Operational Bulletin 346 - October 7, 2011

Repeal of the Source Country Class of Humanitarian-protected Persons Abroad

Issue

Effective immediately, the source country class (RS) and associated regulations in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) have been repealed. Unless a source country application has already passed the selection decision stage, existing source country applications must now be screened for eligibility under both of the remaining refugee protection classes (i.e., Convention refugees abroad and country of asylum). A 30-day notice regarding the lifting of direct access has also been posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. Direct access will end in all geographically designated areas on November 5, 2011.

Background

The source country refugee resettlement class is complementary to the Convention refugees abroad class, which primarily relies on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify and refer refugees for resettlement in Canada. The source country class allows Canada to resettle persons who are in a refugee-like situation but remain in their country of origin, and therefore, they do not come under the protection mandate of UNHCR.

In order to be eligible, applicants must live in a country that has been designated as a source country in Schedule 2 of the IRPR. There are currently six countries designated in Schedule 2: Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sudan, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This list has not changed since 2002.

A 2009 internal review of the source country class found that the class was inefficient, unresponsive to evolving protection needs and that the problems were structural in nature. The repeal of the class means Canada will be able to focus resources where protection needs are greatest and where it is possible to collaborate with partners like UNHCR, private sponsors and other resettlement countries.  

The amendments approved by Cabinet and registered on October 6, 2011 repeal sections 148 and 149, and Schedule 2 from the IRPR, along with any other references in the regulations to the source country class.

Source countries are also geographic areas that have been exempted from the requirement that refugee resettlement applications be accompanied by a referral or undertaking by a private sponsor (a.k.a. direct access). The exemption applies to both foreign nationals and nationals of the geographically designated area. That exemption will end in these six countries effective November 5, 2011. A separate operational bulletin will be sent out when direct access is lifted.

Procedures

RS applications post-selection decision

RS applications that have already received a selection decision prior to the repeal of the source country class should continue to be processed as normal, up to and including visa issuance.

RS inventory pre-selection decision applications

RS applications in mission inventories that have not yet been processed to selection decision prior to the repeal of the source country, must be screened for eligibility in both the Convention refugees abroad class and the country of asylum class before proceeding to final decision.

When paper-screening indicates that applicants do not meet either the Convention refugee abroad (CR) or the country of asylum (RA) definitions, a procedural fairness letter should be issued in order to give applicants 60 days to provide any new information if they feel they meet the CR or RA definitions.

Any new information received should be considered prior to entering a final decision; however, should the 60-day period pass without the receipt of new information, visa officers should enter a negative final decision and issue a refusal letter.

If an applicant requires more than 60 days to gather information and provides a reasonable explanation to the visa office, consideration for an extension should be given.

Pre-selection decision applications in the mission inventory prior to source country repeal should be screened for Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) considerations. Applications that contain factors relevant to an H&C determination should be brought to the attention of a visa officer with the discretionary authority to issue a visa on H&C grounds. Given that these applications were submitted prior to the repeal of the class, visa officers are encouraged to adopt a flexible approach when considering H&C.

RS applications submitted after repeal of the source country class

Source country class applications (i.e., applications from individuals who are in their country of origin) received following the repeal of the source country class regulations do not meet the requirements of R139(1)(e). The application should be refused and returned to the applicant with a brief letter explaining that they are not a member of one of the classes prescribed in R139(1)(e).

Direct access applications received following the repeal of the source country class

It is important for visa officers to keep in mind that, while direct access is only available in designated source countries, direct access is nonetheless a separate mechanism. Therefore, prior to the lifting of direct access, applicants who are outside of their country of origin and in a geographic area designated as having direct access and who submit an application without a referral or undertaking may be eligible as a Convention refugee abroad and should be processed in the same way as other Convention refugee abroad applications. This includes an interview and the possibility of visa issuance if all criteria are met. 

Once direct access is lifted, all applications for protection submitted without a referral or an undertaking will not meet the requirements of R150. These applications should be returned with a brief letter explaining that the requirements of R150 have not been met.

One Year Window Requests

One Year Window (OYW) requests resulting from positive source country selection decisions should be processed according to established OYW procedures up to and including visa issuance.

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