Making a refugee claim can be a complex process and it's important to avoid common mistakes. Mistake #1 is not researching or seeking help from an experienced refugee lawyer. Mistake #2 is failing to prepare thoroughly for the hearing. Mistake #3 is failing to provide corroborative evidence. Mistake #4 oddly enough is providing too much evidence. Mistake #5 is not understanding the nature of a refugee claim. Mistake #6 is hiring an inexperienced immigration lawyer or consultant. An experienced lawyer will help increase the chances of success and make the process smoother. Good preparation, understanding of the process and choosing the right representation can help increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Making a Refugee Claim? Here are the top 6 mistakes that we’ve seen as former Refugee Protection Officers and lawyers with more than a decade of legal practice.
Mistake #1 -making a claim without first doing your research/talking to an experienced refugee lawyer. You may think that your claim is straightforward. You may think that you do not need any assistance. You would be wrong. The statistics are unambiguous. Those individuals that have the assistance/guidance of experienced refugee lawyers are far more likely to succeed in their claims. Further, credibility is often assessed at the hearing by comparing the testimony there with the narrative/statements made previously. Do yourself a favour and have your ducks in a row before you file your claim.
Mistake #2 -failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Review your Basis of Claim form and the narrative. Prepare for the hearing. Be proactive. There are a number of resources available. Again, an experienced refugee lawyer will be able to give you an idea-if not 100% of the questions that will be asked -at least 80-90%. Review the National Documentation Package (NDP) and be aware of the relevant country conditions. Spend time, energy, forcus (and yes, likely money) on making sure you put your best foot forward.
Mistake #3 -failing to provide corroborative evidence. Technically the case law says that corroborative evidence is not required (for a credible claimant) but if its evidence that is available then questions are raised if it is not provided. What evidence is required? It really depends on your particular claim profile and the allegations raised in your narrative.
Mistake #4 -providing *too much evidence*. There is such a thing as “gilding the lily”. Sometimes excess of evidence raises as many questions as the absence. I would refer you to an experienced refugee lawyer to explore this concept in greater depth.
Mistake #5 -failing to understand the nature of a refugee claim and the issues that a claim will raise. A refugee claim is about personalized risk. It is not about hardship, or sympathetic considerations. You will likely need to address and satisfy the decision maker as to your identity, credibility, the well foundedness of your fear, the forward looking nature of that claim, the agents of persecution, whether there is available state protection, whether there is another place in your country that is safe and reasonable for you to access (an Internal Flight Alternative).
Mistake #6 -hiring an inexperienced immigration lawyer or immigration consultant. This better not be your lawyer or consultant’s first rodeo. You can’t afford to have someone learn on the job -or your file. Ask your representative as to how many hearings he/she has done. Ask whether they have handled the same/similar claim profile as yours. Ask whether they have handled claims from the same country. Are they aware of any relevant Jurisprudential Guidelines and (problematic or helpful) case law? Ask whether they have handled appeals of refused refugee claims to the RAD and whether they have appeared before the Federal Court. You can check whether your representative has any reported cases on CanLII.
The grant of protection will allow you (and your family if applicable) the right to remain in Canada, obtain a travel document, and apply for Permanent Residence. On the other hand, a refusal will mean more headache, heartache, and money spent in obtaining status in this country. Good luck!