Who is considered a refugee in Canada?

Who is considered a refugee in Canada
Who is considered a refugee in Canada

Toronto: Foreign nationals who fear persecution, face grave danger, and are unable to seek asylum in their home country frequently seek asylum in Canada. Recipients of refugee status are allowed to remain in Canada and may apply for permanent residency status, with a view to eventually becoming Canadian citizens. The Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is an impartial tribunal that decides whether an application is given refugee status. In other instances, such as those involving criminality or security concerns, the decision is made by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

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Persons in Need of Protection and Convention Refugees are the two broad categories of refugees. Under the Country of Asylum Class, those who are in refugee-like situations but do not fall into one of these two categories may nevertheless be eligible for asylum.

1. Individuals in Need of Protection

A person in need of protection is a Canadian who, if repatriated to their home country or place of habitual residence, would face the following:

• torment

• a danger to their life,

• a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if any of the following conditions are met:

  • They are unable to obtain assistance from their own government.
  • The person would be exposed to the risk in all parts of the country, despite the fact that the risk is    not generally faced by others in or from that country.
  • The risk is not a result of legal penalties (unless those penalties violate international standards), nor is it the result of insufficient health or medical care.

2. Convention Refugee

Convention Refugees are people who are living outside their home country because they are afraid of being persecuted and are unable to be protected or return home. That fear of persecution must be well-founded, and it must be based on:

  • race,
  • religion,
  • nationality,
  • political stance, or
  • their belonging to a specific social group (including groups that the person cannot change, such as gender, sexual orientation, past memberships, or groups they choose to join).

Death threats, torture, or imprisonment by the government, guerrillas, or other non-government agents such as an abusive husband are all examples of persecution. A person filing a refugee claim must also demonstrate that there are no other options for internal flight. This means that there is nowhere in their country where they could go and live safely, free from the persecution they are subjected to.

A person in need of protection or a Convention refugee may apply for refugee status in Canada if they believe they are entitled to it. If the individual is not currently in Canada, they may be eligible to apply under the Convention Refugee Abroad Class. When it comes to identifying and referring refugees for resettlement in this Class, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) looks to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other referral agencies, and private sponsoring groups for assistance. The referred applications are reviewed by the visa offices to determine if the claimant is eligible for refugee status and if they will be allowed to enter Canada.

3. Country of Asylum Class

Those who are in refugee-like conditions but do not fit the criteria for Convention refugees are eligible for the Country of Asylum Class. If an immigration officer concludes that an individual is a member of the Country of Asylum Class, they are deemed a refugee.

  • a civil war
  • or armed conflict
  • Human rights are being violated on a massive scale.

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Those who are unable to find a suitable solution in a reasonable time frame may apply for refugee status in Canada. Refugees who fall into this category must also have been referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another referral organisation, be sponsored by a private sponsorship group, or have sufficient financial resources to support themselves and their dependents once they reach Canada’s shores. Those seeking asylum under the Country of Asylum Class must show that there is no alternative domestic flight. This means that there is nowhere in their country where they could go and live safely, free from the persecution they are subjected to.

Repeal of the Source Country Classification

Source Country Class, which was reserved for those who had lived in a country identified as a source country, was also open to refugees prior to 2011. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, and Sierra Leone were listed as source countries. These refugees must have been subjected to civil war or armed conflict, and must have faced serious deprivation of their right to freedom of expression or the legitimate exercise of their civil rights pertaining to dissent or trade union activity, as well as detention or imprisonment as a result. Because of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, social group membership, or political views, they must have dreaded persecution in their native countries.

Refugees may no longer apply to enter Canada under this Class; however, existing Source Country applications are now being screened for eligibility under both the Convention Refugees Abroad and Country of Asylum Classes, unless they have already passed the selection decision stage.

COVID-19 has resulted in temporary changes

Because of the current pandemic, the Canadian government has made temporary changes to various immigration programmes and procedures. For the most up-to-date information, go to

Seek assistance

More information on applying for refugee status can be obtained by contacting Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Click here to find foreign consulates and embassies in your province.

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A criminal record will cause you to be delayed, and may even prevent you from obtaining your immigration status. To have your criminal record erased, call 1-888-808-3628 or visit Pardon Partners. It’s actually very much easier than you think.

Febin TomREG Immigration is our preferred immigration expert for legal advice and representation with your application.

For more immigration news, please visit our immigration section

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