How do I prepare for my refugee hearing?

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

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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