he’s — give me a second.

[9]       Your brother has continued to be involved and to contest elections as recently as 2018. In your basis of claim form, you had indicated that this brother, Shabazz (Ph), in 2015 he became a member — sorry. No, not that.

[10]     Your brother became the [XXX] of the [XXX]. He was very close to the Chief Minister of the Punjab. And he has continued to be in the [XXX] until, as I’ve already said, even recently in 2018.

[11]     Your brother was very upset about your having become a convert to the Shia Sect. He also has influence and power because of his political position. He became very also concerned that not only was your family at risk, as your brother was targeted and was beaten up when they couldn’t find you, and your mother — there was a threatening letter sent to you at your mother’s house, but he was also very concerned about his own political career and that this would affect the family’s honour and that it would also have repercussions on his career.

[12]     He asked — told your mother to disinherit you and she proceeded to do that in XXXX 2018, to fill out a disinheritance certificate and file it. And he also went as far as to tell the police, with whom he had friendships, to stop helping you.

[13]     Because at first the police were taking your information down. They even took a first information report, but then subsequently the police just took information but they did nothing with it and they stopped even doing anything that might assist you.

[14]     And so, you decided you couldn’t stay there and you came to Canada to live in the end of XXXX 2018. Okay?

[15]     So when you became known to be a Shia convert, that’s when your problems started for you. You were not — the fact that you were a Shia was problematic for you, but it was more so because you had converted from the Sunni faith.

[16]     So the nexus to the convention ground is that of your religion, because as a Shia — as Shias -­ the documentary material provides a lot of information with respect to how they are treated by the Sunni majority population and how their extremist groups, as you’ve encountered, that deal with them — with people that — with minority religions, but they deal very badly with minority religions, but they deal also very badly with any person who’s a convert from the Sunni Sect. In some ways, some would say they deal worse with the converts.

[17]     I’ll get to the documents in just a moment. I want to speak about your credibility. Your credibility, I found you to be — I found you to overall to have — to be a credible witness. Your documents corroborated much of what you say in your basis of claim form.

[18]     I did not find problems or discrepancies between what you said in your basis of claim form, in your documents, with what you said today orally. The only — we seemed to encounter problems towards the end, that you were having some problems or understanding.

[19]     Now I have to say, in cases where a person speaks English or understands enough English, I’ve had this happen. So it’s not an interpretation problem.  It’s a problem where the person understands enough to listen to the question and before the interpreter can even translate it, the person is already coming up with the answer. And then I find that the answer I get is confusing.

[20]     So because I find that it’s happened in many cases where they have that similarity to your case, I don’t find that you’re trying to trick me or to try — that you’re trying to make things up.

[21]     So I do believe that your allegations, your evidence, overwhelmingly indicates that you are a Shia convert. You have letters from the imambargah here in Canada. You have letters from the imambargah back in Pakistan, you have receipts, donation receipts.

[22]     When you spoke about issues to do with your family and to do with your faith, there was this sincerity in the way you said it and I find that I can accept your allegations as credible. Okay?

[23]     So the documentary material, we have a lot of information, both from your counsel’s packages as well as from the National Documentation Package. And what it says about the religious minorities in Pakistan is not very good for the religious minorities.

[24]     It states that the Shia population is about 25 percent of the Pakistani populations and that hey have suffered and often are the targets of violent attacks by Sunni fundamentalist groups throughout the country.

[25]     The LEJ is a banned extremist group that was connected and linked to the earlier group, the Sipah-e-Sahaba, which was also banned. These groups have caused problems in Pakistan, continue to do so, as well as to the Shia Sect of Muslims, as well as to other minority religions.

[26]     There’s a document in the package at item 1.8, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is called the UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for assessing the international protection needs of members of religious minorities from Pakistan.

[27]     This document speaks of the type of violence that these fundamentalist groups carry out. And it speaks about the targeting of Shia Muslims as well as of other religious minority groups.

[28]     This document also speaks in the summary about how if a person has come to the attention of these militant groups, these groups have quite the network, and then these people who come to the attention of these terrorists, these people are not safe throughout the country because of the network that these militants have.

[29]     The documentary material also speaks about how Sunnis clerics make the situation worse by preaching over loud speakers hatred, prejudice and violence against Shias as well others.

[30]     There’s another document which is found at item 12.5. It’s a response to information request and it states there that according to human rights watch, the LEJ reportedly has had links to the Pakistani military and intelligence services in Pakistan and that they act, these groups that is – act with impunity in area where state authority is well established, such as in the Punjab Province.

[31]     It also states in other sources, in the same document, that the government efforts to address the violence against Shia Muslims has been insufficient. And this is according to the JINNAH, J-I-N­-N-A-H, Institute.

[32]     And another document at item 1.6, written by the Asylum Research Center, it’s also by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees — or rather the UNHCR commissioned this document and they called it, “The Pakistan Country Report September 2016”.

[33]     And it speaks in that document with regards to Sunni militants and other militant religious groups and how these groups target religious minorities, especially Shiites, Ahmadis, Sufis and Christians. And how the LEJ was also responsible for much of the violence.

[34]     Information from the Jamestown Foundation in the documentary material indicates that there’s nowhere in Pakistan that you would be safe without facing serious grounds for persecution on the basis of your religion.

[35]     And also, in my opinion, I want to say that given the fact that the choice in your career is that of a journalist, the documentary material also speaks about journalists. Because of the high-profile nature of their work and also because then your name becomes known, journalists are — as well as because they often write about sensitive issues and human rights issues, they are also in a position of risk back in Pakistan.

[36]     In your case, I found that because you have written under your own name — you’ve written under reporter — a reporter, but you’ve also written under your own name as part of your credentials and part of your inventory of writing, I find that for you to try to relocate throughout the country, as you have tried to do, would be difficult for you.

[37]     In your particular case, it’s not just that these organizations know you and could try to find you, but any assistance that was — that you tried to obtain on your own seems to have been sabotaged by your brother who is in a position of power and influence and he’s used that power and influence rather than to help you, he’s — and he even said that the reason the police had paid attention to you was because of him, but then when you asked him to stop helping you that makes it puts you in a worse situation and I believe that you would face a risk of persecution because of your brother’s influence.

[38]     Therefore I find that in your case there is not adequate protection for you provided by the government, in your particular situation, Mr. XXX, and therefore I find that you face a serious possibility of persecution in Pakistan by reason of your religion as a Shia Muslim anywhere in the country where you may go, because you have converted and I also — and as I’ve said there’s no state protection available to you and no internal flight alternative available either. I therefore find you to be a convention refugee and I accept your claim.

[39]     Do you understand, Mr. XXXX?

[40]     CLAIMANT: Thank you.

[41]     MEMBER: You’re very welcome. This hearing is —

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