Determining eligibility: Ensuring the applicant does not have another durable solution

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

When considering an applicant for resettlement in Canada, the officer must be satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period of time, for the refugee applicant to obtain another durable solution.

Three types of durable solutions:

Voluntary repatriation

Voluntary repatriation occurs when refugees voluntarily return to their country of nationality or habitual residence. For voluntary repatriation to be possible, the situation in the country of origin must have changed in a lasting and meaningful way that enables the refugees to return safely.

As outlined in the UNHCR’s Resettlement Handbook, "it is important to identify the indicators which may determine that voluntary repatriation could be an option in the near future." Examples of such indicators could be:

  • the conclusion of a peace agreement;
  • an amnesty for persons who have left the country; or
  • the spontaneous, voluntary return of significant numbers of similarly situated individuals.

In situations where, for example, the country is made up of many ethnic groups, officers should bear in mind that some refugees could be safely repatriated while others could not. If individuals are unable to repatriate due to a continued fear of persecution in their country of origin and if local integration is not possible, resettlement could represent the only durable solution. The UNHCR is an excellent source of information with respect to the viability of repatriation as a durable solution since they are actively involved in the promotion, facilitation and co-ordination of voluntary repatriation programs.

Local integration

Local integration is a long-lasting solution to a refugee’s situation. It is more than the granting of safe conditions of asylum, which is a key obligation of signatories of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Local integration is an enhanced status that signatories are encouraged, though not required, to offer to refugees who have sought asylum within their borders. Local integration allows refugees to participate broadly in the host society. In reality, relatively few major countries of first asylum provide refugees with opportunities for local integration.

Note: Article 34 of the Convention states in part: “The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees.” Most of the other articles of the Convention outline the minimum obligations of states toward refugees, that is, the conditions of asylum.

Local integration allows the refugee to live permanently in safety and dignity in the country of refuge and partake of its enduring legal, economic and social benefits. While ideally sanctioned by law, CIC recognizes that even where benefits are not legally conferred, in some cases the refugee may be de facto locally integrated as a result of actual enduring conditions. Conversely, where benefits are legally extended to refugees but factors such as widespread discrimination by the host society prevent real access to those benefits, then local integration has not occurred.

Although the UNHCR uses its own definition, there is no binding legal definition of the concept of “local integration.” As a result, Departmental guidelines may not mirror the UNHCR definition in every respect. See the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, Chapter 2, for more information on the UNHCR’s interpretation of the concept.

Assessing local integration

Determining whether or not local integration can or has occurred requires careful analysis by the visa officer of both country conditions, the applicant’s individual circumstances and a comparison of these circumstances to the Department’s guidelines described here. 

Legal status as a long-term resident is a key indicator of local integration, but the absence of this status does not preclude the possibility of de facto local integration. States that are signatory to the Refugee Convention usually have procedures to grant refugee status to persons they recognize as Convention refugees. Where this recognition also confers long-term residency and access to participate broadly in society, then the applicant is likely locally integrated. Some states may grant refugee status on a time-limited basis only. Where states have fair procedures for status renewal, local integration may also occur. However, states that have restrictive refugee status renewal policies may not possess the conditions for true local integration. In those cases, there may be a significant risk of refoulement (deportation to the country of origin). Other countries, whether or not they are signatories to the Convention, may not formally recognize Convention refugees but may have a record of allowing at least some refugees to participate freely in the society and to remain there long-term. In these countries, de facto local integration may exist for some applicants.

UNHCR normally refers refugees to Canada for resettlement only if they have determined that there is no other durable solution available in a reasonable time. A referral by the UNHCR is a good indicator that local integration is not an option. However, given that the Department’s interpretation differs in some respects from that of the UNHCR, the visa officer should conduct an independent assessment.

This guidance may not address every possible circumstance. Officers are expected to continue to take into account the particulars of the applicant and exercise their judgment.

Resettlement in a country other than Canada

This option is the most straightforward in that an offer of resettlement to a country (other than Canada) is, in most cases, a durable solution. However, there may be situations where an applicant’s specific ties to a country such as the presence of close family there, or the refugee’s employment or education history will influence the decision to accept a refugee for resettlement to either Canada or elsewhere.

What is a reasonable period of time?

In each of the above situations, the officer has to assess whether or not another durable solution is a possibility within a reasonable period of time. The "reasonableness" of any time period should be considered within the context of the individual’s particular situation. If the civil and human rights of the applicant are respected in the country where they are currently living, a reasonable period of time may be longer than that for an individual who is not permitted to work, for example. Again, this is a question of fact to be determined by the officer.

The following questions can assist officers in determining the prospects of a durable solution:

  • Is a durable solution likely to become available for the refugee in question?
  • Would that solution meet international standards?
  • How long will it take before the applicant would benefit from the solution?
  • Is the applicant’s physical welfare or security at risk in the meantime?
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