Refugee Claims in Canada – the luck of the draw?

Does the approval/denial of a refugee claim depend on which adjudicator’s lap your claim lands in?

The CBC just posted an article that shows a disturbing trend in refugee claim approval rates.

A York University assistant professor used the Access to Information Act to go over all of the Immigration and Refugee Board claims for 2011 – thousands of them. He also compiled data from previous years.

The research looks at the Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicators themselves – the individuals in charge of approving or denying refugee claims in Canada.

One adjudicator approved almost half of the claims he received upon joining the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2007, but year-over-year his acceptance rate decreased. In 2011, he approved zero claims.

Another adjudicator only approved two of over 100 claims heard in 2011, with zero claims approved between 2008 and 2010.

But two other adjudicators had much higher acceptance rates, 81.3 per cent and 77.8 per cent.

One explanation for the discrepancies is that certain adjudicators may handle specific types of cases – especially ones that specialize in certain areas of the world that might have very high or very low refugee rates.

While the Canadian government’s new Bill C-31 will create an appeal division for denied claimants, those from specific countries – “safe” countries which experience high denial rates – will not be allowed to appeal. But what is a safe country? Mexico, for example, would be a safe country because it has a denial rate over 80 per cent. But over 1,000 refugees from Mexico were accepted last year, meaning their claims were valid.

Legislating away someone’s right to appeal because of their country of origin – and not their specific circumstance – is not fair when it comes to life or death situations for refugees in Canada.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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