Canada. From far and wide ©UNHCR/Annie Sakkab


Country: Canada
Categories: Procedures Design
Tags: COVID-19
Timeframe: 2020-Ongoing

Entities sharing this good practice: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is responsible for this best practice. Main contact for the UNHCR at the IRB is Felix Ulloa-Alvarenga, he could be reached at: [email protected]

Submitted by: Azadeh Tamjeedi, Acting Senior Protection Officer

Key stakeholders: The IRB conducted numerous stakeholder consultations in setting up the remote hearings process, which included refugee lawyers, UNHCR, and civil society organizations.

Visit their website: For additional information about remote hearings at the IRB please visit  and   

Good practice

Following the onset of the pandemic, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) adopted a business resumption strategy based on both protecting the health of its employees and those who appeared before the Board, while providing access to justice to the extent possible. The strategy included the use of remote hearings.

The IRB established the necessary processes, including the requirement for consent from remote parties, as well as a secure MS Teams platform to support the private nature of these proceedings.

Following successful pilots in the summer of 2020, the Board shifted its approach to conducting hearings, such that remote hearings are now the default operating model for the duration of the pandemic and pending an evaluation of its effectiveness.


– Pilot test with a hundred hearings with lawyers and asylum-seekers, held remotely throughout the country.

– Evaluation survey of the parties involved in the pilot test hearings, in which it was concluded that 95% of the applicants and the lawyers agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB’s approach to conducting hearings remote through Microsoft Teams.

– Expansion of the modality of conducting interviews to determine the status of a refugee of first instance through MS Teams.

Impact of good practice

-The remote hearings allowed the IRB to resume refugee status determination during the pandemic in a safe and secure manner.

-The IRB conducted more than 100 hearings with counsel and claimants from across the country using the Microsoft Teams platform during the pilot phase in 2020.

-Following remote hearings held by the IRB, 95% of claimants and counsel who responded to a post-hearing survey agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the IRB’s approach to holding remote hearings through Microsoft Teams.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the implementation of this good practice, which the IRB foresees using throughout the pandemic.


Technical challenges in setting up the structure to conduct remote hearings as access to the IRB’s offices were limited due to the pandemic.