Canada Immigration and Refugee Board (CIRB) Ruling
In May 2018 the IRB rejected the asylum claim of a Nigerian woman who fled her homeland to escape the practice of female genital mutilation. A tribunal in the IRB’s appeals division ruled that the woman failed to qualify for asylum because she could have sought refuge in the large Nigerian cities of Ibadan or Port Harcourt, away from her rural family home.
In September 2018, the IRB said the woman’s case should be used as a “jurisprudential guide” or legal precedent in considering all future Nigerian asylum cases. The IRB has made similar decisions in cases involving migrants from China, India and Pakistan.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers is taking the government to court over the IRB’s decision to designate the decision as a precedent. They contend that the ruling itself is unfair to Nigerian asylum seekers. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers said Nigerians would now likely face a higher bar to gain asylum status than they did in the past.
“It’s very problematic,” Lorne Waldman, an attorney with the association told Reuters. “It enhances the evidentiary burden on claimants from Nigeria in a way that I say is unfair.”
The Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a request for a judicial review of the new guideline in federal court in Toronto last month. If successful, it could seek a court order blocking the new evidentiary requirements for Nigerians, potentially covering Chinese, Indian and Pakistani asylum seekers as well.
Influx of Nigerian Canada asylum seekers through USA
Nigerian asylum seekers have streamed across the border from the United States in large numbers over the past 18 months. This has prompted Canadian authorities to asking the United States for help. Canada is not asking U.S. officials to refuse entry to Nigerians. It is seeking stricter screening to ensure that Nigerians who are granted U.S. visitor visas truly intend to return to Nigeria.
The increasing wave of asylum seekers crossing from USA to Canada has become a political issue in Canada. More than 30,000 asylum seekers illegally walked across the Canada-U.S. border since January 2017, according to government figures. About 10,000 of those who crossed are Nigerian. Their acceptance rate as of June was about 33 percent, below the average of 47 percent for all those who crossed the border illegally, according to data from the IRB.
The IRB ruling is already being applied to Nigerian asylum seekers. It has already cost some claimants their chance at refugee status, according to lawyers. Last week, an IRB tribunal member denied asylum to a Nigerian man and his family on grounds that there were safe places for them to live in Nigeria, said his lawyer Anne Castagner.