How do I prepare for my refugee hearing?

3. Ask for help if you are vulnerable or you have a disability

The Refugee Board recently announced that it will continue to schedule all refugee hearings to be heard remotely. For more information, read the question.

Going to your refugee hearing can be stressful and difficult. Some claimants can have even more difficulty if they have a disability or if they belong to a vulnerable group, such as women who have experienced intimate partner violence.

If you or a family member claiming with you is vulnerable, or needs help from a designated representative, you must apply to the Refugee Board. Make a request for accommodation as soon as possible, at least 10 days before your hearing.

You usually need to show a report from a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist to support your application for a process that fits your needs. 

Vulnerable person

A vulnerable person is someone who would have difficulty presenting their claim or have trouble with the processes at the Refugee Board. The person could be vulnerable because they have:

  • a mental illness
  • severe memory problems
  • experienced or witnessed torture
  • suffered gender-related persecution
  • suffered persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • survived a human rights crime

If you think you should be considered a vulnerable person, you can ask the Refugee Board for special consideration in your hearing process.

For example, you could ask for:

  • a female interpreter or Board member for your hearing, if you've experienced gender-based persecution
  • your legal representative to ask you questions first, before the board member
  • a support person to attend your hearing
  • frequent breaks, if you need them
  • extra time for you to process and answer questions
  • anything else that would help you feel at ease and participate in your hearing

You usually need a report from a psychologist or other mental health professional to support such a request. There are free mental health services available for refugee claimants. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will apply to the Refugee Board to have you recognized as a vulnerable person.

Designated representatives

Some claimants have a designated representative to help them understand the refugee claim process and make decisions. The Refugee Board will appoint a designated representative if you're:

  • under 18, or
  • not able to understand what the refugee hearing process is about, usually because of mental health issues.

A family member is usually appointed as the designated representative for a child. You can suggest someone for the Refugee Board to consider.  If there isn't anybody suitable, the Refugee Board might appoint a lawyer, social worker, or other professional to act as the designated representative. If this happens, you will get a notice in the mail before your hearing that tells you who has been appointed.

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