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Refugee Law's Fact-Finding Crisis
Truth, Risk, and the Wrong Mistake


  • Date Published: August 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108448086

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About the Authors
  • At a time when many around the world are fleeing their homes, seeking refugee protection has become a game of chance. Partly to blame is the law that governs how refugee status decision-makers resolve their doubts. This long-neglected branch of refugee law has been growing in the dark, with little guidance from the Refugee Convention and little attention from scholars. By looking closely at the Canadian jurisprudence, Hilary Evans Cameron provides the first full account of what this law is trying to accomplish in a refugee hearing. She demonstrates how a hole in the law's normative foundations is contributing to the dysfunction of one of the world's most respected refugee determination systems, and may well be undermining refugee protection across the globe. The author uses her findings to propose a new legal model of refugee status decision-making.

    • Provides a new way of understanding how the law of fact-finding in refugee status decision-making operates, and why it is malfunctioning
    • Undertakes an extremely thorough review of fact-finding judgments in the refugee law context within one national jurisdiction
    • Initiates an important conversation in the international refugee law community, pushing us to rethink how refugee status decision-making should operate
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Hilary Evans Cameron's book is a meticulously researched account of the way in which judges' 'error preferences' inform their approach to asylum fact-finding. She shows not only that there has been a failure to agree to the rules applicable to nearly every aspect of the refugee fact-finding process, but that disagreement derives from a conflict of judicial values. Cameron makes a unique contribution to resolving this muddle, developing a theory of fact-finding anchored in the importance of doing justice to the predicament of asylum-seekers as vulnerable persons.' James C. Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School

    'This is a profound and brilliant book that should be read by all asylum claim decision-makers, judges, refugee lawyers, tribunal administrators, and asylum policy makers. Hilary Evans Cameron exposes the unexamined flaws within the laws of fact-finding related to refugee claim decisions. She performs an incisive autopsy on the body of ambiguous Canadian jurisprudence that allows decision-makers to justify arbitrary and inconsistent decisions. With scalpel-like efficiency, she peels away the layers of false rationales that decision-makers use to paper over the inescapable truth that refugee decisions are built upon radical, evidentiary uncertainty. Thankfully, Dr Cameron does offer more honest and effective judicial tools, namely risk analysis and abductive reasoning. These tools are more Swiss Army knife than magic wand, but they are desperately needed in a world of asylum law that ignores gross inconsistencies between decision-makers and between countries.' Peter Showler, former Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108448086
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.318kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I:
    1. The wrong mistake
    1.1. The traditional economic approach
    1.2. A psychologically founded theory
    1.3. A comparative study
    1.4. Conclusion
    Part II:
    2. Setting the scene
    2.1. At the refugee board
    2.2. At the Federal Court
    2.3. The case study: method and findings
    3. The wrong mistake: sending a refugee home
    3.1. Wrongly disbelieving the claimant
    3.2. Overlooking objective danger
    3.3. Denying claims on procedural grounds
    3.4. Conclusion
    4. Resolving doubt in the claimant's favour
    4.1. The burden of proof
    4.2. Standards of proof
    4.3. Presumption of truthfulness
    4.4. Conclusion
    5. The wrong mistake: accepting an unfounded claim
    5.1. Refugee claimants are ordinary litigants
    5.2. The member is an ordinary decision-maker
    5.3. Conclusion
    6. Resolving doubt at the claimant's expense
    6.1. The burden of proof
    6.2. Standards of proof
    6.3. Presumptions
    6.4. Conclusion
    7. In the hearing room:
    7.1. Conflicting standards of proof
    7.2. Permissible inferences: rational action and memory
    7.3. Conclusion
    Part III:
    8. A way forward
    8.1. The wrong mistake in international refugee law
    8.2. The Karanakaran approach
    8.3. Refugee status determination as an abductive risk assessment
    8.4. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Hilary Evans Cameron, University of Toronto
    Hilary Evans Cameron holds a doctorate in refugee law from the University of Toronto and is the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's 2017 Bora Laskin National Fellow in Human Rights Research. She is an instructor at Trinity College, University of Toronto, a visiting associate at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics, an adjunct professor and postdoctoral fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and a former refugee lawyer.

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