Thirunavukkarasu v. Canada

Thirunavukkarasu v. Canada ( Minister of Employment and Immigration ), [1994] 1 FCR 589, 1993 CanLII 3011 (FCA)

• Important case on test for existence of internal flight alternative
• In the late 1980s a Sri Lankan Tamil had difficulties with various Tamil factions in the north of Sri Lanka, which culminated with a life-threatening letter from the LTTE accusing him of being a traitor and an informant.
• His claim was defeated at the RPD on the basis that he could relocate to Colombo and live safely there. However, there was evidence he had twice been beaten by government forces there and had been seen by an LTTE member.
• FCA holds that there was no IFA in Colombo as there was a risk of persecution due to being Tamil in Colombo (at the hands of the Sri Lankan government)
• This case sets forth the standard for the second prong of the IFA test – claimant must show that it would be objectively unreasonable to relocate elsewhere in the country
• Key excerpt from the case on the second prong:
In my opinion, in finding the IFA, the Board was required to be satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that there was no serious possibility of the appellant being persecuted in Colombo and that, in all the circumstances including circumstances particular to him, conditions in Colombo were such that it would not be unreasonable for the appellant to seek refuge there.
Thus, IFA must be sought, if it is not unreasonable to do so, in the circumstances of the individual claimant. This test is a flexible one, that takes into account the particular situation of the claimant and the particular country involved. This is an objective test and the onus of proof rests on the claimant on this issue, just as it does with all the other aspects of a refugee claim. Consequently, if there is a safe haven for claimants in their own country, where they would be free of persecution, they are expected to avail themselves of it unless they can show that it is objectively unreasonable for them to do so.
Let me elaborate. It is not a question of whether in normal times the refugee claimant would, on balance, choose to move to a different, safer part of the country after balancing the pros and cons of such a move to see if it is reasonable. Nor is it a matter of whether the other, safer part of the country is more or less appealing to the claimant than a new country. Rather, the question is whether, given the persecution in the claimant’s part of the country, it is objectively reasonable to expect him or her to seek safety in a different part of that country before seeking a haven in Canada or elsewhere. Stated another way for clarity, the question to be answered is, would it be unduly harsh to expect this person, who is being persecuted in one part of his country, to move to another less hostile part of the country before seeking refugee status abroad?
An IFA cannot be speculative or theoretical only; it must be a realistic, attainable option. Essentially, this means that the alternative place of safety must be realistically accessible to the claimant. Any barriers to getting there should be reasonably surmountable. The claimant cannot be required to encounter great physical danger or to undergo undue hardship in travelling there or in staying there. For example, claimants should not be required to cross battle lines where fighting is going on at great risk to their lives in order to reach a place of safety. Similarly, claimants should not be compelled to hide out in an isolated region of their country, like a cave in the mountains, or in a desert or a jungle, if those are the only areas of internal safety available. But neither is it enough for refugee claimants to say that they do not like the weather in a safe area, or that they have no friends or relatives there, or that they may not be able to find suitable work there. If it is objectively reasonable in these latter cases to live in these places, without fear of persecution, then IFA exists and the claimant is not a refugee.
In conclusion, it is not a matter of a claimant`s convenience or the attractiveness of the IFA, but whether one should be expected to make do in that location, before travelling half-way around the world to seek a safe haven, in another country. Thus, the objective standard of reasonableness which I have suggested for an IFA is the one that best conforms to the definition of Convention refugee. That definition requires claimants to be unable or unwilling by reason of fear of persecution to claim the protection of their home country in any part of that country. The prerequisites of that definition can only be met if it is not reasonable for the claimant to seek and obtain safety from persecution elsewhere in the country.