Area of Law: Immigration Law
Answer # 684
Refugees with criminal recordsRegion: Ontario Answer # 684
Who is considered a Convention Refugee?
Convention Refugees are people who are living outside their national country and, because of fear of persecution, cannot be protected within their country, and therefore cannot return to it. Once a person is considered to be eligible to make a refugee claim, a hearing is held by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to determine if the person is in need of protection. The Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board will make a determination as to whether the applicant will receive refugee status.
Can a criminal record make someone ineligible for refugee status?
A person may be ineligible to claim refugee protection because of a criminal record that includes serious non-political offences. For example, if the individual committed, or was convicted of crimes that would make him or her ineligible to make a refugee claim, the immigration hearing can be suspended and even terminated. At this point, the individual will be removed from Canada unless an appeal is granted and successfully argued.
With respect to criminal records, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act stipulates four main categories of crimes that may make a person ineligible to claim refugee status. If the person:
- was convicted inside Canada for a federal offence punishable by a maximum jail term of at least ten years, or of a federal offence where the individual received a jail term of at least six months,
- was convicted outside Canada, for an offence, which, if committed in Canada, would be a federal offence punishable by a maximum jail term of at least ten years,
- is simply believed to be part of organized crime, or involved in transnational crime, such as human trafficking or money laundering. No conviction is required,
- committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a serious non-political crime outside of the country of refuge. Examples of these types of crimes may include drug trafficking, sexual assault against women or children, living on the avails of prostitution, smuggling firearms, and terrorism-related offences.
Losing refugee status because of a criminal record
Generally, if an individual is determined to be a Convention Refugee after an immigration hearing, he or she can stay in Canada and apply to become a permanent resident. Although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will not normally send an individual back to the country in which the individual feared persecution, a criminal record may cause them to do so. Whether IRCC will deport them from Canada depends on the nature and seriousness of the crime, and on any other factor that IRCC determines is relevant to the proceedings. For example, if the person committed a crime after being granted refugee status, or lied or withheld important facts about a past criminal record when making their application, IRCC would consider these to be relevant factors in making its decision.
If a person has a Canadian criminal record and can show that he or she is committed to living a crime-free life by applying for a record suspension, IRCC may allow the person to stay in Canada until it is received. For more information about Canadian criminal records and how to remove them, refer to our Criminal Records area of law, which provides 95 answers.
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