June 19, 2012
Immigration and Refugee Board
Refugee Protection Division
RPD File # : MA4-07243
Johanna Taidee MARTINEZ JARAMILLO
Jaycob Salomon SIERRA
Date(s) of Hearing
March 23, 2005
Place of Hearing
Date of decision
April 13, 2005
Jacques W. Fortier
Me Jeffrey Nadler
Refugee Protection Officer
[Filing of Document]
Johanna Taidee MARTINEZ JARAMILLO
[Filing of Document]
You can obtain the translation of these reasons for decision in the other official language by writing to the Editing and Translation Services Directorate of the IRB at the following address: 344 Slater Street, 14th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K1, by e-mail to email@example.com or by facsimile at (613) 947-3213.
These are the reasons for decision in the refugee claims of Johanna Taidee MARTINEZ JARAMILLO, her half-brother Jaycob Salomon SIERRA, and her daughter Megan SUAREZ. The principal claimant is a citizen of Colombia and the other two claimants are citizens of the United States.
They allege that they are "persons in need of protection" because they personally would be subject to a risk to their lives if they were returned to Colombia.
Johanna was designated to represent her half-brother and her daughter for the purpose of the hearing. At the beginning of the hearing, I informed her that, because her half-brother and her daughter have US citizenship, they would have to establish they have a reasonable fear of persecution in the United States in order to be admitted to Canada as refugees.
After some reflection and consultation with her counsel, Johanna informed the panel that she was withdrawing the refugee claims of those two persons. She also testified that she had a document in her possession empowering her to act in the name of her half-brother, who is a minor.
I want to stress that the hearing took place partly in English, and then, at the very end, we continued our work in French, in order to enable the claimant, who knows English well, to concentrate on the questions posed and the answers given.
Because the claimant has a good mastery of English but does not understand French, this decision, which is written in French, will have to be translated into English. I wish to add that I have not revised or signed the English version.
Evidence was filed by the claimants (Exhibits C-1 to C-7), their counsel, the Refugee Protection Officer, who did not attend the hearing (Exhibits A-1 and A-2), and the Minister's representative (Exhibits M-1 and M-2), who was also absent from the hearing. The panel also heard Johanna's testimony. In its decision, the panel took into account as well her Personal Information Form and some documents filed concerning the sociopolitical situation in Colombia.
Johanna's identity was established to the satisfaction of the panel by her identity documents and in particular her Colombian passport issued in Montreal.
The facts alleged in Johanna's PIF can be summarized as follows. She was born on March 27, 1975 in Colombia. At the age of six, she went with her mother to the United States and stayed there until October 2003, when she returned to Colombia with her husband and two children with the aim of starting a new life.
On June 20, 2004, she received a call from the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), demanding $50,000 for the release of her husband. When the second call came on June 21, she informed her interlocutor that she only had US$20,000 and was told she had better obtain the whole amount of the ransom demanded.
On June 23 she received another call and was allowed to speak to her husband, who told her to do as she was told. As agreed, a taxi came to fetch her and drive her to the La Calena area to meet a man to whom she gave the ransom. In the evening of the same day, she was allowed to converse once more with her husband, who told her he had to pay the whole sum demanded by his abductors to obtain his release, because otherwise he would be killed and FARC would go after her.
Johanna was unable to find the sum demanded. On June 25, she received another call and another demand for payment of the ransom. She told them she was trying to find the sum demanded. Fearing for her life and the life of her son, she left home and took refuge in an apartment, and, with the help of a friend of her husband, managed to flee Colombia on July 23, 2004 with a smuggler she identified as Pedro. He accompanied her to Toronto.
After examining all the evidence, I find that the claimant is not a "person in need of protection" pursuant to section 97(1). I have reached that conclusion because I did not find her testimony credible in view of the incompatibilities on some important points between her oral and written testimony, and the improbabilities noted at the hearing.
Furthermore, she did not discharge herself of her burden of proving that she is a "person in need of protection" because she personally would be subject to a risk to her life if she returned to Colombia.
In addition, I noted that Johanna had great difficulty answering questions directly. On numerous occasions, we were forced to remind her that it was important for her to concentrate on her answers and reply to the questions as directly as possible.
Many times, when confronted with disparities between her oral and written testimony, she could not provide any valid explanation.
The difficulty with this refugee claim is that Johanna was unable to establish that she actually was in Colombia between October 2003 and July 2004.
She has no official document or travel record attesting to her stay in her country, and the same applies to the stay in Colombia of her husband, Mr. Suarez.
Johanna had a Colombian passport that she apparently used to travel from Mexico to Colombia in 2003, after crossing the border between the United States and Mexico at El Paso.
When asked if she had with her the Colombian passport she had used to travel, she testified that it was in Colombia. Later she explained she had not brought it with her. When asked the whereabouts of the said passport she allegedly used in 2003, she said that Don Pedro, the smuggler, had taken it.
Then she added that she had returned the passport to Pedro so that he would give her another one. Her testimony was so confused at that point that we deemed it advisable to take a break, to enable her to put her thoughts in order.
When she returned, she was asked the same question as to where her Colombian passport was. She explained that she had not returned her old passport to Pedro. When asked the whereabouts of the passport she had used to travel between Mexico and Colombia, she then testified that she had lost it in Colombia and had not had sufficient time to inform the authorities or the police of its loss.
Then she referred to another passport issued in the United States in 1991. Finally, she said she had renewed the passport she had used to travel between Mexico and Colombia when she was in Miami in 2000.
Then she said she had left behind in Colombia the passport issued in 2000, and had asked her mother-in-law to send it to her, which the latter had not done, as she had been unable to find it in the house.
Johanna concluded her testimony by saying she had lost the said passport. It must be admitted she was very successful in making her answers to questions so confused that they ended up being incomprehensible. I deem it useful to report that part of her testimony at the hearing, as it gives a good idea of what it was like overall.
Let us now return to the central point of the claim: the abduction of her husband, Mr. Suarez, by FARC. Once again, she was unable to repeat in her oral testimony the facts she herself had related in the written narrative in her PIF. Her testimony was confused with regard to dates and the calls she allegedly received from her husband's abductors.
For example, she testified that the calls were made to her home, but eventually changed that statement and said she received the first call on a cellular phone not belonging to her. In addition, she testified that she was told on June 20 that her husband had been abducted by FARC and that she would receive another call later. Subsequently, she confirmed that the conversation was confined to the points she had previously listed.
The claimant was then confronted with paragraph 11 in her PIF, which mentions that a ransom demand was made during that telephone conversation on June 20, 2003. I deem it important to cite the whole text of paragraph 11 in her written narrative:
Everything was going fine until June the 20th, 2004. I can recall quite well that day, a Sunday, while on my way back from the church, I got a call to my cell phone by someone who identified himself as a member of the Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).
This person told me that they had my husband and they wanted 50 000 $ US for his release. I was speechless. The guy told me that they would call me back and that I should ever think about going to the authorities. Then, he hanged.
She explained that the $50,000 ransom demand was made in another conversation on June 21, 2004. By so doing, she contradicted her own written narrative in her PIF. I am not at all satisfied with her explanations, which, as I said before, again contradict her written narrative.
The same situation occurred when she was asked for details of the call on June 21. She made no reference then to the fact that she had offered the abductors $20,000, which was all she had. When confronted with that new disparity, she could only say that she had not thought of it. I cannot accept her explanation, because the fact that she had only $20,000 US in her possession, and not the $50,000 demanded, is one of the most important points in her claim and put her husband's life in jeopardy.
Furthermore, she said that, during her last telephone conversation with the abductors on June 25, 2004, she had told them she was: "in process of getting" the sum needed for the ransom.
She testified that she left her mother-in-law's home to go into hiding at the home of a friend of her husband's, adding that she heard no more from the abductors then until December 25, 2004, when her husband communicated with his mother on Christmas Day.
I find the whole story completely unbelievable. How is it possible that the abductors would not have followed up on her statement that she was in the process of collecting the sum required to obtain her husband's release?
I find it astonishing that the abductors, who had been contacting the claimant every day and threatening her, would suddenly have stopped doing so, especially when she had said she was in the process of finding the money needed to pay the ransom.
In his submissions, claimant's counsel concluded by saying the whole claim was after all a question of credibility, and asking that Johanna be given the benefit of the doubt.
At the very end of the hearing, Johanna also asked that her shady past record in the United States and the mistakes she had made when younger be overlooked.
After much deliberation, I cannot give the claimant the benefit of the doubt. After all, she has failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that she is a "person in need of protection." In my opinion, there were too many unanswered questions at the hearing.
Johanna did not manage to establish that she and her husband were really in Colombia at the time of the incidents alleged. Among the documents filed in evidence, only one might put her in Colombia then, if we gave it probative value. It consists of two medical certificates filed on the day of the hearing and dated February 25 and May 3, 2004 respectively.
Although the claimant asked us to disregard her shady past in the United States, I have to take it into account when finally deciding whether or not to give the two medical certificates probative value. I would like to believe she wants to start a new life and that is to her credit.
However, in view of the claimant's lack of credibility on the most important points in her claim and in particular those concerning the alleged abduction of her husband, as well as the fact that she has failed to produce any documents to confirm her journey to Colombia or her return to Canada, the fact that she used about 15 aliases during the 22 years she lived in the States, and the fact that a warrant was issued against her in the US for breach of conditions, in the circumstances it is not really possible for me to give any probative value to the two certificates or to give her the benefit of the doubt regarding the truth of her story.
Finally, another fact came up at the very end of the hearing, when the claimant was describing her arrival at the airport in Toronto on August 2, 2004 and mentioned snow. Realizing her mistake, she corrected herself and said she had been referring to the white colours at the airport. I cannot accept her explanation, which casts further doubt on her comings and goings between the United States, Colombia and Canada.
Consequently, I find that Johanna Taidee MARTINEZ JARAMILLO is not a "person in need of protection" within the meaning of paragraph 97(1)(b) of the IRPA. As I said before, she is unable to prove that she stayed in Colombia between 2003 and 2004.
Jacques W. Fortier
Jacques W. Fortier
April 13, 2005
RPD File # : MA4-07243
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