learn about
refugee claimants

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Here you will find some information about refugee claimants, the people we help. We encourage you to learn more by exploring the links at the end of the bottom of the page.


1. What is a refugee claimant or asylum seeker?

An asylum-seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but has not yet been granted refugee status. The term refugee claimant is more or less equivalent to asylum-seeker and is standard in Canada, while asylum-seeker is the term more often used internationally. When an individual fleeing conflict or persecution arrives in a new country, they must submit a formal claim for refugee status. This claim is evaluated by the host country, after which asylum seekers may be legally recognized as refugees. What are the steps for a refugee claimant to become a refugee? When a person arrives on Canadian soil they make a claim for asylum with the Immigration and Refugee Board. They must confirm their identity, have a physical exam and find a lawyer to help them with their claim. The IRB will send them a notice to appear for their hearing. At their hearing, they must present proofs for their refugee claim (threats of violence, events of persecution, proofs of injury etc)

2. How long does it take for a refugee claimant’s claim to be processed?

Officially, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) will hear refugee claims within 60 days. In practice, the delays can sometimes last months - up to 18 months in some cases. Some refugee claims from specific countries will be processed faster.

3. How do refugee claimants enter Canada?

Some refugee claimants arrive at ports of entry, and some enter Canada irregularly, between ports of entry. If a person is fleeing as a refugee, international law recognizes that they may need to enter a country without authorization. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention stated that refugees should not be penalized for their irregular entry or stay, and should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. Once they arrive in Canada, they make a refugee claim, have their identity confirmed and have a date set for their hearing.

4. What help do refugee claimants receive from the government?

While awaiting their refugee claim hearing, refugee claimants are eligible for a work permit, federally funded basic health care, basic social assistance, and legal aid. Children of refugee claimants are eligible for schooling up to age 18. They are not eligible for provincial child benefits, daycare subsidies (in Quebec) or many provincially funded programs. They can access community services such as food banks.

5. Why do refugee claimants need help?

Refugee claimants are eligible for relatively few services, but are a significantly vulnerable population who may have experienced violence, trauma, and persecution both in their home country and on their way to a safe country. In many cases they also experience poverty, language barriers, health problems, isolation and uncertainty while awaiting the processing of their claim. Even with the help of community organizations, health centers, schools and other front-line workers, many refugee claimants’ basic needs are not met.

6. Where can I find more information about refugee claimants?

Some excellent information can be found at the sites below:







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