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Canada Russian scientist who fears for her life won't get judicial review of refugee claim

14:32  05 july  2018
14:32  05 july  2018 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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The Federal Court has declined a Russian scientist’s request for a leave for judicial review of her rejected refugee claim

Elena Musikhina says her life is in grave danger if she returns to Russia. She was a professor at Irkutsk State Techncial University in Siberia and says she has sensitive information about chemical and biological weapons factories around Lake Baikal.

Scientist Elena Musikhina says she is in grave danger if she returns to Russia© Tony Caldwell, OTTwp Scientist Elena Musikhina says she is in grave danger if she returns to Russia

Musikhina says 23 other people who had information about the environmental risks have died under suspicious circumstances, including the governor of Irkutsk, who was killed in a helicopter crash. Musikhina says she was also critical of the 2014 annexations of Ukraine and Crimea and says her teaching duties were restricted as a result.

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Elena Musikhina on Parliament Hill on May 1.© Tony Caldwell, OTTwp Elena Musikhina on Parliament Hill on May 1.

According to Musikhina, she and her husband, Mikhail, left Russia in October 2015 after the vice-rector of her university forced her to resign and threatened to have criminal charges brought against her for her extremism. The couple stayed briefly in Poland, where their son, Aleksei, was enrolled in a language school. They arrived in Canada in December 2015 on a tourist visa and have lived with their daughter in Gatineau ever since.

The couple’s bid for refugee status was turned down in 2016, as was an appeal. The tribunal said the couple “did not provide credible testimony and did not establish their allegations on the balance of probabilities.” The decision also noted the couple was allowed to leave Russia unhindered, which “diminishes their credibility on regards to whether the authorities were seeking them.”

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However, Musikhina said she did not mention anything about the sensitive environmental data during her initial refugee hearing because Aleksei brought it with him to Poland, perhaps accidentally, on a computer. The appeal process does not consider new evidence, so she was unable to outline her fears about the information at that point.

Elena Musikhina on Parliament Hill on May 1.

The couple’s daughter, Olesia Sunatori, who has lived in Canada since 2012, said Wednesday she was not surprised that the Federal Court declined leave for judicial review. But she is disappointed. Everyone in her family fears for her mother’s life, she said.

“We will do anything possible to keep her safe and in Canada.”

There has been no deportation order and the couple is under no immediate danger of being deported, said Musikhina’s lawyer, Pacifique Siryuyumusi. The next step is to apply for permanent residency on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

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“They would have to prove that they would suffer hardship if they were to return to Russia,” he said.

If the couple appear before the Canadian Border Services Agency, they will be given an opportunity to outline any new information to prove that they would be at risk if they returned to Russia, Siryuyumusi added.

Meanwhile, Musikhina has some high-profile advocates fighting on her behalf. Last month, federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May appealed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer asylum to Musikhina.

Human rights activist David Kilgour, a former MP and cabinet minister, said Wednesday he is appealing to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Aurel Braun, an expert in international relations and Russian affairs at the University of Toronto, has also written a letter supporting the couple, saying it would be “reckless” of Canada to send them back to Russia.

Kilgour said Wednesday he is optimistic because the case is now a matter of ministerial discretion and no longer a judicial matter.

“It’s certainly a persuasive case.”

Flow of asylum seekers to Canada begins to slow amid traveler crackdown .
By Anna Mehler Paperny

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