Abused Guyanese woman granted refugee protection

By Sukhram Ramkissoon  

Sukhram Ramkissoon

A 46-year-old divorcee from Guyana was recently granted refugee protection status in Canada as she was able to establish that there is a serious possibility of persecution on a Convention Ground. Her claim was accepted by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB).

I represented Sumee (not her real name), who has given me permission to tell her story. Sumee testified at her recent virtual hearing that she was married to her now ex-husband in 1998. She was a worker in the health industry and her husband was a taxi driver.  They share three children and lived in a small community.  Her parents are deceased and she has no contact with her siblings in Guyana.

By the mid-2000s, her ex-spouse, who I refer to as “Henry,” became physically abusive, threatened her on a regular basis and degraded her in public. In 2010, Sumee reported Henry to the police, where the authorities mocked her and invited Henry to appear at the station. The Police Officer advised her to go home and see a psychiatrist. 

After that incident, she never went back to the police, and she and Henry began living apart.  Henry took the young children to his mother’s home, so she was only able to see her children on weekends. Henry eventually cancelled the arrangement which left her with no access to her children.

After their separation, Henry would attack Sumee in public and in front of her children. She required medical attention on at least three occasions and provided proof to the RPD. All this occurred in Guyana.

She fled to Canada in 2014 and upon the advice of her family and friends, she did not pursue a refugee claim, but instead submitted a Humanitarian and Compassionate application in 2017.  Evidence of Sumee’s abuse was included in her submission as proof of the hardships she would face if was removed to Guyana.  Her submission evidence included letters from family and friends, medical reports from doctors and counselling she attended. Sadly, this application was denied in May 2018, and she immediately filed a claim for refugee protection.

At the hearing, Sumee testified in a credible manner, and was consistent and detailed when questioned by the member of the RPD.                                                                        

Sumee testified that since coming to Canada, her children were first-hand witnesses to their father’s continuous intentions to harm her, if she ever returned and/or was seen by him, in Guyana. Her children provided sworn testimony on two occasions regarding the threats made by their father against the mother.

The RPD member in his reasons stated that Sumee’s claim is objectively well founded.  The National Documentation Package for Guyana contains numerous reports that establish gender-based violence as an extremely serious problem in the country.  This is echoed by the documents provided by her, through her counsel.

The RPD member stated that the IRB Research report articulates a distressing landscape; Guyana has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the Caribbean commonwealth. It reports that 40% of women experienced domestic abuse.  Indeed, this kind of violence is reported to be the leading cause of injury for women in Guyana between the ages 15 and 44.   Numerous deaths at the hands of spouses and intimate partners are a regular occurrence in the country.

The RPD member stated that recognizing the objective record on state protection for survivors of domestic violence is mixed, “on balance, I accept the claimant’s interpretation. Her credible testimony is consistent with the critical objective evidence.  I therefore determine that the claimant’s efforts and experience are reasonable in relation to the country documentation.” 

The member further stated that “based on her personal circumstances and the country documentation, I find that she has rebutted the presumption of state protection and that, if sought, it would not be reasonably forthcoming to her.”

The RPD found that based on the totality of the evidence and its analysis, they found that Sumee faces a serious possibility of persecution in Guyana and accepted her claim.

Good luck Sumee, as now you can finally be reunited with your children on a permanent basis!  

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.