Asylum seekers will wait up to two years for refugee claims to be processed

The Immigration and Refugee Board says wait times are currently at 21 months

The arm’s-length agency that processes refugee claims says asylum seekers who cross into Canada today will have to wait almost two years before learning whether they can stay.

The Immigration and Refugee Board says wait times are currently at 21 months, but could have climbed even higher without a cash infusion from the federal government.

The Liberals set aside $74 million over two years in this the 2018 budget to address a major backlog of asylum claims at the IRB.

The board has used the money to hire more than 60 new staff to adjudicate refugee claims and appeals, many of which are coming from an influx of tens of thousands of ”irregular” border crossers who have come from the United States through non-official entry points.

But the board warns wait times could grow as it deals with a projected 60,000 new claims this fiscal year.

Even with the additional staff, the board estimates it will complete work on almost half of its current inventory of 65,000 claims by the end of March 2019. Without the new resources from Ottawa, the board estimated it would have completed 24,000 claims instead of the 32,000 it expects to finalize this year.

A year-long review of the IRB released earlier this year found persistent and systemic problems that have undermined the efficiency of the asylum system in Canada.

The report’s author, former immigration deputy minister Neil Yeates, recommended fundamental changes to the way the board operates, including a new management structure under the authority of the immigration minister.

RELATED: Deportation ordered for B.C. man who ‘glorified’ terrorism on Facebook

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government has continually starved the IRB of resources, creating a history of problems managing spikes in asylum claims, which the review highlighted.

“It is absolutely unconscionable. People’s lives are held in limbo when they’re waiting for these cases to be processed,” she said.

The new federal money for the board doesn’t go far enough, she added. She also noted the government has not provided a response to the IRB review and its recommendations for improvements.

“We have a good international reputation with the IRB. What they don’t have is the resources to get the job done.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Council for Refugees says asylum seekers who successfully make it through the lengthy process must then wait an additional two-and-a-half years to become permanent residents — a situation the council calls a serious concern that should be addressed.

The council’s executive director, Janet Dench, said refugees often find it difficult to gain meaningful employment, are unable to access government programs, face challenges if they travel, and can’t have spouses or children join them in Canada until their permanent residency application is approved.

“You’re in a kind of limbo state if you have refugee status but not permanent residence,” she said.

“It’s really critical for people to get permanent residence, but there’s a huge backlog in the processing.”

RELATED: Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Dench said her group is asking the government to automatically grant permanent residency to successful refugee claimants to be automatically granted permanent residency.

Dench and Kwan said the Liberals new immigration plan to accept 16,500 protected persons in 2019 — a category largely made up refugees who gain permanent residence — is far too low, even though incremental increases are planned in subsequent years, growing to 20,000 in 2021.

The Immigration Department said the levels could be increased based on need, but it is difficult to predict the number of refugee claims that will be accepted.

The department also said refugees whose claims are accepted have access to all the same settlement and integration programs as permanent residents.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Halkirk holds market

Annual Christmas event

UPDATE: Danny has been found safe. Stettler area family pleads with public to help find their missing loved one

Was last seen about 11:30 p.m. leaving a residence in Stettler to ride his peddle bike home to Byemoor, about 70 km

Castor honours Canada’s veterans

Holds Remembrance Day service

Gus Wetter awards

Volleyball season coming to close

Stettler Independent donates to Animal Haven

$5 from every new or renewed subscription from one month donated

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Calgarians head to the polls to declare ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on Winter Games

The question “are you for or are you against hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?” was to be posed to them Tuesday in a plebiscite to help determine whether the city should move ahead with a bid.

Heir’s big birthday: 70 candles lined up for Prince Charles

Prince Charles turns 70 Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, still serving in the heir to the throne role he has filled since he was a young child.

Trudeau lays down challenge to companies in bid to boost trade with Asia

“Building the relationships, building the connections, building the facility and also changing mindsets — getting Canadian companies to see the opportunities we have around the world to partner and invest.”

CNN sues Trump, demanding return of Acosta to White House

CNN is asking for an immediate restraining order to return Acosta to the White House.

Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

US trial to tell epic tale of Mexican drug lord “El Chapo”

Guzman’s long-awaited U.S. trial begins Tuesday in New York

Northern California wildfire is deadliest in state history

Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead; 42 already killed in blaze

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Most Read