ACCESS DENIED: Calling for the Revocation of Canada’s Refugee Status Document Requirement for Private Sponsorship

In 2012, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). Under Section 135 of the IRPR, refugee status is a requirement of sponsorship under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). Refugee status must be obtained from either the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or from the government of an applicant’s current residence.

Section 135 has created significant barriers to refugee sponsorship, especially during the Afghan refugee crisis. Since many Afghan refugees face difficulties obtaining refugee status, s.35 has severely protracted the urgent relocation of Afghan refugees. Indeed, despite committing to accept 40,000 Afghan refugees, Canada has only accepted 4,000. This is all despite the fact that many Afghan refugees meet the UN Refugee Convention definition of refugees, having faced over 40 years of conflicts, poverty, and diseases that were exasperated by the U.S. invasion and the recent takeover by the Taliban.

In response to this situation, DLS has published a paper titled “Access Denied: Calling for Revocation of Canada’s Refugee Status Document Requirement for Private Sponsorship”. The paper analyzes the sponsorship requirement and identifies the difficulties it causes for refugees applying under the PSRP, with specific focus on the barriers s. 135 has created to Afghan resettlement in Canada. It argues that the status requirement impedes Canada’s proper response to the Afghan crisis and recommends that the status requirement be lifted.

To promote the paper and raise awareness of the issues surrounding s. 135 of the IRPR, DLS held a virtual conference titled “Access Denied: Ongoing Barriers to Refugee Sponsorship in Canada”. The conference had speakers such as Tamana Hafid, a member of the Canadian Afghan Lawyers Association, and Mellissa Fung, a Canadian journalist, filmmaker, and storyteller discussing the issues the status requirement causes for Afghan refugees and their experience in helping them overcome the requirement. The conference had over 200 participants.