Strategic Outcomes and Program Activity Architecture

Program Activity 4 – Refugee Program

Program Description
The Refugee Program fulfils Canada’s international obligations by providing protection to refugees who seek asylum in Canada. It also maintains our humanitarian tradition by coming to the aid of refugees abroad and through resettlement to Canada.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 11 million refugees in the world, many of whom have been living in refugee camps for a very long time. By offering protection in Canada to refugees and persons in need of protection, and through active participation in international fora on refugee protection, CIC plays a significant role in contributing to a safe and secure world.

Canada’s refugee protection program is an expression of Canada’s humanitarian tradition. The Canadian government made refugee protection a priority following the Second World War in response to global efforts to share responsibility for those displaced by war. By protecting refugees, Canada asserts the need to uphold international agreements and obligations and to share responsibility internationally for the displaced and persecuted.

Canada partners with many other countries and international organizations to come to the aid of refugees. Every year, Canada resettles 10,600 to 12,000—or one out of every ten—of the refugees resettled globally. Indeed, Canada has one of the largest refugee resettlement programs in the world with more than 780,000 refugees and persons in similar circumstances resettled here since the Second World War.

There are two categories of refugees selected abroad—government–assisted and privately sponsored refugees.

Convention refugees are individuals who, because of a well–founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence, and are unable or unwilling by reason of that fear to return to that country.

In addition to Convention refugees, resettlement is extended to individuals who do not fully meet the definition of a Convention refugee, but are seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict, or massive violations of human rights.

Persons in need of protection are persons whose removal to their country of nationality or former habitual residence would subject them to the danger of torture, risk to life, or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

In addition to those refugees resettled to Canada from abroad, individuals in Canada who have made an asylum claim and have been determined to be Convention refugees or persons in need of protection—and their dependents abroad—are offered Canada’s protection.

Canada’s Role in International Protection

Canada’s international and domestic refugee protection agenda continues to be challenged by international events, the increased number of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, and related security concerns and human rights issues. Canada participates in various international fora to influence the future directions of multilateral partnerships and strategies. CIC continues to influence international discussions on protection through the UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Standing Committee, and Working Group on Resettlement. CIC also participates on a regular basis in the Inter–Governmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum and Refugees.

Canada has devoted particular attention to finding solutions for protracted refugee situations—situations in which refugees have spent many years in exile without durable solutions. CIC works with other government departments, civil society, and other governments to put the resolution of protracted refugee situations at the top of the global protection agenda. These refugee situations are complex and require a coordinated approach among actors in such fields as immigration, development, and diplomacy. With strong and sustained encouragement from Canada, the UNHCR adopted this issue as a key priority which ultimately led to the adoption of a Conclusion on Protracted Refugee Situations in December 2009. CIC continues to take a multilateral approach to finding solutions for these refugees.

Resettlement of Refugees from Abroad

Through the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, Canada works closely with international partners, including the UNHCR, to select for resettlement to Canada refugees from abroad for whom there is no other durable solution available within a reasonable period of time. This group includes refugees found to be disproportionately more at risk than the general refugee population. CIC’s Resettlement Assistance Program helps government–assisted refugees resettle in Canada. The Government’s efforts are supplemented by private sponsorships in accordance with the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Under this program, groups of five or more individuals, and private sponsorship organizations representing religious, ethnic, and community groups can sponsor refugees for resettlement to Canada. These groups take on the responsibility of providing refugees with accommodation, resettlement assistance and emotional support for up to one year. In exceptional circumstances, this assistance can be extended for up to three years for refugees with special needs such as victims of trauma and torture, or women and children at risk.

To be eligible under the Government–Assisted Refugees and Private Sponsorship of Refugees programs, individuals must be unable to return to their country of nationality or habitual residence, or to remain in the country that has granted them temporary protection—the first country of asylum. They must also undergo a medical examination, and security and criminality checks. CIC assesses applicants for protection from abroad against three definitions for refugee and humanitarian-protected persons abroad. The three resettled refugee classes are, Convention Refugees Abroad, Country of Asylum and Source Country.

CIC continues to use the refugee resettlement program more strategically in order to leverage benefits beyond for those persons being resettled and to reduce the numbers of refugees in particular situations. CIC does this by working with other government departments, the international community and other resettlement countries to find more durable solutions for more refugees.

Each year, refugees from about 70 different nationalities are given a new start in Canada. However, to enhance effectiveness, CIC’s resettlement program focuses on specific refugee populations. In addition to large–scale resettlement of Colombians out of Latin America and Iraqis in Syria and Jordan, CIC has been active in the resettlement of Afghans, Bhutanese in Nepal and Somali, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Congolese out of Africa.

In light of the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act in December 2006, as well as recommendations from the 2004 Resettlement Assistance Program evaluation and the 2007 Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program evaluation, CIC began development of a performance measurement framework for Canada’s refugee resettlement program. The framework will serve to increase consistency in reporting, respond to program implementation challenges, and increase availability of data to measure program effectiveness.

The Resettlement Assistance Program

CIC offers financial support and immediate essential services to help government–assisted refugees resettle in Canada and integrate into Canadian society. Through the Resettlement Assistance Program, the Government ensures the delivery of essential services such as reception services at the port of entry, temporary accommodation, assistance in finding permanent accommodation, and financial orientation through contribution agreements with service provider organizations. This program also provides income support for up to 12 months after arrival in most cases, and up to 24 months for refugees with special needs such as victims of trauma or torture.

Since the implementation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002, Canada has emphasized in its resettlement decisions the need for protection over the ability to settle immediately. As a result, refugees arriving in Canada today from situations where they have been in exile for long periods of time may have higher and more varied needs than previous refugee populations. Available economic and social integration indicators suggest that refugees face more difficulty integrating than other immigrants. Key challenges include difficulty accessing adequate housing, limited or no labour market skills, limited official language skills, mental and physical health concerns, and developmental issues for children. Government–assisted refugees also take longer to become self–sufficient and active participants in their new communities.

Income support provided under the Resettlement Assistance Program is essential to providing basic life needs while government–assisted refugees take their first steps towards integration.

To support program development, CIC funded research on various elements of the Resettlement Assistance Program to determine which areas require enhancement. CIC continues to review programming to ensure it meets the increasing needs of government–assisted refugees.

More information on the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program or the Government Assisted Refugees Program

Protection for Individuals Who Make Asylum Claims in Canada

Canada’s humanitarian tradition of offering protection to the persecuted and displaced through resettlement is complemented by our asylum system.  This system is founded on Canada’s commitment to extend refugee protection to individuals who seek asylum upon or after their arrival in Canada, and are found to be in need of protection – a commitment that flows from Canada’s obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and the 1984 Convention Against Torture. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent administrative tribunal, oversees a quasi–judicial process that determines claims for asylum made in Canada. This process is designed to ensure fair and consistent decision making in accordance with Canadian law and Canada’s international obligations. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hears asylum claims referred by CIC and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Under the Canada-United States (U.S.) Agreement for Cooperation in the Examination of Refugee Status Claims from Nationals of Third Countries (known as the Safe Third Country Agreement or STCA), signed in 2002, a refugee claimant, other than a citizen or national of Canada or the U.S., must seek protection in the country where the claimant first has the opportunity to do so – either Canada or the U.S. – unless she or he qualifies for an exception.  The STCA affirms the commitment of Canada and the U.S. to effectively share responsibility for the assessment of refugee claims, in addition to the bilateral interest to manage cross-border refugee protection claimant flows.

Persons whose asylum claim has been accepted by the IRB may apply for permanent resident status for themselves and their dependents, whether the dependents are in Canada or abroad. However, if the asylum claim is refused, the individual is informed of the reasons in writing and is required to leave the country. A person whose claim is refused may apply to the Federal Court for leave to seek judicial review. A judge of that court decides whether leave will be granted. In most cases, if leave is granted, a person has the right to remain in Canada pending the outcome of the judicial review.

Persons required to leave Canada who do not do so voluntarily are subject to removal by CBSA. All persons in Canada, including refused asylum claimants, are eligible to apply to CIC for a Pre–Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) before removal from Canada. For asylum claimants, the PRRA is intended to take into account risks that may have arisen since the decision on their refugee claim, due to changes in country conditions or new evidence. Most successful PRRA applicants may apply for permanent residence in Canada under the Protected Persons category.

To support the integrity of Canada’s asylum program, CIC has established information sharing agreements with other countries, including the United States, to facilitate the exchange of biographic and biometric information to help in the administration and enforcement of Canada’s immigration laws. In addition to bilateral information sharing between countries, CIC works in partnership with relevant bodies working in the interest of international asylum development, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Intergovernmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum and Refugees (IGC). The Department also plays an active role in monitoring asylum developments at home and abroad that impact the integrity of our domestic asylum system.

More information on asylum claims in Canada.

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