Vancouver reports low rate of refugee-status approvals

Posted by admin on Feb 3rd, 2006

Vancouver reports low rate of refugee-status approvals. City’s board accepts only 27% of claimants, while Toronto counterpart takes in 46% By JONATHAN WOODWARD

VANCOUVER — Vancouver continues to be the hardest place in Canada to get refugee status, turning away nearly three out of four people allegedly fleeing their home countries. Refugee claimants — largely from Mexico, China, and Honduras — were accepted in Vancouver at about half the rate of the national average last year, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

And Vancouver has had the lowest rate since the IRB was established in 1989, giving the city a reputation as a place that takes a dim view of refugee claimants, said immigration lawyer Phil Rankin. “This region has always had a culture of cynicism and they’ve always gone to town on refugees,” he said.

Last year, Vancouver’s board granted asylum in 27 per cent of the 1,552 cases it heard. Toronto’s board, which dealt with 16,702 cases — the most in the country — accepted 7,658 people, or 46 per cent. In Montreal, which deals with the second-highest number of cases, 44 per cent of the 7,342 cases were successful. As a whole, Canada — including the other boards in Calgary and Ottawa — accepted 44 per cent of 27,212 cases.

“These are people who need Canada, and Vancouver is turning them away,” said Victor Porter, an executive with the Canadian Council for Refugees. Although refugee claimants may want to take their cases to other jurisdictions, they often can’t afford to travel there, he said. Mr. Porter said that backlogged cases in Toronto are often heard by the
Vancouver board via video link. He said the cases that are rejected are added to Vancouver’s total. “Would you want to make your case to stay in a country from a TV set?” he asked.

It wasn’t always this way, he said. In 1989, rates across the country were higher than 80 per cent at a time when two board members heard each case and claimants needed just one to approve their case. Since the introduction of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a claimant faces only one board member, he said, and rates have dropped across the country. David Griffiths, the manager of civil law for B.C.’s Legal Services Society, said Vancouver sees a greater percentage of Honduran candidates, who are more likely to abandon their claims. Fourteen per cent of Vancouver applicants abandoned their cases, while only 6 per cent of Toronto applicants did.

Refugee status was granted to 139 of 728 Mexicans and 59 of 164 Chinese applicants. But only 14 of 152 Hondurans were accepted in Vancouver. Across Canada, 19 per cent of 3,541 Mexican referrals were accepted, as were 48 per cent of Chinese. Eighteen per cent of Hondurans were accepted, compared with 25 per cent who abandoned their cases. Lawyer Leslie Stalker said refugee-claimant rates were dropping because people are being stopped before they enter Canada.

Lawyer Daniel McLeod said legal aid for basic refugee claims in B.C. needs to increase and if a case becomes more complicated, extra funds should be readily available. “When [extended legal aid financing] is granted, it normally means a small, token payment which is not worth the substantial time it takes to prepare the lengthy submission to [the Legal Services Society] to get extra billing,” he said. In B.C., a lawyer is paid $80 an hour for 10 hours to prepare a personal information statement, and then up to five hours to prepare the claimant before appearing at the tribunal. In Ontario, a lawyer is paid for 16 hours to prepare for a refugee application hearing when acceptance rates for the source country are lower than 90 per cent, but rates vary. In Quebec, lawyers are paid a flat rate.

Melissa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board, said members examine each refugee claim on its own merits.

Acceptance rates for refugee claimants

2000: Vancouver 25% Calgary 51% Toronto 54% Montreal 47% National 48%
2001: Vancouver 38% Calgary 55% Toronto 46% Montreal 50% National 47%
2002: Vancouver 30% Calgary 48% Toronto 50% Montreal 43% National 47%
2003: Vancouver 28% Calgary 35% Toronto 43% Montreal 42% National 42%
2004: Vancouver 24% Calgary 27% Toronto 40% Montreal 41% National 40%
2005: Vancouver 27% Calgary 30% Toronto 46% Montreal 44 % National 44%

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