Abstract: Safety for Migrants Fleeing Domestic Violence?: The Limits of Refugee Protection for Mexican Women Seeking Refugee Status in Canada (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

Safety for Migrants Fleeing Domestic Violence?: The Limits of Refugee Protection for Mexican Women Seeking Refugee Status in Canada

Friday, January 15, 2016: 3:30 PM
Ballroom Level-Renaissance Ballroom West Salon A (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
* noted as presenting author
Rupaleem Bhuyan, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Adriana Vargas, BA, Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Margarita Pintin-Perez, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico, San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico
Background and Purpose: While Canada is lauded as the first country to issue guidelines for considering gender related persecution in refugee determination, Mexican women seeking refuge in Canada based on domestic violence regularly have their claims dismissed because they cannot verify that their home country has failed to protect them (MacIntosh, 2009). A high proportion of “failed refugee claimants” from Mexico are part of a growing number of Latina women living in Canada with precarious migratory status; they face a framework of “ontological insecurity” (Giddens, 1984, Giddens, 1991, Laing, 1969) due to the combined lack of protection in their home countries and their unrecognized humanitarian claims in Canada. In this paper, we explore transnational implications of justice for women who migrate to escape domestic violence from “democratic” countries, with attention to the role that economic relations play in refugee determinations of gender-based violence.

Methods: We use feminist, intertextual analysis  (Bazerman, 2003; Fairclaough, 1992; Fonow & Cook, 2014) to analyse the construction of gender-based violence in refugee determination and ‘safe’ countries in Canadian policy documents and refugee decisions. Our sources of data include: 1) 84 negative decisions published by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for Mexican refugee claimants fearing gender-related persecution between 2007-2012, 2) IRB official reports on country conditions in Mexico published during the same period, and 3) a review of governmental and non-governmental reports in Mexico that address the status of violence against women in Mexico. Our analysis of the IRB decisions focused on: the types of violence reported in the refugee claim and the IRB’s basis for denying the claim due to one or more of the following: lack of credibility, unable to demonstrate the lack of state protection, and lack of evidence that the claimant sought an internal flight alternative. 

Results: Our analysis illustrates: a) the increased burden of proof for refugee claimants from “democratic” countries, b) that gender-based guidelines are given cursory attention in cases related to domestic violence, c) and the disconnect between reports of general insecurity and violence against women in Mexico with the Canadian government’s consideration of Mexico as a “democratic” and thus “safe” country. 

Conclusions and Implications: This paper will discuss implications for safety and justice for Mexican migrants in North America and the limits of refugee protection for domestic violence related persecution. We will draw connections to the broader humanitarian crisis in North America due to increased forced migration out of Central America and Mexico, into the United States and Canada with implications for social work practice, domestic and international policy advocacy.