The federal tribunal in charge of approving refugee and asylum claims says it’s not keeping track of adults who lied about their age and claimed they were unaccompanied minors upon arrival in Canada. 

True North asked the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to provide statistics on how many adult claimants were discovered to have misrepresented their age to immigration officials. The board said such data were not tracked. 

“An unaccompanied minor is defined as a minor claimant (under 18 years old) at the time of referral to the Board that is not accompanied by their parent, family member or legal guardian,” senior communications advisor Anna Pape told True North in an emailed statement. 

“The IRB has no statistics available concerning refugee claimants who misrepresent their age when making a refugee claim as this is not data that is captured in our case management system.”

As of Jan. 1, 2017, there have been 876 refugee asylum claimants registered as unaccompanied minors and referred to the Refugee Protection Division for further evaluation. 

Despite claims that statistics are not tracked, the board has overseen cases in the past where adults misrepresented themselves as minors. 

In 2016, Canadian authorities detained a 30-year-old refugee from South Sudan who claimed he was 17 to attend grade 11. Jonathan Nicola was even granted a full athletic scholarship and played on a Windsor, Ont. Catholic high school’s basketball team. 

Nicola’s passport and official documents submitted to officials claimed his birthdate to be 1998, however, he had made other representations in the US claiming to have been born in 1986. 

Despite this, Nicola was released from custody and the Canada Border Services Agency dropped the case.

The immigration board reports to the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which has strict rules on misrepresentation – a form of immigration fraud. 

Those who are found to submit false information or supporting documents to immigration officials can be subject to entry bans, a permanent record of fraud, removal of status, criminal charges or ultimately deportation from Canada. 

When True North asked the board whether any action was taken to rectify cases where an asylum or refugee applicant misrepresented themselves as an unaccompanied minor, officials did not address the question.