Refugee News – Summer 2018

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Welcome to the second edition of Refugee News! This newsletter comes at a particularly busy time for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The intake of new refugee protection claims and, by consequence, refugee appeals has been consistently rising over the past year; claims have increased by 82 percent and appeals by 45 percent in the 12‑month period ending June 2018.

In response to these challenges, the Board has been implementing several measures to enhance efficiency without compromising the fairness of our proceedings. We have adopted innovative scheduling strategies, expanded the use of expedited processing, scheduled more claims for shorter hearings, increased country specialization among members, and more. As a result of these changes, along with an increase in decision‑maker capacity, the finalization of refugee protection claims increased by 50 percent in fiscal year 2017–18 as compared to fiscal year 2016–17. We remain focused on better results in 2018 and continue to seek out ways to improve finalization rates.

In addition to measures taken by the Board, the Government of Canada, in Budget 2018, recently allocated an additional $72 million to the IRB over two years to increase capacity in an effort to address the growing number of refugee protection claims resulting from irregular migration, as well as to address the legacy inventory. This funding allows the Board to hire additional decision‑makers and support staff, ultimately increasing the number of claims we are able to finalize.

Beyond what we are funded to do, we expect to achieve the following outcomes:

  • 5,000 additional refugee protection claims finalized in 2018–19
  • 8,000 additional refugee protection claims finalized in 2019–20
  • 3,000 additional legacy claims finalized in 2018–19
  • 1,000 additional legacy claims finalized in 2019–20
  • 1,200 additional refugee appeals finalized in 2018–19
  • 1,920 additional refugee appeals finalized in 2019–20

In order to accomplish these results, staffing is a priority. Work on staffing began shortly after the budget announcement. At the Refugee Protection Division (RPD), we expect to have hired an additional 50 members by the end of October, and the staffing process will be ongoing. By the end of 2018, we will have hired an additional 50 part-time members in the Legacy Task Force. At the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), we anticipate the appointment of a further 14 members during the next two fiscal years. In addition to new members, we plan to hire approximately 200 additional support staff.

We look forward to maintaining this momentum in the second half of the year.

 

Welcome to the 2nd edition of Refugee News! This newsletter comes at a particularly busy time for the Board. The intake of new claims for refugee protection, and by consequence refugee appeals, has been consistently rising over the past year; claims are up by 82% and appeals by 45%.

In response to these challenges, and in the absence of additional funding, the Board has been implementing several measures to enhance efficiency without compromising the fairness of our proceedings. These measures include for example: adoption of innovative scheduling strategies, the expanded use of expedited processing, the introduction of a new short hearing stream, greater country specialization among members, and more. As a result of these measures, as well as a small increase decision-maker capacity, the finalization of refugee claims increased by 50 percent in Fiscal Year 2017-18 as compared to Fiscal Year 2016-17. This progress is continuing in 2018, as additional measures are put in place, and finalization rates continue to climb.

In additional to measure being taken by the Board, the Government of Canada recently allocated an additional $72million to the Board over two years to increase capacity to address the growing number of refugee claims resulting from irregular migration, and to address the legacy backlog. This additional funding is allowing the Board to hire additional decision-makers and support staff, ultimately increasing the number of claims we are able to finalize.

Over-and-above what we are funded to do, with this additional funding, we are expecting to achieve the following outcomes:

  • 5,000 additional refugee protection claims finalized in 2018-2019
  • 8,000 additional refugee protection claims finalized in 2019-2020
  • 3,000 additional legacy claims finalized in 2018-2019
  • 1,000 additional legacy claims finalized in 2019-2020
  • 1,200 additional refugee appeals finalized in 2018-2019
  • 1,920 additional refugee appeals finalized in 2019-2020

In order to accomplish these outcomes, staffing is a major priority. Work on staffing began in June, and will carry on through to the summer. By the end of September, we are hoping to be ramped-up by an additional 70 members at the RPD, 14 with the RAD, and xx full-time equivalent with the Legacy team. In addition to new members, we are also hiring approximately 200 additional support staff.

We look forward to maintaining this momentum in the second half of 2018.

Shereen Benzvy Miller
Deputy Chairperson
Refugee Protection Division        

Deborah Morrish
Interim Deputy Chairperson
Refugee Appeal Division

Gaetan Cousineau
Lead
Legacy Task Force

  Did you know...

By the numbers

Refugee cases (as of June 30, 2018)

Refugee Protection Claims (New System)Refugee Protection Claims (Legacy)Refugee Appeals
Intake (12-month ending)56,601 82%N/A6,204 45%
Finalizations (12-month ending)25,398 36%3,469 789%3,403 5%
Inventory (as of 2018-06-30)56,594 124%1,930 -69%5,289 100%
Top five source countries pending inventory
*by listed country of alleged persecution
Nigeria (20%)
Haiti (13%)
India (5%)
Pakistan (4%)
Mexico (3%)
China (22%)
Sri Lanka (10%)
Hungary (10%)
Romania (5%)
Colombia (5%)
Haiti (19%)
Nigeria (11%)
China (7%)
India (6%)
Somalia (4%)

Member complement (full-time equivalent)

RPDLegacy RAD
1263250

Refugee cases for irregular border crossers (as of June 30, 2018)

Refugee Protection ClaimsRefugee Appeals
Intake (12-month ending)27,2361,529
Finalizations (12-month ending)4,764309
Inventory (as of 2018-06-30)24,8911,230

Announcements and initiatives

Confirmation of referral now provided to refugee protection claimants

As of August 29, 2018, refugee protection claimants will be provided with a Confirmation of Referral by officers of the CBSA and IRCC, along with the updated Important Instructions for Refugee Claimants and the Claimant's Guide.

The Confirmation of Referral will contain important information for claimants, including:

  • the deadline for submission of the Basis of Claim Form (BOC Form),
  • the special hearing date for abandonment (if the BOC Form is not submitted on time), and
  • other important information regarding the processing of refugee protection claims.

The Confirmation of Referral will not include a hearing date. At a later date, refugee protection claimants will receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) from the IRB that will provide the date, time and location of their hearing. The NTA will be sent to claimants and their counsel at least 20 days before the hearing, but will often be sent earlier, approximately two months before the hearing.

This new approach will make it easier for claimants and counsel to navigate the process, improve efficiency and minimize hearing postponements.

Claimants should immediately inform the IRB and IRCC and/or the CBSAin writing if their contact information changes. If the RPD is unable to reach a refugee protection claimant, their claim may be declared abandoned, and they will not be allowed to continue with the claim or to make another claim in the future.

Late disclosure

Parties must make a formal application to submit late evidence.

Voluminous disclosure

Parties must make a formal application to submit country conditions evidence that exceeds 100 pages.

RPD procedures related to voluminous disclosure and late disclosure

In June 2018, the RPD issued two practice notices introducing a new approach to managing the submission of late and voluminous disclosure at the RPD.

The RPD is committed to ensuring that evidence is accepted in a claim where fairness dictates that it should be accepted. As such, a member always retains the discretion to accept the late or voluminous disclosure of evidence when the circumstances warrant it. The new process will ensure that the member has the information necessary to make this decision by requiring an application setting out the reasons why the documents should be accepted.

If documents are not accepted, they are returned to the party if they were provided to the IRB by hand or via courier. Documents are not disposed of by the RPD.

The Legacy Task Force

The Legacy Task Force was created in April 2017, with a mandate to eliminate the remaining pre‑2012 referrals within two years. The team has been successful: it has decreased the legacy inventory by 63 percent as of the end of June 2018 and is on track to fulfill its mandate several months ahead of schedule!  

If your claim for refugee protection was referred before December 15, 2012, and you wish to schedule a hearing as soon as possible, you may do so by completing the Intention to Proceed Form. Legacy claimants who do not proactively submit this form may also be contacted by the Board at their address on record to inquire about their intention to proceed.  

Obtaining your file from the RPD

On occasion, the RPD receives in-person or written requests from claimants who require a copy of their case file or a copy of documents from their case file. Claimants and their counsel may access their case file directly from the Registry via reception at the regional office that is handling the claim. They do not need to make an access to information request. The IRB is currently drafting more formal procedures that will apply to all divisions, but in the meantime, please note the following interim procedures related to access to RPD files:

  • A claimant or their counsel of record may consult the RPD's physical file on RPD premises upon request. This request should be made in advance, so that the file can be obtained and be ready for consultation. When accessing the file, a claimant or their counsel may either make copies where facilities permit or request that copies be made.
  • If counsel of record has changed, it is the new counsel's responsibility to obtain the file from the former counsel. Where this is not possible, a written request for a copy of the file may be made to the RPD Registry.
  • If counsel is requesting access to a file and they are not the counsel of record on the file, they must provide the RPD with signed consent from the claimant.

RPD to begin holding hearings in Ottawa

On September 10, 2018, the RPD will begin hearing claims for refugee protection in Ottawa for the first time since March 2014. The RPD has recently hired and trained a team of qualified members to preside over these claims in hearing rooms located in downtown Ottawa.

Refugee protection claims from claimants based in the National Capital Region (NCR) that are ready to be scheduled for a hearing will be automatically identified by the RPD and scheduled in Ottawa. A Notice to Appear will then be sent to claimants and their counsel confirming the time, date and location of the hearing. While the focus will be on scheduling claims from claimants based in the NCR (claimants and counsel, or just claimants), some claims in other cities may also be heard by members in Ottawa through the use of videoconference technology.

Claimants who relocate to the NCR from another city are required to keep their contact information up to date with the IRB and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and/or the Canada Border Services Agency. If this information changes, claimants must immediately provide the changes in writing. Failure to do so could result in the claim being considered abandoned.

RAD to save a few trees

In an effort to eliminate excess paper from the refugee appeal file, the RAD will no longer require appellants to provide the Division with a copy of the RPD notice of decision and reasons for decision. Formal notice will be communicated to stakeholders and the ministers later this month with the intention of the new practice to come into effect September 10, 2018.

Currently, the RAD receives a copy of the two documents when it receives the RPD record. Therefore, asking for copies from appellants effectively adds unnecessary bulk to the file. Although it is only a small greening effort, the elimination of these documents from the file will result in paper savings of 6,000+ pages per month based on recent intake. In a year that would amount to 72,000 pages! According to the Sierra Club, a tree can produce 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper; as a result, three to seven trees will be saved, not to mention savings for appellants on paper, toner and time.

The RAD has also initiated a file scanning project with the aim of creating an electronic version of the appeal file for use by members. The project allows for greater efficiency since it is easier and faster to transmit an electronic file than a paper file internally. As well, the exercise allows the Division to gain experience handling an electronic file and experimenting with new processes in anticipation of when the IRB adopts a fully electronic working environment, which is expected over the next couple of years.

Jurisprudential Guide: Nigeria

The RAD continues to facilitate fair and efficient decision-making by issuing jurisprudential guides. The most recent guide addresses the issue of internal flight alternatives in major cities in south and central Nigeria for claimants fleeing non-state actors.

Leadership changes

Richard Wex was recently appointed Chairperson of the IRB, effective July 23, 2018. Richard is a senior executive and former deputy minister in the federal public service. Known for achieving results, for collaborating with partners and for his integrity, Mr. Wex has successfully taken on increasing levels of executive responsibility across a range of legal, social, economic and security portfolios over his twenty-five year career.

John Szekula was appointed Assistant Deputy Chairperson (ADC) of the RPD, Eastern Region, in March. As the new ADC of the RPD, Eastern Region, Mr. Szekula brings to the IRB extensive leadership experience in managing service operations with Service Canada. He has been at the forefront of a number of large-scale transformational initiatives relating to client services. His considerable experience in strategic planning and partnership development in support of national programs has been a great asset to the Board since his arrival.

Stephanie Shatilla, most recently with the Government of Ontario, was appointed Assistant Deputy Chairperson of the RPD, Central Region, in August. Her expertise in managing service operations, stakeholder relations, and program policy development, along with her wealth of experience in partnership development will be invaluable as the Board moves forward with its initiatives.

      Outreach activities

The IRB appreciates the opportunity to participate in stakeholder conferences and other events in order to share information on our practices and procedures and to engage on topics of interest. Here is a snapshot of the events that we participated in over the last few months:

The Canadian Bar Association's Immigration Law Conference (April 2018)

The IRB was pleased to provide speakers for a number of interesting sessions that touched on issues related to its four divisions. The topics discussed included witness testimonies before the RPD, the review of recent case law on criminal inadmissibility, counsel conduct, as well as procedures before the IAD and the RAD.

The Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS) Annual Conference (May 2018)

At this conference, the IRB was grateful for the opportunity to participate in a roundtable to provide insight on how criminality issues are applied to cases before the IRB as well as to deliver a presentation on its Chairperson's Guideline 9 - Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression.

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) International Refugee Rights Conference (June 2018)

The IRB was pleased to participate in a caucus session to speak about the Board's mandate and its policies and procedures related to refugee determination. Also, Roula Eatrides, Deputy Chairperson of the ID, engaged with the audience during a workshop on immigration detention.

Annual Legal Aid Ontario's Refugee Law Office (RLO) Conference (June 2018)

Shereen Benzvy Miller, Deputy Chairperson of the RPD, gladly participated as a speaker to discuss various topics, including the operational challenges her division is facing and the solutions being implemented to increase the efficient processing of refugee protection claims.

The International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ) Americas Chapter Conference (August 2018)

As a member of the IARMJ Americas Chapter Executive, the IRB jointly organized this international conference with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The IRB provided six speakers and one moderator for this conference, which attracted over 50 judges and decision-makers from approximately 20 countries worldwide. Topics on which the IRB provided its insight and engaged in fruitful dialogue included: adjudicating children's claims; adjudicating proceedings involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; theories and techniques for analyzing credibility in the context of vulnerable populations; claimants impacted by violence and trauma; and building resilient asylum systems.

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