Refugees denied a fair hearing overseas

Refugees overseas applying for resettlement to Canada are interviewed by a Canadian visa officer who decides whether they in fact meet the refugee definition.  That decision-making process needs to be fair: refugees’ safety and future lives depend on the decision.

Unfortunately, the quality of refugee decision-making at visa offices overseas varies enormously.  In 2010, unfairness at the Cairo visa office was a particular concern, but the CCR believes the problems there reflect systemic shortcomings.  Visa officers are often inadequately trained and  decisions are rarely reviewed by the courts or monitored internally.

In March 2010, the CCR released a report, Concerns with refugee decision-making at Cairo, giving a detailed analysis of 17 cases, all Eritrean refugee applicants rejected at Canada’s visa office in Cairo since September 2009.  The report highlights serious problems such as 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.

Despite the gravity of the problem, there is little public awareness in Canada or media coverage. 

“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.” Wanda Yamamoto, CCR President

Over 30 cases of refugees rejected at Cairo, apparently unfairly, are before the Federal Court.  The process there has been painfully slow – although some refugees applied to the Court as long ago as November 2009, there has still been no hearing.  In the meantime, the refugees are experiencing serious hardships as they try to survive in Cairo.

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