Refugee Protection Division
Overview of Refugee Claims before the Refugee Protection Division
The Refugee Protection Division is a tribunal branch of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The Refugee Protection Division hears matters from individuals claiming protected person status. Claims can be made at an IRCC or CBSA office in Canada or a Port of Entry, such as an airport or border. You may also make a claim from outside of Canada, but such claims are not processed by the Refugee Protection Division, they are processed by IRCC. Claims for refugee status are made under two categories: a convention refugee or a person in need of protection.
The first step is the intake in which the CBSA officer will determine eligibility for a refugee claim, including ensuring you are not inadmissible. A Basic of Claim (BOC) form that details all the information of the claim is made with the same significance and effect as a statement made under oath (although changes and/or additions to the BOC form can be at a later date, but material changes may lead to adverse inferences). Documents to establish identity as well as evidence to support the claim will be required. Where that information cannot be produced the claimant will be asked to explain why and what steps were taken to obtain the evidence.
If a claim is made at a port of entry the original BOC form must be provided to the Refugee Protection Division within 15 days from when the claim is made. If the claim is made in-land, the BOC form must be submitted to the officer before whom the claim is made. The officer has 3 days to determine if the claim is eligible for referral to the Refugee Protection Division. Where the officer fails to make a determination within 3 days, the claim is considered eligible. The CBSA officer may suspend the assessment if a report is made alleging inadmissibility concerns on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality, organized criminality or the officer is waiting for the Court to make a decision on an offence the claimant has been charged with that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more. If the claim is found eligible, the claimant will be allowed to remain in Canada for the duration of the processing of the refugee claim.
Upon claiming protected person status, the claimant must appear for a hearing and has the burden to establish that the claimant is a convention refugee or a person in need of protection (although it is possible that the Minister grants refugee status without a hearing before the Refugee Protection Division).
A convention refugee is someone who has proved to the Refugee Protection Division that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin or country of previous residence because they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on:
d) Political opinion
e) Being a member of a specific social group
Person in need of Protection
A person in need of protection is someone who has proved to the Refugee Protection Division that they are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin or country of previous residence because they would personally be subjected to danger, torture or a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual punishment regardless of where they are in the country. This does not include risk that is a product of the country’s inability to provide adequate health or medical care.
Whether you claim refugee as a convention refugee or a person in need of protection, you must provide the Refugee Protection Board with sufficient evidence and/or be credible in your testimony to prove your claim.
Am I eligible to make a claim?
You cannot make a claim for Refugee status in Canada if you:
a) Have already been granted refugee status in Canada or another country
b) Have been refused previously for refugee protection in Canada
c) Have had a prior claim that was determined to be ineligible, withdrawn or abandoned
d) Have committed crimes including, but not limited to, war crimes, crime against humanity, serious crimes outside the country of refuge or other acts that are contrary to the principles of the United Nations
The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is an agreement between Canada and the United States that mandates that those claiming refugee must claim it in the first country that they arrive in before crossing the border and claiming it in the second country. There are exceptions to this rule.
The first is if the person making the claim has a family member who is in Canada and is a citizen, permanent resident, holds a work or study permit or is over the age of 18 and has an active Refugee matter before the Immigration Refugee Board. The second exception is for unaccompanied minors, which include people that are under the age of 18 and are not accompanied by parents or guardian, spouse or common law partner and do not have parents or a guardian in Canada or the United States. The third exception is Document holder exceptions which include people who have valid Canadian visas, study or work permit, travel document issued by Canada or do not require a visa to enter Canada but require one to enter the United States. The last exception is for people who fall under the public interest exception. This category applies to people who have been convicted of a crime that holds the death penalty as a potential sentence. It is important to note that even if you meet any of these exceptions, you must prove that you are eligible for a refugee claim in Canada by meeting all the other requirements.
What happens after the Refugee Protection Division hears my claim?
After the hearing at the Refugee Protection Division, a claimant will be granted status as a protected person if the panel has found that the claimant is a convention refugee or a person in need of protection or be refused and then the conditional removal order will become effective within a designated time period unless an appeal is made to the Refugee Appeal Division and/or other steps under the law. For more information on Removal Orders, click here. If you are granted status as a protected person, you may apply for permanent residency. If your claim has been refused, you may appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division. It is important to note that if the Refugee Protection Division grants refugee status to an individual, the Minister retains the right to file an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division if they believe the Refugee Protection Division erred in their decision. For more information on the Refugee Appeal Division, click here.
If you have been granted permanent residence status, it is important to note that the Government may make an application to revoke your status as a refugee for any of number of reasons, including travelling back to the country of refuge, obtaining and using a passport from the country of refuge, re-establishing yourself in the country of refuge and/or the reasons for which the person sought refuge have ceased. Your refugee status may also be vacated if you have been found to have misrepresented when you made your claim. For more information on refugee cessation matters, we encourage you to contact a legal professional.
In all, the steps for a refugee claim are as follows
i) File a Refugee claim in Canada
ii) An officer determines if you are eligible to make a claim and a BOC form is filled out
iii) Your claim is referred to the Refugee Protection Division and a hearing is scheduled if you are found to be eligible
iv) An appearance is made before the Refugee Protection Division. A decision is made or held in reserve
v) Protected person status is granted
vi) Refugee claim is refused and a removal order is issued
vii) Claimant leaves country or files an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division and or other steps under the law, if eligible. To see if your eligible for an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division, click here.
It is important to note that if you are not eligible to file an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division, you may file an Application for Leave and Judicial Review to the Federal Court. For more information on the Federal Court, click here.
What to do next?
If you believe you may be a convention refugee or a person in need of protection, have already made a claim for refugee status or have been refused for refugee status, and would like assistance, we encourage you to contact Bellissimo Law Group PC