Abandoning refugees? An analysis of the legal framework governing non-compliant claimants in Canada

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Author: Martin Jones
Date: Fall 2008
From: Refuge(Vol. 25, Issue 2)
Publisher: Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
Document Type: Report
Length: 15,936 words

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The refugee status determination (RSD) process in Canada, like the RSD processes of other states, currently rejects one in fifteen refugee claims based upon the non-compliance of refugee claimants with the rules of the process. Most commonly this is due to a claimant's failure to provide requested information or his or her failure to attend a scheduled hearing. These "abandonment" decisions result in the expedited removal of claimants without access to further review. Despite the drastic consequences of such decisions, the framework within which they are made neither has been comprehensively outlined nor has its application been catalogued, which is the aim of this paper. It argues that while the formal provisions of the domestic framework are both inconsistent with international law and in excess of the delegated authority through which it is constructed, the Court's application of the framework has been generous to refugee claimants.


Le processus de determination du statut de refugie (DSR) au Canada, tout comme les processus de DSR d'autres etats, rejette actuellement une revendication du statut de refugie sur quinze, base sur le non-respect des reglements du processus par les demandeurs du statut de refugie. Le plus souvent, la raison est qu'un demandeur n'a pas soumis les informations demandees, ou ne sest pas presente a une audience reguliere. Ces decisions pour << abandon >> donnent lieu a un processus accelere de renvoi des demandeurs sans acces supplementaire a un reexamen. Malgre les consequences drastiques de telles decisions, le cadre dans lequel elles sont faites n'a pas ete suffisamment elabore dans tous ses details, ni leur application cataloguee, ce qui est l'objectif de cet article.


The most likely outcome of a refugee claim in Canada is acceptance. However, another highly possible outcome is abandonment. In the first half of 2008, out of a total of 8,311 decisions made in refugee claims, 535 (or 6 per cent) were decisions to declare a refugee claim to have been abandoned. (1) In some offices of the Immigration and Refugee Board (the Board), abandonment decisions account for one-tenth of decisions rendered. (2) Abandonment can be the outcome of an even larger percentage of refugee claims in Canada from certain countries of origin. (3) Even countries of origin with very high rates of acceptance can be plagued by significant numbers (both absolutely and relatively) of abandoned refugee claims. Furthermore, the issue of abandonment is not particular to Canada. In recent years in the United Kingdom refusals because of "non-compliance" have accounted for a similar proportion of decisions rendered. (4) In 2008, the practice of Greece in declaring as "interrupted" very large numbers of cases attracted condemnation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (5)

It has been suggested that these high rates of abandonment decisions raise concerns regarding the population of refugee claimants in Canada (and elsewhere). These concerns have commonly prompted the drafting of provisions allowing for the expedited removal of individuals who abandon their requests for asylum. Such provisions simply raise the ante for the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A229302925