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Making their case

Immigration and Refugee Board data since 2010 shed light on asylum seekers' claims, success rates, countries of origin

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2018 (185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The number of asylum claims heard in Manitoba more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, according to newly released data.

Immigration and Refugee Board figures obtained through freedom-of-information laws paint a picture of who is claiming asylum in the province.

The Free Press requested detailed information on what passport asylum seekers hold, what reason they’ve asked for refugee status and whether their claims were successful.

In Manitoba, the IRB heard 355 claims in 2017, up from 143 the previous year, from people who claimed asylum at the Winnipeg airport, a police station near Emerson or a federal office within the province.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2018 (185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The number of asylum claims heard in Manitoba more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, according to newly released data.

Immigration and Refugee Board figures obtained through freedom-of-information laws paint a picture of who is claiming asylum in the province.

The Free Press requested detailed information on what passport asylum seekers hold, what reason they’ve asked for refugee status and whether their claims were successful.

In Manitoba, the IRB heard 355 claims in 2017, up from 143 the previous year, from people who claimed asylum at the Winnipeg airport, a police station near Emerson or a federal office within the province.

This does not include IRB appeals, nor does it include refugees selected abroad by the United Nations and resettled to Manitoba through private and government sponsorship.

One of the two new Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing rooms in the Victory Building at 269 Main St. in Winnipeg.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

One of the two new Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hearing rooms in the Victory Building at 269 Main St. in Winnipeg.


Where they're coming from

The vast majority of refugee hearings in Manitoba are for people with citizenship in East Africa, as well as some on the west side of the African continent and Central America.

Winnipeg refugee lawyer Bashir Khan said Canada as a whole only has a limited number of claims from Central American countries, because many seek asylum in the United States. Also, Canada "has a record" for rejecting claims from that region, he said.

He also said each country’s acceptance rate tends to decrease over time, as adjudicators get more information on what groups abroad experience.

"There tends to be statistically a larger acceptance rate when the claims are made early on... because board members tend to develop expertise." 

 

Origin countries of MB refugee claims, 2010-17

El Salvador: 51

Pakistan : 44

Nigeria: 63

Mexico: 49

Eritrea: 69

Djibouti: 80

Total number of claims

0

Ethiopia: 52

1-25

26-50

51-75

76-100

Somalia: 351

100+

Origin countries of Manitoba’s refugee claimants, 2010-17

Pakistan : 44

Mexico: 49

El Salvador: 51

Nigeria: 63

Eritrea: 69

Djibouti: 80

Total number of claims

Ethiopia: 52

0

1-25

26-50

51-75

76-100

Somalia: 351

100+


 

1,314 claims in seven years

Asylum seekers can withdraw their claims for myriad reasons, such as their home country becoming safer, applying for regular immigration or joining family in a country abroad.

Some abandon their claims entirely, by returning home or simply not showing up for their hearing.

According to the requested data, there were 1,314 claims made in Manitoba between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2017. Of that total, 691 claims were successful, 527 were not, while 43 were abandoned and 53 were withdrawn.

Those who lose or abandon their claims are given an order to leave Canada within 30 days, after which Canada Border Services Agency can deport them. About half leave on their own accord; immigration lawyers say others often can't afford to fly home.

The CBSA focuses on finding and deporting people who pose a risk to public safety, who are often barred from visiting Canada again.

 

Number of claims heard in Manitoba, 2010-17

Abandoned /withdrawn claims: 96

Accepted claim: 691

Rejected claims: 527

Total number of claims heard in Manitoba, 2010-17

Abandoned and withdrawn claims: 96

Accepted claims: 691

Rejected claims: 527


 

Acceptance rates

Since 2010, the acceptance rate of refugees has fluctuated between 42 and 61 per cent each year, slightly better than the national rates, which dropped to 35 per cent in 2012.

Lori Wilkinson, director of Immigration Research West, says multiple wars abroad have been driving up the numbers lately.

"If you look at refugee claims, they go up and down every year, and that's really dependent on world situations," said Wilkinson, a University of Manitoba sociology professor.

She said the number of claims also varies with domestic policy changes, like Ottawa’s decision in late 2016 to lift a visa requirement for visiting citizens of Mexico, and a similar change last December for Romania and Bulgaria. Nationally, there’s been a rise in claims from those countries, though that hasn’t played out in Manitoba.

Wilkinson said Canada faced similar spikes in past decades, but largely avoided them until 2017, when more people crossed on-foot near Emerson.

"Last year, it was a high year but it wasn't astronomically high."

 

Acceptance rate for refugee claimants in Manitoba, 2010-17

65%

Amid the recent wave of refugee claimants, both Canada and Manitoba saw a jump in acceptance rates. In 2017, Manitoba's acceptance rate was 60.2 per cent. A late-2012 reform that made it harder for people from certain countries to claim asylum did reduce the number of claims adjudicated.

55

45

35

30

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Acceptance rate for refugee claimants in Manitoba, 2010-17

65%

Amid the recent wave of refugee claimants, both Canada and Manitoba saw a jump in acceptance rates. In 2017, Manitoba's acceptance rate was 60.2 per cent. A late-2012 reform that made it harder for people from certain countries to claim asylum did reduce the number of claims adjudicated.

55

45

35

30

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016


 

Hearing delays

The data only show when asylum seekers had their refugee hearings. Some wait more than a year for a hearing, because of a growing backlog of cases.

The federal Liberals say they’re trying to address the issue, but an internal memo last summer stated that without any changes, the wait time for claimants could balloon to 11 years by 2021, though bureaucrats presented this as a worst-case scenario.

In 2012, the former Conservative government created a two-tier system, putting 42 "safe countries" on a Designated Countries of Origin list, which expedited hearings and limited their appeal rights. Safe countries are jurisdictions that do not normally produce refugees and respect human rights and offer state protection.

The move was meant to weed out "bogus refugees" and speed up wait times. But the IRB and Immigration Department found the change was counterproductive, because of difficulty scheduling hearings on two different schedules.

Khan said the number of claims overall went down after that change. "Suddenly the acceptance rate jumped up, and the reason was that only people who were really desperate were coming here, who had stronger cases," he said.

"It restricted people from coming to Canada, and those who did it tended to have really stronger cases."


 

Somalia and Djibouti: Neighbouring countries worlds apart

Asylum seekers from Somalia represent the lion’s share of asylum claims in Manitoba, with 351, while claims from Djibouti (80) have been steadily rising.

Khan said he’s surprised by that trend. Though the two countries are in East Africa, he said the two are extremely different.

Somalia is a commonly called a "failed state" with large regions run by various militias, while Djibouti is a tightly controlled dictatorship.

That means Somalis can often only reach South America with their limited documents and travel north, whereas Djiboutians have ample government documentation that can help them secure visas to go abroad, or prove being a part of a persecuted group.

When many Djiboutians got U.S. visas, they found a way to reach Canada on-foot that was "not as tedious, tiresome, prolonged and deadly" as those walking across a continent.

"Perhaps the only connection would be that the Somalian community in the U.S. has been able to educate Djiboutians on the well-trodden path of how to come from the U.S. to Canada."

 

Trend line for top five countries making claims in 2017

260

240

Nigeria

(2017: 27)

220

200

Eritrea

(32)

180

Ghana

(35)

160

140

120

Djibouti

(65)

100

80

60

40

Somalia

(83)

20

0

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Trend line for top five countries making claims in 2017

260

240

220

Nigeria

(2017: 27)

 

200

Eritrea

(32)

180

Ghana

(35)

160

140

120

Djibouti

(65)

100

80

60

Somalia

(83)

40

20

0

2010

2012

2014

2016


 

Why they're coming

The IRB sorts each claim into a general reason when they are filed, though a refugee might have multiple reasons for seeking asylum, and might be granted refugee status for an entirely different reason.

That being said, the most common category for claims heard in Manitoba is "criminality/corruption," which also has the lowest success rate at 34 per cent. That claim category can include everything from having a gang target someone even if they move to another region, to having one's life threatened for not paying a bribe. The second most common claim reason is "race/ethnicity," which is twice as successful.

"Every situation is different. Even two people from the same country may be fleeing the same war, but may be making claims for different reasons. So that data, I would take it with a grain of salt," said Wilkinson.

People making claims on the basis of "military service" are among the least common claims, but the 35 people who did so were successful 83 per cent of the time, the highest rate of all listed reasons. Many of those claims come from Eritrea; some researchers compare conscription in that country to slavery, with many unable to leave the military for a decade.

 

Number of refugee claims by reason, 2010-17

Claims accepted

Claims rejected

71

Criminality/

Corruption



Activism

58


Race/Ethnicity

45

42

Gender/Age

41

59

Religion

29

32

Sexual orientation

25

34

Political opinion

23

29

Military service

5

5

State policy issue

4

Number of refugee claims by reason, 2010-17

Claims accepted

Claims rejected

71

Criminality/Corruption

126

109

Activism

58

144

Race/Ethnicity

45

42

Gender/Age

41

59

Religion

29

32

Sexual orientation

25

34

Political opinion

23

29

Military service

5

5

State policy issue

4


 

Sexual orientation

One of the fastest-rising claim categories in Manitoba are those classified as "sexual orientation and gender identity." Those claims accounted for one to three per cent of overall hearings from 2010 to 2015, before rising to six per cent and then 10 per cent in 2017.

Wilkinson said Canada is one of the few countries that accepts LGBTTQ* people fleeing persecution, which more asylum seekers are discovering online.

"The sad part is that more people couldn't take advantage of that, because they didn't know that that was possible."

The IRB has a manual with strict guidelines to weigh the likeliness someone was persecuted for being LGBTTQ*; applicants can’t simply claim to be gay.

Khan said about 30 per cent of the cases he deals with are what he calls "gender-based claims," whether that be sexual minorities or women fleeing gender mutilation.

 

Kenya: 4

Uganda: 2

Cuba: 2

Bangladesh: 2

Others: 9

Ghana: 23

Total refugee claims with sexual orientation listed as main reason, 2010-17: 58

Djibouti: 7

Nigeria: 9

Others

Ghana: 23

Total refugee claims which sexual orientation listed as reason, 2010-17: 58

Djibouti: 7

Nigeria: 9


 

Trump countries

The Trump administration is scaling back its Temporary Protected Status program, which let people stay in the United States for years due to troubles back home, without granting refugee status.

Thousands of Haitians claimed asylum in Quebec last year after Haiti lost its TPS eligibility, but the countries on the chopping block, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal and Yemen, are not overly represented in the asylum claims made in Manitoba.

In fact, Somalia is the only country being removed from TPS that has a significant number of claims in Manitoba, though the country has been the province’s top source of refugee hearings for years.

"People gravitate to where there's existing communities, where their families and friends might be," said Wilkinson. 


 

How adjudicators decide

Acceptance rates vary wildly among IRB adjudicators, some of whom specialize in claims based on a region or topic.

The IRB calls its adjudicators "members;" they are not judges. They’re hired by public servants, though they used to be appointed by the federal government.

Wilkinson said it’s no surprise there is a variation in decisions among adjudicators. "People are human; I don't think you can take 20 humans and have them hear the same case and make exactly the same (decision.)"

 

Acceptance rates by board member in Winnipeg, Jan. 2013-Sept. 2017*

Claims accepted

Claims rejected

 Douglas Cryer 

93

80

Jodie Schmalzbauer 

72

 Preeti Adhopia 

47

 Kerry Cundal 

48

Ron Yamauchi 

 Zonia Tock 

44

37

 Paula Faber 

31

 Gordon Mcrae 

29

 Negar Azmudeh 

Gordon C. McRae is a former RCMP officer from B.C. He was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2009 by then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Between January 2013 and September 2017, he has accepted only nine per cent of cases brought in front of him.

30

 Daniel Tucci 

26

  Miryam Molgat

25

  Lucinda Bruin 

20

Jesse Davidson 

17

 Michal Fox

16

 Rena Dhir 

13

 Gregory Kelly 

11

 Luella Gaultier 

13

 Philip Macaulay 

12

 Melanie Chartier 

*Includes board members who have adjudicated more than 10 cases in Manitoba, some of whom have left the IRB

Acceptance rates by board member in Winnipeg,

Jan. 2013-Sept. 2017*

Claims accepted

Claims rejected

Douglas Cryer 

93

80

 Jodie Schmalzbauer

72

Preeti Adhopia 

47

Kerry Cundal 

48

Ron Yamauchi 

44

Zonia Tock 

37

Paula Faber 

31

 Gordon Mcrae 

29

 Negar Azmudeh

30

Daniel Tucci 

26

  Miryam Molgat 

25

  Lucinda Bruin

20

Jesse Davidson

17

Michal Fox 

16

Rena Dhir 

13

 Gregory Kelly 

11

  Luella Gaultier 

13

  Philip Macaulay 

12

   Melanie Chartier 

*Includes board members who have adjudicated more than 10 cases in Manitob, some of whom have left the IRB

— With files from Carol Sanders

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

graeme.bruce@freepress.mb.ca

Graeme Bruce

Graeme Bruce
Multimedia producer

Graeme Bruce is a multimedia producer for the Winnipeg Free Press with a focus on data and graphics.

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Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"

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