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Immigration Board: SVG can adequately protect its citizens

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Despite the large number of Vincentians seeking refugee status in Canada, less than half of the applications are successful.{{more}}

This is because refugee adjudicators in Canada are of the view that the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines can adequately provide protection where needed for its citizens.

Statistics released to SEARCHLIGHT by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada show that over the past ten years (January 2001 – September 2011), only 37 per cent of Vincentians who applied for protection by the government of Canada for fear of persecution in their homeland had been granted stay there.

According to further statistics, in the last five years, a total of 2,412 Vincentians (1,562 female, 850 male) sought conventional refugee status based on fear due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

The Panel of Judges who listened to these cases, however, believed that 33.8 percent of the applicants (211 men, 606 women) would be at risk of losing their lives, would be in danger of torture, or face the possibility of cruel or unusual treatment or punishment, should they return home.

Although some of the claims made by persons who were rejected may have been credible and believed by the adjudicator, research shows that the Board for the most part is of the opinion that, except in situations where the state is in a complete breakdown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is capable of protecting its citizens.

This presumption can be rebutted by a claimant who has to establish that the state’s protection is inadequate.

The Board in giving judgment, acknowledges that a state is not always successful in protecting its citizens. However, the onus is on the claimant to approach the state for protection in situations where state protection might be reasonably forthcoming.

One case presented to SEARCHLIGHT to highlight this point was that of Sarah (not her real name), who, although her claim of abuse was accepted by the Board, was deported back to St. Vincent in 2010, because the Board was not persuaded that the state would not be reasonably forth coming with protection, should Sarah seek it.

Sarah migrated to Canada in 2003 on the invitation of her then boyfriend John (not his real name), with whom she had been in a relationship since 1998. Her son was born in 2000; she filed a refugee claim in 2006.

During that year, John was arrested and charged with assault and sexual assault on Sarah. He was released on bail, with one of the conditions being not to have any direct or indirect contact with Sarah.

Nevertheless, John violated this condition on a continuous basis, causing Sarah to inform police investigators, which led to his conviction and subsequent deportation to St. Vincent.

Sarah, in her refugee claim, stated that she had received threats from John since his deportation, and feared for her life and that of her son, should she return to St. Vincent.

The Board, in assessing the claim, determined that Sarah was in fact a victim of abuse, but should she return to St. Vincent, she would be able to access state protection.

The Board acknowledged that violence against women is a serious problem in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but the law provides protection for victims.

In its judgment, the Board also recognized that in many instances, domestic violence usually went unpunished because of a culture in which victims choose not to seek assistance from the police, or the prosecution of offenders.

Furthermore, the judgment said a number of victims decide not to press charges once domestic tensions cool down, after already having complained to the police. For this reason, it said, police were often reluctant to follow up on domestic violence cases.

The Board also referred to a number of cases where Vincentian women had made refugee claims, and where some claims were accepted and others rejected.

Of the ten year period in which statistics were given for refugee claims in Canada by St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this country was listed in the top ten applicants for five years (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011), and has shared the negative spotlight with countries such as Mexico, Pakistan, Columbia, China and the United States of America.(JJ)

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