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Publications

Jones, R., A. Kocher, F. Sultana, D. Smiles, K. McSweeney, and P. Molnar, “Interventions on public geographies” (2023) Political Geography, forthcoming.

ACCESS: Full publication available at ScienceDirect.

EXTRACT: “Reese Jones: When I began graduate school in the early 2000s, I did so with a plan to do research that was not simply academic, in the pejorative sense of the word, but spoke to problems that affected people’s lives out there in the world. As I learned more about the discipline of geography, I was impressed by the research of my fellow geographers, who had important things to say about contemporary issues such as wealth inequality, environmental change, and the geopolitics of the war on terror. Consequently, I was disappointed that these contributions to real world problems did not seem to be reaching a broader audience…”

Mercier, E. and S. Rehaag, “Canadian ‘Dreamers’: Access to Postsecondary Education” (2023) Osgoode Hall Law Journal, forthcoming.

ACCESS: Full draft accessible at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “Youth with precarious legal status (PLS) in Canada are entitled to access primary and secondary education regardless of their immigration status. However, once they graduate from high school their opportunities for postsecondary education are highly constrained. This article sets out an argument for expanding postsecondary educational opportunities for PLS students, drawing on the example of the only existing program in Canada targeting such students: York University’s “Access for Students with Precarious Immigration Status Program”. The article considers possible legal impediments to the establishment of such programs, including offenses under Canadian immigration legislation, and argues that charges against postsecondary institutions or their employees are unlikely. Moreover, the article contends that if such charges were pursued, courts would likely find that the relevant legislative provisions are unconstitutional due to overbreadth and because they penalize humanitarian assistance, which was not the intention of the drafters of the provisions. The article also argues that in the unlikely scenario that postsecondary institutions were found to be in breach of Canadian immigration law for admitting PLS students, this is one of the limited sets of circumstances where pushing back against the law – and even breaking the law if necessary – would be warranted. Overall, the article argues that it is time for faculty, students and administrators at Canadian colleges and universities to join the fight to create pathways for postsecondary education for PLS students…”

Verman, A. and S. Rehaag, “Transgender Erasure: Barriers facing transgender refugees in Canada” (2023) McGill Law Journal, forthcoming.

ACCESS: Full draft available at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “This paper explores the experiences of transgender refugee claimants in Canada’s refugee status determination system, using mixed methods: quantitative analysis of data obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), reviews of published and unpublished decisions, country condition documentation packages and IRB guidelines, as well as interviews with refugee lawyers. Using these methods, we explore how credibility arises in transgender refugee claims, noting the impact of medicalization and country conditions materials on transgender claims, and drawing parallels between medical gatekeeping and credibility assessments in refugee claims. We identify potential explanations for low recorded numbers of transgender claims as rooted in data-gathering and decision-making practices that are misaligned with transgender experiences, and we offer policy recommendations to overcome this mismatch. Though transgender refugee claims appear to be largely successful in recent years, longstanding patterns of exclusion and erasure as policy nevertheless lead many transgender claimants to experience the refugee determination process as traumatic and transphobic, resulting in unaccounted-for complications and challenges to practice…”

Wallace, S., B. Perryman, G. Lukács, and S. Rehaag, “‘The Biggest Problem With You..’: Racial profiling and Canada’s program of extra-territorial migrant interdiction” (2023) Osgoode Hall Law Journal, forthcoming.

ACCESS: Full draft available at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “On April 3, 2019, Andrea and Attila Kiss tried to board an Air Canada Rouge flight from Budapest to Toronto. Andrea’s sister was ailing, and the couple planned to visit Canada for two months to support her family. Their travel was legitimate and lawful. Their documents were in order. But when they lined up to check in, Andrea made a mental note of a fact that was about to become relevant: as members of the Hungarian Roma community, they were the only racialized people in line…”

Guha, N., et al, “Legalbench: A Collaboratively Built Benchmark for Measuring Legal Reasoning in Large Language Models” (2023) 2023 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, Datasets and Benchmarks Track.

ACCESS: Full publication available at SSRN.

EXTRACT: “The advent of large language models (LLMs) and their adoption by the legal community has given rise to the question: what types of legal reasoning can LLMs perform? To enable greater study of this question, we present LegalBench: a collaboratively constructed legal reasoning benchmark consisting of 162 tasks covering six different types of legal reasoning. LegalBench was built through an interdisciplinary process, in which we collected tasks designed and hand-crafted by legal professionals. Because these subject matter experts took a leading role in construction, tasks either measure legal reasoning capabilities that are practically useful, or measure reasoning skills that lawyers find interesting. To enable cross-disciplinary conversations about LLMs in the law, we additionally show how popular legal frameworks for describing legal reasoning—which distinguish between its many forms—correspond to LegalBench tasks, thus giving lawyers and LLM developers a common vocabulary. This paper describes LegalBench, presents an empirical evaluation of 20 open-source and commercial LLMs, and illustrates the types of research explorations LegalBench enables…”

Molnar, P., “Digital border technologies, techno-racism and logics of exclusion” (2023) 61:5 International Migration 307.

ACCESS: Full publication available at Wiley Online Library.

ABSTRACT: “Like a wound in the landscape, the rusty border wall cuts along Arizona”s El Camino Del Diablo, the Devil’s Highway. Once the pride and joy of the Trump Administration, this wall is once again the epicentre of a growing political row. President Biden’s May 2023 repeal of the Trump Administration’s Covid-era Title 42 regulation comes with the introduction of hardline new policies preventing people from claiming asylum in the United States, undergirded by a growing commitment to a virtual smart border extending far beyond the physical frontier (Transnational Institute, 2023)…”

Rehaag, S., “Claim Types in Canada’s Refugee Determination System: An Empirical Snapshot (2013-2021)” (forthcoming) Refuge.

ACCESS: Full draft available at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “This article presents an empirical overview of refugee claims made in Canada from 2013 to 2021, using data obtained from Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The research aims to supplement standard legal research methodologies by providing an empirical snapshot of outcomes in different types of unpublished refugee claims in Canada. The article explains the research method used and presents the findings, including a broad overview of the number of claims made and their outcomes, a description of the categories of claims adjudicated, and a detailed examination of each of the main categories. The article concludes with some concluding remarks, including suggestions for future research…”

Rehaag, S., “Luck of the Draw III: Using AI to Examine Decision-Making in Federal Court Stays of Removal” (11 January 2023) Refugee Law Lab Working Paper.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “This article examines decision-making in Federal Court of Canada immigration law applications for stays of removal, focusing on how the rates at which stays are granted depend on which judge decides the case. The article deploys a form of computational natural language processing, using a large-language model machine learning process (GPT-3) to extract data from online Federal Court dockets. The article reviews patterns in outcomes in thousands of stay of removal applications identified through this process and reveals a wide range in stay grant rates across many judges. The article argues that the Federal Court should take measures to encourage more consistency in stay decision-making and cautions against relying heavily on stays of removal to ensure that deportation complies with constitutional procedural justice protections. The article is also a demonstration of how machine learning can be used to pursue empirical legal research projects that would have been cost-prohibitive or technically challenging only a few years ago – and shows how technology that is increasingly used to enhance the power of the state at the expense of marginalized migrants can instead be used to scrutinize legal decision-making in the immigration law field, hopefully in ways that enhance the rights of migrants. The article also contributes to the broader field of computational legal research in Canada by making available to other non-commercial researchers the code used for the project, as well as a large dataset of Federal Court dockets…”

Molnar, P., “Territorial and Digital Borders and Migrant Vulnerability Under a Pandemic Crisis” in A. Triandafyllidou, ed, Migration and Pandemics: Spaces of Solidarity and Spaces of Exception (Toronto: Springer, 2022) 45.

ACCESS: Full publication available at Springer.

EXTRACT: “Tucked away on a quiet street minutes from a major train station in Brussels, a house is at first indistinguishable from its nondescript neighbours. However, inside this ‘squat’ lives a bustling community. Made up of climate justice organisers, self-described anarchists, and social justice advocates, L’Autre Caserne provides shelter, food, and support to undocumented people who find themselves living in the Belgian capital. With a massive cardboard clock that reads ‘Revolution Time’ and ‘No One is Illegal’ stickers everywhere, the bright three-story building has skylight windows and even a salsa dance room, contrasting with the ever-present threat of eviction and arrest. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, over 30 undocumented people gathered together to share snacks and stories of their migration journeys, while sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most people present were from Eritrea or Ethiopia, as the previous group of Syrians vacated their rooms a few weeks back, moving on and trying their luck with the elusive passage to the UK – a Promised Land that seems simultaneously full of opportunity yet unattainable except for a lucky few. The UK remains difficult to reach during the coronavirus pandemic, where irregular passage on a boat across the English Channel or on the back of a lorry all come with the risk of increased surveillance (Meaker, 2020) and potential indefinite detention, if apprehended…”

Rehaag, S. and P.A. Thériault, “Judgments v Reasons in Federal Court Refugee Claim Judicial Reviews: A Bad Precedent?” (2022) 45:1 Dalhousie Law Journal 185.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Dalhousie Law Journal.

ABSTRACT: “This article offers an empirical examination of policies on the publication of refugee law decisions in Canada’s Federal Court. In 2015, the Court issued a notice describing the Court’s general practice of publishing written reasons in cases that the deciding judge considers as having precedential value and of issuing unpublished judgments in cases that the deciding judge does not view as precedential. In 2018, the Court reversed course and issued a new notice. This time, the Court indicated that all final decisions on the merits will be published…”

Khan, J. and S. Rehaag, “Promoting Privacy, Fairness and the Open Court Principle in Immigration and Refugee Proceedings” (2023) 54:2 Ottawa Law Review 357.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Ottawa Law Review.

ABSTRACT: “Court decisions and court documents are becoming easier to access online than ever before. This access provides many possible benefits, including increased fairness. But court decisions and documents often contain intensely personal information. Public exposure of that private information may even lead to significant harm. The Federal Court of Canada has demonstrated leadership among Canadian courts in attempting to proactively grapple with these issues, including by consulting stakeholders about increased electronic access to court records…”

Molnar, P., “Robots and refugees: the human rights impacts of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making in migration” in M. McAuliffe, ed, Research Handbook on International Migration and Digital Technology (Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021) 134.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Elgar Online.

ABSTRACT: “Millions of people are on the move due to conflict, instability, environmental factors and economic reasons. As a result, many states and international organizations involved in migration control are exploring various technological experiments to strengthen border enforcement and improve decision-making. These experiments range from Big Data predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean, to Canada’s use of automated decision-making in immigration, to Artificial Intelligence (AI) lie detectors at European borders. However, these technological innovations often fail to account for profound human rights ramifications and real impacts on human lives. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, the use of new technologies is increasing. As governments move towards biosurveillance to contain the spread of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the use of tracking, automated drones and other types of technologies that purport to help manage migration, exacerbating potential human rights concerns (Cliffe, 2020; Lewis & Mok, 2020; Molnar & Naranjo, 2020). Emerging research1 is beginning to highlight how new technologies such as biometrics, Big Data and airport AI lie detectors by private companies such as iBorderCtrl are used in the management of migration, but there is a gap in the conversation around the disproportionate impact of technological experimentation on migrants and refugees without appropriate mechanisms of accountability and oversight (Picheta, 2018). New technologies challenge our understanding of decision-making and procedural protections, with the risk of creating legal black holes…”

Molnar, P., “Surveillance sovereignty: Migration management technologies and the politics of privatization” in G. Hudson and I. Atak, eds, Migration, Security, and Resistance: Global and Local Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2021).

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Routledge.

ABSTRACT: “Through technology, the management of migration has broadened. In various jurisdictions across the world, people on the move are often presupposed to be criminals unless proven otherwise, justifying increasingly hardline surveillance and data-gathering interventions (Atak & Simeon, 2018). The increasing opacity of border zones and transnational surveillance practices work to transform migration into a site of potential criminality that must be surveilled and managed to root out the ever-present specter of terrorism and irregular migration (European Commission, nd; International Organization for Migration, 2010; PR Newswire, 2020). For example, the increased use of drones to police Europe’s borders has resulted in the decentralization of the border zone into various vertical and horizontal layers of surveillance, suspending state power from the skies (Csernatoni, 2018) and extending the border visually and virtually. At the US–Mexico border, various “smart border” technologies have led to not only a highly securitized border zone but also to the doubling of people’s deaths in the Arizona desert (Chambers et al., 2019; De Leon, 2015). These technological practices have justified the expansion of other technologies that manage migration. With retinal scans in refugee camps, or automated artificial intelligence (AI) lie detectors at the airport, the primary purpose of these technologies is to collect data, make decisions, and report to the state the necessary information on a potentially unsafe or at least unknown migrant body, rendering them into security objects and data points to be analyzed, stored, collected, and rendered intelligible…”

Molnar, P., “Technological Testing Grounds and Surveillance Sandboxes: Migration and Border Technology at the Frontiers” (2021) 45:2 Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 109.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at HeinOnline.

ABSTRACT: “Experiments with new technologies in migration management are increasing. From Big Data predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean, to Canada’s use of automated decision-making in immigration and refugee applications, to artificial intelligence lie detectors deployed at European borders, States are keen to explore the use of new technologies, yet often fail to take into account profound human rights ramifications and real impacts on human lives…”

Smith, C.D., S. Rehaag, and T.C.W. Farrow, “Access to Justice for Refugees: How Legal Aid and Quality of Counsel Impact Fairness and Efficiency in Canada’s Asylum System” (2021) Toronto: Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Centre for Refugee Studies, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “This report presents findings from a study exploring relationships between refugee legal aid, quality of counsel, the fairness and efficiency of asylum procedures, and access to justice for refugee claimants in Canada…”

Wallace, S., S. Rehaag, and B.L. Berger, “Immigration Detention meets Evidence Law: a discussion paper” (2021) Fact-Finding in Immigration Detention reviews: Evidence Law Meets Administrative Law Workshop, 30 September & 1 October, 2021.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at SSRN.

ABSTRACT: “This discussion paper aims to encourage a broader engagement between the fields of evidence law and administrative law, using evidence in the Canadian immigration detention review setting as a case study. For most, the field of evidence law is essentially concerned with the rules of non-admissibility. This narrow vision of evidence law partly explains why administrative decision-making and administrative law only sporadically reaches to evidence law’s lessons—and why administrative law settings feature only infrequently in evidence law doctrine. This disconnect is regrettable because contact between the fields could be mutually enriching: evidence law has a rich tradition of thinking about information and, today, administrative law is the primary site of contact between the individual and the state. This paper considers if and how the disconnect between administrative law and evidence law can be bridged…”

Mercier, E. and S. Rehaag, “The right to seek asylum in Canada (during a global pandemic)” (2020) 57 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 705.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

ABSTRACT: “This article analyzes the effect that the Canadian Government’s use of emergency powers during the COVID-19 global pandemic has had on the right to seek asylum in Canada. The article suggests that that the federal government has taken advantage of a public health crisis to make a contentious political problem – the entry of asylum seekers between land ports of entry (such as at Roxham Road) – go away. It details how the Quarantine Act and various Orders in Council have been used to temporarily extend the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States [STCA] across the entire length of the Canada-US border. It then details how this de facto extension of the STCA, which previously applied only at official land ports of entry, violates international refugee law and overviews several ways in which the global pandemic has made the United States even less ‘safe’ for refugees. The article concludes by urging the federal government to champion asylum seekers’ rights by suspending the STCA and by recognizing that crossing the border to seek asylum is amongst the most ‘essential’ forms of international travel that there is…”

Molnar, P., “Architectures of Trauma: Forced Shelter and Immigration Detention” in T. Scott-Smith and M.E. Breeze, eds, Structure of Protection?: Rethinking Refugee Shelter (New York: Berghahn Books, 2020) 83.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at De Gruyter.

ABSTRACT: “Elizabeth sits perched on the edge of an uncomfortable plastic chair, jumping up at ever robotic announcement barking over the tinny announcement system: ‘Santiago, Rom 9,’ ‘Okafor, report at the reception window’. Her three children, all under the age of five, sit quietly at her feet, crying occasionally as the wait stretches longer and longer…”

Molnar, P., “Technological Testing Grounds: Migration Management Experiments and Reflections from the Ground Up” (2020) European Digital Rights and Refugee Law Lab.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at European Digital Rights.

ABSTRACT: “States are increasingly turning to novel techniques to ‘manage’ migration. Across the globe, an unprecedented number of people are on the move due to conflict, instability, environmental factors, and economic reasons. As a response to increased migration into the European Union over the last few years, many states and international organizations involved in migration management are exploring technological experiments in various domains such as border enforcement, decision-making, and data mining. These experiments range from Big Data
predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas to automated decision-making in immigration applications to Artificial Intelligence (AI) lie detectors and risk-scoring at European borders…”

Rehaag, S., “A Snapshot of the Law in the Streets: Reflections of a Former Parkdale Academic Director” (2020) 32 Journal of Law and Social Policy 32.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Journal of Law and Social Policy.

ABSTRACT: “In this reflective essay, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor and former Academic Director at Parkdale Community Legal Services attempts to model the sort of critical self-reflection expected of law students enrolled in the Intensive Program in Poverty Law at PCLS. The essay does so by drawing lessons from a brief interaction that the author observed in the streets of the community served by PCLS and from the author’s responses to that interaction. The essay aims to highlight the value of reflection in experiential education pedagogies, in community lawyering practices, and in learning about law in context…”

Rehaag, S. and H.E. Cameron, “Experimenting with Credibility in Refugee Adjudication: Gaydar” (2020) 9 Canadian Journal of Human Rights 1.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at Canadian Journal of Human Rights.

ABSTRACT: “Canada offers refugee protection to sexual minorities facing persecution abroad. While success rates for sexual minority refugee claims have generally been higher than the overall average at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, hundreds of such claims are nonetheless turned down each year. The most common reason for denying these claims is that assertions about the claimants’ sexual orientations are determined not to be credible. Scholars have raised concerns about how such credibility determinations are made. This article contributes to the critical literature in this area by exploring sexual minority refugee claim credibility assessments through an experimental study involving simulated refugee determinations. The experiment focuses on whether a claimant’s appearance affects the simulated adjudicator’s credibility determinations and written reasons provided to justify those determinations…”

Rehaag, S., J. Song, and A. Toope, “Never letting a good crisis go to waste: Canadian interdiction of asylum seekers” (2020) 2 Frontiers in Human Dynamics 588961.

ACCESS: Full publication accessible at frontiersin.org.

ABSTRACT: “This article examines two moments of crisis at Canada’s border with the United States: the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 (“9/11”) and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian government leveraged both crises to offshore responsibilities for asylum seekers onto the United States. In the first case, Canada took advantage of U.S. preoccupations with border security shortly after 9/11 to persuade the United States to sign the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (“STCA”)—an agreement that allows Canada to direct back asylum seekers who present themselves at land ports of entry on the Canada-U.S. border. In the second case, Canada used heightened anxieties about international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic to persuade the United States to block irregular border crossings that asylum seekers were increasingly using to circumvent the STCA. After reviewing Canada’s successful use of these moments of crisis to persuade the United States to take on additional responsibilities for asylum seekers for whom Canada would have otherwise been responsible, the article discusses a recent Canadian Federal Court decision that may make all this political maneuvering moot. This decision found that Canada cannot send asylum seekers back to the United States without violating constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Given past practice, however, we can expect the Canadian government to continue to pursue avenues to persuade the United States to take on additional responsibility for asylum seekers—and moments of crisis will be important drivers for those efforts…”

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RPD Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON, Parquet and Hugging Face Dataset formats with the full text of all Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Refugee Protection Division (RPD) cases provided by the IRB to the Refugee Law Lab, covering the 2002 to 2020 period. Because the IRB is no longer publishing RPD decisions, we consider the dataset to be a legacy dataset. For more recent decisions obtained via Access to Information requests, see the RLLR Bulk Decisions Dataset. The process through which data is collected and processed, as well as code snippets for loading the data, are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab Github.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rpd_bulk_data/blob/master/DATA/yearly

Code Repositoryhttps://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rpd_bulk_data

Current Coverage: 2002-2020

Number of Decisions: ~12,500

Languages: English & French

Format: JSON, Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “RAD Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/rpd

Programmatic Access in Python (JSON via GitHub):

import pandas as pd
import requests
import json

start_year = 2002 # First year of data sought (2002+)
end_year = 2020 # Last year of data sought (2020 -)
base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rpd_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/' 

data results = [] 
     for year in range(start_year, end_year+1): 
     url = base_ulr + f'{year}.json'
     results.extend(requests.get(url).json()) 

df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df
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SST Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON, parquet and Hugging Face dataset formats with the full text of Social Security Tribunals of Canada (SST) decisions. The process through which data is processed and code snippets for loading the data are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab GitHub.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/sst_bulk_data/blob/master/DATA/yearly

Code Repositoryhttps://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/chrt_bulk_data

Current Coverage: 2013-Present

Number of Decisions: ~26,500

Languages: English & French

Format: JSON, Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “SST Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/sst

Programmatic Access in Python (JSON via GitHub):

import pandas as pd
import requests
import json

start_year = 2013 # First year of data sought (2013+)
end_year = 2023 # Last year of data sought (2023 -)
base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/sst_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/' 

data results = [] 
     for year in range(start_year, end_year+1): 
     url = base_ulr + f'{year}.json'
     results.extend(requests.get(url).json()) 

df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df
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Refugee Law Lab in the Media

The Border Chronicle: The New Gospel of Violence: Surveillance Meets Border Violence in Palestine

Petra Molnar (December 20, 2023)

“Israel’s brutal crackdown in Gaza is a bleak reminder of how authoritarianism and technology go hand in hand, as rockets and drones in the sky dim the stars of Bethlehem…”

Full article available here.

Just Security: EU’s AI Act Falls Short on Protecting Rights at Borders

Petra Molnar (December 20, 2023)

“Despite years of tireless advocacy by a coalition of civil society and academics (including the author), the European Union’s new law regulating artificial intelligence falls short on protecting the most vulnerable….”

Full article available here.

Politifact: How viable is Donald Trump’s 2024 immigration plan?

Marta Campabadal Graus and Maria Ramirez Uribe (November 21, 2023)

“Building mass detention camps, suspending the refugee program and invoking a centuries-old law to deport people without due process. A key adviser told The New York Times that these are among former President Donald Trump’s immigration plans if he wins the White House in 2024…”

Full article available here.

The Varsity: U of T could open its doors to Canada’s dreamers – if it wants to

Georgia Kelly (October 30, 2023)

“It’s a situation that legal clinic program director Sarah Pole is familiar with: someone comes to Canada as a minor, attends junior and high school in Canada, and makes plans — just like their classmates — to attend university. Then, they find out that they don’t have the legal documentation that universities require from them to apply…”

Full article available here.

CBC News: Indian refugee claims in Canada began rising after Prime Minister Modi took power, data shows

Jorge Barrera (September 30, 2023)

“Randhir Singh said the Indian police officers kicked him in the face, knocking out two teeth, and beat him with wooden sticks while they held him at the station for three days…”

Full article available here.

People of Color in Tech: AI Lie Detectors At Borders: Who Does The EU’s AI Act Actually Protect?

Samara Linton (September 22, 2023)

“The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has upheld the decision to restrict public access to information about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) lie detectors at EU borders…”

Full article available here.

CNN: Britain’s shadowy border

Katie Polglase, Livvy Doherty, Sarah-Grace Mankarious, and Byron Manley (July 31, 2023)

“The Channel between the United Kingdom and France is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Hundreds of vessels from oil tankers and passenger ferries to small fishing boats transit through an area that at its narrowest is only 21 miles wide…”

Full article available here.

Open Global Rights: Borders and AI: Human rights-enhancing legal technologies

Sean Rehaag (May 28, 2023)

“Can artificial intelligence (AI) be used to advance the rights of asylum seekers and other people on the move?…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: Ban racist and lethal AI from Europe’s borders

Lucie Audibert (April 20, 2023)

“The European Union is in the final stages of crafting first-of-its-kind legislation to regulate harmful uses of artificial intelligence. However, as it currently stands, the proposed law, called the EU AI Act, contains a lethal blind spot: It does not ban the many harmful and dangerous uses of AI systems in the context of immigration enforcement…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: The new US-Canada border deal is inhumane – and deadly

Jamie Liew, Petra Molnar, and Julie Young (April 19, 2023)

Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed recently celebrated becoming Canadian citizens. Their stories have been intertwined since they crossed the Canada-United States border to seek asylum near Emerson, Manitoba, on Christmas eve of 2016…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: Why do Roma living in Europe flee to Canada? Is life that bad there?

Nicholas Keung (April 16, 2023)

“In Romania, Laurentiu David Cobzaru was called the “tigan” or the untouchable…”

Full article available here.

Canadian Lawyer: Osgoode’s Refugee Law Lab launches online app to help lawyers win refugee protection cases

Angelica Dino (April 10, 2023)

“Osgoode Hall Law School’s Refugee Law Lab has launched a new online application that could provide lawyers with critical legal data to improve their chances of winning refugee protection cases…”

Full article available here.

Global Voices: Why do Western governments delegate border control to AI more and more? An interview with Petra Molnar

Filip Noubel (April 5, 2023)

“Activists estimate that in 2022, 30 million people were on the move as refugees, many of whom attempted to seek protection in the US and the European Union. But what they often experience when entering Western countries is not protection, but rather a dehumanizing process of categorization that relies heavily on AI and unchecked technology…”

Full article available here.

Coda Story: Europe’s borders are a surveillance testing ground. The AI Act could change that

Isobel Cockerell (March 7, 2023)

“The European Union is currently drafting a new omnibus framework — the first of its kind in the world — to regulate the use of artificial intelligence for border control. The Artificial Intelligence Act is an attempt to create a legal framework that tech companies and governments would have to adhere to when testing new AI-powered technologies along European borders….”

Full article available here.

BNN Bloomberg: The UK Is Using Drones to Prosecute Small-Boat Migrant Smugglers

Saksha Menezes (March 4, 2023)

“In July 2020, 36-year-old Iraqi Rebwar Ahmed piloted an inflatable small boat carrying 20 migrants across the English Channel…”

Full article available here.

Computer Weekly: New Border Force unit to deploy more surveillance tech in Channel

Sebastian Klovig Skelton (February 9, 2023)

“A new Border Force unit set up to curb English Channel crossings will deploy a range of “new technologies” alongside 730 additional staff to bolster its existing surveillance capabilities, as the Home Office takes back Channel policing duties from the military…”

Full article available here.

EU Observer: Racist algorithms and AI can’t determine EU migration policy

Alyna Smith, Caterina Rodelli, Sarah Chander, Petra Molnar (February 9, 2023)

“Stranding people at sea and leaving them to drown instead of rescuing them. Decisions about people’s lives in the hands of unreliable lie detector tests. Major decisions about security in the hands of algorithms…”

Full article available here.

Law.com International: New Forms of AI Open Up a World of Opportunities for Legal Researchers

Gail J. Cohen (January 17, 2023)

“A law professor who has used artificial intelligence and machine learning to examine immigration decisions in Canada’s federal courts says it’s getting much easier and faster for researchers to analyze decision-making in the courts…”

Full article available here.

Policy Options: A broader approach to AI would cut bias in immigration decisions while adding speed

Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb (December 22, 2022)

“Canada has set a goal of welcoming 500,000 immigrants to the country in 2025. This represents a 25 per cent increase over 2021 and a much larger increase compared to 2018, 2019 and 2020. Processing times, however, take years. The Canadian start-up visa has a 32-month wait period. Family sponsorship for a spouse living outside the country can take 18 months. For parents or grandparents, it is 38 months. Expanding immigration rapidly might overburden the public service officers tasked with processing these applications efficiently and effectively…”

Full article available here.

Neos Kosmos: UN calls on Greece to monitor private security used in migrant camps and at sea

Author unknown (December 18, 2022)

“The regulation of private security companies in migration was the focus of an eight-day visit to Greece by a United Nations group of human rights experts…”

Full article available here.

National Post: In Jordan, refugees scan irises to collect aid. But is it ethical?

Nazih Osseiran (December 13, 2022)

“AZRAQ, Jordan, Dec 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At a grocery store checkout in the Jordanian refugee camp of Azraq, Sameera Sabbouh stares wide-eyed into a scanner to pay for her shopping – her iris scan unlocking payment from a digital aid account with the help of blockchain technology…”

Full article available here.

Vice News: These Tiny Greek Islands Have Become Unlikely Laboratories for Global Corporations

Katy Fallon (November 18, 2022)

“ASTYPALEA, Greece – On a small island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, there’s an unfamiliar but distinctive sound behind the bleating of goats and sheep, and the clanging of their bells: the faint hum of electric cars…”

Full article available here.

The Guardian: Revealed: how coyotes and scammers use TikTok to sell migrants the American dream

Johana Bhuiyan (October 23, 2022)

“The TikTok video starts like most other travel snaps on the platform do, with selfie shots showing the user* and his companions sitting on a plane and walking through the airport…”

Full article available here.

Law 360: Commons committee recommends ‘national pause’ on use of facial recognition technology

Amanda Jerome (October 11, 2022)

“A ‘national pause’ on the use of facial recognition technology (FRT), ‘particularly for federal police services,’ was recommended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, in a recently tabled report on the impact of FRT and the ‘growing power of artificial intelligence [AI].'”

Full article available here.

Computer Weekly: Surveillance tech firms complicit in MENA human rights abuses

Sebastian Klovig Skelton (September 30, 2022)

“Surveillance technology companies are ‘deeply implicated’ in human rights abuses against migrants across the Middle…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: Drone surveillance and crowdfunded ransom: How tech is changing borders and those who cross them

Olsy Sorokina (September 16, 2022)

“Migration has always been a part of human history, but today tens of millions of people are on the move in the biggest forced displacement since the Second World War…”

Full article available here.

Taiwan News: Is Greece failing to use EU-funded border surveillance?

Deutsche Welle (September 8, 2022)

“On August 15, 2022, a group of 38 Syrian and Palestinian men, women and children were picked up by Greek authorities in the Evros region on the Greek-Turkish border and taken to a nearby refugee center for processing. Their rescue marked the end of an internationally-reported, weekslong ordeal during which the asylum-seekers said they had been stranded on a small, unnamed islet in the Evros River — the natural border between Greece and Turkey…”

Full article available here.

The Register: People who regularly talk to AI chatbots often start to believe they’re sentient, says CEO

Katyanna Quach (July 4, 2022)

“IN BRIEF Numerous people start to believe they’re interacting with something sentient when they talk to AI chatbots, according to the CEO of Replika, an app that allows users to design their own virtual companions…”

Full article available here.

WIRED: The Fight Over Which Uses of AI Europe Should Outlaw

Khari Johnson (June 30, 2022)

“IN 2019, GUARDS on the borders of Greece, Hungary, and Latvia began testing an artificial-intelligence-powered lie detector. The system, called iBorderCtrl, analyzed facial movements to attempt to spot signs a person was lying to a border agent. The trial was propelled by nearly $5 million in European Union research funding, and almost 20 years of research at Manchester Metropolitan University, in the UK…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: Syrian couple builds community in Sweden through ‘the right to host

CBC Radio (June 13, 2022)

“When Ibrahim Muhammad Haj Abdullah and Yasmeen Mahmoud fled Syria after the civil war began, they ended up in an unexpected place: Boden, in the far north of Sweden…”

Full article available here.

The New Humanitarian: Fixing Aid | The dangers of border technology for refugees

Author unknown (May 19, 2022)

“Biometrics, drones, sensor towers, and robot dogs: In this episode of Fixing Aid, host Alae Ismail explores the growing use of border and surveillance technology and looks at the grave consequences and long-lasting impacts for refugees and migrants around the globe…”

Full article available here.

Thomson Reuters Foundation News: OPINION: The AI Act: EU’s chance to regulate harmful border technologies

Petra Molnar and Sarah Chander (May 17, 2022)

“Prison-like refugee camps replete with drone surveillance, biometrics, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools are springing up across the European Union, but these technologies face very little scrutiny and regulation. The EU is now grappling with how to govern AI, but its proposed Regulation on Artificial Intelligence (the AI Act) needs to better protect refugees against high-risk border technologies. The deadline for changes to the Act is June 1, 2022. In their deliberations, Members of the European Parliament should not forget all the ways that border technologies harm people…”

Full article available here.

European Data Journalism Network: Digital Fortress Europe #3: Automation and surveillance in Fortress Europe

Kostas Zafeiropoulos, Janine Louloudi, and Nikos Morfonios (May 2, 2022)

“In late June 2020, Robert Williams, an African-American resident of Detroit, was arrested at the entrance of his home in front of his two young daughters. No one could tell him why. At the police station, he was informed that he was considered a suspect in the 2018 robbery of a store, as his face was identified by store-security surveillance footage. The identification was based on an old driver’s licence photo. After thirty hours in custody, Robert Williams was eventually released. The cynical confession of the Detroit police officers was disarming: ‘the computer probably made a mistake.'”

Full article available here.

Infosecurity Magazine: Why Is the UN Collecting the Biometric Data of Ukrainian Refugees?

Tiara Ataii (May 2, 2022)

“More than two months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 5.3 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania, Russia, Hungary and Moldova…”

Full article available here.

Counterpunch: How the U.S. Exports Its Border to Ukraine

Todd Miller (April 8, 2022)

“On March 26, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would provide Ukraine with $100 million for law enforcement, critical infrastructure, and ‘essential border security.’ Included in this would be personal protection, tactical, and communication equipment; medical supplies; and armored vehicles for the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. On April 5, the director of the State Department’s Bureau for Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Todd Robinson, wrote on Twitter that the INL’s support ‘for the State Border Guards…is unwavering in the face of Russia’s devastating war. I had a chance to personally review equipment & supplies we are providing to support Ukraine’s efforts’…”

Full article available here.

CBC Kids: Experts answer 10 questions from Canadian kids on Russian invasion of Ukraine

CBC Kids News (March 4, 2022)

“The UK government is under fire for spending tens of millions of pounds on border surveillance technologies to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel, rather than using those resources to provide safe passage…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: China’s high-tech repression of Uyghurs is more sinister — and lucrative — than it seems, anthropologist says

Nahlah Ayed (February 17, 2022)

“When people started to disappear in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang in 2014, then-PhD student Darren Byler was living there, with a rare, ground-level view of events that would eventually be labelled by some as a modern-day genocide…”

Full article available here.

Xtra: Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board updates guidelines for LGBTQ2S+ claimants—but there’s more work to be done

Dale Smith (January 28, 2022)

“A queer man is turned away from a refugee claim because the term for his same-sex partner in his native language translates to “girlfriend”; a bisexual person loses their refugee claim because their understanding of bisexuality differs from Western definitions; a queer person seeking refugee status is asked to share his Grindr profile to verify his sexuality. Around the world, LGBTQ2S+ people face violence, discrimination and encarceration because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and for many, Canada is a highly sought-after safe haven. But for those seeking refuge from a country with anti-LGBTQ2S+ legislation or powers, coming to Canada isn’t so simple…”

Full article available here.

The Guardian: Fortress Europe: the millions spent on military-grade tech to deter refugees

Kaamil Ahmed and Lorenzo Tondo (December 6, 2021)

“From military-grade drones to sensor systems and experimental technology, the EU and its members have spent hundreds of millions of euros over the past decade on technologies to track down and keep at bay the refugees on its borders…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: Canada is refusing more study permits. Is new AI technology to blame?

Nicholas Keung (November 15, 2021)

“Soheil Moghadam applied twice for a study permit for a postgraduate program in Canada, only to be refused with an explanation that read like a templated answer…”

Full article available here.

Euractiv: Surveillance is at the heart of the EU’s migration control agenda

Petra Molnar (September 28, 2021)

“‘If we go there, we will go crazy.’ On the Aegean paradise that is the Greek island of Samos, Aina, a young mother from Afghanistan seeing refugee protection with her baby and husband, is scared. On the eve of a forcible relocation to a brand new ‘closed controlled access centre’ located 10 kilometres outside the capital city of Vathi, hundreds of refugees are waiting to be transferred to a camp surrounded by barbed wire, a ‘two-factor access control system,’ turnstiles, magnetic gates with kilometres of ‘double NATO-type security fence,’ and ‘smart software’ to notify the Local Event Centre and the Control Centre in Athens…”

Full article available here.

EU Bulletin: ‘Inviolable’ Fortress Europe: Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey Move to Fortify Borders in Wake of Afghan Crisis

EU Bulletin (September 2, 2021)

“A contingent of 400 Bulgarian soldiers equipped with specialized equipment for the protection of land and sea borders has set off for the frontiers with Turkey and Greece, according to the country’s Defence Minister Georgi Panayotov. In total, 700 soldiers are expected to support over 1,000 border police officers after some 14,000 migrants have been stopped at the Bulgarian border since the beginning of the year. This news came as also neighbouring Greece has warned against a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, employing surveillance tech, and fortifying borders as chaos grips Kabul. Athens has decided to erect a metal wall with barbed wire and deploy drones and cameras — all of these could be the first sights that welcome some Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe, as they reach the Greek land border with Turkey…”

Full article available here.

Euractiv: Afghan crisis accelerates automated controls at EU borders

Molly Killeen (August 27, 2021)

“Greece last week announced the completion of a 40-kilometre fence and new automated surveillance system along the border it shares with Turkey, installed with the expressed aim of preventing people fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan from seeking asylum in Europe…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: Anticipating Afghan migration, Greece moves to fortify borders

Kate Fallon (August 26, 2021)

“A metal wall, barbed wire, drones and cameras could be the first sights that welcome some Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe, as they reach the Greek land border with Turkey…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: For years, she lived undocumented and in the shadows. Now this U of T student has a chance to study at Oxford — if she can find the tuition money

Nicholas Keung (July 31, 2021)

“Almeera Khalid was in sixth grade when she accompanied her parents to meet a refugee lawyer and to help translate why the family needed to seek asylum in the United States…”

Full article available here.

The Hill Times: Facial recognition technology ‘fundamentally undemocratic,’ says Angus as critics wary of political use

Alice Chen (July 28, 2021)

“Following backlash after the revelation facial recognition technology was quietly being used in Toronto’s Pearson Airport, calls are being reiterated from Parliamentarians and privacy watchdogs to assess the Wild West landscape in which the same kind of technology is used in politics…”

Full article available here.

CBC News: Clear safeguards needed around technology planned for border checkpoints

Jamie Liew and Petra Molnar (May 7, 2021)

“As the European Union lays out its long-awaited proposal for regulating the use of artificial intelligence (AI), Canada is signalling a very different approach when it comes to potentially high-risk uses of AI-driven technologies. As part of the newly released 2021 budget, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is receiving $656 million to be spent in part on technology such as facial recognition systems at the border…”

Full article available here.

The Province: Petra Molnar and Kenya-Jade Pinto: Dispatch from a refugee camp during the COVID-19 pandemic

Petra Molnar and Kenya-Jade Pinto (October 18, 2020)

“When COVID-19 first appeared, and we were preoccupied with bread-baking and Tiger King, the pandemic was talked about as the great equalizer, a moment to bring us all together…”

Full article available here.

Vice News: Adjudicator Who Didn’t Believe a Refugee’s Rape Also Doubted LGBTQ Claimants

Anya Zoledziowski (July 27, 2020)

“A Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) adjudicator who rejected a refugee claim after the claimant said she chose to keep her baby after experiencing rape is no longer with the board, VICE News has learned…”

Full article available here.

The Conversation: Canadian court correctly finds the U.S. is unsafe for refugees

Sean Rehaag (July 24, 2020)

“This week, Canada’s Federal Court ruled that the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is unconstitutional…”

Full article available here.

The Conversation: Whose travel is ‘essential’ during coronavirus: Hockey players or asylum-seekers?

Sean Rehaag (June 17, 2020)

“There has been lots of talk about reviving professional sports from the COVID-19 shutdown. The NHLNBA and Major League Baseball have all announced tentative plans. Canadian cities are competing to become hubs for a COVID-19 version of the NHL playoffs…”

Full article available here.

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CHRT Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON, parquet and Hugging Face dataset formats with the full text of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) decisions. The process through which data is processed and code snippets for loading the data are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab GitHub.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/chrt_bulk_data/blob/master/DATA/yearly

Code Repositoryhttps://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/chrt_bulk_data

Current Coverage: 2003-Present

Number of Decisions: ~1,600

Languages: English & French

Format: JSON, Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “CHRT Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/chrt

Programmatic Access in Python (JSON via GitHub):

import pandas as pd
import requests
import json

start_year = 2003 # First year of data sought (2003+)
end_year = 2023 # Last year of data sought (2023 -)
base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/chrt_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/' 

data results = [] 
     for year in range(start_year, end_year+1): 
     url = base_ulr + f'{year}.json'
     results.extend(requests.get(url).json()) 

df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df
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Migration + Tech Monitor

Together with several partner organizations, the Refugee Law Lab has established the Migration + Tech Monitor.

Administered by RLL Associate Director, Petra Molnar, the Migration + Tech Monitor is a living and growing archive of work done at the intersection of migration and technology. 

Technology replicates power structures in society. Unfortunately, the viewpoints of those most affected are routinely excluded from the discussion. At the Monitor, we attempt to change this — both by giving space to the experiences of people directly affected by border tech experiments as well as by investigating and interrogating how these technologies are playing out on the ground. 

The Monitor’s primary goal is impact — impact to share knowledge, destabilize structures of hierarchical power, and create  space for participatory work at the intersection of migration, technology, and human rights. Research for research’s sake is not our goal. Instead, we connect rigorous analysis with meaningful policy and advocacy goals, using innovative methodologies to get the public, media, and policy makers interested and involved in these issues.

We are guided by foundation questions such as:

-Whose perspectives matter when talking about innovation and which priorities take precedence? 

-What does critical representation and meaningful participation look like — representation that puts first people’s agency and works against asymmetries of power, knowledge, and resources?

-Are human rights framings enough or do they also silence the systemic, historical, and collective nature of these harms?

MTM Fellowships

One of the Monitor’s first projects was to create a fellowship program to support work from-the-ground-up on border and migration technologies. The fellowships aim to continue creating opportunities for people with lived experience of migration to meaningfully contribute to research, storytelling, policy, implementation of technology and advocacy conversations from the start, and not as an afterthought. Among our aims is a collaborative, intellectual, and advocacy community committed to border and migration justice. We prioritize opportunities for participatory work, including the ability to pitch unique and relevant projects by affected communities themselves.

The application cycle for 2024 has now passed. Check here for future opportunities.

Meet our 2022-3 fellows here.

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RAD Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON format with the full text of all Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Refugee Appeal Division cases provided by the IRB to the Refugee Law Lab. The process through which data is collected and processed, as well as code snippets for loading the data, are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab Github.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rad_bulk_data/blob/master/DATA/yearly

Code Repositoryhttps://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rad_bulk_data

Current Coverage: 2013-Present

Number of Decisions: ~27,000

Languages: English & French

Format: JSON, Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “RAD Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/rad

Programmatic Access in Python (JSON via GitHub):

import pandas as pd
import requests
import json

start_year = 2013 # First year of data sought (2013+)
end_year = 2023 # Last year of data sought (2023 -)
base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/rad_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/' 

data results = [] 
     for year in range(start_year, end_year+1): 
     url = base_ulr + f'{year}.json'
     results.extend(requests.get(url).json()) 

df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df
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Tax Court of Canada Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON, parquet and Hugging Face dataset formats with the full text of Tax Court of Canada decisions. The process through which data is processed and code snippets for loading the data are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab Github.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/tcc_bulk_data/tree/master/DATA/YEARLY

GitHub Repository: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/tcc_bulk_data

Hugging Face Repository: https://huggingface.co/datasets/refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data

Current Coverage: 2003 – 2023 (* to July 24 in 2023)

Number of Decisions: ~15,000

Languages: English & French

Formats: JSON (yearly files), Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). NOTE: Users must also comply with upstream licensing for the TCC source data, as well as requests on source urls not to allow indexing of the documents by search engines to protect privacy. As a result, users must not make the data available in formats or locations that can be indexed by search engines.

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “Tax Court of Canada Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/tcc

Data Fields:

  • citation1 (string): Legal citation for the document (neutral citation where available)
  • citation2 (string): For some documents multiple citations are available (e.g. for some periods the Supreme Court of Canada provided both official reported citation and neutral citation)
  • dataset (string): The name of the dataset (in this case “TCC”)
  • year (int32): Year of the document date, which can be useful for filtering
  • name (string): Name of the document, typically the style of cause of a case
  • language (string): Language of the document, “en” for English, “fr” for French, “” for no language specified
  • document_date (string): Date of the document, typically the date of a decision (yyyy-mm-dd)
  • source_url (string): URL where the document was scraped and where the official version can be found
  • scraped_timestamp (string): Date the document was scraped (yyyy-mm-dd)
  • unofficial_text (string): Full text of the document (unofficial version, for official version see source_url)
  • other (string): Field for additional metadata in JSON format, currently a blank string for most datasets

Programmatic Access in Python (via Hugging Face Datasets):

from datasets import load_dataset
import pandas as pd

dataset = load_dataset("refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data", split="train", data_dir="TCC")

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame(dataset)
df

Programmatic Access to in Python (via Parquet):

import pandas as pd
import requests
from io import BytesIO

url = 'https://huggingface.co/datasets/refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data/resolve/main/TCC/train.parquet'

# load data
results = requests.get(url)

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.read_parquet(BytesIO(results.content))
df

Programmatic Access in Python (via JSON):

import pandas as pd
import json
import requests

# Set variables
start_year = 2003  # First year of data sought (2003 +)
end_year = 2023  # Last year of data sought (2023 -)

# load data
base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/tcc_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/'
results = []
for year in range(start_year, end_year+1):
    url = base_ulr + f'{year}.json'
    results.extend(requests.get(url).json())

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df

NOTES

(1) Data Source: Tax Court of Canada.

(2) Unofficial Data: The data are unofficial reproductions of materials on the Tax Court of Canada website. Links to official versions are included in the dataset.

(3) Non-Affiliation / Endorsement: The data has been collected and reproduced without any affiliation or endorsement from the Tax Court of Canada.

(4) Non-Commerical Use: As indicated in the license, data may be used for non-commercial use (with attribution) only. For commercial use, see the Tax Court of Canada website’s Terms of Use.

(5) Accuracy: Data was collected and processed programmatically for the purposes of academic research. While we make best efforts to ensure accuracy, data gathering of this kind inevitably involves errors. As such the data should be viewed as preliminary information aimed to prompt further research and discussion, rather than as definitive information.

(6) Limitation: Only includes cases with neutral citation, which began to be used in 2003

(7) Delay: Decisions may take many months to be translated (sometimes over a year). As a result, in the most recent years, decisions may only be available in one language.

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Law Student with Coding / Data Science Skills

The Refugee Law Lab has part-time research assistant positions available for current law students at any Canadian faculty of law (JD or graduate level) who are considering careers at the intersection of AI and legal practice and who have advanced professional coding or data science skills.

The Lab has several ongoing projects related to open-source legal analytics in the refugee law field. The projects use data about Canada’s refugee determination process scraped from online sources, apply various NLP and LLM tools to extract useful information and analyze the data, and present insights from that data in accessible formats to assist refugee lawyers appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board and the Federal Court.

If you have advanced professional coding / data science skills that could assist with these projects and you would like opportunities to explore leveraging those skills to help legal practitioners in advancing the rights and interests of refugees and other non-citizens, let’s chat about how we might work together.

Examples of sought-after expertise:

  • Data scraping / data wrangling using Python (Pandas, BeautifulSoup, Selenium, Playwright, Scrapy, etc).
  • Working with LLMs using Python (Langchain, OpenAI, HuggingFace, PyTorch, etc)
  • Natural Language Processing using Python (RegEx, SpaCy, Scikit-learn, etc)
  • Data labeling using Python (Prodigy, etc)
  • Data analysis and visualization using Python (Pandas, Numpy, Matplotlib, Seaborn, etc)
  • Back-end development and databases (RestAPIs, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc)
  • MLOps and DevOps
  • Experience with Advanced Research Computing or Research Data Management platforms provided by the Digital Research Alliance of Canada
  • Lived experience with forced migration or being a member of an equity seeking group is an asset

Context: The Refugee Law Lab, based at York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies and Osgoode Hall Law School, is devoted to research and advocacy related to new legal technologies and their impact on refugees, other displaced communities, and people on the move. We develop datasets and legal analytics that enhance transparency in refugee law processes. We study and critique the use of artificial intelligence and other technologies by governments and private actors in the migration field. And we produce legal technology that advances the rights and interests of refugees and other marginalized people on the move. We are committed to social justice, to interdisciplinarity, to evidence-informed policy, and to ensuring that the data, research and technologies that we produce are freely accessible to the public. We strive to work from a community-based perspective, foregrounding the lived experiences of people on the move and their interactions with technology.

Place of work: remote

Salary: Current JD student: $25/hr; Current graduate student: $40/hr (both hourly salaries inclusive of vacation pay)

Time Commitment: Negotiable.

Eligibility: Current (or incoming for Fall 2023) JD or graduate student at a Canadian faculty of law. Must have professional coding / data science skills.

Application Deadline: Open until filled.

Application process: Apply online with a CV, electronic copy of unofficial transcripts, and a brief cover note describing your interest in the position.

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Federal Court Bulk Decisions Dataset

Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON, parquet and Hugging Face dataset formats with the full text of Federal Court (Canada) decisions. The process through which data is processed and code snippets for loading the data are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab GitHub.

Data: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/fc_bulk_data/tree/master/DATA/YEARLY

GitHub Repository: https://github.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/fc_bulk_data

Hugging Face Repository: https://huggingface.co/datasets/refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data

Current Coverage: 2001 – 2023 (* cases with neutral citation; to July 1 in 2023)

Number of Decisions: ~60,000

Languages: English & French

Format: JSON (yearly files for each language), Parquet, Hugging Face Dataset

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). NOTE: Users must also comply with upstream licensing from the FC data source, as well as requests on source urls not to allow indexing of the documents by search engines to protect privacy. As a result, users must not make the data available in formats or locations that can be indexed by search engines.

Citation: Sean Rehaag, “Federal Court Bulk Decisions Dataset” (2023), online: Refugee Law Laboratory https://refugeelab.ca/bulk-data/fc

Data Fields:

  • citation1 (string): Legal citation for the document (neutral citation where available)
  • citation2 (string): For some documents multiple citations are available (e.g. for some periods the Supreme Court of Canada provided both official reported citation and neutral citation)
  • dataset (string): The name of the dataset (in this case “FC”)
  • year (int32): Year of the document date, which can be useful for filtering
  • name (string): Name of the document, typically the style of cause of a case
  • language (string): Language of the document, “en” for English, “fr” for French, “” for no language specified
  • document_date (string): Date of the document, typically the date of a decision (yyyy-mm-dd)
  • source_url (string): URL where the document was scraped and where the official version can be found
  • scraped_timestamp (string): Date the document was scraped (yyyy-mm-dd)
  • unofficial_text (string): Full text of the document (unofficial version, for official version see source_url)
  • other (string): Field for additional metadata in JSON format, currently a blank string for most datasets

Programmatic Access in Python (via Hugging Face Datasets):

from datasets import load_dataset
import pandas as pd

dataset = load_dataset("refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data", split="train", data_dir="FC")

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame(dataset)
df

Programmatic Access in Python (via Parquet):

import pandas as pd
import requests
from io import BytesIO

url = 'https://huggingface.co/datasets/refugee-law-lab/canadian-legal-data/resolve/main/FC/train.parquet'

# load data
results = requests.get(url)

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.read_parquet(BytesIO(results.content))
df

Programmatic Access in Python (JSON):

import pandas as pd
import json
import requests

# Set variables
start_year = 2001  # First year of data sought (1877 +)
end_year = 2023  # Last year of data sought (2023 -)
languages_sought = ['en', 'fr']  # languages in list 


base_ulr = 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Refugee-Law-Lab/fc_bulk_data/master/DATA/YEARLY/'

# load data
results = []
for year in range(start_year, end_year+1):
    for language in languages_sought:
        url = base_ulr + f'{year}_{language}.json'
        results.extend(requests.get(url).json())

# convert to dataframe
df = pd.DataFrame(results)
df