Documents recently obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board through Access to Information proceduresmay be of interest to advocates for refugees. The documents list the following information for all principal claimant refugee decisions in 2006:

(1) IRB File # (4) Country of Origin (7) Date
(2) Claim Type (5) Gender (8) Name of IRB Member
(3) Claim Type Details (6) Decision  

One interesting feature of the new data is that it can be used to calculate the refugee claim grant rates of individual IRB Members. As the tables in the links below indicate, there were sharp variations in IRB Member refugee claim grant rates in 2006. In fact, some IRB members accorded refugee status in the vast majority of the claims they decided; others denied refugee status in virtually all cases.

It is important to note that average grant rates alone do not necessarily reflect varying levels of IRB Member competence or even bias. As the IRB explains in detail in an “Explanatory Note” (see link below), variations in grant rates may be due to patterns in case assignment. In particular, some IRB Members receive a large number of expedited cases, which usually result in grants of refugee status. Also, IRB Members may be assigned cases from geographical regions with high or low average grant rates.

The tables in the links below suggest, however, that vast unexplained disparities in grant rates persist even when one takes into consideration both expedited claims and regional specialization. Indeed, one can find sharp disparities between the grant rates of IRB Members when one examines only unexpedited cases involving claimants from particular countries.

This new information regarding unexplained variations in IRB Member grant rates could be of use to refugee advocates in several contexts. For example, it may provide further arguments in favour of implementing the Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB. It may also be useful in discussions about the role of political actors in the IRB appointment process.

The data may also be of particular interest to lawyers seeking judicial review of negative refugee determinations by IRB members with very low grant rates. It is worth noting in this regard that the Supreme Court of Ireland recently upheld the admissibility of similar statistics in a judicial review of a negative Refugee Appeal Tribunal decision (see link below).


(1) Letter from IRB (including “Explanatory Note re: Member’s Acceptance Rates”) PDF
(2) Raw Data (excel file)
(3) Filtered Data (duplicate entries omitted) (excel file)
(4) Table: Principal Claimant Grant Rates of IRB Members in 2006 (excel file)
(5) Table: Principal Claimant Grant Rates of IRB Members in 2006, by Country of Origin (excel file)
(6) Nyembo v. The Refugee Appeals Tribunal, [2007] IESC 25
(7) Sean Rehaag, “Adjudication lottery for refugees” in the Toronto Star (30 Aug 2007)
(8) IRB, “Letter to the Editor re: Adjudication lottery for refugees” in the Toronto Star (1 Sept 2007)

1) Sean Rehaag ( is a Doctoral Candidate in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He is also a visiting scholar at the University of Montreal’s Chaire de recherche du Canada en droit international des migrations.