Unprotected and Unrecognized: The Ontological Insecurity of Migrants Who Are Denied Protection from Domestic Violence in Their Home Countries and as Refugee Claimants in Canada

by Rupaleem Bhuyan / Bethany J. Osborne / Janet Flor Juanico Cruz

CERIS Working Paper No. 96
February 2013

Executive Summary 

Over the last fifteen years, Canada has received an increasing number of women from Mexico and Central America who are submitting refugee claims based on domestic, social, and political violence, and on the failure of political and judicial institutions in their home countries to protect them. This group of female humanitarian arrivals, however, has been largely denied refugee status. While gender-based claims are statistically more likely to be successful relative to other types of claims in Canada (Osgoode Hall Refugee Law Professor Sean Rehaag, personal communication, April 4, 2012), claims based on spousal or domestic violence are overwhelmingly dismissed or denied, primarily because women cannot verify that their home country failed to protect them (MacIntosh, 2009).

This paper involves an intertextual analysis of Canadian refugee policy and narratives from interviews with twenty-five Spanish-speaking women living with precarious migratory status in Toronto, Canada. In particular, we explore in what ways the interplay of refugee determination and the Third Safe Country Agreement produce multiple forms of liminality (or precarious migratory status) for female asylum-seekers in Canada. We also explore in what ways exposure to violence contributes to ontological insecurity (or a lack of security rooted in their very identity) that women face in their countries of origin, during episodes of transit between and through different national spaces, and as refugee claimants in Canada.

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