Starting December 15, 2012, changes were brought in to Canada’s asylum system in order to move towards a faster and fairer system. The changes were the outcome of two laws that were passed by the Parliament, namely the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.
The recent changes in the system allow Canada to create a list of ‘Designate Countries of Origin’ (DCOs). The intent behind this list was to identify countries that respect human rights, offer state protection and, based on the historical data from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), do not normally produce refugees. Even though eligible claimants from DCOs will continue to receive full and fair oral hearing on the individual merits of their claim, a few key differences exist between applicants from DCOs and non-DCOs. These differences are as follows:
- Claims made by DCO applicants are expedited and are heard within 30 – 45 days compared to 60 days for non-DCO claimants.
- DCO claimants are not able to appeal IRB decisions to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) unlike non-DCO claimants.
- Both DCO and non-DCO claimants can appeal IRB decisions to the Federal Court. However, there will be no automatic stay of removal order for DCO claimants once they file their claim with the Federal Court. Therefore, it could be possible for an individual to be removed from Canada while their application for judicial review is pending before the Federal Court, unless the individual asks for a stay on their removal order.
- DCO claimants will be ineligible to apply for work permit in Canada until their claim is approved by the IRB or the claim has been in the system for more than 180 days without a decision.
When the program was initially launched, there were 27 countries listed as DCOs, 25 of which were European Union countries. For a country to be categorized as a DCO, there are certain requirements that need to be met. Citizenship and Immigration Canada describes the criteria as follows:
“To be considered for designation, a country must meet objective criteria related to the number of finalized asylum claims Canada receives from that country. For countries with 30 or more claims in any consecutive 12 – month period during the three years preceding designation, quantitative criteria are used. At least 60% of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or least 75% of claims from a country have been withdrawn, abandoned, and rejected by the IRB.” For further information on the Designation Criteria, please click here.
In February 14, 2013, 8 more countries were added to the original list of 27 countries. The list was further amended on May 30, 2013 with the addition of Chile and South Korea, bringing the total number of countries listed as DCOs to 37 countries. For a complete list of these countries, please click here.