Internal Flight Alternative or IFA -Essential for Pakistan or Nigerian Refugee Claims

A safe and reasonable Internal Flight Alternative -or IFA -is often used as justification to refuse a refugee claim from Pakistan and Nigeria.

The (availability of an) IFA must be addressed by counsel and claimant -it allows the RPD to deny a claim even if there is credible evidence that there is risk upon return. The risk that gives rise to a claim for international protection must extend to all parts of the country.

Firm partner Bjorn Harsanyi Q.C. handled a case from Pakistan (Ali)-a consequential one with Justice Russell commenting on the IFA analysis. This was earlier this year.

Justice Manson has followed up with a more recent decision expanding/expounding on Justice Russell’s line of reasoning. Counsel/claimant alleging non-state agents of persecution should be aware and prepared to argue against a safe/reasonable IFA:

[20]  This Court has consistently held that a refugee claimant cannot be expected to live in hiding in order for a proposed IFA to be reasonable. Considering that the agents of persecution have made repeated visits to the PA’s mother and sisters to solicit the Applicants’ whereabouts, it follows that the Applicants cannot disclose their IFA location whereabouts to these family members in Nigeria. The Federal Court in Ali, above, has held that it is not reasonable to expect family members to put their own lives in danger by denying knowledge of or misleading the agents of persecution as to a refugee claimant’s whereabouts (Ali at para 49).

[21]  This Court has previously found that not being able to share location information with family or friends is tantamount to “hiding”. In Zamora Huerta v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration2008 FC 586 [Huerta], Blanchard J. held that:

[29] … the Board did qualify its finding by stating that an IFA existed for the Applicant in Mexico, provided she took reasonable precautions and not reveal her new location to relatives and friends. Not to be able to share your whereabouts with family or friends is tantamount to requiring the Applicant to go into hiding. It is also an implicit recognition that even in these large cities, the Applicant is not beyond her common-law spouse’s reach. In these particular circumstances, this cannot constitute an IFA for the Applicant.

[22]  More recently, in Ali, the Federal Court held that:

[49] The finding here is that Mr. Ali’s father and other family members are unlikely to tell anyone that the Applicants have taken up residence in Hyderabad. This raises the issue of how family members will deal with a direct inquiry from the TTP as to the Applicants’ whereabouts. In my view, it would not be reasonable to expect family members to place their own lives in danger by either denying knowledge of the Applicants’ whereabouts or deliberately misleading the TTP…

[50] Given the dangers posed by knowledge of their whereabouts, or even their return to Pakistan, the Applicants would be forced to hide from family members and friends and cut off communications. This is not a reasonable requirement and so cannot be used to obviate risk under the first prong…

[23]  That is the situation here. I find that the RAD Decision is unreasonable in that it failed to consider the Applicants’ particular fact situation in its assessments of potential IFAs. The reasonableness of a decision may be jeopardized where it fails to account for the relevant evidence before it (Vavilov at para 126). The RAD failed to reasonably consider the evidence before it on the agents of persecution’s (the Chief) continued pattern of attempting to extract information from the PA’s mother and sisters. While the RAD considered the motivation and means of the agents of persecution in its reasons, it failed to reasonably consider the ongoing, persistent search by the Chief for the Applicants. The means to ascertain the Applicants through the family members has been established on the facts here.

[24]  The agents of persecution’s access to family members and the consistent targeting of them for information on the Applicants’ whereabouts is a relevant consideration as it relates to the question of means. The fact that the Chief is willing to use the PA’s family members in an effort to locate the Applicants is indicative of the Chief’s ongoing intent and ability to locate the Applicants if returned to Nigeria. While the PA’s sister in Port Harcourt has fled the city following the Chief’s visit, the PA’s mother in Abeokuta has been visited by the Chief on several occasions.

[25]  Furthermore, consideration of the PA’s connection to her family is not applied in a consistent manner. The RAD determined that Port Harcourt is not a viable IFA, as the PA’s connection with her sister in Port Harcourt could be leveraged to locate the Applicants. For the other IFA locations of Lagos and Abuja, while the RAD concluded that the agents of persecution are motivated to find the Applicants, nevertheless, the RAD found that the PA failed to advance evidence on how these individuals would locate the family through their connections, or how they would be aware that the family had returned to Nigeria after a multiple year absence.

[26]  This analysis ignores the reality that as long as the agents of persecution are able to locate a family member in the circumstances provided here, and on the facts are determined and motivated to do so, they may and probably will attempt to extract information on the Applicants’ whereabouts using the family connection, regardless of the IFA location within Nigeria.

(emphasis mine).