People are cautious and care most about their own safety


It seems obvious to Gary that people whose lives are at risk will be very afraid. They will be alert for signs of danger, and as soon as they are threatened, they will do everything they can to keep themselves and their families safe. They will never take unnecessary risks. And even when a person has other cares and concerns, their own safety will always be their top priority.

As a result, Gary has a hard time believing that people can be brave or reckless or optimistic or complacent or overwhelmed in the face of danger. He also has a hard time believing that a person would ever value something more than their own safety.

Suspicious Gary
Gary is often very suspicious when a claimant or someone in the claimant’s story took a risk that Gary thinks is foolish.
Red Flag

Not leaving home sooner

The guerrilla warned Sonia many times to leave the country or face the consequences. It was not until they tried to assassinate her that Sonia decided that she had to leave. Gary finds it hard to believe that Sonia would not have fled as soon as she was threatened.

What might have helped Sonia?

Manuel and his family made the decision to leave their country after the local paramilitary tried to recruit his teenaged son. Manuel’s wife and children left the next day, but Manuel stayed behind for a few more weeks to sell his family’s home and wrap up their business. Gary thinks that Manuel must not have been afraid for his own safety. If Manuel had been afraid, he would have fled with his family.

The son of a powerful politician stalked and harassed Purabi for months. Several weeks before the end of her final year of university, he told her that if she did not agree to marry him, he would burn her with acid. Purabi went into hiding and stopped going to school. But she borrowed her classmate’s notes and continued studying and she went back to campus to write her final exam. The week after, she left for Canada. Gary suspects that if her story were true, Purabi would have fled right away and would not have stayed to finish her degree.

What might have helped Manuel and Purabi?

Red Flag

Not making a refugee claim right away

Ester crossed into the United States at that country’s southern border. She avoided the US migration authorities and made her way to Canada. Gary thinks that if she was really in danger at home, she would have made a refugee claim in the United States, the first safe country that she reached.

Mukisa was studying at a Canadian university when his family back home learned that he was gay. Since it was no longer safe for him to return home, Mukisa began to investigate his legal options. He met with a lawyer, learned about the refugee claim process, and started gathering evidence. Before his student visa expired, he filed a refugee claim. Gary thinks that if Mukisa was really afraid of returning home, he would have made his claim as soon as he knew that he was in danger.

What might have helped Ester and Mukisa?

Hee-Young went abroad many times with her abusive husband when he traveled for business. At the end of each of these trips, Hee-Young always returned home with him. She did not think that she had any choice. Gary thinks that if she was really in danger from her husband, Hee-Young would have taken the opportunity to make a refugee claim in one of these other countries.

What might have helped Hee-Young?

Until recently, Emily never knew that someone like her could be a refugee. She had always thought that a refugee was a person who was afraid of their government. Emily came to Canada many years ago to escape from her husband and went into hiding. As she explained at her hearing, over the years she had confided in a couple of trusted friends and they had all agreed that the best way for her to stay safe was to stay hidden. Gary thinks that if Emily was really afraid of her husband, she would have tried harder to find out about the possibility of asking for Canada’s protection.

What might have helped Emily?

Red Flag

Going home

Désirée had to flee her country without her children. She left them in the care of her mother. For three months she lived abroad, but the separation was more than she could take. She decided to take her chances and return home. Gary thinks that if Désirée was really in danger in her country, she would not have put herself at risk by returning to her children.

When the soldiers came looking for him, Andrés escaped cross the border. He began to make a life for himself in a neighbouring country. When he learned that his father was very ill, Andrés snuck back across the border to visit him. Gary imagines that Andrés must no longer have been afraid of the authorities in his country, otherwise he would not have risked returning.

What might have helped Désirée and Andrés?

Red Flag

Other kinds of risks

Lisa and her girlfriend were badly beaten in a homophobic attack. Lisa’s girlfriend died of her injuries. Years later, Lisa began dating another woman. Gary finds it unbelievable that Lisa would risk having another lesbian relationship, knowing how dangerous this could be.

Mohammed was warned by members of a paramilitary group to stop his work as a union activist. When he ignored their warnings, the group planted a bomb that blew up his car. On the morning of a major union rally, Mohammed received a phone call threatening him with death if he attended the rally. Mohammed went anyway and narrowly survived an attempt to kill him. Gary cannot believe that Mohammed would have risked attending the rally.

In Constance’s country, preaching her religion is illegal and is punished harshly. Constance explained at her hearing that she would often leave religious pamphlets in public washrooms, even when she suspected that she was being watched by the state police. Gary cannot believe that Constance would have taken such a risk.

What might have helped Lisa, Mohammed and Constance?

Viktor had been attacked by a gang of young men who terrorized people from his ethnic group. After the attack, a friend had taken him to the hospital, where the staff had reported the attack to the police. The police officer who interviewed Viktor called him a racist name and told him that he should expect hassles if he is out late causing trouble. At his hearing, Gary did not provide a statement from his friend, or any records from the hospital or the police. Gary thinks that Viktor should have known that he needed to try to get these documents. He concludes that Viktor is not really afraid of being sent home, because if he was, he would have done everything he could to try to support his claim.

What might have helped Viktor?

Moses explained that a woman at the government office had helped him to escape his country. She had bent the rules and given him papers that allowed him to travel. Moses himself could not explain why she had done this. He guessed that maybe he had reminded her of a son or relative. Gary notes that this woman would have put herself at considerable risk by helping him. He finds it unbelievable that someone would do such a thing for a stranger.

What might have helped Moses?

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