ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — Canada’s new asylum system
In December 2012, Canada implemented a new asylum system to accelerate the processing of refugee claims and deter abuse of the system. Several new measures have been put into place to achieve these goals including the creation of a Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list and faster processing times.
DCOs are countries that do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection. There are currently 37 countries on the DCO list including the Czech Republic and most countries in the European Union.
Claimants from a DCO have their refugee claim heard faster. Eligible claims are heard 30-45 days after the claim is referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
Since implementing the new system, there has been a significant decrease in asylum claims from all countries and most significantly from countries on the DCO list.
From December 15, 2012, until October 22, 2013, of the nearly 8,300 asylum claims made under the new asylum system, just over 600 have been from nationals from DCO countries. That represents eight percent of all the claims made. By comparison, in the three years preceding the new system, asylum claims from countries now on the DCO list accounted for more than a quarter of all claims made.
In addition, of all DCO claims that have been heard and decided by the IRB under the new system, 93 percent have been rejected, abandoned or withdrawn.
The aim of the DCO policy is to deter abuse of the refugee system by people who come from countries generally considered safe. Refugee claimants from DCOs have their claims processed faster. This will ensure that people in need get protection fast, while those with unfounded claims are sent home quickly through expedited processing.
Eligible claimants from designated countries continue to receive a fair hearing at the independent IRB and are able to appeal a negative decision for review at the Federal Court. However, failed DCO claimants do not have access to the Refugee Appeal Division. There is also no automatic stay of removal for DCO claimants should they decide to appeal a negative decision at the Federal Court which means that they could be removed from Canada while their application for review before the Federal Court is pending; they can, however, apply to the Federal Court for a judicial stay of removal.
DCO claimants are ineligible to apply for a work permit until their claim is approved by the IRB, or their claim has been in the system for more than 180 days and no decision has been made. As well, DCO claimants face a three-year bar on applying for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment following a final decision from the IRB.
Designation is not automatic.
A country must meet one of two quantitative thresholds or limits set out in a ministerial order. The triggers for a review are based on rejection rates, withdrawal and abandonment rates. A rejection rate (which includes abandoned and withdrawn claims) of 75 percent or higher may trigger a review. Similarly, an abandonment and withdrawal rate of 60 percent or higher may trigger a review.
For claimants from countries with a low number of claims, a qualitative checklist is used and includes:
- the existence of an independent judicial system;
- recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms, including mechanisms for redress if those rights or freedoms are infringed; and
- the existence of civil society organizations.
Although there may be few refugee claimants from these countries, it may still be appropriate to designate these countries under the principle that they are generally not considered to be refugee-producing countries.
Once a country is triggered for a review, CIC may conduct a review in consultation with other government departments. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will make the final decision on whether to designate a country.
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