All You Need to Know About Immigration Refugee Law: A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that endanger their safety and well-being.
This displacement is typically a result of factors like war, persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a particular social group.
Refugees seek refuge in another country, where they hope to find protection and assistance. They are distinct from other migrants, such as economic migrants or asylum seekers, in that they are recognized as having a specific legal status under international law and are entitled to certain rights and protections, including the right to seek asylum and not be forcibly returned to a place where their life or freedom is at risk. Refugees often undergo a formal asylum application process to be officially recognized as refugees in the host country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the primary international agency responsible for protecting and assisting refugees and working to find durable solutions for their plight, which may include voluntary repatriation, resettlement in a third country, or local integration in the host country.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act says that everyone who wants to enter Canada must go to a port of entry and be checked to see if they have the right to do so or can get written permission to enter and stay in Canada.
Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) do a lot to protect the country’s border, stop people from coming in illegally, and keep Canadians safe.
The CBSA, the RCMP, and their partners in Canada and other countries work together to stop people who are trying to enter the country illegally. Between ports of entry, the RCMP is in charge of border security. At ports of entry and inland, the CBSA is in charge of border security.
How to Make a Refugee Claim in Canada
People can make a refugee claim in Canada at a port of entry when they get there or online if they are already there. Officials from the CBSA or IRCC will decide if a person can be sent to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a review.
Some of the things that determine if someone can make a refugee claim are whether they have committed a major crime, claimed in Canada before, claimed a country that shares immigration information with Canada, or received protection in another country.
Refugee claims are not the same as refugees who have been resettled. In Canada, people who want to become refugees can file a claim at a port of entry or online. Some of these claims are based on foreign agreements that Canada has promised to follow through on.
Refugees who have found new homes are screened abroad and go through security and health checks (like an immigration medical test) before they are given a visa to come to Canada. They become permanent residents of Canada as soon as they get there.
People who come to Canada to claim asylum are not replacing refugees coming from other countries to be resettled or people coming through other immigration streams outlined in the department’s annual Levels Plan.
This is because refugees and people who come to Canada to be resettled come through different immigration streams.
Everyone who applies for refugee status has to go through a health and security check, which includes biographic and biometric checks as well as the start of security and crime checks.
Crossings into Canada at the Canada -U.S. border
Some people enter Canada illegally between official ports of entry. This is against the law and could be dangerous. The Canadian Government still wants people only to enter the country through specific ports of entry. This is for legal and safety reasons.
When the RCMP or local police catch someone crossing the border illegally, they are jailed and put through security checks before being brought to an immigration or border officer. After the officer does a visa check, they will be sent back to the United States unless they meet one of the exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement.
When someone arrives at or is taken to a marked port of entry (an official border crossing), an officer will check their immigration status and decide if they should be detained. At this point, people go through security checks to make sure they are not a threat to Canada’s security and to see if they are suitable to make a refugee claim.
They also go through health checks to make sure they don’t have any immediate medical needs. Biographic and biometric checks, like fingerprinting, are part of these tests. A refugee claim will be made if needed.
Claim eligibility and IRB referral
The claim will be sent to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for review if it is found to be valid. Most of the time, the foreigner will be let go with conditions while they wait for their hearing.
Those whose claims are denied will be given a removal order and told they must attend another hearing in the future. A Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRA) may be given by CBSA to foreigners who are needed to leave Canada.
The CBSA starts the process, but the IRCC is in charge of the PRRA before someone is deported from Canada. A PRRA determines how dangerous it would be for someone to return to their home country.
Awaiting refugee decision
The IRB is an independent, quasi-judicial court that gives all qualified refugee claimants a fair hearing. Each case is judged on its own, using the evidence and arguments that were given.
When the IRB makes a decision, it looks at whether the claimant fits the UN’s description of a Convention refugee, which is now Canadian law, or whether they need protection.
Convention refugees, according to the UN, are people who are afraid of being persecuted because of their race, religion, political views, country, or membership in a certain social group.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act says that someone needs protection if they are in Canada, and if they were sent back to their home country, they would face abuse, a threat to their life, or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
Once someone is found to be qualified to claim in Canada, they may be able to get social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing, and legal help as a refugee claimant while their claim is being reviewed.
Also, most people who are found to be qualified to apply for refugee status can apply for a work permit after getting a medical exam. It does not matter if the claim was made at a crossing office or one inside the country.
The claimant would have to let the IRB, IRCC, and the CBSA know about their move and give their new address if they decided to move provinces while the IRB heard their claim. For example, if they applied for refugee status in Quebec and then moved to Ontario, they would have to let all three groups know about their move.
The refugee claimant would also have to let the province they are leaving know about their move and apply for services in the province they are moving to.
All of these supports are usually provided by the provinces and regions except for health services, which the Canadian government pays for through the Interim Federal Health Program. Some funds are also from cities or non-profits.
The Canadian Government also funds post-secondary education, child programs, social aid, and other social programs through the Canada Social Transfer. This is a federal block transfer to the provinces and territories.
Based on Statistics Canada’s annual population projections, this is given to each province at the same rate per person. The population figures include both people who are seeking refugee status and their families who live with them.
Refugee claimants cannot get federal settlement services until they receive a positive refugee decision. However, they can receive some settlement services paid for by the provinces.
Receiving an answer on a refugee claim
When someone gets a positive result on their refugee claim, they are given protected person status and can use all federally funded settlement services. Most of the time, a person who gets a positive Pre-Removal Risk Assessment ruling is also considered a protected person.
This means that most of the time, people can stay in Canada and apply to become permanent residents. Some of these help services are:
- Assessment of needs and referrals,
- Giving newcomers the information and help they need to make smart choices about where to live,
- Adults who are new to Canada can help the business and society by getting language testing and training.
- Help getting and keeping a job, such as referrals to people who can look over foreign credentials and
- Making links so that newcomers can meet people and become more involved in their new communities more efficiently.
If the Refugee Protection Division turns down a claim, the person may be able to appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB. If they can’t appeal to that division, they can ask the Federal Court to review the ruling.
Once all appeals have been exhausted, the conditional removal order issued when the refugee claim was first made can be enforced so that the people can be sent back to their home country.
Depending on the province, people who have failed to become refugees and are now facing removal orders may not be able to get social aid. For more information, please get in touch with the provinces personally.
If a foreigner, regardless of status, is found to be unable to enter Canada and has a removal order against them, the CBSA has to take them back.
Every person has the right to due process. But once they’ve tried everything legal, we expect them to follow our immigration rules and either leave Canada or be sent back by the CBSA.
If you don’t show up for your removal interview or planned date, you could get a warrant for your arrest across Canada and be detained by the CBSA before being sent away.
The Safe Third Country Agreement
Canada and the United States (U.S.) signed the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) in 2004. It says that people who claim to be refugees must look for safety in the first safe country they reach.
The Additional Protocol to the STCA, which went into effect on March 25, 2023, makes sure that this rule applies to everyone crossing the shared land border between Canada and the United States.
This includes people using the Great Lakes or any of the other internal rivers that run along or cross the border. People who enter Canada between land borders and make a refugee claim within 14 days of crossing are covered by the Agreement.
So are people who enter Canada between land borders and make a claim. If you come from the U.S. by sea or an interior port like an airport, it doesn’t hold.
In the 1980s, countries all over the world started using safe third-country agreements to help their refugee systems deal with the growing number of people moving between countries. The UN Refugee Agency has backed this kind of deal since the mid-1990s.
The United Nations Refugee Agency agrees with the idea that people should ask for refuge in the first country they enter, which is what the Agreement between Canada and the U.S. is based on.
An independent judiciary makes sure that the U.S. follows through on its treaty responsibilities. The Safe Third Country Agreement is still a key way for Canada and the US to work together to make sure that refugee claims made in our countries are handled in a good way.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act says that all countries designated as safe third countries must be reviewed regularly to ensure that the conditions that made them such are still being met.
The United States refugee system still meets international standards, so the country is still a safe third place to visit.
If the Safe Third Country Agreement is broken in four different ways, they are:
- People who are seeking protection and have a family member in Canada
- Children under 18 years old who are travelling alone
- People who have a legal Canadian travel document and
- People who are facing or have been found guilty of a crime that could lead to the death sentence in the United States or a third country
- Also, people who are habitually living in the U.S. and are either American citizens or foreigners, and are not subject to the STCA can make a claim at the land border.
- Refugee Definition
- Forced to leave home due to persecution, conflict, or violence.
- Distinct Status
- Refugees differ from economic migrants or asylum seekers.
- Entitled to specific rights under international law.
- UNHCR’s Role
- The UNHCR protects and assists refugees globally.
- Canada’s Immigration Procedures
- Governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
- Entry procedures involve checks for rights or written permission.
- Refugee Claims in Canada
- Can be made at ports of entry or online.
- Support for Successful Claimants
- Access to social assistance, education, health services, and legal aid while awaiting decisions.
FAQS on Immigration Refugee Law
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?
A refugee is someone who has been officially recognized as needing protection due to a well-founded fear of persecution, while an asylum seeker is a person who has applied for refugee status but has not yet been granted official protection.
How can someone make a refugee claim in Canada?
Refugees can make a claim in Canada at a port of entry when they arrive or online if they are already in the country. Officials will assess their claim’s validity and refer it to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for review if deemed eligible.
What determines the eligibility for making a refugee claim in Canada?
Eligibility factors include criminal history, previous refugee claims in Canada or other countries, claims in countries sharing immigration information with Canada, and having received protection in another nation.
How is a refugee’s claim reviewed in Canada?
The Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) conducts independent and quasi-judicial reviews of each case based on evidence and arguments presented.
What is the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States?
The STCA requires individuals seeking asylum to do so in the first safe country they reach, typically either Canada or the United States, depending on their entry point. The agreement aims to manage refugee claims efficiently.
Are there exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement?
Yes, some exceptions include individuals with family members in Canada, unaccompanied minors under 18, those with legal Canadian travel documents, and individuals facing or convicted of a crime that could result in the death penalty in the United States or a third country.
What happens if a refugee claim is denied in Canada?
If a claim is denied, individuals can appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division or seek a judicial review in Federal Court. If all appeals fail, a removal order may be enforced for return to their home country.
What benefits are available to refugees during the asylum process?
While awaiting a decision, qualified refugee claimants may access social assistance, education, health services, emergency housing, and legal aid. They can also apply for a work permit after a medical exam.
What is the role of Canada’s immigration enforcement agencies, such as the CBSA and RCMP?
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) work together to enforce border security, prevent illegal entries, and ensure the safety of Canadians.
How often is the Safe Third Country Agreement reviewed?
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires regular reviews of countries designated as safe third countries to ensure they meet the necessary conditions. The United States continues to be recognized as a safe third country based on international standards.