Mentally ill Jamaican gets second chance

Mentally ill Jamaican gets second chance

Before his scheduled removal to Jamaica, a person I will call Phillip, requested a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA). The officer conducting the assessment concluded that Phillip had not established that he was a person in need of protection in Canada.

In his PRRA application he described his experiences with schizophrenia, which had led him to commit a number of crimes. He is in his early 30’s and has been in Canada over 15 years, with no family in Jamaica.

The officer reviewed the risks of harm that might await him in Jamaica – lack of care, physical mistreatment, criminality and harsh incarceration ­- and concluded that they related primarily to the inability of Jamaica to provide adequate mental health care to its citizens. That kind of risk is expressly excluded from recognition under immigration laws.

In any case, the officer reasoned, the risks he feared were speculative, and went on to note that mentally ill persons and the homeless may be discriminated against in Jamaica but that was not enough to conclude that he was exposed to a risk of persecution or serious mistreatment.

Phillip argued before the Federal Court that the officer’s decision was unreasonable because it failed to appreciate that his application was not based entirely on the inadequacy of mental health care in Jamaica; rather, he also claimed that, due to his symptoms and the lack of family support, he would undoubtedly be unable to access treatment in Jamaica.

As a result, he would be exposed to a risk of harm as a homeless, crime-prone, mentally ill deportee, with no material resources or family support.

In a written judgment, the court ruled that “it is satisfied that the officer failed to recognize the particular risks to which Phillip would be exposed, resulting in an unreasonable conclusion that he had not made out a claim for protection, and granted a judicial review.”

The original decision was unreasonable. The officer acknowledged that mentally ill persons are stigmatized and suffer discrimination in Jamaica. However, documentary evidence showed that those with mental “disabilities” are treated worse than those with a mental “illness”.

Other evidence showed that homeless persons are victims of violence, but not all are mentally ill. The officer also accepted that prison conditions in Jamaica are poor.

In allowing the judicial review, the learned judge ruled, “In my view, however, the officer leaped too readily to the conclusion that the risks facing Phillip arose from the lack of medical care in Jamaica. Actually, his application was based on his own particular circumstances.

The officer failed to appreciate the essence of Phillip`s application and wrongly concluded that it fell within the exception defined by law. I find that the officer’s conclusion was unreasonable and must, therefore, allow this application for judicial review and order another officer to review his application.”

Sukhram Ramkissoon is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at 3089 Bathurst St., Suite 219A, Toronto. Phone 416-789-5756.