Promoting Fairness as a Canadian Priority: Eritrean refugees given new chance at life in Canada

In 2011, a group of Eritrean refugees won the right to have their cases reheard, after being unfairly rejected at the Canadian visa office in Cairo.

“When a reputable organization [the Canadian Council for Refugees] brings to [the Minister’s] attention a number of similar issues, arising from the same visa post, common sense and fairness leads me to conclude that the Minister ought to have taken the complaint more seriously.”

– Justice Snider in Ghirmatsion v Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), 2011 FC 773, 27 June 2011

While this is good news for those refugees whose cases were reviewed by the Court, we must fix the underlying shortcomings in Canada’s system of overseas refugee decision-making – shortcomings highlighted in the government’s own quality assurance review. Measures are needed at Canada’s overseas visa offices to:

  • strengthen decision-making guidelines, codes of conduct and visa officer training
  • set up monitoring to ensure guideline compliance
  • develop a transparent and meaningful process for reviewing and re-opening problematic decisions and for interventions by organizations regarding problematic trends in decision-making at visa offices

Refugee voices in Cairo:

While we celebrate this victory, the wait hasn’t been without harsh consequences for several refugees left in limbo in Cairo:

Here in Cairo I am not really living, I am just waiting. - Azeb, 32 years old

The only hope that I had was the Canadian sponsorship and the hope of going to Canada, but then I was rejected. I am trying to keep courage by going to Church, but I became even more stressed when I got pregnant, with no support and one more person to look after. - Teberh, 32 years old

I could not understand why I had gone through detention and torture in my country only to come to Egypt to find hardship and rejection too. - Tedros, 32 years old