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Refugee Claims from Countries with Advanced Technology

January 23, 2020

Internal flight not feasible where privacy can be readily breached

The state of technology, and its implications for being located against one’s will, were at issue in X (Re) , a decision of the Refugee Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. The case was an appeal from the Refugee Protection Division (“RPD”), which determined that the applicant was neither a “convention refugee” nor a “person in need of protection.” The Appellant was from a district in Punjab, India and had been a supporter and member of the SAD (Amritsar) political party since 2009. His father was also a long-time supporter of the party. Because of that political activity the applicant had been physically attacked by police, and the Appeal Division concluded that Congress party members could be a threat to him in Punjab, and especially in his home district. One issue in the decision, however, was whether he could be safe elsewhere in India: that is, whether he had an Internal Flight Alternative (“IFA”). The test for an IFA is that 1) there must be no serious possibility of the Appellant being persecuted in the part of the country identified as an IFA, and; 2) the conditions in that part of the country must be such that it would not be objectively unreasonable in all the circumstances, including those particular to the Appellant, for him to seek refuge there (para 42).

In the first prong, the appellant essentially argued that the high degree of information technology advancements in India, combined with the deficient privacy and personal information protection, meant that third parties would be able to locate him. The Appellant referred to the Aadhaar number and card, which is a twelve digit unique identity number assigned to residents of India based on their biometric and demographic data. The Appellant provided evidence that the card was increasingly being required for services, that the data was being misused, and that the cardholder’s personal information was not kept private or protected. As a result,

[60]…just about anyone could access this personal information through corrupt means and for a small amount of money, and the Appellant would be located because he will need to use his Aadhaar card wherever he relocates to.

In addition:

[62] The Appellant also submits that a person can be located in India even more simply through social media such as Facebook or electronic surveillance, without having to go through the police. He further argues that the state has its own system of electronic surveillance, called the CMS and which is described at Tab 10.6 of the latest NDP. Therefore the state could locate the Appellant should they want to by intercepting his electronic communications. Tab 10.6 is also cited to refer to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) which is used as a network of information for the police, and the fact that the tenant verification system has been made even easier by providing online forms and applications for free for landlords who are required to register their tenants.

[63] In essence, the Appellant is saying that through the high degree of information technology advancements in India, coupled with deficient privacy and personal information protection, he could be located by third parties, not necessarily the police, making an IFA impossible.

As a result, the Appeal Board determined that an IFA was not available to the Appellant and so, based on that and the serious possibility of persecution if he relocated to Delhi or Mumbai, or elsewhere in India, he was found to be a Convention refugee.

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