Venezuelan man granted refugee protection on appeal
A Venezuelan man who was referred to as X in a recent decision, published on an immigration case website, was successful upon appeal in having a negative decision by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) overturned.
Venezuela has been caught in a downward spiral for years with growing political discontent fuelled by skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine. It is reported that about four million citizens have left this South American country in recent years seeking a better life abroad. Some have fled to neighbouring countries whilst others have come to Canada and other developed countries.
Venezuelans who came to Canada and are fearful of returning, may seek refugee protection under Canadian law. Let’s look at the recent case of Mr. X.
In his testimony before the RPD, he stated that he was working in a government agency and in 2017, he attended two opposition protests.
During the second protest, a group of colectivos attacked protesters, including himself. A month later, he was attacked near a shopping centre by two strangers , who appeared to have information about him. They demanded that he stop talking against Maduro (the president) or leave the country and threatened to kill him and his family. He claimed that he then began to receive threatening phone calls and was told that he was being watched by Chavistas (left wing supporters, associated with the former President Chavez) at his workplace.
By July 2017, Mr. X decided to leave Venezuela and came to Toronto where he initiated a refugee claim. Since arriving in Canada, he alleged that members of the colectivos have gone searching for him, and that on at least one instance, they left him a threating letter. The RPD heard the claim on November 20, 2017 and rejected it on the basis of credibility.
Mr. X appealed the decision to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) which is required to undertake an independent assessment of the evidence and reach its own determination. At his appeal, he submitted two new pieces of evidence dealing with country conditions.
The first was a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) Guidance Note which was issued after the RPD rejected the appellant’s claim. The Guidance Note which came from a credible source,was relevant to the issues on appeal, and deals with the evolving situation in Venezuela.
The second was a document pertaining to the healthcare system in Venezuela. This document was intended to support Mr. X ‘s testimony about why he had not gone to a hospital to seek treatment after his assault. The document was published after the rejection of the claim. It is sufficiently new, credible, and relevant, especially as it addresses the deteriorating healthcare system and how hospitals have faced shortages of basic medical supplies and even food. This is relevant to the RPD’s finding that it would have expected Mr. X to seek medical treatment for minor injuries he sustained from the physical assault.
The RPD made a number of credibility findings, such as not to seek medical attention, changing his cell number, and he waited five weeks before he left Caracas; to which the RAD was unable to agree.
The appeal panel ruled that this single credibility issue, however, is insufficient to cast doubt on the credibility of the Appellant’s allegations, which were otherwise very well supported.
The allegations pertaining to Mr. X’s political activities and persecution by colectivos were corroborated by photographs, support letters, a police report, a copy of a threating letter, and copies of electronic communication between the appellant and various individuals in Venezuela. When the entirety of the evidence is weighed the appeal panel found that the appellant established these allegations on a balance of probabilities.
For these reasons the appeal panel found that the RPD erred in its credibility assessment and the negative decision was set aside. On an independent assessment, the appeal panel accepted that Mr. X has credibly established his allegations in relation to his political profile and the colectivos’ pursuit of him.
The documentary evidence indicated that the colectivos in Venezuela have strong ties to the government and are increasingly integrated into the police and intelligence services. The appeal panel found that Mr. X would have neither access to adequate state protection nor a viable internal flight alternative in Venezuela.
Therefore, it was determined that Mr. X is a Convention refugee, as he has a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of his political opinion.
Good Luck, Mr. X and congratulations on your successful appeal.
SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario. Phone 416 789 5756.