Seeking asylum in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic

Updates

Please note that the situation is quickly evolving, and that while UNHCR will endeavour to update the below information regularly, asylum-seekers should also verify the information with Government authorities.

For those intending on claiming asylum in Canada

It is still possible to claim asylum once you arrive in Canada, either at a land border, an airport or inland. 

However, for those travelling to Canada by plane, the Canadian government has applied restrictions to air travel. Subject to limited exceptions, air carriers are required to deny boarding to any person who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, unless that person has resided in the U.S. for the past 14 days.

Links to information:

Upon arrival at a Canadian airport or land border, procedures for making an asylum claim remain unchanged. Certain quarantine or isolation measures may apply following a medical screening. All persons entering Canada from another country, including the U.S., are currently asked to self-isolate themselves for 14 days. Find out the latest travel advice from Health Canada for travellers arriving in Canada.

For those who are already in Canada and who wish to make a claim at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) inland office, note that IRCC will no longer be receiving refugee claims or interviewing asylum seekers in person from March 17 to April 13 inclusively. IRCC has informed that asylum-seekers should follow the below instructions instead:

  • If you would like to make a refugee claim and have not completed all the forms, requests should be sent by email to: [email protected]. You will be contacted by email for next steps.

Once your request has been received, an Acknowledgement of Claim will be sent to you by email or mail. Once the office re-opens, you will be scheduled to return for fingerprinting and an interview.


For those who have a pending asylum application before the Immigration Refugee Board

Temporary extensions of time granted for the Basis of Claim form

The Immigration Refugee Board has extended the time for the deposit of the Basis of Claim form. Deadlines during the period from February 15 to April 15, 2020 are extended to May 30, 2020. Read the practice notice on the temporary extension of time limits for filing the basis of claim form on the IRB’s website.

Hearings postponed

For those who have a hearing scheduled before the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB, note that all hearings and appointments which were supposed to take place from Tuesday, March 17 to Sunday, April 5 are postponed. The IRB will continually monitor developments, and an update will be released at the latest on Sunday, April 5, 2020. Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.

Submission of documents

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada front offices are closed. Effective immediately, in-person correspondence (hand-delivery) is no longer accepted. Read the instructions on sending correspondence on the IRB’s website.


For those filing an appeal before the Refugee Appeal Division of the Immigration Refugee Board

Temporary extensions of time granted 

The Immigration Refugee Board has allowed time extension for filing a notice of appeal and perfecting an appeal. If the deadline is during the period from February 15 to April 15, 2020, this date is extended to May 30, 2020. Read the practice notice on the temporary extension for time limits for filing a notice of appeal and perfecting an appeal on the IRB’s website.

Submission of documents

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada front offices are closed. Effective immediately, in-person correspondence (hand-delivery) is no longer accepted. Read the instructions on sending correspondence on the IRB’s website.


For those awaiting a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) hearing

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has suspended all PRRA hearings until further notice.


In regards to detained individuals

Precautionary measures will be taken to limit the risk of exposing people to the virus at its hearing site.

Measures include the following:

  • Minimizing the transportation of detained individuals to Immigration Refugee Board;
  • Establishing a means by which other hearing participants, for example counsel, hearings officers and bondspersons, can take part in hearings by telephone or video-conferencing should they wish to do so.

In Ontario (excluding Ottawa and Kingston), detention reviews in person will be replaced by teleconference calls to limit the risk of virus contamination.

Find out more about the IRB’s measures related to COVID-19 on the IRB’s website.


For persons released from detention on reporting conditions

For people in Quebec released from detention with reporting conditions, the office where you had to report is closed from March 19 for an indefinite period.

As a temporary alternative measure, the persons concerned must now report by calling at 438-340-7985 or 438-340-8117.

Please note that if the phone line is busy, you must call back until you reach an officer. Please note that no voice message will be accepted and that the usual hours must be respected, that is to say from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Please note that all other release conditions still apply.


For those under a removal order

Suspension of the removals

The removals of people whose asylum claim has been refused by Canada will be paused for 3 weeks as of March 17, 2020.


Medical assistance

Access to COVID-19 clinics for free contagion testing is open to all people regardless of immigration status.

The Interim Federal Health Program coverage covers all diagnostic tests and treatments for the COVID-19, as well as any other medical situation (with rare exceptions).

For medical assistance about COVID-19, you can reach the following numbers:

  • 1-877-644-4545 (Québec)
  • 1-866-797-0000 (Ontario)
  • 1-888-268-4319 (British Colombia)
  • 1-204-788-8200 (Manitoba)
  • 1-811 (Alberta)
  • 1-811 (Saskatchewan)

Find out the latest information from the Government of Canada on COVID-19.

Latest update: March 19, 2020