Refugees overseas denied a fair hearing, CCR report shows

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Canadian Council for Refugees

Media release

For immediate release
25 March 2010

Refugees overseas denied a fair hearing, CCR report shows

The Canadian Council for Refugees today released a report, Concerns with refugee decision-making at Cairo, on decisions on refugee applications made at one of Canada’s overseas visa offices.  The report reveals serious problems with decision-making, including lack of basic knowledge of realities in the refugees’ country of origin, basic errors in applying the refugee definition, and multiple flaws in credibility assessments.

The CCR has longstanding concerns about the quality of refugee decision-making at visa offices overseas.  While the report focuses on decisions at one particular visa office, the CCR believes it reflects systemic shortcomings.  Visa officers are often inadequately trained, decisions are rarely reviewed by the courts or monitored internally, and there are few witnesses to interviews, which are not recorded.  The system thus lacks accountability.

“People often talk about shortcomings in the inland refugee system, but the problems faced by refugees overseas seem to be mostly ignored,” said Wanda Yamamoto, CCR President.  “The government has announced plans to reform the inland system: we urge them to pay some attention to making sure refugees overseas get a fair hearing.  So far it seems like the visa offices are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ – and this needs to change.  Refugees deserve to be treated fairly, whether in Canada or overseas.”

The report provides an analysis of 17 cases, all Eritrean refugee applicants rejected at Canada’s visa office in Cairo since September 2009.  The CCR has since received information about further rejected cases showing similar problems.  They include Iraqi and Zimbabwean applicants.  Many of the rejected applicants have been recognized as refugees by the UN Refugee Agency.

The CCR submitted its report to Citizenship and Immigration Canada in early February, but has so far received no substantive response.

In the report, the CCR calls on the government to:

  • re-open all negative decisions on refugee cases by the visa officer responsible for the decisions analysed.
  • publish the report of the Quality Assurance assessment commissioned by the government on privately sponsored refugee decisions.
  • adopt a series of measures to improve refugee decision-making at visa offices.

The report is available at http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/CairoConcerns.pdf

Contact: Colleen French, CCR Communications Coordinator, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1