The Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list, commonly known as the Safe Countries of Origin list, is a list of 35 countries that Canada has deemed to be safe countries for refugees.

Refugee claimants who arrive in Canada from DCO countries will be rushed through the refugee claim process, deprived of important procedural protections, and denied fundamental justice. Canada’s Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) scheme creates a two-tier refugee determination system which discriminates between refugee claimants based on their nationality (i.e. their country of origin). The scheme was introduced as part of legislation which amended the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and passed into law on June 28, 2012.

When a person makes a claim for protection in Canada, the grounds of this claim are assessed by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). An IRB official decides whether the claimant meets the definition of “refugee” set out in the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. A positive decision grants the claimant protected status in Canada. Yet in cases where a claimant comes from a designated country – that is, a country identified as “safe” by the Canadian government – they must submit to a fast-track process which cuts in half the time they have to prepare for a hearing before the IRB. Such an unreasonable time restriction compromises the claimant’s ability to gather evidence and engage social and legal supports necessary to prove their claim. A claimant from a DCO is also denied eligibility for certain procedural protections, like access to an appeals process, which are afforded to claimants under the regular determination system.

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