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COVID-19 & Refugees

Published: Apr 9, 2020

Disclaimer: Immigration’s rules and procedures are changing daily. Information included in this article is current as of April 9, 2020.

It is still possible to make refugee claims inside of Canada. Almost all refugee claimants who currently wish to come to Canada and make a claim at the border will be returned to the US. All refugee hearings have been suspended until further notice.  

  1. If you have already made a refugee claim:

    As of April 7, 2020 all hearings have been postponed until further notice. We do not have any idea when hearings will resume. The IRB will give notices of new hearing dates at least 30 days in advance. Shorter hearing notices (less than 30 days) will be provided in the following cases:

    • if you have already had a hearing and a second hearing date is needed;
    • if your hearing was supposed to take place between March 14 and March 24, 2020;
    • if you are currently in detention;
    • If the parties (for example: you and the Refugee Protection Division) agree to a short hearing notice;
    • ·other urgent matters.

    As of December 31, 2019 there were 87 270 unresolved refugee cases. Given that the pandemic has generated and will continue to generate even larger backlog of cases, it is safe to presume that post-pandemic processing of refugee cases will slow down even more.

  2. If you are inside of Canada and wish to make a refugee claim:

    It is still possible to make a refugee claim, but the procedure is now different. Before this health crisis, refugee claimants had to prepare all forms (including their narrative or story) and bring them personally to the nearest Immigration Canada office. Since Immigration Canada cancelled all in-person activities, the new practical reality is that:

    • inland refugee claim must be filed by e-mail;
    • ·only one form has to be submitted;
    • it is not necessary to file the Basis of Claim form;
    • it is not required to send narrative/story;
    • proof of the refugee claimant’s presence in Canada must be provided.

    When the crisis is over, claimants will be expected to provide missing forms and information.

  3. If you are outside of Canada and wish to make a refugee claim at the border:

    Until April 21, 2020, and probably longer, Canada, unfortunately, has made it very clear that they will send back to the US people who wish to make a refugee claim whether at a Canadian border crossing (port of entry) or at an “irregular” crossing.

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