Canada launches new fast-track system for processing refugee claims

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Starting this week, many of the more than 64,000 asylum seekers in Canada waiting for their cases to be heard could be eligible for a new fast-tracked approach to processing refugee claims, Global News has learned.

Documents released exclusively to Global News by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) describe the new streamlined process as a “strategic” effort to better allocate the Board’s resources.

The new procedures affect “less complex” cases and include rules for paper-based handling of claims — meaning the claimant wouldn’t need to appear in person before a refugee judge — and a new “short-hearing” process, which is supposed to take two hours or less.

To facilitate the new system, the IRB has created a list of countries and claim types which it “generally considers as appropriate” for processing under these new rules.

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The list includes gender- and aged-based claims from Iran, extortion and kidnapping cases from Libya, religious-based claims from Pakistan and cases of political or military opposition from Sudan.

Any women from Saudi Arabia who are at risk because they are “female” are also eligible for the new paper-based process, as are certain types of cases from countries such as Venezuela, Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

What criteria was used?

According to the IRB, countries or claim types with an acceptance rate of 80 per cent or higher are eligible for the new paper-based — or “file-review” — process.

Countries or claim types where “identity is generally established by reliable documents” are also eligible for the paper-based process, as are claims that do not involve “complex legal or factual issues” and claims where the type of risks faced by would-be refugees are generally not disputed.

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Cases eligible for the short-hearing process — which means the claimant will spend two hours or less before a judge — include all claims eligible for the new paper-based process and cases that typically have just one or two “determinative” issues to deal with, such as a claimant’s identity or the availability of “state protection” in their country of origin.

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Cases with an acceptance rate of 20 per cent or less — meaning the vast majority of these type of claims are typically denied by the Board — are also eligible for the new short-hearing process.

What claims won’t be heard by new process?

There are a number of circumstances in which cases will not be eligible for either the paper-based or short-hearing process, such as when the minister of immigration intervenes, which frequently happens in cases that involve criminality, credibility and threats to the integrity of Canada’s asylum system.

Cases ineligible for the paper-based process include any case where the IRB cannot confirm the claimant underwent the required “front-end security screening” and cases involving “serious credibility” issues.

According to the IRB, no claimant will be given a negative decision based on a paper-based review alone. If a positive decision cannot be reached by reviewing the documents by themselves, the case will be referred to a hearing before a refugee judge who will then decide its outcome.

The IRB also maintains the right to change the list of countries and claim types designated as eligible for the new expedited process. This could happen if conditions in a particular country get better — or worse — for would-be refugees or if risks for a certain type of claim change.

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The program will be monitored by the Board’s Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs division.

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