Persons who have fled to Canada due to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion may make a refugee claim.
Legal representation in necessary at an early stage, especially in preparing your Personal Information Form (PIF) which is the essential document stating your claim.
We will prepare you for and represent you at the formal refugee hearing in front of the Convention Refugee Determination Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Section 99 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that foreign nationals may make a claim for refugee protection outside Canada and be selected for resettlement to Canada.
Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program (resettlement program) reflects Canada’s commitment to protect refugees and persons in need of humanitarian assistance who are in refugee-like situations. The resettlement program as delineated in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations is comprised of three classes: (1) Convention Refugee Abroad Class (2) Country of Asylum Class and (3) Source County Class. All classes apply to persons abroad who are seeking resettlement to Canada and who are without the possibility, within a reasonable time frame, of a durable solution (voluntary repatriation, resettlement in the country of asylum or resettlement to a third country other than Canada).
The Current Refugee and Resettlement Program
Convention Refugees Seeking Resettlement
Canada is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Convention) and its related 1967 Protocol, guaranteeing protection for refugees in its territory. This class includes Convention refugees who are outside their country of citizenship or habitual residence; and who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
In the last five years, 44 314 Convention refugees have been selected for resettlement from abroad and have landed.
Humanitarian Designated Classes
Canada established the Country of Asylum and Source Country Classes (Humanitarian Designated Classes) in 1997 as a means to provide protection to persons who are in refugee-like situations. The Country of Asylum Class includes persons outside their country of citizenship or habitual residence and who are seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict or who are suffering from massive violations of human rights including abuse of human rights that are based on gender.
The Source Country Class includes persons who would meet the definition of Convention refugee if they were not still in their country of citizenship or habitual residence. It also includes persons who are suffering serious deprivations of the right of freedom of expression, the right of dissent or the right to engage in trade union activity and have been detained or imprisoned as a consequence. Eligibility for the Source Country Class in restricted to citizens or habitual residents of countries listed in the Schedule to the Humanitarian Designated Classes Regulations (HDC Regulations). For a country to be included on the Source Country Schedule, not only must three exist conditions within the country concerned which produce members of the Source Country Class, but also Canada must be able to process applicants safely from within that country. The inclusion of a country on the Schedule must also be consistent with overall Canadian humanitarian strategies. Through this class, Canada is able to respond to international crises.
In the past five years, 9 173 members of the Humanitarian Designated Classes have been selected for resettlement from abroad and have landed.
More detailed information concerning the administration of the HDC Regulations can be found in the Canadian Gazette, Part II, Vol. 135, SOR/2001-224 published on July 4, 2001.Purpose of the provisions
The intent of the refugee resettlement program regulations is to:
- relax the criteria used to assess an individual’s ability to establish in Canada and emphasize the need for protection;
- establish transparent criteria to ensure that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is able to quickly identify refugees most in need of protection;
- provide a formal mechanism to allow following dependants who have been separated from the principal applicant who is already in Canada, to be processed at a mission abroad without the need for sponsorship; and
- establish new ways individuals and corporations may sponsor a refugee and enhance the accountability of the private sponsorship program.
What the regulations do
In general terms, the refugee resettlement program regulations:
- allow dependants of refugees to be processed as part of the same application for a period of up to one year after the principal applicant has entered Canada;
- specify that criteria for evaluating ability to successfully establish in Canada shall included factors such as the presence of relatives in Canada and the assistance of a sponsoring group;
- define “urgent need of protection” so that the term refers to a person whose life, liberty or physical safety is under immediate threat;
- define “vulnerable” to refer to a person whose physical safety is at more risk than the general refugee population because of particular personal circumstances;
- provide authority to exempt refugees in urgent need of protection and vulnerable cases from the requirement to be assessed on ability to successfully establish;
- stipulate the two ways by which an application for resettlement may be submitted as being referral by an organization such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or through private sponsorship;
- remove the reliance on international organizations to provide the travel documents needed to allow refugees to exit or transit countries en route to Canada; and
- ensure the roles and responsibilities of sponsors are clearly understood.
What has changed
In summary, the policy shifts reflected in the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program are:
An application when submitted must be accompanied by a referral from the UNHCR, a private sponsor, or another organization with which the Minister has concluded a Memorandum of Understanding. An applicant may, however, submit a visa application directly to the mission when; (a) the referral organizations are unavailable to provide referrals; (b) the referral organizations advise the Minister they are unable to meet the conditions of the agreement; or (c) the circumstances relating to the protection needs in an area justify accepting the applications submitted without a referral.
Current administrative guidelines are codified to formally allow family members, who are separated from principal applicant who is already in Canada, one year in which to apply for resettlement without the need to be sponsored under the family class sponsorship program.
The factors to be considered when assessing a person’s ability to establish have been re-defined. The focus is now on social rather than economic factors and persons who are found to meet the definitions of urgent or vulnerable will no longer be assessed against the establishment requirement.
The definition of source country, including the Schedule of Countries remains the same; however, the sunset clause is eliminated and is replaced by a provision that allows the Minister to make recommendations about amendments to the list to the Governor in Council after consultations with interested stakeholders.
The regulations codify the practice of limiting government assistance to those most in need of refugee resettlement because they face more serious consequences if returned to, or left in, their country of origin. This means government assistance is still limited to Convention refugees and members of the Source Country Class.
In addition, in spite of the limitation restricting government assistance, the policy of providing government assistance to members of all classes with special needs is codified in the Regulations. This will ensure that refugees selected for resettlement who face particular barriers to integration are eligible to receive the extra help needed to establish themselves in Canada. The provisions specify the types of special needs that are eligible for assistance.
The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has a number of significant challenges: to respond to an unprecedented increase in the workload; to ensure as smooth as possible transition to the new Act; and to improve the focus on potential security and identity concerns as well as new trends that may arise. In the 2001 Budget, the IRB was provided with resources to shorten Convention Refugee Determination Division’s (CRDD) processing time and reduce its backlog.
Triage and Efficiency Measures
The IRB will adopt streamlining measures to improve the refugee determination process, including the following measures which will be implemented beginning in the year 2001-2002 and for the following two fiscal years to March 2004:
- Dedicated resources will be assigned to triage all refugee claims, which will include entering claim information in a database to assist case analysis and preparation.
- The national triage process and guidelines, as described below, will be used by all regions. They will be complemented by country specific criteria developed by the National Geographic Networks (NGNs), regional teams, member managers, and Operational Services Managers (OSM);
- There will be greater emphasis on the expedited policy and processing of straightforward claims.
The goal of prompt triage of all referrals to the CRDD is that claims are quickly sent to the appropriate stream. It is consistent with the Immigration Act, 1976, and the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and rules enacted under each set of legislation. Only claims where a front- end security review has been conducted by law enforcement agencies, which have been determined eligible by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and for which a Personal Information Form has been received, will be triaged according to the guidelines.
Triaging of the claims will be done through a combination of claim analysis, country condition research, case processing and trend analysis. Dedicated resources will be used to:
- Triage / stream cases
- Participate in geographic networks
- Enter / analyze case information and outcomes
- Identify / assess regional trends
Electronic capturing of information relating to the CRDD’s types of claims will be one of the tasks performed by triage officers. Resources dedicated to triaging in all regional and district offices will be of comparable categories and levels. These resources will work closely with member managers, OSMs and the documentation centres. They will participate in the Quality Project and be closely integrated with the ongoing work of regional geographic teams and the National Geographic Networks (NGNs).
These dedicated resources will review files in light of the triage guidelines and work with geographic teams or national networks to appropriately stream cases. Co-ordinating Members and Assistant Deputy Chairpersons will review application of the triage guidelines. These personnel will also participate in the identification of emerging trends and liaise with other branches/sectors to develop appropriate case management strategies.
The guidelines are tools to help triage cases into four different streams. Each case is always determined on its own merits and the fact of being placed into one stream versus another has no bearing on the decision in the claim. Triage will need to take into consideration priorities for processing such as detained claimants (security risks, flight risk or for an identity still to be established), and minors.
a) Well Founded or Expeditable Claims (as set out in the Expedited Policy)
- Facts presented by the claimant appear to fit within the Convention refugee definition and consolidated grounds under new Act
- Claim is consistent with country information
- Absence of serious inconsistencies or implausibilities on the face of the record that would require a hearing to resolve
- Absence of complex legal or factual issues that would require a hearing to resolve
- Absence of Ministerial involvement or issues that would necessitate notification of the Minister
Inability to provide acceptable documentation establishing identity or to take reasonable steps to obtain such documentation may disqualify a claim for consideration under the expedited process. Refugee Claim Officers (RCOs) must include in their reports whether the claimants’ identity has been established to their satisfaction at the expedited interview, or whether the claim should be dealt with at a hearing.
We expect that the present expedited process will be significantly expanded so that up to 25% of all claimants would be interviewed.
- One or two issues to be resolved
- Hearing likely to be no more than two hours
- Claim fits within typical pattern of country or claim; OR
- Facts presented by the claimant would not appear to fit within the Convention refugee definition and/or claim would not appear to be consistent with country information
These cases will be given priority for case scheduling. We expect that some 15% of all cases will fall into this category.
c) Complex Cases:
- Possible security, exclusion, serious criminality and misrepresentation concerns
- Significant complex issues regarding identity, credibility, claimant specific information
- Hearings could last more than half a day
- New trends regarding claim type and/or country of origin
- Difficult or complex legal issues
These cases could be brought to a pre-hearing conference, in order to help identify issues, documentation needed (including identity documentation) and case preparation needs. We expect that these cases will represent about 10% of our caseload. Where appropriate, CIC may be advised about some cases.
d) Regular Hearings:
- There are two or more issues to be resolved
- The hearing is likely to be 2-4 hours
- Ministerial intervention is not anticipated
We expect that this will represent about 30 to 35% of our caseload.
Note: Approximately 11 % of referred claims are withdrawn or declared abandoned prior to the hearing.
Implementation plans have been submitted by regional and district offices in accordance with this streamlining initiative, and are expected to be fully operational by July 1, 2002 at the latest.
Ongoing reporting and evaluation of this initiative will be carried out under the direction of the CRDD Operations Committee, with the support of the Policy, Planning and Research Branch.