Internal flight alternatives
There is “no place like home” the latter statement is undoubtedly true; but some people or to be more specific refugees are forced to leave their country of origin/home country in search of a safe haven. The concept of Internal Flight Alternatives is rather complex, whereby the average reader is unable to comprehend the broad meaning of such a notion and how it is assessed and applied when determining refugee status in Canada.
What are the implications? Will it create a hurdle within the refugee determination process at the IRB?
There is no doubt whatsoever that claiming refugee status in Canada is not a simple process, moreover governments (including Canada) are continuously introducing restrictive policies pertaining to refugee claimants.
Canada is one of 147 signatory states to the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 protocol relating to the status of Refugees, this international law treaty defines refugees and thoroughly explains the right of refugees and the duties pertaining to the recipient counties. The Convention was created in order to prevent refugees from being sent back to a country where they would face persecution. But the question that must be answered is what happens if a person/asylum seeker is capable of seeking refuge in another area of the country where there exists no risk of a well-founded fear of persecution, moreover the claimant in question is able to establish himself and carry on with his/her normal life?
This is one area which is rather obfuscating/opaque; especially when it comes to explaining the meaning of Internal Flight Alternative; put into simple words IFA means whether or not the asylum seeker/refugee claimant can seek/access protection in another area within his/her home country which is considered safe.
In Siragathan Rasaratnam v/s Minister of Employment and Immigration (1992) IFC 706 (CA), the court held that:
“A determination of whether or not there is an Internal Flight Alternative (IFA) is integral to the determination of whether or not a claimant is a Convention refugee”.
In addition in order to find IFA two critical factors must be met:
- There is no serious risk of the claimant being persecuted in the part of the country where there is a flight alternative;
- That the situation in the part of the country identified as an internal flight alternative must be such that it is not unreasonable for the claimant to seek refugee there; given all of the circumstances.
It is noteworthy mentioning that in order to meet the definition of a Convention Refugee. The claimant in question must have a well-founded fear of persecution which renders them unable or unwilling to return to their home country. If the claimant/refugee is capable of seeking refugee within their own country, there is no basis for finding they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country. In other words, if there is an IFA (a safe place to seek refugee) that’s reasonable the claimant should go there. Moreover, if the state is able and willing to protect the individual/claimant in another part of the country, the person is expected to seek that protection first.
As mentioned earlier, the IFA analysis is an extremely complex area of refugee law that many are unable to comprehend due to its intricate issues of fact and law. In the end, it’s up to the Immigration and Refugee Board to determine whether the claimant in question had no Internal Flight Alternative.
Rasaratnam versus Canada Minister Employment and Immigration  I.F.C 706 (CA).