Federal Court orders re-evaluation of refugee claim due to unreasonable identity verification

The claim for protection was based on fears of persecution in Ghana stemming from a family dispute

Federal Court orders re-evaluation of refugee claim due to unreasonable identity verification

The Federal Court has ordered re-evaluating an application for refugee protection due to the unreasonableness of the Refugee Appeal Division’s (RAD) handling of identity verification.

In Yakubu v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2024 FC 428, the court ruled in favour of Abdulai Yakubu, who arrived in Canada in 2016 seeking refugee protection. Yakubu's claim for protection was based on fears of persecution in Ghana stemming from a family dispute over property. However, his application was initially rejected by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) due to insufficient proof of identity, a decision upheld by the RAD.

Challenging the RAD's decision, Yakubu argued for judicial review, claiming the refusal to accept new identity evidence—a Ghanaian passport—and the oversight of his birth registration certificate was unreasonable. Furthermore, he contested the RAD's denial of an oral hearing, which he deemed necessary due to an implied negative credibility finding against him.

The Federal Court concurred with Yakubu, stating the RAD's handling of identity verification and the refusal of an oral hearing were unjustified. Accordingly, the court granted the application for judicial review and mandated a fresh evaluation of Yakubu's case by a different RAD panel.

Central to the court's decision was the RAD's rejection of Yakubu's passport as new evidence, previously unavailable during the initial RPD hearing. Yakubu had explained the delay in obtaining his passport, which he managed to retrieve only after the RPD's decision, from a contact who had helped him during his travels. According to the court, this explanation should have qualified the passport as new evidence under immigration law. The court criticized the RAD for discrediting Yakubu's explanation without rationale, deeming it an unreasonable assessment.

Additionally, the court found fault in the RAD's assertion that the RPD had considered Yakubu's birth registration certificate. Contrary to the RAD's conclusion, the certificate, corroborating Yakubu's identity through matching names on different documents, was overlooked rather than evaluated for its evidentiary value.

The decision also touched on the RAD's stance against an oral hearing. The court highlighted that credibility issues, central to Yakubu's claim and potentially resolved by the admission of his passport as evidence, warranted consideration for an oral hearing independent of the new evidence criteria.

In conclusion, the Federal Court deemed the RAD's decision as lacking in reasonableness, mandating a re-evaluation of Yakubu's refugee appeal. The court emphasized the necessity for transparency, intelligibility, and justification in treating identity verification in refugee protection cases.

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