At Romero House we primarily serve refugee claimants who are newly arrived in Canada. We provide transitional housing as well as settlement support, often times supporting newcomers as they navigate the refugee process, including preparing for their refugee hearings as well as other applications.
A convention refugee (as defined by the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention) is a person who:
i) has a well-founded fear of being persecuted* in their county because of their: race; religion; nationality; membership in a particular social group (including gender-based or sexual orientation claims); or political opinion;
ii) cannot return or does not want to return to their county because of their fear of the conditions in their home country;
iii) can be fearful of persecution by government authorities. For claims based on persecution by others, it must be proven that the government of that country is unable or unwilling to protect.
Making a Refugee Claim
A refugee claim can be made either at the border upon arrival in Canada or later, as an In Land claim, once in Canada. In each case time-lines will differ in terms of gathering of evidence and when the hearing will take place.
Admissibility and Eligibility
Before a person is deemed eligible they must first be assessed for admissibility to Canada. A person could be deemed inadmissible if they are thought to be a security risk for reasons such as having committed a serious non-political crime, or having been involved with human rights violations, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
After a person is determined admissible, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) must determine if they are eligible to make a refugee claim. To determine eligibility, CIC will ask an applicant to complete information-gathering forms as well as to participate in an information-gathering interview. The officer processing the claim may ask the applicant to say why they fear persecution in their country.
If the applicant is found to be eligible to make a refugee claim, the case will be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). A person who has reached this stage of the process is referred to as a ‘refugee claimant’. They will be given a refugee ID document. It is using this document that refugee claimants will access services such as: social assistance (Ontario Works), health insurance (IFH), English classes for adults and school for children. Access to support to pay for lawyer’s fees is accessed through legal aid and the amount that is covered depends on the province of residence.
Once the eligibility interview is complete, refugee claimants will be given a date for their IRB hearing as well as a date by which all documents and evidence must be submitted. The hearing will take place within 60 days of the eligibility interview. The hearing will be conducted in front of an IRB board member who will ultimately make the decision of whether a refugee claim is accepted or rejected. If the claimant(s) receives a positive decisions they are considered convention refugees and are then eligible to apply for Permanent Residency in Canada and eventually citizenship as well as sponsor other family members to come to Canada. If the claimant receives a negative decision there are a number of options including an appeal of the decision or a Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds application.
Navigating the refugee system can be challenging. CLEO has created a clear flow chart to help visualize the multiple steps of the process: http://refugee.cleo.on.ca/sites/default/files/docs/Refugee%20Claim%20Flowchart2014jan.pdf