Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country are among the top five sources of refugees to Canada.
A new study has found that adjudicators of refugee cases erred in more than a quarter of the decisions they dismissed, raising concerns over how many claims are wrongfully rejected under Ottawa’s new asylum system.
This is the first extensive statistical review of the controversial reforms that Canada introduced in 2012. Osgoode Hall Law School researchers found the newly-established asylum appeals tribunal granted appeals in 28 per cent of the 1,337 adjudicated cases. Cases successfully appealed were referred back for reconsideration or had the original decisions quashed and reversed.
However, in 2013 and 2014, 28.5 per cent of the total 1,871 appeal requests made were dismissed on technical and procedural grounds by the Refugee Appeals Division.
The report will soon be published in the University of British Columbia Law Review journal.
The new appeal tribunal appears to be catching many wrongfully denied refugee claims that would likely not have been caught in the old system. But the new system also has a serious flaw. Many claimants are denied access to the appeal. “This means that they are vulnerable to removal from Canada without oversight,” said Osgoode Hall law professor Sean Rehaag, who co-authored the 48-page study with doctoral student Angus Grant.
The report states that six classes of failed refugees are banned from accessing the appeal tribunal and are only eligible for a judicial review by the Federal Court based on procedural fairness.
Disallowing appeals could mean life-and-death for some failed refugees who came originally from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eritrea — all countries with poor human rights records and high acceptance rates in general.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Board, 22,871 claims were filed under the new system in 2013 and 2014. The acceptance rate, at 63.1 per cent, exceeded recent historical averages of 40 per cent.
However, that was little comfort to the researchers, who also found inconsistency in the Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) where some decision-makers “frequently” granted appeals while others did so far less often and chose to defer to the decisions made by their colleagues at the refugee determination tribunal.
In July, the Federal Court ruled Ottawa’s designation by country of origin discriminates against asylum seekers who come from countries on the list by denying them access to appeals.
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