Making Canada's asylum system faster and fairer

Second list of Designated Countries of Origin announced

Ottawa, February 14, 2013 — The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced today that the list of Designated Countries of Origin is expanding to include an additional eight countries.

As part of the improvements to Canada’s new asylum system that came into effect on December 15, 2012, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act included the authority to designate countries of origin—democratic countries that offer state protection, have active human rights and civil society organizations, and do not normally produce refugees.

“Faster processing of asylum claims from generally safe countries is an essential feature of Canada’s new faster and fairer refugee system,” said Minister Kenney. “Our new system provides protection more quickly to genuine refugees, while removing individuals whose claims are rejected from the country faster.”

The second list of designated countries includes:

  • Mexico
  • Israel (which excludes Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

Including the designation of these eight countries, effective February 15, 2013, 35 countries appear on the designated countries list, which already includes most countries in the European Union (EU), Croatia and the United States.

Under the new refugee system, all eligible asylum claimants from designated countries continue to receive a full and fair hearing on the individual merits of their claims at the independent, quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) within 30-45 days. Claimants from non-designated countries receive a hearing within 60 days. Failed claimants from designated countries may still appeal to the Federal Court to review a negative decision; however, they do not have access to the newly-created Refugee Appeal Division at the IRB.

To be considered for designation, a country must meet objective criteria related to the number of finalized asylum claims that Canada receives from that country.  For countries with 30 or more claims in any consecutive 12-month period during the three years preceding designation, quantitative criteria are used.  At least 60 percent of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or at least 75 percent of claims from a country have been withdrawn, abandoned, and rejected by the IRB.

In the case of countries with low numbers of asylum claims (namely, no consecutive 12-month period with 30 or more finalized claims during the three years prior to designation), objective qualitative criteria are used, including the existence of an independent judicial system, recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms, and the existence of civil society organizations.

Many developed democracies use a similar authority to accelerate asylum procedures for the nationals of countries not normally known to produce refugees. These states include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland, among others. Most EU states also have accelerated procedures for the nationals of other member states.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has recognized that “there are indeed Safe Countries of Origin and there are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries.”  He has also recognized the legitimacy of providing expedited processing for asylum claimants from those generally safe countries.

The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act is expected to save provinces and territories at least $1.6 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.

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Photos of Minister Kenney are available.

For further information (media only), please contact:

Alexis Pavlich
Minister’s Office
Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Media Relations
Communications Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada

For more information, please see the following:

  • Making Canada’s Asylum System Faster and Fairer
  • Overview of Canada’s Refugee Programs
  • Designated Countries of Origin
  • Summary of Changes to Canada’s Asylum System
  • Processing of Asylum Claims

Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

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