August 11, 2000
1. The paper, ‘Refugee Resettlement Eligibility and Selection Criteria: Implementation of Policy’, proposes changes intended to enable Canada to pursue its announced policy of "shifting the balance toward protection rather than ability to settle successfully" in selecting refugees overseas for settlement in Canada. It suggests adjustments to existing definitions of eligibility for resettlement as well as to selection criteria.
2. Proposed changes include:
5. UNHCR supports the objective of placing greater emphasis
on refugee protection in the resettlement selection process, and of developing
regulations to ensure that this is done. Including the proposed measures
in Immigration Regulations would establish a stronger legal foundation
than mere inclusion in Operations Memoranda. Nonetheless, UNHCR considers
that the recommendations regarding vulnerable groups and the modified application
of ability to establish criteria do not go far enough in removing this
requirement, and thus ensuring that Canada’s resettlement program is a
6. In UNHCR's view, it is important for resettlement criteria to be flexible enough to allow country programs to be responsive to changing resettlement needs. UNHCR welcomes the fact that Canada resettles not only Convention refugees but other persons in need of protection in the Humanitarian Designated Class. UNHCR mandate refugees presented to Canada for resettlement consideration may indeed fall into either category.
7. The paper proposes a definition for the Humanitarian Class referred to in Bill C-31, which is intended to incorporate the definitions of the current HDC subclasses, minus their limitations --i.e. the requirement of a private sponsorship and the limited "source country list". UNHCR would welcome the removal of these limitations.
8. Canada’s Country of Asylum Class can offer protection to persons who are found not to meet the Convention definition, but who nonetheless are in need of protection through resettlement. Currently this Class is limited by the requirement that the individual being resettled have a private sponsor, thus limiting access to protection in this Class. UNHCR would welcome the removal of this limitation on the Country of Asylum Class, to enable government-assisted refugees also to be admitted under this Class.
9. Although strictly speaking outside of the Office’s mandate, UNHCR considers that the Source Country Class serves as a welcome, additional option for persons in need of protection. This must of course remain without prejudice to Canada’s obligation to continue to determine the claims lodged by asylum seekers in Canada on the basis of the 1951 Convention criteria, as well as the responsibility of other states to provide asylum. Furthermore, Canada should ensure that the numbers allocated to this Class do not undermine the availability of resettlement places, for refugees needing resettlement.
10. If the Source Country Class is to be genuinely responsive
and flexible, the ideal option would be for any Canadian Embassy or High
Commission to be able to process an individual for resettlement under this
Class, if that person is at risk in the country of origin.
11. The paper recognises that not only must a refugee
meet either the Convention Refugee or Humanitarian Class definition, but
that the refugee must "have no alternative durable solution." However,
the paper does not explore what constitutes a durable solution. UNHCR urges
that when Canada assesses whether a durable solution (resettlement) is
needed, it look flexibly at all aspects of a refugee’s situation.
Defining Successful Establishment
12. The paper correctly acknowledges the absence of a universally recognised understanding of what constitutes successful establishment. Given the divergence of views, it would be inappropriate to attempt to include a definition in the Immigration Regulations. A policy manual would be better suited to exploring the meaning of, and varying approaches to, this concept.
13. Successful establishment should, in UNHCR’s opinion,
be viewed as an outcome, that is, as an aim which both the refugee and
Canada hope to achieve. Successful establishment of resettled refugees
may therefore usefully be set out as an objective within the Immigration
Act. Indeed, Sections 3(1)(e) and 3(2)(f) of Bill C-31 do so, albeit not
as explicitly as might be done. Successful integration, or establishment,
is in any case a responsibility shared between the refugee and the host
society. This goal should be pursued not through policies which limit selection
to those who are likely to require little assistance in settling in Canada,
but rather through policies and programs in Canada which will facilitate
the resettled refugee’s integration.
14. In the past, Canada has applied criteria related to a refugee's "ability to successfully establish" as a way of prioritizing among many candidates for limited resettlement places. UNHCR urges that instead of this approach, Canada prioritize based on a hierarchy of needs. This is the approach taken by the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook. The Handbook identifies refugees within the following categories as needing resettlement:
16. Canada could apply a similar "hierarchy of needs" approach in prioritizing resettlement. This would mean giving highest priority to refugees whose physical and legal protection needs are the greatest. Refugees with special needs and family reunification considerations would be given second priority, and other refugees in need of a durable solution would be resettled next, based on the availability of places.
Vulnerable Persons and the Successful Establishment Requirement
17. As indicated above, UNHCR believes that "integration potential" should not be a determining factor in the selection of refugees for resettlement. Indeed, the paper’s stated goal is to provide the policy foundation for shifting the balance in refugee resettlement away from "ability to establish" and toward protection. If Canada’s refugee resettlement program is definitively to disentangle itself from Canada’s immigration program, then, in UNHCR’s view, it must distance itself as much as possible from immigration criteria.
18. Moving in this direction, the paper proposes removing the "successful establishment" requirement for some individuals, defined as vulnerable persons. This would be done when the assessment of "ability to establish" would not serve the commitment to place greater emphasis on the need for protection. In such a case, a determination would still be made regarding the amount of assistance required for the person to settle in Canada.
19. While UNHCR welcomes moves to reduce or partially to remove the "successful establishment" requirement, it understands that only a minority of resettlement applicants would benefit from this waiver, while the majority would still have to demonstrate an ability to establish themselves successfully in Canada within three to five years. UNHCR is also concerned that the "vulnerable case" approach may prove unnecessarily complicated. The above-mentioned "hierarchy of needs" approach might be more straightforward.
20. The requirement that visa officers assess the "ability to establish" of both "vulnerable" and "non-vulnerable" candidates for resettlement, albeit for different purposes, may prove unwieldy. In some cases, a visa officer will be making this assessment with a view to ensuring that the refugee receives the settlement assistance needed. In other cases, the visa officer would be looking at an eventual need for settlement assistance as a barrier to admission.
21. Also, defining vulnerable persons is likely in itself to prove problematic – though UNHCR understands that the proposed approach is well-intentioned. Refugees in need of resettlement are by definition all in some way vulnerable, and interpretation of the concept of vulnerability is likely to be variable and highly subjective. Separating resettlement candidates into "vulnerable" and "non-vulnerable" groups may thus hinder achievement of two of the paper’s stated objectives: establishing a transparent process, and not further complicating this process.
22. The clearest and most direct way to ensure the shift toward protection would be to eliminate the "successful establishment" requirement, at least for government-sponsored refugees. A referral by UNHCR is generally the basis for consideration for resettlement under the government-sponsored programme. Such referral is made after a determination that a refugee is in need of resettlement. Removal of the "successful establishment" requirement would be the single most significant step Canada could take, in the interest of responding to the needs of refugees for resettlement, as identified by UNHCR.
23. While this rationale may not apply as easily to privately
sponsored applicants, the record of success associated with private sponsorship
would suggest that in most cases the presence of a sponsor, often a member
of the refugee’s extended family, helps refugees to overcome difficulties
in establishing in Canada.
Proposed Selection Criteria
24. The paper proposes replacing current selection criteria with the following:
11 August 2000