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2020 Data

2020 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates

The following note and the accompanying data are provided by Sean Rehaag, Director of the Refugee Law Laboratory, Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies, and Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.

5 August 2021

Data obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) through Access to Information Requests and a data sharing agreement reveals vast disparities in refugee claim recognition rates across decision-makers in 2020. This is consistent with similar findings from prior years for Canada’s previous and new refugee determination systems.

In 2020, some Refugee Protection Division (RPD) decision-makers who decided over 30 cases granted refugee status in most of the cases they heard, including L. Houle (100.0%), J. Morin (100.0%) and F. Ramsay (100.0%). Others who decided over 30 cases granted refugee protection much less frequently, including G. Brien (1.8%), M. Rodrigue (11.1%) and P. Ariemma (12.5%).

The tables also show substantial variance for some decision-makers between the recognition rates that would be predicted based solely on the average recognition rates for the countries of origins in the cases they decided, and their actual recognition rates. For instance, R. Khalifa (predicted 48.5%; actual 79.5%), G. Pagidas (predicted 48.0%; actual 76.3%) and J-G. Jam (predicted 63.9%; actual 91.5%) had much higher recognition rates than predicted, whereas K. Gibson (predicted 71.1%, actual 15.1%), L. Stewart Ferreira (predicted 70.3%; actual 17.8%) and G. Brien (predicted 47.0%; actual: 1.8%) had much lower recognition rates than predicted. All decided at least 30 cases.

Some of the recognition rate variation observed in the data is due to specialization in particular types of cases. For example, some decision-makers specialize in geographic regions with especially high or low refugee claim recognition rates. It should also be kept in mind that to enhance efficiency the RPD has recently placed increased emphasis on streaming cases into different categories, including expedited cases that are granted based on paper reviews rather than hearings. The proportion of such claims heard by particular decision-makers may affect their recognition rates. For further possible explanations for variations in recognition rates, please see an explanatory note (also available in French) that was provided by the IRB.

The data for 2020 also includes information about outcomes on appeals at the IRB’s Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). Like the variations seen in RPD decision-making, RAD decision-makers have very different rates at which they grant appeals. For example, in RAD cases decided on the merits, claimants were much more likely to succeed in their appeals before J. Pollock (77.8%), J. Bousfield (75.9%) or C. Maxwell (69.1%) than before J. Sadek (3.8%), M. Lamani (5.5%) or M. Jobin (5.6%). All decided at least 30 cases.

A few implications of this year’s data are worth highlighting:

  • The persistence of variations in recognition rates across adjudicators, combined with the devastating potential impact of false negative refugee decisions (i.e. refugees being returned to face persecution), make robust oversight mechanisms essential. Unfortunately, many refugee claimants continue to be denied access to the appeal at the IRB and are ineligible for automatic stays on removal pending judicial review at the Federal Court. This includes large numbers of claimants who transited to Canada via the United States under an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement – even though one’s route to Canada has little to do with whether one has a well-founded fear of persecution. For further analysis, see: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2647638
  • The overall success rates in RAD appeals are remarkably high. Indeed, appeals brought by claimants and decided on the merits in 2020 were granted in around a third of cases (32.3%). The fact that the RAD is correcting large numbers of claims that were wrongly denied at the RPD emphasizes the importance of this form of oversight. And it is yet another reason why all claimants – including those who have transited to Canada via the United States – must be entitled to a full appeal on the merits. For further analysis, see: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2647638

For a discussion of the methodology used to obtain the data and to calculate the statistics, as well as an analysis of the implications of similar data for a previous year, see https://ssrn.com/abstract=1468717

Note that, unlike past years, the IRB initially declined to provide the data requested in our annual Access to Information Request, pointing to the new Treasury Board Privacy Implementation Notice and the need to protect the privacy of refugee claimants. The IRB did, however, agree to enter into a data sharing agreement to facilitate this research. While we are grateful to the IRB for engaging with researchers in this way – and while we share the view that it is important to protect the privacy interests of refugee claimants – the agreement limits how much data we are able to publicly share. Thus, for example, we are not posting the raw data we obtained. We are also only posting statistics relating to outcomes in cases decided on the merits by Board Members (leaving hundreds of claims decided on other grounds out of the reported figures). We are also only posting recognition rates, rather than counts of cases and breakdowns of outcomes. If you are interested in general statistics on refugee claim outcomes, including breakdowns for all claims from particular countries, we encourage you to consult the statistics webpages of the IRB and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


Tables for RPD Cases:

1.1. Outcomes by Board Member (Alphabetical)

1.1a. Outcomes by Board Member (Organized by Recognition Rate, 30+ Decisions)

1.1b. Outcomes by Board Member (Organized by RR Nominal Variance, 30+ Decisions)

1.2. Outcomes by Board Member (Excluding Paper Review & Expedited Positive Decisions) (Alphabetical)

1.2a. Outcomes by Board Member (Excluding Paper Review & Expedited Positive Decisions) (Alphabetical) (Organized by Recognition Rate, 30+ Decisions)

1.2b. Outcomes by Board Member (Excluding Paper Review & Expedited Positive Decisions) (Alphabetical) (Organized by RR Nominal Variance, 30+ Decisions)

1.3. Outcomes by Country and Board Member

1.4. Outcomes by Board Member and Country


Tables for RAD Cases:

2.1. RAD Outcomes by Board Member (Alphabetical)

2.1a RAD Outcomes by Board Member (Organized by Allowal Rate, 30+ Decisions)


To be cited as: Sean Rehaag, “2020 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates” (5 August 2021), online: https://refugeelab.ca/refugee-claim-data-2020.

NOTES:

  • The data was obtained through Access to Information Request A-2020-01130 and a data sharing agreement with the IRB dated 2 June 2021.
  • Tables 1.1, 1.1a, 1.1b, 1.3 and 1.4 include only cases resulting in positive (including expedited positive and paper review positive) or negative (including no credible basis) decisions, excluding cases that were abandoned, withdrawn or otherwise decided. Tables 1.2, 1.2a and 1.2b, include only cases resulting in positive (excluding expedited positive and paper review positive) or negative (including no credible basis) decisions, or where applications were withdrawn or declared abandoned, excluding cases that were abandoned, withdrawn or otherwise decided.
  • All statistics (including recognition rates) include only principal applicant claims (i.e. excluding associated claims by family members of principal applicants).
  • A small number of cases were decided by panels of Board Members. Only the first listed Board Member is included in the statistics.
  • Country of origin averages and predicted recognition rates are calculated separately for tables that include (i.e. Tables 1.1, 1.1a, 1.1b, 1.3 and 1.4) and exclude (i.e.  Tables 1.2, 1.2a and 1.2b) expedited positive and paper review positive decisions.
  • The data refers to “recognition rates”. The term “recognition rate” is used to mean the proportion, expressed as a percentage, of positive (including expedited positive) decisions relative to the total number of positive (including expedited positive and paper review positive where applicable) and negative (including no credible basis) decisions, excluding cases that are abandoned, withdrawn or otherwise resolved. This is the standard practice for reporting outcomes by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (https://www.unhcr.org/statistics), and it is the way that both “recognition rates” and “grant rates” were reported for data obtained for prior years (see links below).
  • Tables 2.1 and 2.1a only include principal applicant RAD appeals brought by claimants (i.e. excluding appeals brought by the minister) that are decided on the merits (i.e. excluding appeals that are abandoned, withdrawn, not perfected, denied on jurisdictional grounds, or otherwise resolved).
  • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Sean Rehaag

Director, Refugee Law Laboratory
Director, Centre for Refugee Studies
Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
York University


Data from previous years (via Refugee Law Lab):

2019

Data from previous years (via Canadian Council for Refugees):

2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011 (Updated)
2011 (Original)
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006

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Part-Time Junior Backend Developer (open until filled)

The Refugee Law Lab is looking for a part-time junior backend developer to assist with a legal analytics application that we are building. The backend developer will help us connect our application’s frontend visualizations with our relational database by writing efficient SQL and/or GraphQL queries to compute various metrics and analytics. The position is open to current students or recently graduated students.

For details, see the full job posting.

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The Refugee Law Lab is seeking a part-time Osgoode JD research assistant with an interest in refugee law. The successful candidate will assist the Lab with several ongoing projects, including maintaining an online refugee law reporter. The position is open to JD students at Osgoode Hall Law School who have completed the Refugee Law course (or who have equivalent experience).

For details, see the full job posting.

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The Refugee Law Lab is  looking for students with strong Python, data scraping and data wrangling skills to help with natural language processing projects involving legal data. Two part-time positions are open to York University undergraduate students in data science, computer science, software engineering or related disciplines. Candidates must be eligible for Research at York positions.

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Benn McGregor, Research Assistant (Software Engineer)

Benn McGregor is a Bachelor of Software Engineering student at the University of Waterloo. In first year, he organized Citizen Hacks, a hackathon about creating privacy-protecting technology. Through Waterloo’s co-op program, he has worked at a wide range of tech companies, most recently as a gameplay programmer at Behaviour Interactive. He is currently designing and creating a collaborative multiplayer video game to inspire action on the climate crisis. At the Refugee Law Lab, he will be helping to create a platform for data analysis of Federal Court cases.

Emily Wuschnakowski, Research Assistant (JD RA)

Emily Wuschnakowski is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. Prior to law school, she attended the University of Toronto where she completed a double major in Political Science and Public Policy with a minor in Canadian Studies. There, she studied Canadian immigration policies, learning about the systemic inequalities and advocating for avenues for reform. Outside of the classroom, Emily is an active member in her community. She served as the Chair of the Etobicoke North Youth Council and was responsible for liaising between youth in her community and federal elected officials, as well as volunteered as a caseworker at the Osgoode Community Legal Aid Services Program. In 2022-23, she will be a student in the Intensive Program in Immigration and Refugee Law where she will participate in seminars on advanced topics in the field, as well as a six-week external clinic placement. Emily is excited to undertake legal research on Canadian immigration law and policy for the Refugee Law Lab.

Soliyana Yared, Research Assistant (JD RA)

Soliyana Yared is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. She completed her undergraduate degree with High Distinction at the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in both Criminology and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies and a minor in Spanish. Soliyana has worked alongside the Matthew House to expand their Refugee Hearing Program which worked to prepare refugee claimants for their upcoming Immigration and Refugee Board hearings. In doing so, she provided data analysis, marketing and outreach insights to improve the program. More recently, Soliyana was a member of the COVID-19 rebuild team at the United Alliance on Race Relations. In addition to compiling relief resources for BIPOC communities within the Greater Toronto Area, she also composed and presented a topical analysis regarding the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 within marginalized (racialized) communities.

Alexandra Verman, Research Assistant (JD RA)

Alexandra Verman is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. Alex completed their undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Toronto, in the department of Political Science and in collaboration with the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Their scholarly work deals with issues of identity and imperialism. At Osgoode, Alex’s focus is on immigration, family, and refugee law; trauma-informed lawyering; and feminist and community-based legal work. Alex is also a journalist and has written about anti-imperialism, criminalization, and LGBTQ struggle for The Atlantic, Briarpatch Magazine, BuzzFeed, Xtra MagazineJewish Currents, and others.

Catanne Boan-Mitchell, Research Assistant (JD RA)

Catanne Boan-Mitchell is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. They completed their undergraduate degree with High Distinction at the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in both Political Science and Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Catanne has worked with a number of organizations that provide free legal services to migrants and asylum seekers: including the FCJ Refugee Centre, The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, and Parkdale Community Legal Services. They are currently volunteering with an Immigration and Refugee law firm providing research for the firm’s legal aid clients.

Mathew Tran, Research Assistant (JD RA)

Matthew Tran is a joint JD/MA candidate at the University of Toronto pursuing a Masters in Criminology. He holds a PhD in Systems Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. He is currently a steering committee member of the University of Toronto Law Union and an executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, University of Toronto Chapter. He is a case worker at Advocates for Injured Workers and the Refugee/Immigration Division of Downtown Legal Services. He also supports and organizes alongside different community organizations across the city including the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, Injured Workers Action 4 Justice, and the FCJ Refugee Centre. He will be assisting the Refugee Law Lab with visual research outputs and tool creation for legal practitioners in refugee law.

Faris Mohamed, Research Assistant (Backend Developer) (Spring 2022)

Faris Mohamed is in his final year of the Computer Science Honours Bachelor’s Degree (Security Stream) at Carleton University. He is interested in all sorts of software development but security is one of his favourite subfields of software development. At the Refugee Law Lab he helped manage the infrastructure of a legal analytics application involving refugee law decision-making.

Gwenyth Wren, Research Assistant (JD RA 2021-22)

Gwenyth Wren is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. She completed her BA Honours in Environment and Development at McGill University where she spent four months in East Africa researching the effects of climate change on the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. Recently she has worked as a research assistant at the London School of Economics, aiding current work on creating a typology for human rights-based climate litigation. These experiences have cemented her commitment and passion to leveraging law to combat climate change. She will be assisting the Refugee Law Lab with gathering data about refugee adjudication from online sources.

Vince Lai, Research Assistant (JD RA 2021-22)

Vince Lai is a JD candidate at the Osgoode Hall Law School. He graduated with a BA in Political Science and French at the University of Toronto. There, he helped manage the Greenpath Program and facilitated the arrival of international students. While doing so, he broadened his appreciation for diversity and took an interest in Canadian immigration policies. After his undergraduate studies, he worked for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business as a Bilingual Specialist. Vince aspires to continue advocating for small businesses and to gain a greater understanding of immigration law. He will be assisting the Refugee Law Lab with gathering refugee adjudication data for research involving machine learning processes and will help prepare refugee cases for publication in the Refugee Law Lab Reporter.

Subhah Wadhawan, Research Assistant (JD RA 2021-22)

Subhah Wadhawan is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. She completed her Masters in Criminology at the University of Ottawa where her research focused on the interaction between processes of racialization, surveillance and securitization in the post 9-11 context. She interviewed Canada’s security certificate detainees, infamously known as the ‘Secret Trial 5’, and their families to investigate their lived experiences of securitization. Prior to law school, Subhah worked for the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada as a policy analyst. She is currently working as a caseworker in the Immigration and Migrant Rights Division at Parkdale Community Legal Services and is committed to learning and un(learning) how to cultivate fierce and sustainable communities of resistance striving toward liberation. She will be undertaking legal research on Canadian immigration law processes for the Refugee Law Laboratory.

Katherine Griffin, Research Assistant (JD RA 2021-22)

Katherine Griffin is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. She completed her undergraduate degree at Sciences Po Paris in the Europe-Africa program. In the final year of her studies, she undertook internships with locally founded and operated arts and culture organizations in South Africa and Morocco. Prior to law school, Katherine worked with refugee claimants in Vancouver as a Settlement Worker, and later as Acting Program Coordinator. At Osgoode, Katherine remains actively engaged in refugee rights-related advocacy as Co-Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) Osgoode chapter and Events Co-Chair of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) Osgoode chapter. She is excited to join the Refugee Law Lab team as a Research Assistant, where she will be helping to revise a law journal article, to gather refugee adjudication data for research involving machine learning processes, and to prepare refugee cases for publication in the Refugee Law Lab Reporter.

Alison Hanson, Research Assistant (JD RA Summer 2021)

Alison Hanson is a JD student at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law, Ryerson University. Before attending law school, she worked with the Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo and has experience doing web development and design for numerous small businesses. She is interested in access to justice issues and using technology to address gaps in the legal system. She served as a research assistant at the Refugee Law Lab in the Summer 2021 term.

Rahemah Siddiqui, Research Assistant (JD RA Summer 2021)

Rahemah Siddiqui is a JD candidate at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. She completed her BA in History at the University of Toronto where her research focused on state-sanctioned violence and human rights abuses. She developed an interest in refugee law while working as a Legal Transcriptionist for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. The role informs her awareness of the unique barriers faced by migrants, refugees, and undocumented peoples in the legal arena. She hopes to aid in dismantling these barriers and improving Canada’s refugee determination system through legal advocacy and research. She served as a research assistant at the Refugee Law Lab in the Summer 2021 term.

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