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Amnesty International welcomes decision to de-designate all Designated Countries of Origin

    May 17, 2019

    Amnesty International welcomes Canada’s decision to remove all countries from the Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list. The DCO regime violates the rights of refugee protection claimants to a fair hearing by imposing shorter timelines and other measures for no reason other than the claimant’s country of origin. Furthermore, delays in accessing the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) for claimants from DCO countries have been found to be unconstitutional.

    In March 2019, the Federal Court struck down the distinction between the DCO and non-DCO claimants’ access to the PRRA. While DCO claimants were ineligible to apply for a PRRA for 36 months from the date of rejection of their claims, non-DCO refugee claimants were ineligible for 12 months after rejection of their claims. This difference in treatment was considered unconstitutional. Similarly, in July 2015, the Federal Court found that differential treatment in accessing the Refugee Appeal Division between DCO and non-DCO claimants was contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    “On multiple occasions, the DCO has been recognized by the courts for what it is: a discriminatory and arbitrary measure which disadvantages certain refugee protection claimants on the basis of nothing other than country of origin,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “UN human rights bodies have also criticized these measures. We are pleased to see that the government is now doing the same, and has further acknowledged that it was an unjust and misguided policy measure.”

    Amnesty International had opposed the introduction of the DCO regime into the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2012 as discriminatory and arbitrary. Amnesty International was doubly concerned that a number of countries included on the list faced situations of widespread and very serious human rights violations, including Mexico and the situation of the Roma community in a number of designated Central European countries. UN human rights bodies had repeatedly called on Canada to repeal the DCO measures.

    In today’s announcement, the government further signalled its intention to repeal the DCO regime through legislative amendment. “The government must now finish the job by repealing DCO provisions from the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Neve added.

    Justin Mohammed, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner, said the following: “today’s decision will meaningfully advance the equality of treatment that must exist for all people seeking Canada’s protection. However, the parallel between today’s decision, which advances that equality, and the ineligibility measure that is contemplated by Bill C-97, which undermines it, is impossible to miss. Not unlike the DCO regime, the ineligibility criteria introduced by Bill C-97 is both entirely subjective and arbitrary. We hope that the government will acknowledge the discriminatory nature of the measure that is proposed in Bill C-97 and withdraw this amendment.”

    For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (English), + 613-744-7667 ext.  236 lscholey@amnesty.ca