The role of refugee lawyers in asylum claims

Know about Canada’s refugee laws, the process and consequences of seeking a refugee claim, and how a refugee lawyer can help
The role of refugee lawyers in asylum claims

With its promise of a better life, Canada attracts a growing number of immigrants and refugees in each year.

In 2023 alone, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processed 144,035 asylum claims. Behind these numbers are refugees with stories of struggles and hope, and refugee lawyers who continue to help them in any way possible.

What is the meaning of refugee law?

Refugees are people who leave their home countries in pursuit of a better life elsewhere because of serious risks to their life and safety.

There are many reasons why refugees flee: war, widespread violence, and human rights violations caused by socio-political instabilities, among others.

Refugee law is the system of international and domestic laws governing the protection of refugees and establishing their rights and obligations. It seeks to address the issues faced by refugees, which include resettlement and the granting of asylum by the country they sought refuge in.

What is Canada's refugee law?

Canada’s federal law on refugees and immigrants is the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its Regulations. The IRPA covers:

  • process of immigrating to Canada
  • process of refugee protection claims
  • crimes related to immigration and refugees
  • powers of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)

In addition, international treaties and conventions that Canada is a signatory to also forms part of Canada’s refugee law.

What is the process of applying as a refugee in Canada?

There are three processes for an asylum or refugee claim depending on an asylum seeker’s circumstances:

  1. irregular border crossings for irregular entries
  2. Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program
  3. claiming refugee status from inside Canada

The process differs when immigrating to Canada, since the law treats immigrants and refugees differently.

Here is a more detailed discussion of the processes for applying for asylum or making a refugee claim:

1. Irregular entries of refugees

Refugees who cross Canadian borders will be detained under the custody of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the port of entry.

They will then have to undergo three levels of screenings as part of their application for an asylum claim:

  • Background screening: where security, criminality, and health checks are done. If a refugee is declared inadmissible, they will be held in detention and will have to leave Canada.
  • Eligibility screening: to determine if an asylum claim can be made. If the refugee is declared ineligible, they cannot make an asylum claim and must leave Canada or be allowed for a risk assessment.
  • Asylum claim processing: the IRB will process the asylum claim. If refused, the refugee will have to leave Canada. If approved, they are granted “protected status” and can apply for permanent residency in Canada. Here’s how a lawyer can help with that PR application.

2. Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR)

Under the PSR program, private groups are allowed to sponsor refugees to come to Canada. These refugee sponsorship groups must first be approved by the government according to the eligibility provided by the IRPA.

Private sponsors have certain responsibilities for their sponsored refugees, such as:

  • supporting them for the entire sponsorship period
  • meeting the responsibilities listed in the sponsorship undertaking form

3. Claiming refugee status within Canada

Persons already in Canada can make a refugee claim online. Another way is in-person through the border at the port of entry as discussed above.

After submitting the claim online, it will be reviewed by the IRCC. A medical exam and an in-person interview will then be conducted.

After the interview, if the IRCC’s deems that the refugee is eligible, the claim will be referred to the IRB and a hearing will be conducted.

After the refugee hearing, a claim for refugee status may either be approved or denied:

  • If the claim is accepted: the refugee is now on a “protected person” status and can apply for permanent residency in Canada
  • If the claim is rejected: the refugee can still appeal the decision with the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of the IRB or with the Federal Court

How can refugee lawyers help asylum or refugee seekers?

There are many ways that a refugee lawyer can help a person who is filing for a refugee or asylum claim in Canada. This includes:

  • advising refugees on how to meet the eligibilities set by the law
  • assisting refugees with complying with required documents and other evidence
  • prepping refugees, or representing them, if required to appear before an agency or the court

Because applications for a refugee claim are not guaranteed to be approved, its denial can be appealed with the IRB and with the Federal Court.

When appealing one’s claim, the aid of a refugee lawyer is necessary. Aside from helping with the legal documents, refugee lawyers can put forward arguments so that the RAD of the IRB or the Federal Court will rule in favor of the claimant.

This video shows the story of an asylum seeker, assisted by a lawyer, whose refugee claim was approved by the government:

Asylum seekers in Toronto may reach out to a Lexpert-Ranked best immigration lawyer in Ontario for concerns regarding their claims.

Do I need a lawyer to apply as a refugee in Canada?

Generally, a person is not required to have a refugee lawyer when making a refugee claim or when filing an immigration application. However, it is still advisable that a person first consult a refugee lawyer or an immigration lawyer when doing so.

Refugee lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to help refugees and immigrants. Refugee lawyers can advise clients according to their specific case, while navigating Canadian immigration laws.

While the IRPA provides that a person subject to any proceedings before the IRB has the right to be represented by a refugee lawyer, it will be at the person’s own expense.

Looking for a Canadian refugee lawyer or an immigration lawyer? Refer to this list of the best immigration lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.