On 2 December 2015 the Government of Canada imposed an Administrative Deferral of Removals to Burundi, because of the continued armed conflict and humanitarian crisis in that country. All removals to Burundi are temporarily deferred except for certain persons who are inadmissible on criminality or security grounds, or people who choose to return to Burundi.
Removals are also known as “deportations”.
- What is the difference between this decision and the moratorium?
This decision is a “moratorium”. Removals to Burundi have been suspended. This “moratorium” was done in a slightly different manner than the previous moratorium for Burundi (which was lifted in July 2009), but this does not change its effect.
The previous moratorium was a “temporary suspension of removals”, while this one is called an “administrative deferral of removals”, but in both cases it is based on section 230 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and the same exceptions (see question 3 below) apply.
- Is the decision public?
Yes, the government announced the suspension by a press release 2 December 2015: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1023239&tp=1.
- What are the exceptions?
The moratorium does not apply to people who are inadmissible on the basis of criminality or security, people who were excluded from refugee protection due to war crimes or crimes against humanity, or to people who voluntarily return.
More specifically, as stated in s. 230 of the Regulations, it does not apply to people who are:
- inadmissible under subsection 34(1) of the Act on security grounds;
- inadmissible under subsection 35(1) of the Act on grounds of violating human or international rights;
- inadmissible under subsection 36(1) of the Act on grounds of serious criminality or under subsection 36(2) of the Act on grounds of criminality;
- inadmissible under subsection 37(1) of the Act on grounds of organized criminality;
- referred to in section F of Article 1 of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention;
- consenting to their removal.
- What does this decision mean for the people that were awaiting deportation?
They will not be deported (or “removed”) to Burundi in the immediate future (unless they meet one of the exceptions above – criminality, security, exclusion from protection). They should strongly consider applying for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds, if they are eligible and have not done so already.
- What does this decision mean for people whose refugee claim had been rejected but who are not awaiting deportation?
They do not have to fear deportation (unless they meet one of the exceptions above – criminality, security, exclusion from protection). They should strongly consider applying for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds, if they are eligible and have not done so already.
- When can people apply for H&C?
Refused refugee claimants must wait one year after their refugee claim was refused before they can apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds, unless there is a child affected or the person has a serious health problem.
People who did not make a refugee claim can apply for H&C at any time.
- What is the difference between this decision and the government decision about Burundi in August 2015?
In August 2015, the government decided to allow persons from Burundi whose refugee claim had been refused to apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) without having to wait for 12 months from the date of the refusal of their refugee claim. This announcement is no longer relevant, because removals to Burundi have now been suspended. If a person cannot be removed, they will not be offered a PRRA.
- What does this decision mean for people in the PRRA process?
Some people had applied for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) and were waiting for an answer. No decision will be made at this time on these applications and the PRRA file will be closed. The PRRA is only used for persons who could be removed from Canada. Since removals to Burundi are suspended, (unless they meet one of the exceptions above – criminality, security, exclusion from protection), the government does not need to assess whether an individual would face risk if removed.
- What does this decision mean for people who did not report to be deported and are now in hiding?
They should be able to report to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and have their arrest warrant cancelled. There is some risk of being detained, but it is unlikely, since there is no possibility of removing the person (unless they meet one of the exceptions above – criminality, security, exclusion from protection). They should see a lawyer and arrange to go to CBSA with the lawyer. Once they have regularized their situation, they will be able to apply for health care and a work permit (see next question).
- What rights do people have now that removals have been suspended?
Most Burundians whose removal is suspended will have the right to a work permit and to health care under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).
Regarding work permits, the regulations say that persons subject to a removal order that is unenforceable may be eligible for a work permit (R206(1)(b)). People who are not sure how to apply for a work permit or what fees need to be paid should seek assistance from a local organization serving refugees and immigrants.
Regarding the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), as stated at the following page: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/outside/arriving-healthcare/individuals/apply-who.asp, Type 2 coverage includes “rejected refugee claimants who cannot be removed from Canada as a result of a deferral of removal for generalized risk.”
- What happens if the government reverses its decision?
We can’t know for sure, but in the recent past when the government has lifted moratoria, it has allowed people a certain period of time to submit H&C applications, and the vast majority of such applications have been accepted.
- How long will the moratorium remain in place?
We don’t know. If the situation does not change for the better in Burundi, it is unlikely the government will reverse the decision any time soon.