Court denies asylum to woman who worked for ‘pay-for-slay’ scheme

Canada’s Federal Court has denied refugee status to a Palestinian woman because she worked for a program that rewards families of “martyrs” killed in terrorist attacks against Israel.

In a ruling last month, the court found that the Immigration and Refugee Board’s (IRB) appeals division was right to deny asylum to Khitam Khudeish because she had worked for the Palestine Martyrs’ Families Foundation, which the IRB had found “had a single purpose, which was of a criminal nature.”

The court said the RAD – the Refugee Appeals Division of the IRB – referred to evidence that widows and orphans who received compensation were “family members of terrorists.”

Justice Martine St-Louis of the Federal Court found that “given the nature of Ms. Khudeish’s duties and the nature of the payments, it was not unreasonable for the RAD to find they amounted to the level of a significant contribution to the criminal purpose of the organization.”

For decades, the so-called “pay-for-slay” program has been assailed for compensating spouses and orphans of Palestinian terrorists who are suicide-bombers or are killed in attacks against Israel.

According to the court judgment, Khudeish’s family was displaced from Haifa in Israel in 1948. She was born in Baghdad and fled to Jordan in 2006 to escape what she said was religious persecution. The court said she’s a “stateless Palestinian.”

She arrived in Canada with her daughter in 2016, and the two filed for refugee protection, fearing persecution in Iraq based on their religious and political opinions.

The IRB’s Refugee Protection Division granted Khudeish asylum in January 2018, despite the fact that she “had not been totally forthcoming about her work, and that she misrepresented herself in her visa application.”

But the IRB’s appeals division reversed that decision in November 2018, saying the earlier finding was “an insufficient assessment of Ms. Khudeish’s potential complicity in criminal activity.”

Khudeish then sought a judicial review at the Federal Court.

The court noted that Khudeish’s file included a letter certifying that she had worked at the Palestinian Embassy in Baghdad from 1984 to 2006 under the job title “Responsible on [sic] Palestine Martyrs’ Families Foundation.”

The court said the RAD had found that the foundation “was created by the PLO to fulfill the criminal purpose of incentivising acts of terrorism against Israelis.”

The court noted that Khudeish worked for the foundation for 22 years, adding that the RAD had found she “had made a significant contribution to the PLO’s criminal purpose by issuing the sums of payments and facilitating payments to family members of terrorists.”

Bolstering the argument that Khudeish played a major role was that she worked for the PLO during the first (1987-1993) and second (2000-2005) intifadas.

During the first intifada, the PLO’s main purpose “was to use armed struggle to create a Palestinian state,” the court said, citing the RAD.

The RAD also noted that during the second intifada, the objective of Fatah, the largest faction in the PLO, “was the removal of the Israeli military and of settlers from the West Bank [and] employing suicide bombings within Israel.” The RAD had noted that Canada declared Fatah a terrorist entity in 2003.

The court said the RAD’s finding that the Palestine Martyrs’ Families Foundation “was created by the PLO to fulfill the criminal purpose of incentivising acts of terrorism against Israelis is supported by the evidentiary record.”

“I have therefore not been convinced the decision of the RAD is unreasonable,” the judge wrote.

B’nai Brith Canada called the court’s decision “a scathing indictment of a Palestinian scheme to incentivize terrorism.”

The Federal Court “has struck a massive blow against Palestinian terrorism and in favour of its victims,” Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith’s CEO, said in a statement.

He called on Ottawa to designate the Palestinian Martyrs’ Families Foundation a terrorist entity.

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