A family of four Armenian Christians from Lebanon who sought refugee protection in Canada, was recently successful in getting the Federal Court of Canada to set aside a negative decision made against them by the Refugee Appeal Decision(RAD). The Court ordered that their matter be reviewed by a different panel of the RAD.
The family who originally came to Canada in 2012 on visitors’ visas. sought refugee protection on the basis of their fear of Islamist terrorist groups, particularly ISIS. The adult applicants subsequently applied for work permits, but were unsuccessful. They made their refugee claim in 2014 after they learned that the security situation in Lebanon had seriously deteriorated.
A panel of the Immigration and Refugee Board rejected the family claim on the basis that ISIS was not actually in control of Lebanon and security forces had waged a successful campaign against it The Refugee Board found that the family could probably live safely in Beirut..Accordingly, the Board concluded that the applicants did not have a well-founded, objective fear of persecution in Lebanon.
The family appeal this decision to the Refugee Appeal Division and the Board’s conclusion was upheld by the RAD. In addition to confirming the Board’s conclusions on objective fair and Internal Flight Alternative, the RAD went on to find that the delay by the family in claiming refugee status showed an absence of subjective fear of persecution in Lebanon. The RAD noted that the refugee claims were filed only after the adult’s family work permits were denied. It found that this showed that the refugee claim was simply one of a number of routes the family explored in trying to remain in Canada.
The RAD allowed the family to file three new documents, but it found that the evidence before it failed to show that the family had a well founded fear of persecution from ISIS. The Minister concedes that ISIS has persecuted Christians in some areas of Lebanon, but points out that the family had no problems before they left in 2012. The evidence showed that Lebanese security forces had achieved some success in addressing the threat by ISIS. In particular, Beirut was fairly safe.
The family sought judicial review of the RAD’s decision and submitted it was unreasonable because it failed to explain why the evidence before it, including new evidence filed by the family on their appeal, did not support a well-founded fear of persecution. In addition, they argued that the RAD unreasonably found that their delay in seeking refugee protection showed an absence of subjective fear of persecution. The family requested the Federal Court to quash the RAD’s decision and order another panel to reconsider their claim.
The judge ruled that he disagreed with the Minister submissions, and that in his view, the evidence showed that the family’s fear reasonably arose from the circumstances in Lebanon in 2014, even though they had not experienced serious problems in 2012. New evidence -the threats which had been made against Christians, Jihadist fighters who were readying themselves for an attack against Christians towns, the importation of car bombs into Beirut by ISIS – indicates that that there is an increased risk in that city, the threat from ISIS is spreading, and that youths were preparing to conduct suicide attacks.
The judge ruled that he disagreed with the Minister submissions, and that in his view, the evidence showed that the family fear reasonably arose from the circumstances in Lebanon in 2014, even though they had not experienced serious problems in 2012. The matter was returned to another panel of the RAD for reconsideration.
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.