Trinidadian family granted refugee protection in Canada

Sukhram Ramkissoon

During the 1980s, thousands of people fled their native Trinidad and Tobago seeking refugee protection in Canada. While many of them were allowed to remain in Canada “on humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” only a small number were found to have a “credible basis” for their refugee claims.

And  a small percentage have been granted protection in Canada as Convention refugees.

Refugee claims are examined  under two sections of the Immigration Act – firstly, grounds for persecution set out under the criteria  as a Convention refugee and the second section deals with a risk to life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.   Under the latter section, the  claimant  is unable or, because of that risk, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.  If the claim is accepted, the person will be considered as a Convention Refugee.                                                                                                                                                                       Recently, a widowed spouse and her two children from South Trinidad appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) in Toronto.  They alleged that their lives would be in danger if they were to return to Trinidad and Tobago, and they were all successful in obtaining refugee protection in Canada.

Carmen (not real name) and her two daughters, Asha (adult) and Petal (minor)  – not their real names -whom I represented in February this year at the IRB, have given permission to publish their story in my column.

 In late 2017, Carmen’s husband and the father of her two children was shot and killed and  his murder was  believed to be a targeted “hit.”. He was a well-known and established businessman with large government contracts and  had received several threats. 

Since his death , his family also received several death threats which they reported to the police.  They were still fearful for their lives up to the time they applied for Canadian visitor’s visas in early 2018. 

They family arrived in Canada in August 2018 and within two weeks submitted applications for refugee protection in Canada.  Up to the time they left for Canada no one was arrested for the murder of her husband or with respect to the threats issued against them.

In February 2020 Carmen testified that to the above facts before a member of the Refugee Protection Division.  They fear for their lives as they received several threats which were reported to the police.   They also feared that because of their gender they were not safe in Trinidad and Tobago, given the threats they received.                                                                                          The mother and daughter testified for a half day during which their credibility was thoroughly tested by the Refugee Protection Division.    As their counsel, I had filed a volume of disclosures including country conditions, request for police report and other supporting documents such as newspaper reports and other reports with respect to the crime situation in Trinidad.  After the hearing, the member adjourned the matter for decision and requested that I file written submissions which were forwarded in a timely manner.

Last week our office and Carmen received written reasons from the Refugee Protection Division stating that “the Refugee Protection Division determined that they were Convention refugees and therefore can now live in Canada permanently with no fear of  being sent back  to their country.

In the written reasons provided, the member summarized the evidence as presented and stated that “I find you to be a credible witness and therefore believe what you alleged in support of your claims”.

The member also analyzed state protection for the family in Trinidad and examined the  U.S. Department of State report which states that corruption remain a problem and organized crime contributes to high level of crime.  The same document describes corruption as a pervasive problem especially among immigration and police officers. “Despite government efforts to deal with corruption through pieces of legislation, the laws are poorly enforced.

Corruption is a problem and the public’s trust in the police has been eroded because of high crime rates and perceived corruption.  The member also stated other factors with respect to judicial proceedings, and open-ended investigations created a climate of impunity”.    The member in her reasons also referred to a paragraph from the US. Reports which states: Corruption in police and immigration services continued to be problem, with senior officials acknowledging that some police officers had close relationships with gang leaders and that police, customs, and immigration officers often accepted bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling as well as human trafficking.

The member ruled that the family is in need of protection and accepted their claims.

Upon hearing the good news, the family was overjoyed and stated they  were now looking forward to living in Canada in peace and safety.

Good Luck, Carmen, and family.

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.