Dear Minister Coderre,
I am writing to convey UNHCR's deep disappointment, following your recent
decision to postpone indefinitely the creation of the Refugee Appeal Division
at the Immigration and Refugee Board.
For many years, UNHCR has been urging the Canadian government to establish
an appeal on the merits in the refugee determination procedure. I enclose
a copy of my letter of January 7, 2000, addressed to your predecessor,
setting out UNHCR's reasons for encouraging the creation of an appeal procedure.
The inclusion of the Refugee Appeal Division in the Immigration and Refugee
Protection Act was a very welcome outcome to over a decade of discussions
on the subject.
UNHCR considers an appeal procedure to be a fundamental, necessary part
of any refugee status determination process. It allows errors to be corrected,
and can also help to ensure consistency in decision-making. Canada, Italy
and Portugal are the only industrialized countries which do not allow rejected
asylum seekers the possibility to have first instance decisions reviewed
on points of fact as well as points of law. In the past, a measure of safeguard
was provided by the fact that determinations could be made by a two-member
panel, with the benefit of the doubt going to the applicant in case of
a split decision. With the implementation of IRPA on June 28th, this important
safeguard will be lost.
We understand that resource constraints played a large part in your
decision to delay the creation of the Refugee Appeal Division. We would
hope that these constraints could be overcome rapidly, so that the original
undertaking of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act can be fulfilled.
In these troubling times, UNHCR believes it is particularly important for
states to demonstrate not only their determination to combat abuse and
to address security concerns, but also their commitment to
the protection of refugees.
Representative in Canada