Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

His case should not have fallen through the cracks, suggesting communications issues between CBSA and the IRB, particularly in terms of timeliness. While in the end, the system did work, the issues should have been caught and acted upon earlier.

But it is somewhat ingenuous for Conservative immigration critic to state that the Liberal government is undermining public confidence in the immigration system while ignoring the contribution that some of her over-the-top language and positions (e.g., opposition to the Global Compact on Migration) also play. Fine line between legitimate criticism and stoking the fires:

Abdullahi Hashi Farah had an extensive criminal record, ties to a violent gang, and a long history of breaching probation. But Canadian immigration officials still released him after he crossed illegally into Canada in October 2017. (Supplied)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel is again calling for a complete review and audit of the immigration screening system in response to a CBC News investigation that revealed a Somali gang member with an extensive criminal record was twice released in Canada.

“The government has to acknowledge that there are serious flaws in the process and commit to fixing the system,” the Calgary MP said in a telephone interview Thursday.

In an earlier scrum outside the House of Commons, Border Security Minister Bill Blair was asked about the case of Abdullahi Hashi Farah.

Blair conceded Farah would not have been released had the full extent of his gang ties and criminal record been known. But he said he took “some comfort in the fact that the system has worked and we’ve identified the individual, and he is subject to deportation.”

Rempel said Blair’s response will only serve to further undermine public faith in the system.

‘This is pretty bad’

“People will read [the CBC News story] and they will look at the minister’s response and go, ‘This is somebody who is not taking this situation seriously, and it is a serious situation,’ ” Rempel said.

“And I worry that by doing this, the Liberals are actually eroding public confidence writ large. And that is not where we want to be in a pluralism like Canada. They need to restore order to the system. This [case] is pretty bad.”

As CBC News first reported Thursday, Farah was fleeing an arrest warrant and deportation in the U.S. when he crossed illegally into Canada at Emerson, Man., in late October 2017.

Then 27, Farah told Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials about his criminal record and gang ties. The agency wanted him held for a few more days until it could retrieve his full criminal record from the U.S.

But an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearing officer, impressed with Farah’s seeming honesty, ordered his release.

As a condition of release, Farah surrendered his cellphone to the CBSA so that it could be checked for evidence of criminal activity

Six days after Farah was set free in Winnipeg, he breached his release conditions and was arrested again.

That same day, the CBSA gained access to Farah’s cellphone. They found recent photos and videos of Farah playing with loaded handguns, doing cocaine, concealing cocaine, and flashing wads of cash. There were also photos of what authorities believed was a stolen credit card.

Released despite evidence of criminal activity

The CBSA has declined to explain why the evidence from Farah’s cellphone was not immediately provided to the IRB.

Without that evidence, another IRB hearing officer again released Farah in March 2018 and allowed him to move to Calgary.

In June, Edmonton police arrested Farah as a suspect in a string of armed convenience store robberies after a CBSA officer in Winnipeg picked him out of robbery photos taken from store security camera footage.

Edmonton police have declined to say why Farah is no longer a suspect in the robberies. He is now jailed in the Edmonton Remand Centre, awaiting deportation to Somalia.

The CBC News investigation revealed Farah had lied repeatedly about the extent and seriousness of his criminal record and the length of his involvement with the Somali Outlaws gang in Minneapolis and Nashville.

The investigation also revealed Farah had breached immigration and parole conditions more than 30 times in the U.S and in Canada. He had also been imprisoned for contempt after he reneged on a promise to testify against his former gang in relation to a major sex-trafficking case in Nashville involving girls as young as 12.

Rempel stressed her party is pro-immigration but said this case, and others like it, show the system can’t handle the volume of immigrants while ensuring adequately rigorous screening.

“While certainly not every case is going to be like this, even one is unacceptable, and even one puts the integrity of the system — and the perception of the integrity of the system — at risk.”

Source: Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

Refugee board releases guide to deal with bad lawyers, consultants

The twitter traffic I have seen from immigration lawyers applaud this (overdue) move:

The Immigration and Refugee Board has issued new guidelines to help its decision-makers and the public deal with complaints involving allegations of substandard legal representation.

“In the past, there were no formal procedures established at the board for dealing with allegations against former counsel, and each situation was dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” said spokesperson Anna Pape.

“Now, after internal and external consultation, the IRB has developed its own protocol to guide the decision-makers and the parties, based on the procedures in the Federal Court and in other courts.”

While some complaints about counsel raise legitimate concerns, others can be controversial because people may make them to try to delay proceedings or to demand that their case be reopened in the event of a negative decision.

Among the most high-profile complaints in recent years were from Roma refugees against three Toronto lawyers — Viktor Hohots, Joseph Farkas and Erzsebet Jaszi — who were later disciplined by the Law Society of Upper Canada, only after most of the complainants had their claims rejected and were deported with no redress.

The refugees’ complaints alleged the lawyers accepted legal aid retainers but abdicated their professional responsibilities, engaged in professional misconduct and negligently represented their clients, and ultimately led to their claims being rejected. Most only raised their concerns to Toronto’s Roma Community Centre when the majority of their claims were refused.

While critics welcome the guidelines and believe they can help ensure decision-makers take such complaints seriously, some said they are long overdue, coming four years after the Federal Court published similar protocol.

“It’s interesting that it took the board this long to develop a formal policy,” said York University law professor Sean Rehaag, co-author of a 2015 study that examined the odds faced by Roma in Canada’s refugee system, including inadequate legal representation.

“The biggest problem is these people are vulnerable. They may not know their rights or speak the language and are scared of retribution. There will never be full assurance against problematic counsel.”

The new guidelines apply to the board’s four tribunals that deal with asylum claims and appeals as well as immigration detention and appeals. They detail the steps individuals must take to complain against their counsel and the documentation they need when the issue arises in the middle of a proceeding or after a decision is made.

Complainants must provide the board with documentation showing they have informed their former counsel about the allegations and provided them 10 days to respond to the claims. They must also release their solicitor-client privilege to the extent necessary to allow former counsel to respond to the allegations.

Meanwhile, adjudicators can give direction or issue orders to make the proceeding fairer or more efficient despite the guidelines. They may also disclose a counsel’s breach of professional obligations, such as incompetence, negligence and misconduct to relevant regulatory body.

According to Pape, the board reported complaints against 10 lawyers and nine immigration consultants to their respective professional regulators in 2017. So far this year, they referred three lawyers and two consultants to their licensing bodies.

Source: Refugee board releases guide to deal with bad lawyers, consultants

Ottawa needs to fix operational problems at beleaguered refugee board, say frustrated staff

Yes, like all administrative processes, there is a need for an assembly line approach, in terms of standards, steps and sequence to be followed, and efficiency (where governments struggle, given administrative and legal constraints, as well as corporate culture).

Like it or not, there are resource constraints and the increase in resources in the budget is in that context. And reorganizations, streamlining, new agencies and the like take time to be developed, considered and implemented.

And yes, metrics are part of sound management:

The influx of migrants crossing the border has turned Canada’s asylum system into an assembly line, exacerbating operational problems and prioritizing targets over the needs of vulnerable people, say front-line staff at the country’s beleaguered refugee board.

Immigration and Refugee Board employees told the Star they are overworked and frustrated by organizational challenges.

They fear changes recently recommended in a government report could make things worse.

“To meet (management) targets, people stop being people and start becoming numbers,” said Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, which represents 550 of the board’s 1,000 employees.

“The morale is really low at the moment. There is (only) so much you can do when you don’t have enough resources to go around. And you hear recommendations from people who don’t know how you operate and miss the bigger, systemic and structural issues that need to get changed to solve our problems.”

Canada’s world-renowned asylum system is coping with a ballooning backlog: since 2016, the number of claims has increased by 241 per cent to 50,000 cases, due largely to an unexpected wave of migrants who have walked across the Canada-U.S. border.

Each asylum judge is now expected to process 150 refugee claims a year. The union has been told that number will increase to 200 in 2019.

Despite Ottawa’s promise in the 2018 budget to hire 50 asylum judges and 185 support staff over the next two years, board staff and refugee advocates say that’s not enough to fix a flawed system.

A recent government report, which recommended ways to restructure, isn’t the answer either, they say.

Various federal departments and agencies share responsibility for the intake, adjudication and removal of refugees, for permanent residency approvals, and for all appeals, but it’s the refugee board, which operates as an independent, arm’s-length body, that grants asylum.

The report, by retired deputy immigration minister Neil Yeates, recommended government either establish a new Asylum System Management Board to co-ordinate and streamline the process or create a new Refugee Protection Agency, which would handle the entire asylum system from intake to adjudication, and would fall under the authority of the immigration minister.

“The Yeates Report proposes massive changes to the system,” said Chris Aylward, national president of Public Service Alliance of Canada, the bargaining agent for 18 federal unions, including that of the board.

“It should have focused on ensuring sufficient and proper resources go to the processing and review of asylum claims instead of proposing a new structure that could threaten the rights of claimants to a fair process.”

The concern, according to Warner, is that restructuring would threaten the independence and transparency of the refugee determination system from real or perceived political interference from Ottawa.

Warner said there have been problems at the refugee board since the late 2000s, when the government of Stephen Harper made massive changes to the system and was slow to appoint refugee judges.

“The changes (by the Conservatives) were too extreme; we went from a country that was welcoming to one that was hurry-up-and-leave,” said Warner, who worked as a registry support staffer at the refugee board in Vancouver for 10 years before being elected national executive vice-president of the union.

Among the major flaws of Harper’s reforms, Warner said, were:

  • The elimination of tribunal officers who were charged with: the screening and triage of files; liaising with and answering inquiries from officials, claimants and lawyers; administering cases returned by courts, and providing hearing room support to decision-makers, who now must perform some of the duties on their own.
  • The imposition of statutory timelines to hear asylum claims within 60 days without taking into account the practicality of having a claimant secure a lawyer and legal aid, prepare a narrative, collect documents and evidence, and obtain medical and security clearances within the time frame.
  • Splitting the administration of the refugee protection tribunal from that of other board functions, which created a less flexible organizational structure unable to respond easily to changing operational needs.

“Cumulatively, such administrative tasks represent an astonishing burden, distraction and waste of adjudicator time and expertise,” said one refugee judge, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. “Yet it is a deliberate construct that continues under the leadership of the board and remains a stark, systemic management failing.”

Compounding the structural problems are shuttered hearing rooms, antiquated dictation software and failed video conference equipment, all of which cause further delays, said Warner.

“Trying to book a hearing room can become World War III between all these divisions within the refugee board,” noted Warner, who added that board policy still requires paper, not electronic, files.

“We can’t receive refugee claimants’ files, documents from lawyers and minister’s counsel by email. They must be received via regular mail or fax. You can imagine in 2018, what a ridiculous thing this is. It prolongs everything on case management.”

While the policy goal is to process 90 per cent of claimants within regulated timelines, the refugee board has never met this target: last year, for example, only 59 per cent of the cases were completed on time.

A veteran case manager at the refugee board said her colleagues are overwhelmed by the workload, but are committed to their jobs in offering asylum to those in need of Canada’s protection while maintaining the integrity of the country’s refugee system.

“We need to have more adjudicative support provided to the members. We need to move away from using metrics as a way of measuring productivity. We need enough hearing rooms. We need to allow people to leave work behind and not feel obligated to take their work home,” said the case manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to media.

“We need all of these things so that we can retain the compassion that we all have for the clients we serve.”

Source: Ottawa needs to fix operational problems at beleaguered refugee board, say frustrated staff

Refugee claims process needs major overhaul, says report

Will be interesting to see the degree to which the government adopts these recommendations or not. Yeates was former deputy minister at then Citizenship and Immigration Canada and knows the issues well:

Canada must overhaul its refugee claim system or create a new agency that reports to the immigration minister in order to streamline and expedite the asylum process, an independent review has concluded.

The 147-page report makes 64 recommendations — among them calls for a more aggressive approach and increased resources to tackle the backlog of refugee cases over two years.

Neil Yeates, a retired long-time senior civil servant in the federal and Saskatchewan provincial governments, led the government-commissioned review. He said Canada’s refugee determination system is now at a crossroads.

“Once again, it is dealing with a surge in claims that it is ill-equipped to manage, running the risk of creating a large backlog that, if not tackled promptly, may take years to bring to final resolution,” he wrote in his report.

Under the current system, various federal departments and agencies have a role in refugee intake, adjudication, removal or permanent residence approval, and the appeals process, but the Immigration and Refugee Board operates as an arm’s-length body making independent decisions.

The report recommends either maintaining that structure under an Asylum System Management Board, or shaking it up with major structural reforms under an integrated Refugee Protection Agency that reports directly to the immigration minister.

A spokesperson for the IRB told CBC News it has “significantly improved efficiencies at the Refugee Protection Division” and reported “an increase in refugee claim finalization by 40 per cent over the past year.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees said it’s “alarmed” by the proposals, arguing they could undermine the independence of the IRB. It called on the government to maintain the IRB as an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for refugee determination.

“People’s lives hang on decisions on refugee claims,” said CCR president Claire Roque in a statement. “We are not talking about traffic violations, we are talking about a decision that may determine whether a person lives or dies. When we make such important decisions, we need to guarantee due process and the basic protections of an expert and independent tribunal.”

The CCR said the current system — created in the wake of a 1985 Supreme Court decision that found refugee claimants are entitled to charter rights and a fair hearing — is a regarded as a model around the world.

The CCR said any changes must be in line with the principles of fairness, respect for due process and compassion.

“The complex and painful realities of refugees cannot be adequately addressed through a process that focuses on systems and efficiencies,” the organization said in a release.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is committed to upholding Canada’s “proud humanitarian tradition” of providing protection to those fleeing persecution while ensuring the asylum system is not abused.

“The findings in the final report will inform our review of Canada’s asylum system as we determine how best to maximize efficiency while ensuring that the system remains fair and continues to be in line with international standards,” said Mathieu Genest in an email.

“IRCC is studying the recommendations and will be consulting stakeholders, and provincial and territorial partners, on the findings over the course of the summer. It is premature to speculate on any changes that may be considered.”

Asylum over immigration

In his report, Yeates noted the growing trend of people using the asylum process instead of regular immigration channels.

“With the advent of human capital immigration models that place a high emphasis on education, language and skilled labour, asylum systems in countries like Canada risk becoming avenues of last resort for lower skilled economic migrants, who generally do not have access to other pathways to permanent residence,” the report reads.

Current approval rates for protection are about 65 per cent, so there are “ever present concerns” that the asylum system can be vulnerable to misuse, Yeates warned.

“When there are lengthy waiting times for an initial protection hearing there are further concerns that the asylum system may be abused to prolong temporary stays in Canada for healthcare, work permits, public schooling, direct access to Canadian citizenship for children born while in Canada and other benefits, all of which make future removal from Canada of many unsuccessful claimants difficult,” the report reads.

A series of reforms in 2012 aimed to expedite the claims process, but the system is still strained by spikes in asylum claims and resources stretched thin.

IRB spokeswoman Anna Pape said claims intake has been exceeding operational capacity by an average of 2,300 cases per month for the last year, creating a growing backlog. As of May 31, 2018, there were about 57,235 pending cases.

She said the IRB has taken steps to improve efficiency, and the number refugee claims finalized increased by about 40 per cent in 2017-18 compared to the previous year.

The IRB is currently funded to finalize approximately 24,000 claims per year.

“The IRB continues to explore new and innovative ways to improve efficiency, with the objective of improving the timeliness of decisions,” Pape said.

Given the current caseload and existing resources, the projected wait time for claims for refugee protection before the IRB has increased to approximately 20 months.

The report recommends stronger financial controls and tracking of overall system spending rather than incremental funding. It estimates that, following the reforms, the federal government has spent an average of $216 million a year on processing claims, social supports such as health care and legal costs. That figure does not include costs for the Federal Court and downstream provincial costs.

The report also recommends that:

  • the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship table an annual report in Parliament on the system as a whole;

  • the federal government develop an annual plan and budget based on forecasted intake and targets, with tracked expenditures, and establish an external advisory committee of experts;

  • Ottawa streamline the hearings process, using plain language on forms and making better use of technology;

  • the federal government integrate permanent residence processing of non-accompanying spouses/dependents into the asylum intake process to minimize repetitive processes;

  • government prioritize removals as soon as a removal order comes into effect;

  • specialized staff be tasked with asylum intake at major points of entry, and;

  • Ottawa establish a rapid-response contingency workforce to handle increased claim volumes.

Source: Refugee claims process needs major overhaul, says report

Canada vastly unprepared to process migrants and refugees

Latest numbers and update on impact of the change to first-come-first serve:

A small change marks a troubling time in our immigration system.

Overwhelmed by an endlessly ballooning backlog, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) recently ditched the 60-day timeline to process asylum claims. People wanting to claim asylum will now be processed on a “first-in, first-out” basis.

The 60-day rule was put into place by the previous Conservative government in 2012. It required officials at IRB to process asylum claimants in order of their designated country of origin. Moreover, decision makers within the board had to process claims within two months. A generous analysis would say those changes were meant to improve procedural efficiency. I am not a generous person.

At the same time that Canada was promising ease of access to foreign millionaires, it created massive procedural obstacles for refugees.

In 2015, a federal court concluded that the major elements, specifically the lack of access for those deemed to be from “safe countries” ( i.e. a safe Designated Country of Origin) was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, that program has remained largely in place.

The effect has been catastrophic.

In 2012, when the Designated Country of Origin program was instituted, less than 10,000 claims were rolling in. Starting in 2014, those numbers have grown substantially. So, too, has the backlog.

By the end of the last year, the backlog was as high as 43,000 cases. The organization had anticipated a backlog of 30,000. The average wait time is now 20 months for new claims. Thousands of much older cases have languished.

Some have waited for an answer for more than six years. The new first-in, first-out system has thrown an already-lengthy process into disarray. Thousands of scheduled hearings have been cancelled, reports the Star’s Nicholas Keung.

IRB spokesperson Anna Pape said, “(The board) must postpone recent referrals at this time due to the operational limitations.”

The change at IRB is necessary but, make no mistake, it’s a move made out of desperation. With inadequate resources, the board has performed a herculean feat.

They’ve put in place a two-year task force to sort through legacy cases. Early last year, they dabbled with the first-in, first-out system under its former leader Mario Dion.

Dion had been unequivocal, saying to CBC News in July, “I am afraid the way things are at this point we will need additional resources … because there is a limit to how much you can stretch one person’s time.” He saw no hope in meeting the demands on the system, saying it was “essentially impossible to close the gap using existing resources.”

Money was a major hindrance, said Dion to the Canadian Press: “Efficiency has increased significantly, but there is no way we can deal with 30,000 cases when we’re funded for about 17,000.”

The most recent federal budget does lay out some money for the board but it lags behind what is needed. There is an additional $12 million in legal aid support for asylum claimants. Lawyers for refugees often tell me that a major obstacle is the lack of representation available to claimants.

Significantly, the budget allocates $173.2 million dollars for security operations at the border and for processing at IRB. Of that, $74 million dollars will be spent over the next two years on irregular migration.

There are bright spots within the asylum system. Funding for Yazidi women and girls fleeing ISIS’s terror remains in place. Canada recently stepped up to accept 1,845 refugees of 30,000 African asylum claimants that Israel is planning to mass deport. Canada’s move isn’t game-changing, but for those few, it is life saving.

Nonetheless, without an international action plan, the global migrant crisis will continue unabated. Simmering global hostility to migrants — refugees and non-refugees alike — looks likely to end up at Canada’s ports, airports and borders. For example, rumors and the eventual fact of the Trump administration’s rescinding of Temporary Protected Status is responsible for the Haitian migrants who have walked across the border.

The ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is aware of the need to pour attention and resources into the board. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has received an interim report on the IRB and a full report is expected later this year.

More migrants will come here and we need to be ready.

via Canada vastly unprepared to process migrants and refugees | Toronto Star

Gender persecution the top reason women seek asylum in Canada

More from the CBC analysis of IRB data (see Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high – Canada – CBC News):

A CBC News investigation reveals more than 15 per cent of female asylum seekers who arrived in this country in the past five years said they did so to escape persecution for being a woman. It’s the most common reason women seek refuge in Canada, ahead of religious, ethnic or political persecution.

Gender persecution includes practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, as well as domestic abuse at the hands of a partner or family member, which accounted for half of the claims in the data obtained by CBC.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decided on nearly 3,000 domestic violence claims between 2013 and 2017, accepting 58 per cent of them.

Claims based on domestic violence are, like all refugee claims, assessed based on two elements: the risk an individual faces and to what degree they can be protected in their home country, said Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the University of British Columbia’s Peter A. Allard Law School and an expert in refugee and migration law.

“In cases of domestic violence, or really any persecutory harm which happens in the private sphere, the analysis almost always ends up focusing on what kind of state protection is available,” she said.

“The high number of claims that you’re seeing in this dataset is really reflective of the lack of organized, regular, reliable, dependable protection for women in all sorts of places around the world.”Nigeria was the source of the highest number of gender-based claims from women, as well as domestic violence claims, specifically.

In many parts of Nigeria, people believe women should be subservient to men, said Comfort Ero, a Nigerian-Canadian author and women’s rights advocate.

A woman who goes to the police to report domestic abuse would typically be sent home, Ero said, and even chastised by police for betraying her husband.

via Gender persecution the top reason women seek asylum in Canada – Canada – CBC News

Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high

Nice to see this data driven analysis:

Canada is accepting a higher proportion of asylum seekers than it has at any time in nearly three decades, a CBC News investigation has found.

CBC obtained almost 90,000 asylum claim decisions made by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada between January 2013 and September 2017.

The decisions indicate where each asylum seeker comes from, why they said they had to flee their homeland and whether their bid to stay in Canada was successful.

Download the raw data and see CBC’s full analysis here

The acceptance rate increased significantly in the past five years, to 70 per cent in the first nine months of 2017, up from 44 per cent in 2013.

The last time acceptance rates were this high was in 1991.

When asked what’s behind the increase, IRB spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said each refugee claim is reviewed on its own merits and decided on the basis of the facts and evidence presented.

Many asylum seekers say they were forced to flee criminals or gangs.

Most immigration experts who spoke with CBC News agree an important factor was likely changes to the IRB system introduced at the end of 2012.

The result was that, in most cases, a claim had to be heard within 60 days of being accepted by the IRB. Before that, cases wouldn’t be heard for about 18 months, said Vancouver refugee lawyer Douglas Cannon.

Because lawyers had so much lead time, board members expected to see considerable evidence in order to approve a claim, he said.

But with the drastically shortened timelines, those expectations became unreasonable, he said, and board members had to make a call based on the evidence that could be gathered within two months.

Before the changes, for example, it may have been possible to get a police statement from Colombia documenting a reported assault, but likely not within 60 days.

Because refugee law requires board members to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt, acceptance rates went up, Cannon said.

“It’s not a judgment of the board lowering its expectations in order to render a positive. It’s a board doing the job that it needs to do in a much more efficient manner. And that is a good thing.”

Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the University of British Columbia’s Allard Law School, said it’s also possible a new training program for board members introduced in 2013 contributed to the bump in approvals.

The more comprehensive program gave board members a better understanding of all the factors that go into deciding a refugee claim and the obstacles the claimants face, she said.

Dauvergne said another factor could be an infusion of new board members replacing old ones who may have been suffering from “compassion fatigue.” A rule change in late 2012 scrapped the appointment system to allow any qualified federal civil servant the opportunity to apply for a spot with the IRB.

Reasons for fleeing

The data obtained by CBC also showed the top reason for seeking asylum was to flee criminals or gangs, but individuals who made such claims were among the least likely to be approved by the IRB.

One of the criteria for a successful refugee claim is to what degree a claimant fits the United Nations definition of a convention refugee: Having a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Those fleeing criminals or gangs often do not meet these criteria.

Political and religious refugees were the most likely to be accepted.

Source countries

Another key finding was that asylum seekers from China had the highest number of refugee claim decisions over the five-year period, but that number began dropping significantly in 2015.

The drop was attributable to two factors unique to that country: fewer claims from the Falun Gong spiritual group and the end of the one-child policy in 2016.

Decisions on claims from Hungary also dropped from almost 2,000 in 2013 to about 400 in the first nine months of 2017. This was due to substantially fewer claims from members of the Roma ethnic group.

Meanwhile, Nigeria surpassed China as the country with the most refugee claim decisions in Canada last year. Many of the claims from Nigerians relate to sexual orientation and gender persecution.

Claims from Turkey have also increased significantly, making that country Canada’s second-largest source of asylum seekers. These claims were mostly political in nature, or from members of the Kurdish ethnic group.

via Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high – Canada – CBC News

Decision-maker slammed as ‘moral police’ for refusing immigration to HIV-positive man | Toronto Star

Understandable Federal Court decision given the comments by the decision-maker on the “morality” rather than possible medical burden:

The Federal Court has slammed an immigration tribunal adjudicator for acting as “moral police” in denying an HIV-positive man permission to reunite with his daughters in Canada, blaming him for contracting the virus from an affair.

In chastising Michael Sterlin, the decision-maker at the immigration appeal division (IAD) tribunal, the court said that how the 62-year-old immigration applicant got HIV had nothing to do with the sponsorship case. To protect the man’s privacy, he was only randomly identified by court as A.B.

“The circumstances under which Mr. A.B. contracted HIV are wholly irrelevant to the issue before the IAD, as are any issues related to the applicant’s father’s moral character,” said Justice Shirzad Ahmed in a recent decision to send the case back to the tribunal for a new assessment.

“The IAD appears to make judgments against Mr. A.B.’s moral character, and in doing so, the IAD acts as moral police.”

In 2009, one of A.B.’s two daughters — who are both Canadian citizens living in Ottawa — applied to sponsor him and his wife to come to Canada under family reunification.

During the course of A.B.’s medical exam, a routine requirement in the immigration process, it was discovered that he is HIV-positive. In 2013, immigration officials informed the family that his health condition would cause “excessive demand” on Canadian health services and his sponsorship application would probably be denied.

Although the family was willing and able to cover the cost of A.B.’s anti-retroviral medications and requested humanitarian and compassionate relief, Immigration Canada refused the application in 2014. The family subsequently appealed to the tribunal.

Last year, the tribunal upheld the immigration decision, concluding that there were “insufficient humanitarian and compassionate considerations to grant special relief.”

 

A.B.’s two daughters had argued that they were the only children and had the responsibility to care for their parents, who would be ostracized in their native China and suffer discrimination and prejudice because of his HIV status.

“The reason why it is claimed the family will shun (the couple) is a perception that such patients have loose morals, in that a key way the virus is transmitted is by having sex,” Sterlin, the tribunal adjudicator, wrote in dismissing the family’s appeal.

“In fact, it turns out that the father did get the virus from having an affair. It is noteworthy, perhaps, that this did not come out until the panel directly asked the appellant why her father had the virus.

“If there is any antipathy, the panel finds, then it would most likely be against the father for risking a long-standing marriage by having an affair in his middle age or later,” continued Sterlin, who left the tribunal last June shortly after he rendered his decision on A.B.’s case.

“It is unfortunate that the father had an affair which led him to become HIV positive. However this was, again, a risk he took, which was unlikely but reasonably foreseeable, and it has unfortunately presented him with very significant problems.”

Wennie Lee, the family’s lawyer, said her clients were pleased that the court quashed the tribunal decision and ordered a new hearing into the request for humanitarian and compassionate relief.

“It is a significant court decision as it provides clear direction to the tribunal to truly apply compassion in deciding whether to exercise (the humanitarian and compassionate) relief,” she said.

“For my clients, in the Chinese culture, where personal and community connections are of paramount importance, social exclusion because of HIV status takes on added significance and importance.”

Lawyer Meagan Johnston for the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, one of two intervening parties in the court case, said people with the virus are a dominant group negatively affected by immigration’s “medical inadmissibility” policy that prevents them from immigrating.

In fact, immigration data shows 74 per cent of economic-class immigration applicants with HIV were found to be inadmissible to Canada in 2014 alone, she said, while 61 per cent of those with the virus were denied a work permit or study visa.

“It is repugnant that they are not given a fair chance and their HIV status and morality is used against them in their applications,” Johnston said. “That kind of attitudes against people with HIV is more common than what Canadians would like to admit.”

The immigration appeal tribunal declined to comment on the decision. Sterlin could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for the tribunal, which is part of the Immigration and Refugee Board, said the board does not have guidelines addressing cases involving person with HIV and AIDS specifically, but its procedures with respect to “vulnerable persons” speaks to the need to treat vulnerable individuals with “sensitivity and respect.”

via Decision-maker slammed as ‘moral police’ for refusing immigration to HIV-positive man | Toronto Star

Thousands of refugee claims from asylum seekers remain unprocessed: federal immigration officials

One of the few articles with more detailed numbers, showing the relatively small number of claims that have been processed to date compared to the number of asylum seeks (13,000):

Only 300 refugee claims filed by the thousands of asylum seekers flowing across the Canadian border in Quebec in recent months have been processed by the federal tribunal that decides who gets refugee status, officials told the House Immigration and Citizenship Committee on Tuesday.

Only half of those 300 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status, representatives from the federal Immigration and Refugee Board revealed in testimony to the committee.

The surge in asylum seekers crossing into Canada slowed in the first half of September; IRB officials told the committee that from Sept. 1-17 about 2,000 asylum claims were filed from those who illegally entered Canada, a drop from the more than 8,000 claims made in July and August.

Asylum seekers who illegally entered Canada have filed roughly 13,000 refugee claims this year, according to officials from the IRB, which is responsible for assessing the validity of refugee claims.

In response to a question about why it had only processed 300 of the claims so far, IRB spokesperson Anna Pape wrote in a written statement to The Hill Times that it was “based on the readiness of the claims to proceed to a hearing and our capacity to hear them.”

“Although the [Refugee Protection Division] makes every effort to be as efficient as possible in it’s scheduling it can sometimes be faced with cases that cannot proceed for reasons outside of its control,” Ms. Pape wrote, referring to the division of IRB tasked with handling the refugee claimants.

Many of the recent asylum seekers have crossed the southern Quebec border, leaving the United States to avoid a possible deportation from there to another country, including 1,928 Haitians this year, according to the IRB.

President Donald Trump announced an extension in May to the temporary protection status given to Haitian nationals in the U.S. after the island nation’s horrific 2010 earthquake, but only until January 2018.

A large number of refugees arriving in Quebec are also from Colombia and Burundi, while many were born in the United States, according to the IRB. Around 60 per cent of Quebec border crossers were male, and 20 per cent were children, with a sizeable number of families arriving together.

Source: Thousands of refugee claims from asylum seekers remain unprocessed: federal immigration officials – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Refugee approval rates reflect subjectivity of decision-makers, prof says

Rehaag does good serious analysis, demonstrating the challenge of ensuring consistency among a diverse group of decision-makers. The replacement of political appointees by public servants appears to have reduced somewhat the previously wide variation among decision-makers:

The rate at which refugee claims are accepted by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board varies widely depending on who hears the case, according to a professor who obtained data from the federal government.

Sean Rehaag is an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto, who specializes in immigration and refugee law and human rights. Through an access to information request, he was able to obtain IRB decisions for refugee claims filed in 2016.

‘Some board members are just more likely to believe claimants than other board members.’ Sean Rehaag, university professor

He found a wide variability in acceptance rates, from as low as a quarter of cases heard to a high of 96 per cent.

“I do think that who we appoint as decision-makers really matters,” said Rehaag, specifying it is important to “appoint people who have a solid understanding of refugee law and who are not predisposed to denying claims.”

Rehaag’s work may provide insight into how the 7,000 asylum seekers who have crossed the border on foot at Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Que., will be handled over the next few months as they begin to appear in front of the IRB to test their refugee claims.

Some of that variability in deciding cases is due to the fact that different board members can specialize in different regions of the world.

“It makes perfect sense that if you are mostly hearing cases today from, let’s say, Syria, you are going to have a much higher grant rate than if you were mostly hearing cases from Western European countries, because Syria is much less safe,” said Rehaag.

But even when specializations are taken into account, said Rehaag, there’s still a lot of variation.

“My view is that the variation that remains reflects subjectivity in decision-making,” he said.

Variance to be expected, IRB says

In a statement, IRB spokesperson Line-Alice Guibert-Wolff said variance in acceptance rates from one member to another is to be expected.

“Members render decisions based on the evidence and argumentation presented (or not presented) and each refugee protection claim is unique, and must be determined on its individual merit,” she wrote, adding that there are many factors that impact a decision.

While consistency in its decision-making is the goal, Guibert-Wolff said that, in a quasi-judicial setting where each case is determined on its own merits, based on the evidence presented, consistency is not always possible.

However, the variance in acceptance rates is subject to a periodic review.

New system better than old one

The process for people seeking asylum in Canada changed in 2012, affecting how cases were heard and who heard them. Under the old system, decision-makers were political appointees, but under the reformed system, the decision-makers are public servants who are appointed instead.

As a result, Rehaag noticed a change in how many cases are accepted.

“There used to be decision-makers who denied every single case that they heard over several years. Those were political appointees and that no longer happens,” he said. “There is still subjectivity in decision-making, but it’s not as bad as it was before.

“To me, though, the biggest challenge that the Immigration and Refugee Board is facing right now is a resourcing question,” said Rehaag.

Procedural protections

One way to change the variation rate is to create procedural protections, similar to the criminal justice system.

For example, many asylum seekers are denied access to appeal, which Rehaag said would never happen in a criminal law context.

In 2016, 33 per cent of appeals were granted, a rate Rehaag characterizes as “remarkably high.”

Some claimants, especially those who came to Canada through the United States, are denied access to appeal and are ineligible for automatic stays of removal pending judicial review at the Federal Court.

That means once they’ve gotten a negative decision, they are forced to leave Canada quickly.

IRB spokesperson Guibert-Wolff said the majority of refugee claimants can appeal to the refugee appeal division, except if they fall under a few categories listed.

He said the government must properly fund the IRB so that there are not only enough decision-makers, but administrators, managers and support staff for the system to work smoothly.

Source: Refugee approval rates reflect subjectivity of decision-makers, prof says – Montreal – CBC News