Changes to the refugee claim process

As of December 15, 2012, there have been significant changes to the rules about making a refugee claim in Canada.

In this edition of On the Radar, we'll highlight some of the key changes. And there will be more detailed information in CLEO's new website on this topic, which will be ready in the next few weeks.

New forms

Instead of the Personal Information Form, refugee claimants must now file a Basis of Claim form with the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The Basis of Claim Form is on the IRB website.

They must also complete other forms for their eligibility interview with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). These forms are on the CIC website.

Filling the forms out completely and correctly is crucial. If relevant information is missing or incorrect, or if there are inconsistencies in the information, the IRB could refuse the claim.

When someone makes a claim at a land border, airport, or seaport, a CBSA officer should give the person a copy of all the forms completed at their eligibility interview. Anyone helping a claimant complete the Basis of Claim form should ask to see these copies.

New time limits

If someone makes a claim at a land border, airport, or seaport and is found eligible to have a hearing at the Refugee Protection Division, they must file the completed Basis of Claim form with the IRB within 15 days of being told they are eligible.

The hearing will then take place within 60 days unless the claimant is from a Designated Country of Origin and then the hearing will be within 45 days.

If someone makes a claim from inside Canada and is found eligible to have a hearing at the Refugee Protection Division, they will have a hearing within 60 days unless they are from a Designated Country of Origin and then the hearing will be within 30 days.

Different rules for claimants from a Designated Country of Origin

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration can designate a country as a Designated Country of Origin, for example, if there are a certain number of claims being made by people from that country but the number of claims accepted is below a standard set by the Minister. Or, a country with fewer claims could still be considered for designation if the Minister thinks that it is a democratic country with an independent judicial system and civil society organizations.

In December, the government announced a list of 27 countries and more will likely be added in the future.

Claimants from a Designated Country of Origin not only have less time to prepare for a hearing, they also have fewer rights in other areas as well.

For example, they are eligible for health care under the Interim Federal Health Program only if they pose a risk to public health or public safety.

Getting legal help

Refugee claimants should try to get legal help before completing the Basis of Claim form. But in general, the new shorter timelines will make it very difficult for claimants to get legal advice and help.

Claimants may be able to get help through Legal Aid Ontario and there is more detailed information on their website.

Refugee claimants can also contact a local community legal clinic. There is information about how to find the nearest community legal clinic on the Legal Aid Ontario or the website.

This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
January 2013

On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.

Related Resources:

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) has information on its website on refugee reform.

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