May 9, 2002

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.

Yours sincerely,
Judith Kumin
Representative in Canada