Immigration Corner | How can I seek asylum in Canada?
Dear Ms Powell,
I am living in a very difficult situation and I need to escape. Can I seek asylum in Canada? I have a friend living in Toronto who said she went to Canada on a visitor’s visa and stayed, and is applying to stay as a refugee. Another friend said it won’t work. I want to know if I qualify before I make the move. Please tell me how I can qualify to seek asylum in Canada.
You did not provide details of your ‘difficult situation’ and the reason you feel the need to escape from your current location. This information is critical to assess whether or not you would qualify as a refugee and be granted asylum in Canada. A refugee application is not to be taken lightly, and you must ensure that you are able to satisfy the requirements before you put in an application, as this could have profound effect on whether or not you are able to come to Canada in the future if your application fails.
Asylum claimants will be put though a very rigorous process to ensure that they have a strong case based on Canadian and international laws. So you must be careful to ensure that you have a well-founded case before you make an application.
The very first requirement is that you must have a genuine fear of remaining in your own country. You must be able to prove that there is a legitimate and well-founded fear of persecution in your home country. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you face extreme horrors and pain, and so you are forced to flee your home country.
To qualify, you must be able to show tangible evidence that your persecution is based on factors such as race, gender, nationality, political opinion, membership of a particular group, or show some special circumstances that require the protection of Canada.
Another critical factor is that you must be outside of your country of origin, or home country and unable to return because of this genuine fear that if you were to return to your home country, that you would be subjected to personal harm, danger, torture, cruel and unusual treatment. Furthermore, you will need to demonstrate that you will not receive protection from the government and your local police.
There are two main parts to the refugee system in Canada. The first is that the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Programme is for people who need protection from outside Canada. These individuals are usually individuals who are in refugee camps and in many instances the United Nations Refugee Agency, along with private sponsors, identify the refugees for resettlement and make recommendations to the government of Canada to grant asylum to these individuals.
The other part to the Canadian refugee system is where an individual can apply directly to Canada for resettlement through the ‘In-Canada Asylum Program’ for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada. The asylum programme works to provide refugee protection to people in Canada who are able to establish that they have a well-founded fear of persecution and, are at great risk. Individuals who have been previously convicted of a serious criminal offence or have made previous refugee claims and have been denied, abandoned or withdrawn, are not eligible to apply.
Your country of origin plays a significant role in your application. Within the past 10 years, most of the claims that Canada has received has been from individuals from China, Pakistan, Hungary, Nigeria, Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Haiti, and Afghanistan. The top reasons for requesting asylum has been for criminality or corruption, political activism, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, political party involvement and military desertion, to name a few.
REASON FOR ASYLUM
You did not state the reason that you want to seek asylum in Canada. What is the difficult situation you face? Are you encountering physical abuse? Are you a member of a community that is being persecuted? What is the type of persecution you are facing? Are you persecuted because of race, gender, ethnicity or religion, political views? Are you a witness of a massacre committed by the militia or a government official?
I recommend that you first consult privately with an immigration lawyer to find out the necessary evidence you will need to provide, whether or not you have a strong case. Learn about the various immigration programmes to Canada and the best place to submit your application.
Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator