Determining credibility in refugee cases is very difficult

Dear Editor,

I was once a Refugee Protection Officer (1999 – 2005) – who has acted as counsel to refugee hearing panels in more than 400 claims. I should say that only documents of a general nature are authenticated. Personal information about Refugee Claimants is not. The reason being that the person automatically becomes a Refugee Sur Place if the country from which the person is fleeing becomes aware of the claim and the premise being retaliation.

In any event, determination of credibility in refugee claims is not an exact science, it is more an art that makes or breaks a claim. The Honourable Edward Saunders observed that in the context of a refugee claim “Determining credibility is the most difficult task facing any adjudicator. It is particularly so in refugee claims, where there is often no independent evidence. If the result of a claim comes down to a determination of credibility, it is a nightmare for the adjudicator.

Whatever the decision, it will be never known with certainty by anyone but the claimant whether the determination was right or wrong. If it is right, there is no problem. If it is wrong, the claimant will be left with either a permanent feeling of injustice or with a triumphant feeling that he or she managed to hoodwink the panel.”

I hope this assists those within the Government of Guyana and the Diplomatic Corps who seemed all bent out of shape with the recent news report of the acceptance of the Guyanese family in Canada.

That family is not out of the woods as yet, if false information was provided and is later discovered, there can be a cessation hearing to revoke the refugee status or protected person determination. In any event, until that family become citizens of Canada, they are at risk of being deported for any number of reasons.

Yours faithfully,

Selwyn Pieters

Barrister & Solicitor

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