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)
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.
- 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)
Director, Refugee Law Laboratory
Director, Centre for Refugee Studies
Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School