As Canada eases COVID-19 border restrictions, advocates say refugees’ travel is ‘essential’

Covid-19 immigration effects - Key Slides - May 2021 Draft.017On the good news side, the IRB backlog declined dramatically, with new claims falling by 68% and the backlog by 30%.

The progressive reduction in travel restrictions and requirements should allow for a more normal flow, with less concern for the irregular arrivals at non-official border posts given the Biden Administration’s approach:

Thanks to COVID-19 outbreaks in jails, immigration detainee Apollinaire Nduwimana was released from a U.S. prison in late April last year, after being held among convicted criminals for almost three years.

The asylum seeker from Burundi tried to head north for protection at Roxham Road in Quebec last October. But he didn’t know Canada had closed the border to refugees.

He was immediately intercepted, sent back to America and detained at the Clinton jail in Pennsylvania. He was threatened with deportation to his homeland despite assurances from Ottawa to let him return once COVID travel restrictions were lifted.

As of July, Nduwimana was one of 450 asylum seekers “directed back” to the U.S. since March 21, 2020, when Ottawa closed the border to non-essential travels. Although there have been exemptions, seeking asylum isn’t one of them.

With Ottawa slowly easing its travel restrictions, and border rules with the U.S. up for renewal on Wednesday, advocates say the federal government’s first order of business should be reopening the door to asylum seekers and sponsored refugees, the most vulnerable migrant group during the pandemic.

“Refugee travel is essential, we know that no one chooses to be a refugee,” said Maureen Silcoff, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “Refugees can in fact enter and quarantine. So that really should have been the starting point.”

According to the latest UN Refugee Agency report, 1.5 million fewer people fled their homelands in 2020 than forecast, but the world’s displaced population still edged to a record 82.4 million by the end of last year, up from 79.5 million in 2019.

That’s because, it said, asylum seekers were unable to cross borders, with 164 countries imposing travel bans, and 99 states, including Canada, making no exception for people seeking asylum.

In total, only 34,400 refugees were resettled to third countries in 2020, down 69 per cent from 107,800 the year before. Today, 1.4 million refugees are awaiting resettlement.

Amid the chaos, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is the rare beneficiary of the border closure.

Last year, the number of new claims fell 68 per cent to 18,500, from 58,378 in 2019. These were mostly from those within Canada who entered legally and later decided to seek asylum, or who came to the border before the lockdown or belonged to one of the exemption groups.

The slowdown allowed the board to reduce its backlog, which fell 30 per cent to 65,000 by the end of June, from 91,300 in March 2020, as refugee judges moved hearings online and adapted to new health protocols in offices.

Nduwimana first arrived in the U.S. for asylum in 2017 but was detained until his release in April 2020.

Thanks to interventions of advocates on either side of the border, he is one of nine asylum seekers who have been issued a “national interest exemption letter” to return to Canada on a later date after he was turned back at the border.

But it’s not without hassles because there are no bilateral policies to ensure these “direct-back” asylum seekers will be released from detention or spared from deportation to come back to the border.

“I am not a criminal but I was detained with people convicted of murder and rape,” said Nduwimana, 41, who fled political persecution in Burundi, an East African country where human rights violations are such that Canada suspends all removals to that country.

“Canada has the obligation to protect asylum seekers. Instead they sent me back to a country that’s not safe for refugees,” added the former church pastor and university language instructor, who almost got deported in January before a U.S. court intervened.

Upon his release in March from another jail in upstate New York, he entered Canada at Fort Erie and had his 14-day mandatory quarantine at a Niagara hotel. He is now awaiting his proceedings.

Silcoff said Nduwimana’s case shows refugee travel can coexist with public health measures and the current refugee ban can be lifted.

Despite public fear that Canada would see another surge of asylum seekers once the border reopens, Silcoff believed that’s unlikely under the new White House administration. Since Joe Biden became president in January, Washington has reversed many Trump-era anti-migrant, anti-refugee policies.

Temporary protected status has been granted to migrants currently in the U.S. from major refugee source countries such as Haiti, Venezuela and Yemen. In June, the U.S. restored the possibility of asylum protections for women fleeing domestic violence in other countries as well as for families targeted by violent gangs.

“It’s a different climate,” said Silcoff. “It’s hard to know what the future would bring but we know that Canada is able to handle fluctuations in numbers of asylum seekers.”

During the pandemic, Ottawa has also rolled out several measures that involved asylum seekers and failed refugees in Canada, such as releasing immigration detainees with less serious immigration violations and suspending deportations at the peak of the pandemic.

Another positive during this global public health crisis is the special program that grants permanent residence to asylum seekers who work in health care and essential jobs during the pandemic, said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“So there have been some good parts,” she said.

In June, the immigration department also announced plans to expedite the processing of permanent residence applications of people who have been granted asylum in Canada, with a new target of 45,000, up from 23,500.

That commitment will help someone like Mohammed Jadallah, who fled to Canada for asylum from Gaza via the U.S. in 2018 and has since been separated from his wife and five children.

When war erupted between Hamas militants in Gaza and Israel earlier this year, with bombs raining down on his homeland, the 41-year-old Toronto man could only console his family helplessly from afar, on a computer screen.

Although he was granted protected status in Canada in October and immediately applied for permanent residence, the process was set to take an average of 39 months.

“There was an airstrike in our neighbourhood in Rimal. The building that’s just 200 metres from ours was flattened,” said Jadallah, a rebar detailer, whose family struggles with food and fuel shortages.

“As a parent, you try to protect your children. It’s so hard when you can’t do nothing for them.”

Until he receives his permanent residence, Samaa, 37, and their children — Nidal, 15; Asil, 12; Mustafa; 9, Ali, 8; and Yusuf, 5 — cannot join him in Canada.

Dench said that speaks to the need to do away the bureaucracy that requires accepted refugees to go through all the hoops to apply for permanent residence.

“It will cost us less if we give them permanent residence more quickly because then it makes it easier for them to upgrade their skills and to reunite with their family and to contribute more fully,” she said. “If you’ve been vetted and accepted as a refugee, you should be automatically a permanent resident.”

During the pandemic, the resettlement of overseas refugees in Canada has also come to a halt due to border closures and the reduced processing capacity by the International Organization for Migration, the UN and local Canadian visa posts — except for the most vulnerable who require emergency resettlement.

As of the end of October, only 2,879 resettled refugees landed in Canada since March 18, 2020, including 1,603 sponsored by community groups, 1,262 by the federal government, and 14 through a joint public and private sponsorships. Another 40 arrived under the “urgent protection” program.

In 2021, Ottawa has set a target to bring in 36,000 sponsored refugees, but only 1,630 had arrived by the end of April, according to a report by Reuters. Last year, the target was 31,700 but only 9,200 made it, leaving 22,500 spots unfilled.

Critics ask: Will Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino allow the unused spots to carry over in coming years when international travel is back to normal?

“It’s 65,000 who are in the queue essentially, who are waiting to travel,” said Brian Dyck, national migration and resettlement program co-ordinator of the Mennonite Central Committee Canada. “And that queue has never been longer than now. Their applications are going in but there are none that are going out.”

Those who managed to come during the pandemic, he said, had their proof of permanent residence in hand on or before March 18, 2020.

While the task to bring in a huge number of sponsored refugees in a short time appears daunting, Dyck said that’s doable, as shown in how Canada and Canadians successfully brought in 25,000 Syrian refugees in a matter of months in 2015 and early 2016.

“I think that the government has learned how to use a variety of networks to process sponsorship applications in different ways,” he noted..

And there’s been no shortage of public support during the pandemic, said Dyck, whose office has continued to receive a lot of inquiries from people looking to sponsor refugees even without promoting the idea.

Torontonian Marika Elek and her sponsorship group, Beach Cares, submitted a private sponsorship application in January to bring a Syrian family of five to Canada from Lebanon.

“I remember what happened in 2015 and 2016 when there was a real surge of refugees coming in, and people managed to handle that,” said Elek, whose family was sponsored here by the Canadian government in 1957 from Hungary when she was a girl.

During the pandemic, she and some 350 sponsors got together online and officially launched The Private Refugee Sponsor Network to “connect, learn and share” information and provide free training to help each other problem-solve in anticipation of the border reopening.

“We have people who are ready to welcome them.”

Source: As Canada eases COVID-19 border restrictions, advocates say refugees’ travel is ‘essential’

Canada begins accepting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists as refugees

Welcome and likely the start of a future wave:

Canada has begun accepting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists as refugees, a sign that this country is opening its doors to those fleeing Beijing’s crackdown on civil rights in the former British colony.

In a Sept. 1 letter, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada notified a married couple from Hong Kong, both in their early 30s, that the refugee protection division has determined they are “Convention refugees” and their claims for asylum have been accepted.

Under Canadian law, a “Convention refugee” refers to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and is defined as someone who cannot return to their home “due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion” or other factors.

The Globe And Mail spoke to the Hong Kong couple, who originally arrived in Canada last December, but is withholding reporting certain details of their cases because they fear retribution against themselves or families back in Hong Kong by agents of the Chinese Communist Party. The Globe is also granting them confidentiality for the same reason.

The Hong Kong man, 33, who has been accepted as a refugee, said he was a very active protester in the pro-democracy movement in the Asian city, including with a well-known political party that put pressure on the local government to implement universal suffrage. He and his wife, 30, also took to street protests in 2019 amid mass demonstrations that followed efforts by Hong Kong’s leadership to enact legislation that would allow extradition to mainland China.

The man said he was on the front lines of demonstrations in 2019 and ran a warehouse to produce defensive equipment for protesters. He said he was at one point detained by Chinese authorities – they were not wearing uniforms – and Hong Kong police followed him and searched his home, but he was never charged.

He said near the end of his time in Hong Kong, fearful for his safety, he ended up hiding in a cave under a building.

Now, with asylum in Canada, he said: “It feels now like I no longer need to hide, and I am finally somewhere I can live safely.”

He said he is very thankful for Canada’s decision, a country he said shares common values with Hong Kongers.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who is not representing them, said he believes these two Hong Kongers are among the first pro-democracy activists to be granted asylum. He said he believes a few others may have already obtained refugee status as well.

“These are the first of a small number,” Mr. Kurland, based in Vancouver, said. “This is like the starter’s gun.”

He said accepting refugees from Hong Kong, however, is an indictment of the Asian city’s justice system, which still retains the legacy of institutional frameworks from Britain, despite Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China under a one-country, two-systems formula.

“By implication, the Canadian refugee determination system has put the Hong Kong judicial system into disrepute. The person has no internal flight alternative, and cannot reasonably rely upon Hong Kong’s judicial structure for protection.”

The Globe reported earlier this year that close to 50 Hong Kongers – many of whom took part in the massive demonstrations that began last year – have already applied for asylum in Canada, citing harassment and brutality at the hands of police in Hong Kong and fear of unjust prosecution.

Conservative foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong said Canada must do more than just “accept a handful” of asylum seekers from Hong Kong, where a harsh new security law was imposed by Beijing this summer – one that criminalizes dissent and opposition.

“Processing a handful of asylum claims from those fleeing Hong Kong is not commensurate to the crisis that is unfolding there,” he said. “Canada needs to do more to provide a path for those seeking asylum from the imposition of China’s draconian new national security law.”

Mr. Chong said Canada should work with allies, such as Britain, to admit many more Hong Kongers fleeing. There is no reason why Canada couldn’t follow the British lead by offering a path to citizenship to Hong Kong residents, he said.

Hong Kongers coming to Canada would enrich the country because “they are highly educated” and would provide immense economic benefit, he added.

Avvy Go of Toronto’s Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic said it’s urgent to act now to help the people of Hong Kong.

“The situation is getting worse. More and more people have been arrested. It is clear the Hong Kong government is not going back down. … We need [to] act now before they arrest more people and their passports are seized,” she said.

Mr. Kurland said he still expects a surge of immigration from Hong Kong and more refugee claims. Canada has not yet unveiled special measures to facilitate migration from Hong Kong. He said Ottawa appears to be keeping this in abeyance until “things turn urgent and you see a wave of claimants from Hong Kong.”

Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, an international champion of human rights, urged the Trudeau government to grant asylum to any Hong Kong resident seeking to escape China’s draconian national security law.

“I wouldn’t be limiting it to two. This has been such a serious assault on democracy for the national security legislation that impacts on everyone … and puts anyone in Canada who supports them at risk so we need to have a response that says we are here to protect those who we are able to protect and to facilitate their coming to Canada,” he said.

The Hong Kong couple accepted as refugees received the support of a Canadian group called New Hong Kong Cultural Club.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-starts-accepting-hong-kong-activists-as-refugees/

Canada is releasing immigration detainees at ‘unprecedented’ rates amid COVID-19 fears

Seems like calls have been listened to. Will see if the opposition raises this as a question period or committee issue:

The number of immigration detainees held in provincial jails and immigration holding centres across Canada has dropped by more than half since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, according to data provided to Global News.

And recent decisions from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada(IRB), the administrative tribunal that presides over immigration refugee matters, show how fears over COVID-19 are playing a significant role in some rulings to release immigration detainees.

On March 17, there were 353 immigration detainees held in provincial jails and immigration holding centres across Canada, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

By April 19, that number dropped by more than half to 147 detainees, 117 of whom were being held in provincial jails. The remaining 30 were held in one of Canada’s three immigration holding centres located in Toronto, Laval, Que., and Surrey, B.C.

“We would never normally see such a dramatic drop in detention (detainees) in such a short period of time. That’s unprecedented,” said Swathi Sekhar, an immigration and refugee lawyer based in Toronto.

A number of legal and advocacy groups have been calling for the release of immigration detainees and people held in jails and prisons who are not deemed risks to public safety due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in these facilities, and the conditions there that make it difficult to isolate and control the spread of infection.

The majority of the immigration detainees held in jails are located in Ontario, which has been grappling with COVID-19 cases in its correctional facilities. Thousands of inmate in Ontario jails have been released in recent weeks as the province grapples with the outbreak.

Thirty-three of the 117 immigration detainees held in provincial jails as of April 19 were detained at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, a combined maximum-security jail for remanded prisoners and a medium/maximum-security jail for convicted offenders serving sentences of less than two years.

Foreign nationals and permanent residents can be detained — sometimes indefinitely — by CBSA officers if the person is deemed unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding like a hearing, if the person is deemed a threat to public safety or if the person’s identity is under question. Most detainees are held on the grounds that they are unlikely to appear for proceedings or because of questions over their identity.

Immigration detainees are held on administrative and not criminal grounds like a typical jail or prison inmate. Immigration detainees can be held in one of Canada’s three immigration holding centres, which resemble medium-security prisons, or in provincial jails across the country, depending on the circumstances of their case, or if there is no immigration holding centre in that part of the country.

Last month, the Canadian government enacted an emergency order under the Quarantine Act that prohibits entry by individuals into Canada for the purpose of claiming refugee protection.

“This new order has reduced the number (of) asylum seekers remaining in Canada or being detained,” a CBSA spokesperson said in an email. “Also, since a lot of our admissions into (immigration holding centres) or provincial facilities are directly related to traveller volumes, it is not unexpected to see the overall number of admissions go down.”

“CBSA officers are asked to focus efforts to explore all viable alternatives to detention for all cases, where there is no public safety concern.”

Recent detention review decisions provided to Global News from the IRB show how COVID-19 is being factored into determining whether or not to release someone from immigration detention.

One IRB decision from April 3 involves a Colombian man who had been detained in the Toronto immigration holding centre since Jan. 23 because he was deemed a danger to the public and unlikely to appear for his removal from Canada to Colombia. However, he was released on a bond in large part due to the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 while in detention. He was ordered to abide by a number of strict conditions as part of his release.

The IRB decision-maker, Jacqueline Swaisland, stated that the man, Angelo Rincon, has a history of non-compliance with immigration laws “at least in three countries” and has also violated criminal laws in Canada and the United States. This includes a conviction for possessing a controlled substance for the purpose of selling, another conviction related to a number of break-and-enters in the Greater Toronto Area last year and possession of property obtained by crime.

The decision-maker said that while Rincon was deemed a danger to the public due to his criminal history, “I find the danger that you pose to be at the low end of the spectrum” because of the limited sentences he had received for his convictions, his “stated remorse under sworn testimony” and “the fact that there has been no violence in the commission of any of the offences you have been involved in…”

In determining whether to release Rincon from detention, Swaisland stated that Rincon had already been held in detention for more than two months, something that weighs in his favour, and “with respect to anticipated length of detention [it’s] agreed by all parties that at this point it is unknown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“And it could be long given Canada is currently not enforcing removals and given that Columbia is not permitting the repatriation of even (its) own nationals and it is not clear how long that will go on for given the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Swaisland stated.

Last month, the CBSA temporarily halted deportations of people whose refugee or immigration claims had been rejected, with the exception of serious criminal cases that will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The decision goes on to note that Rincon’s counsel provided “significant documentation” on the risks that someone in detention faces and his own fears associated with his potential exposure to the virus in the facility due to an underlying condition. TVO reported last month that an employee at the Toronto holding centre had contracted COVID-19 and had been in self-isolation.

“I find that the risk that you face are not at the same level of detainees in correctional facilities (particularly) given that there is such a limited number of the detainees currently being housed at the immigration holding centre, 15 as of today and given the significant steps that are being taken to reduce the risks to individuals being detained at the holding centre currently,” Rincon’s decision states.

“(But) even though the immigration holding centre is taking significant precautions, they are not perfect. And you still have a high risk of exposure and significant restrictions on your ability to self-isolate in a manner that the documentary evidence seems to suggest that is required with this virus.”

COVID-19 is also cited in an IRB decision from March 30 involving a Chilean woman who had been detained at the Toronto immigration holding centre since March 17 because she was deemed unlikely to appear for her immigration proceedings. The decision states that the woman may be released from detention as long as she abides by a number of conditions, including living at a shelter and reporting regularly to the CBSA.

Her identity and some of the details of the decision are redacted, as she has a pending refugee claim, which is subject to privacy rules. The decision notes that the woman’s refugee claim is on hold for the time being, and proceedings will resume “once the pandemic is addressed and the Immigration and Refugee Board begins to hear and process claims again.”

“You are now waiting for your (refugee) hearing which under normal circumstances can be a long process and everything is delayed now due to the pandemic,” the decision-maker, Julia Huys, said to the woman.

Huys goes on to describe the elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 among detainees.

“I am taking note that the conditions in the immigration holding centre may be better than provincial jail but I find only slightly,” Huys said.

“So detained people will come into contact with many others including detainees, other detainees, guards, staff, and movement in and out of people … from the immigration holding centre. And I am also taking very seriously the fact that there has now been a case of COVID-19 at the immigration holding centre with one of the staff.”

An IRB spokesperson said in an email to Global News that it’s “open to decision-makers to consider any relevant factors in determining whether detention is justified, including COVID-19 and its potential risks to detained individuals.”

The IRB also noted that its immigration division is “entertaining requests from parties for early detention reviews, for example to consider alternatives where the person detained may have a vulnerability that places them at elevated risk from the virus or any cases with an alternative to detention.”

Source: Canada is releasing immigration detainees at ‘unprecedented’ rates amid COVID-19 fears

More resources needed for federal agencies processing refugee claims: AG

No surprise here, reflecting some long-term and ongoing issues:

Canada’s refugee and asylum system will continue to be overwhelmed if additional resources are not committed to the three federal agencies responsible for processing refugee claims, the country’s auditor general said Tuesday.

“We project that if the number of asylum claimants remains steady at around 50,000 per year, the wait time for protection decisions will increase to five years by 2024 — more than double the current wait time,” interim Auditor General Sylvain Ricard said in his spring report.

The current backlog, the auditor general said, is “worse than in 2012,” when a mountain of unresolved claims led the Harper government to reform the system.

The federal watchdog said in December last year that some 71,380 people were waiting for their claims to be heard. In March 2010, that number was 59,000.

Canada was the ninth-largest recipient of refugee and asylum claimants in 2017, with some 50,400 claims filed, a number that jumped to 55,000 in 2018.

About 40,000 of those asylum claimants came via the United States, with most crossing into Quebec.

The surge of claimants has put additional pressure on a system that has long grappled with processing delays, the auditor general’s office said — a crunch that is expected to continue if funding levels and processing capacity remains the same.

“Overall we found Canada’s refugee determination system was not equipped to process claims according to the required timelines,” the report notes.

Long wait times

At the end of December 2018, the auditor general’s office said the average wait time for a decision in Canada was two years. As of 2012, refugee claimants are supposed to have a hearing scheduled within 60 days of their arrival in Canada. 

In the March 2019 budget, the Trudeau government pledged $1.18 billion over five years for Canada’s strained refugee claimant system.

“Budget 2019 did provide additional resources to enhance the capacity of the system but it was not clear exactly how it’s going to deal with the backlog and reduce the wait times for claimants,” said Carol McCalla, the principal director of the auditor general’s report on processing asylum claims.

About 65 per cent of claimants have seen their hearings delayed at least once, the auditor general said — an action that led to an additional five-month delay, on average. 

About 25 per cent of claims made saw multiple delays, the auditor general said, noting most of the holdups were “due to administrative issues within the government’s control.” 

In almost half of the cases, hearings were delayed because a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada was unavailable. 

Another 10 per cent of cases were stalled because security screens were still being processed, even though the necessary paperwork had already been filed in one in five of the cases delayed for security reasons.

CBSA has since reallocated resources to “significantly improve the timeliness of security screening,” the auditor general’s report noted.

Canada’s refugee processing system isn’t utilizing available fast-tracks, either — processes that allow the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to decide certain claims by simply reviewing a file rather than hold a hearing. 

The auditor general found the board only expedited about 25 per cent of eligible cases, even though 87 per cent of the remaining eligible cases eventually received a positive outcome. 

“Moreover, we found the Board did not process expedited claims more quickly,” the report said. “On average decisions for expedited claims took about the same amount of time as regular claims.” 

The board, the auditor general noted, announced changes to its expediting processing system in January.

Missing security checks

Processing delays weren’t the only issue flagged by Canada’s auditor general Tuesday. 

Canada’s federal watchdog also found poor quality assurance checks between Canada Border Services Agency and the federal immigration department meant about 400 applicants (or 0.5 per cent) were not subjected to the necessary criminal or identity checks because of system errors or failure to take claimants’ fingerprints. 

“Neither organization systematically tracked whether a criminal records check was always completed because of poor data quality,” the report reads, adding those records are “important for public safety and the integrity of the refugee determination system.”

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said initial screening by CBSA of individuals arriving in Canada include biometric and biographic screening.

“This layer of screening screens out individuals with serious criminality. No individuals with serious criminality or security concerns were allowed into admitted to Canada,” Goodale’s office said.

“With respect to the layer of biometric screening examined by the Auditor General, the only new piece of information captured by this layer of screening is whether or not an individual had previously claimed asylum in another country.”

Poor data quality wasn’t the only concern flagged by the auditor general’s office.

Canada’s federal watchdog said poor communication between the three organizations responsible for Canada’s asylum claim system was made worse by the fact the CBSA, the federal immigration department and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada use “different information technology systems, with limited interoperability.” 

As a result, the auditor general said it found “important gaps in which information was not shared, such as changes to hearing dates.”

“The system needs to be more flexible to be able to be scalable to increases in demand. As well, improvements are needed in how it uses its resources to share the information and processes the claims more efficiently,” McCalla said.

All three organizations also remain heavily dependent on paper and faxes to share specific claim information, the auditor general said, with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada relying “almost exclusively on paper files in its work.” 

“Collecting and sharing information securely and efficiently are critical to the proper processing of asylum claims, especially when claim volumes are high,” the report noted.

In response to the auditor general’s report, all three organizations pledged to improve their quality assurance programs. “Through regular monitoring, issues such as missing, delayed, incomplete, or ineligible claimant information will be identified and addressed in a timely manner by the responsible organization,” reads a statement attributed to the organizations in the report.

Additional work will also be done to improve the department and agency’s technological capabilities, they said, including an eventual shift to digital processing.

Source: More resources needed for federal agencies processing refugee claims: AG

Ottawa begins fast-tracking asylum claims from selected countries

While there are risks involved, there does appear to have been careful consideration in terms of the groups and circumstances subject to fast-tracking. And given the backlog and numbers, some form of triage is necessary to separate out more straightforward cases from more complex:

Overwhelmed by asylum claims from irregular migrants crossing the U.S. border, the Immigration and Refugee Board is fast-tracking “less complex” cases from selected countries.

On Tuesday, refugee judges began assessing claims under what is known as a file-review process — meaning a decision is made based on submissions from claimants — without a hearing — and a short-hearing process, where there are few disputable issues.

“These new instructions are examples of initiatives recently put in place to slow the growth of the inventory and wait times for claimants,” refugee board chairman Richard Wex told the Star. “By matching our efforts with the complexity of each claim, we are using our resources more effectively, which will result in more refugee claim decisions.”

The latest statistics show the board has more than 73,000 outstanding claims and the wait time for a hearing now hovers at around 24 months. Many of the claims are from asylum seekers who came through the U.S.-Canada border since late 2015 after U.S. President Donald Trump came into the office with a mandate to crack down on illegal migrants.

In December, the board started triaging the claims based on two newly created lists of countries and claims. In total, 25 refugee judges have been assigned to the new effort.

To qualify for the file-review process, a claimant must be from one of 14 countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.

However, not every claim from these countries will be automatically expedited.

For instance, only those Saudi Arabian claims alleging persecution based on gender or religious sect can be assessed without a hearing. For asylum seekers from Libya, claims must involve corruption, extortion, kidnapping or threat of kidnapping by militias.

Only some claims from 11 countries are recommended for short hearings: sexual orientation persecution in the Bahamas, Barbados, Iran, Russia, Rwanda and Venezuela; fleeing criminality and corruption in Nigeria, Peru, Saint Vincent and St. Lucia; and threats in Djibouti due to one’s political opinion and activism.

According to the refugee board, these countries and claims were selected for faster processing because they have an acceptance rate of 80 per cent or higher and the type of risks the asylum seekers face are generally well documented.

Officials said a failed claimant under the file-review process is entitled to a full hearing by a refugee judge.

Source: Ottawa begins fast-tracking asylum claims from selected countriesThe Immigration and Refugee Board now fast-tracks “less complex” asylum claims by reviewing evidence without a full hearing as backlog climbs to 74,000 cases with wait times of up to 24 months.

In contrast to the neutral reporting, a typical example of over the top conservative commentary rather than a measured discussion of the risks involved.

The Conservatives also introduced streamlined and tighter processes under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act with mixed success (Former Tory government’s refugee reforms get failing grade | The Star:

The Trudeau government is fast-tracking the approval process for asylum claimants coming from the world’s most violent and dangerous societies.

As I first reported in April 2017, the government was looking at ways to rubber stamp claimants to address the massive backlog of asylum applications that has accumulated in recent years.

This week, they finally rolled out their new controversial process.

Under the new system, individuals from select countries will be accepted as refugees without ever having to present their case in person or appear before an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) judge.

Instead, they’ll be waved through based on what they call a “file review” — a paper application often filled out by a trained immigration lawyer or consultant.

The government justifies these changes by saying the new rules only affect “less complex” cases — in essence, cases dealing with people coming from refugee-producing countries.

The problem is that refugee-producing countries can also be terrorist-producing countries.

According to a notice posted by the IRB, the new rubber stamp program will apply to “all claims” from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi and Eritrea.

Other countries whose citizens are now eligible for fast-tracked acceptance into Canada include Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, Turkey and Egypt.

These changes come just weeks after we learned that a person considered a “national security concern” was admitted to Canada and granted permanent residency.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this was “entirely unacceptable” and the CBSA president said it was the result of “a series of failures.”

Skipping IRB interviews will only make Canada more vulnerable.

The new fast-tracked system was designed to address the backlog of over 64,000 applications that has grown alongside the dramatic spike in asylum applications and the ongoing crisis of illegal border crossers circumventing Canada’s immigration and border laws.

In 2017, 50,390 migrants entered Canada legally and illegally to make refugee claims. That number jumped to 55,695 last year.

The Trudeau government has done little to stop the record surge in asylum claimants. In fact, there’s ample evidence that the feds are helping to facilitate illegal border crossers.

Just look at Roxham Road — home to 95% of all illegal crossings.

The feds built a land-bridge to make it easier for migrants to enter Canada illegally. They set up a makeshift border station to start processing asylum claims, and they began to offer shuttle bus services to bring migrants to Montreal and Toronto — where they’re given access to government-funded housing, healthcare and other taxpayer-funded services.

The Trudeau government has repeatedly created incentives and encouraged people to come to Canada to make asylum claims. And now, to deal with the backlog that they themselves created, they’re waving through asylum claimants from violent, dangerous and unstable parts of the world.

Rather than carefully and methodically reviewing cases presented by asylum claimants, the government is now skipping important steps and rushing through the process.

But without so much as a short interview with an immigration judge, how can we be sure that the individuals are fleeing violence and are not part of the violence?

The Trudeau government haphazardly opened our borders and invited the world’s migrants to come to Canada. Now, the government is quietly chipping away at the safeguards that were designed to keep Canadians safe.

Source: MALCOLM: Feds roll out fast-tracking for asylum claimants from dangerous countries

Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

His case should not have fallen through the cracks, suggesting communications issues between CBSA and the IRB, particularly in terms of timeliness. While in the end, the system did work, the issues should have been caught and acted upon earlier.

But it is somewhat ingenuous for Conservative immigration critic to state that the Liberal government is undermining public confidence in the immigration system while ignoring the contribution that some of her over-the-top language and positions (e.g., opposition to the Global Compact on Migration) also play. Fine line between legitimate criticism and stoking the fires:

Abdullahi Hashi Farah had an extensive criminal record, ties to a violent gang, and a long history of breaching probation. But Canadian immigration officials still released him after he crossed illegally into Canada in October 2017. (Supplied)

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel is again calling for a complete review and audit of the immigration screening system in response to a CBC News investigation that revealed a Somali gang member with an extensive criminal record was twice released in Canada.

“The government has to acknowledge that there are serious flaws in the process and commit to fixing the system,” the Calgary MP said in a telephone interview Thursday.

In an earlier scrum outside the House of Commons, Border Security Minister Bill Blair was asked about the case of Abdullahi Hashi Farah.

Blair conceded Farah would not have been released had the full extent of his gang ties and criminal record been known. But he said he took “some comfort in the fact that the system has worked and we’ve identified the individual, and he is subject to deportation.”

Rempel said Blair’s response will only serve to further undermine public faith in the system.

‘This is pretty bad’

“People will read [the CBC News story] and they will look at the minister’s response and go, ‘This is somebody who is not taking this situation seriously, and it is a serious situation,’ ” Rempel said.

“And I worry that by doing this, the Liberals are actually eroding public confidence writ large. And that is not where we want to be in a pluralism like Canada. They need to restore order to the system. This [case] is pretty bad.”

As CBC News first reported Thursday, Farah was fleeing an arrest warrant and deportation in the U.S. when he crossed illegally into Canada at Emerson, Man., in late October 2017.

Then 27, Farah told Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials about his criminal record and gang ties. The agency wanted him held for a few more days until it could retrieve his full criminal record from the U.S.

But an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearing officer, impressed with Farah’s seeming honesty, ordered his release.

As a condition of release, Farah surrendered his cellphone to the CBSA so that it could be checked for evidence of criminal activity

Six days after Farah was set free in Winnipeg, he breached his release conditions and was arrested again.

That same day, the CBSA gained access to Farah’s cellphone. They found recent photos and videos of Farah playing with loaded handguns, doing cocaine, concealing cocaine, and flashing wads of cash. There were also photos of what authorities believed was a stolen credit card.

Released despite evidence of criminal activity

The CBSA has declined to explain why the evidence from Farah’s cellphone was not immediately provided to the IRB.

Without that evidence, another IRB hearing officer again released Farah in March 2018 and allowed him to move to Calgary.

In June, Edmonton police arrested Farah as a suspect in a string of armed convenience store robberies after a CBSA officer in Winnipeg picked him out of robbery photos taken from store security camera footage.

Edmonton police have declined to say why Farah is no longer a suspect in the robberies. He is now jailed in the Edmonton Remand Centre, awaiting deportation to Somalia.

The CBC News investigation revealed Farah had lied repeatedly about the extent and seriousness of his criminal record and the length of his involvement with the Somali Outlaws gang in Minneapolis and Nashville.

The investigation also revealed Farah had breached immigration and parole conditions more than 30 times in the U.S and in Canada. He had also been imprisoned for contempt after he reneged on a promise to testify against his former gang in relation to a major sex-trafficking case in Nashville involving girls as young as 12.

Rempel stressed her party is pro-immigration but said this case, and others like it, show the system can’t handle the volume of immigrants while ensuring adequately rigorous screening.

“While certainly not every case is going to be like this, even one is unacceptable, and even one puts the integrity of the system — and the perception of the integrity of the system — at risk.”

Source: Conservatives call for audit of immigration system after gangster twice released in Canada

Refugee board releases guide to deal with bad lawyers, consultants

The twitter traffic I have seen from immigration lawyers applaud this (overdue) move:

The Immigration and Refugee Board has issued new guidelines to help its decision-makers and the public deal with complaints involving allegations of substandard legal representation.

“In the past, there were no formal procedures established at the board for dealing with allegations against former counsel, and each situation was dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” said spokesperson Anna Pape.

“Now, after internal and external consultation, the IRB has developed its own protocol to guide the decision-makers and the parties, based on the procedures in the Federal Court and in other courts.”

While some complaints about counsel raise legitimate concerns, others can be controversial because people may make them to try to delay proceedings or to demand that their case be reopened in the event of a negative decision.

Among the most high-profile complaints in recent years were from Roma refugees against three Toronto lawyers — Viktor Hohots, Joseph Farkas and Erzsebet Jaszi — who were later disciplined by the Law Society of Upper Canada, only after most of the complainants had their claims rejected and were deported with no redress.

The refugees’ complaints alleged the lawyers accepted legal aid retainers but abdicated their professional responsibilities, engaged in professional misconduct and negligently represented their clients, and ultimately led to their claims being rejected. Most only raised their concerns to Toronto’s Roma Community Centre when the majority of their claims were refused.

While critics welcome the guidelines and believe they can help ensure decision-makers take such complaints seriously, some said they are long overdue, coming four years after the Federal Court published similar protocol.

“It’s interesting that it took the board this long to develop a formal policy,” said York University law professor Sean Rehaag, co-author of a 2015 study that examined the odds faced by Roma in Canada’s refugee system, including inadequate legal representation.

“The biggest problem is these people are vulnerable. They may not know their rights or speak the language and are scared of retribution. There will never be full assurance against problematic counsel.”

The new guidelines apply to the board’s four tribunals that deal with asylum claims and appeals as well as immigration detention and appeals. They detail the steps individuals must take to complain against their counsel and the documentation they need when the issue arises in the middle of a proceeding or after a decision is made.

Complainants must provide the board with documentation showing they have informed their former counsel about the allegations and provided them 10 days to respond to the claims. They must also release their solicitor-client privilege to the extent necessary to allow former counsel to respond to the allegations.

Meanwhile, adjudicators can give direction or issue orders to make the proceeding fairer or more efficient despite the guidelines. They may also disclose a counsel’s breach of professional obligations, such as incompetence, negligence and misconduct to relevant regulatory body.

According to Pape, the board reported complaints against 10 lawyers and nine immigration consultants to their respective professional regulators in 2017. So far this year, they referred three lawyers and two consultants to their licensing bodies.

Source: Refugee board releases guide to deal with bad lawyers, consultants

Ottawa needs to fix operational problems at beleaguered refugee board, say frustrated staff

Yes, like all administrative processes, there is a need for an assembly line approach, in terms of standards, steps and sequence to be followed, and efficiency (where governments struggle, given administrative and legal constraints, as well as corporate culture).

Like it or not, there are resource constraints and the increase in resources in the budget is in that context. And reorganizations, streamlining, new agencies and the like take time to be developed, considered and implemented.

And yes, metrics are part of sound management:

The influx of migrants crossing the border has turned Canada’s asylum system into an assembly line, exacerbating operational problems and prioritizing targets over the needs of vulnerable people, say front-line staff at the country’s beleaguered refugee board.

Immigration and Refugee Board employees told the Star they are overworked and frustrated by organizational challenges.

They fear changes recently recommended in a government report could make things worse.

“To meet (management) targets, people stop being people and start becoming numbers,” said Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, which represents 550 of the board’s 1,000 employees.

“The morale is really low at the moment. There is (only) so much you can do when you don’t have enough resources to go around. And you hear recommendations from people who don’t know how you operate and miss the bigger, systemic and structural issues that need to get changed to solve our problems.”

Canada’s world-renowned asylum system is coping with a ballooning backlog: since 2016, the number of claims has increased by 241 per cent to 50,000 cases, due largely to an unexpected wave of migrants who have walked across the Canada-U.S. border.

Each asylum judge is now expected to process 150 refugee claims a year. The union has been told that number will increase to 200 in 2019.

Despite Ottawa’s promise in the 2018 budget to hire 50 asylum judges and 185 support staff over the next two years, board staff and refugee advocates say that’s not enough to fix a flawed system.

A recent government report, which recommended ways to restructure, isn’t the answer either, they say.

Various federal departments and agencies share responsibility for the intake, adjudication and removal of refugees, for permanent residency approvals, and for all appeals, but it’s the refugee board, which operates as an independent, arm’s-length body, that grants asylum.

The report, by retired deputy immigration minister Neil Yeates, recommended government either establish a new Asylum System Management Board to co-ordinate and streamline the process or create a new Refugee Protection Agency, which would handle the entire asylum system from intake to adjudication, and would fall under the authority of the immigration minister.

“The Yeates Report proposes massive changes to the system,” said Chris Aylward, national president of Public Service Alliance of Canada, the bargaining agent for 18 federal unions, including that of the board.

“It should have focused on ensuring sufficient and proper resources go to the processing and review of asylum claims instead of proposing a new structure that could threaten the rights of claimants to a fair process.”

The concern, according to Warner, is that restructuring would threaten the independence and transparency of the refugee determination system from real or perceived political interference from Ottawa.

Warner said there have been problems at the refugee board since the late 2000s, when the government of Stephen Harper made massive changes to the system and was slow to appoint refugee judges.

“The changes (by the Conservatives) were too extreme; we went from a country that was welcoming to one that was hurry-up-and-leave,” said Warner, who worked as a registry support staffer at the refugee board in Vancouver for 10 years before being elected national executive vice-president of the union.

Among the major flaws of Harper’s reforms, Warner said, were:

  • The elimination of tribunal officers who were charged with: the screening and triage of files; liaising with and answering inquiries from officials, claimants and lawyers; administering cases returned by courts, and providing hearing room support to decision-makers, who now must perform some of the duties on their own.
  • The imposition of statutory timelines to hear asylum claims within 60 days without taking into account the practicality of having a claimant secure a lawyer and legal aid, prepare a narrative, collect documents and evidence, and obtain medical and security clearances within the time frame.
  • Splitting the administration of the refugee protection tribunal from that of other board functions, which created a less flexible organizational structure unable to respond easily to changing operational needs.

“Cumulatively, such administrative tasks represent an astonishing burden, distraction and waste of adjudicator time and expertise,” said one refugee judge, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. “Yet it is a deliberate construct that continues under the leadership of the board and remains a stark, systemic management failing.”

Compounding the structural problems are shuttered hearing rooms, antiquated dictation software and failed video conference equipment, all of which cause further delays, said Warner.

“Trying to book a hearing room can become World War III between all these divisions within the refugee board,” noted Warner, who added that board policy still requires paper, not electronic, files.

“We can’t receive refugee claimants’ files, documents from lawyers and minister’s counsel by email. They must be received via regular mail or fax. You can imagine in 2018, what a ridiculous thing this is. It prolongs everything on case management.”

While the policy goal is to process 90 per cent of claimants within regulated timelines, the refugee board has never met this target: last year, for example, only 59 per cent of the cases were completed on time.

A veteran case manager at the refugee board said her colleagues are overwhelmed by the workload, but are committed to their jobs in offering asylum to those in need of Canada’s protection while maintaining the integrity of the country’s refugee system.

“We need to have more adjudicative support provided to the members. We need to move away from using metrics as a way of measuring productivity. We need enough hearing rooms. We need to allow people to leave work behind and not feel obligated to take their work home,” said the case manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to media.

“We need all of these things so that we can retain the compassion that we all have for the clients we serve.”

Source: Ottawa needs to fix operational problems at beleaguered refugee board, say frustrated staff

Refugee claims process needs major overhaul, says report

Will be interesting to see the degree to which the government adopts these recommendations or not. Yeates was former deputy minister at then Citizenship and Immigration Canada and knows the issues well:

Canada must overhaul its refugee claim system or create a new agency that reports to the immigration minister in order to streamline and expedite the asylum process, an independent review has concluded.

The 147-page report makes 64 recommendations — among them calls for a more aggressive approach and increased resources to tackle the backlog of refugee cases over two years.

Neil Yeates, a retired long-time senior civil servant in the federal and Saskatchewan provincial governments, led the government-commissioned review. He said Canada’s refugee determination system is now at a crossroads.

“Once again, it is dealing with a surge in claims that it is ill-equipped to manage, running the risk of creating a large backlog that, if not tackled promptly, may take years to bring to final resolution,” he wrote in his report.

Under the current system, various federal departments and agencies have a role in refugee intake, adjudication, removal or permanent residence approval, and the appeals process, but the Immigration and Refugee Board operates as an arm’s-length body making independent decisions.

The report recommends either maintaining that structure under an Asylum System Management Board, or shaking it up with major structural reforms under an integrated Refugee Protection Agency that reports directly to the immigration minister.

A spokesperson for the IRB told CBC News it has “significantly improved efficiencies at the Refugee Protection Division” and reported “an increase in refugee claim finalization by 40 per cent over the past year.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees said it’s “alarmed” by the proposals, arguing they could undermine the independence of the IRB. It called on the government to maintain the IRB as an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for refugee determination.

“People’s lives hang on decisions on refugee claims,” said CCR president Claire Roque in a statement. “We are not talking about traffic violations, we are talking about a decision that may determine whether a person lives or dies. When we make such important decisions, we need to guarantee due process and the basic protections of an expert and independent tribunal.”

The CCR said the current system — created in the wake of a 1985 Supreme Court decision that found refugee claimants are entitled to charter rights and a fair hearing — is a regarded as a model around the world.

The CCR said any changes must be in line with the principles of fairness, respect for due process and compassion.

“The complex and painful realities of refugees cannot be adequately addressed through a process that focuses on systems and efficiencies,” the organization said in a release.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government is committed to upholding Canada’s “proud humanitarian tradition” of providing protection to those fleeing persecution while ensuring the asylum system is not abused.

“The findings in the final report will inform our review of Canada’s asylum system as we determine how best to maximize efficiency while ensuring that the system remains fair and continues to be in line with international standards,” said Mathieu Genest in an email.

“IRCC is studying the recommendations and will be consulting stakeholders, and provincial and territorial partners, on the findings over the course of the summer. It is premature to speculate on any changes that may be considered.”

Asylum over immigration

In his report, Yeates noted the growing trend of people using the asylum process instead of regular immigration channels.

“With the advent of human capital immigration models that place a high emphasis on education, language and skilled labour, asylum systems in countries like Canada risk becoming avenues of last resort for lower skilled economic migrants, who generally do not have access to other pathways to permanent residence,” the report reads.

Current approval rates for protection are about 65 per cent, so there are “ever present concerns” that the asylum system can be vulnerable to misuse, Yeates warned.

“When there are lengthy waiting times for an initial protection hearing there are further concerns that the asylum system may be abused to prolong temporary stays in Canada for healthcare, work permits, public schooling, direct access to Canadian citizenship for children born while in Canada and other benefits, all of which make future removal from Canada of many unsuccessful claimants difficult,” the report reads.

A series of reforms in 2012 aimed to expedite the claims process, but the system is still strained by spikes in asylum claims and resources stretched thin.

IRB spokeswoman Anna Pape said claims intake has been exceeding operational capacity by an average of 2,300 cases per month for the last year, creating a growing backlog. As of May 31, 2018, there were about 57,235 pending cases.

She said the IRB has taken steps to improve efficiency, and the number refugee claims finalized increased by about 40 per cent in 2017-18 compared to the previous year.

The IRB is currently funded to finalize approximately 24,000 claims per year.

“The IRB continues to explore new and innovative ways to improve efficiency, with the objective of improving the timeliness of decisions,” Pape said.

Given the current caseload and existing resources, the projected wait time for claims for refugee protection before the IRB has increased to approximately 20 months.

The report recommends stronger financial controls and tracking of overall system spending rather than incremental funding. It estimates that, following the reforms, the federal government has spent an average of $216 million a year on processing claims, social supports such as health care and legal costs. That figure does not include costs for the Federal Court and downstream provincial costs.

The report also recommends that:

  • the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship table an annual report in Parliament on the system as a whole;

  • the federal government develop an annual plan and budget based on forecasted intake and targets, with tracked expenditures, and establish an external advisory committee of experts;

  • Ottawa streamline the hearings process, using plain language on forms and making better use of technology;

  • the federal government integrate permanent residence processing of non-accompanying spouses/dependents into the asylum intake process to minimize repetitive processes;

  • government prioritize removals as soon as a removal order comes into effect;

  • specialized staff be tasked with asylum intake at major points of entry, and;

  • Ottawa establish a rapid-response contingency workforce to handle increased claim volumes.

Source: Refugee claims process needs major overhaul, says report

Canada vastly unprepared to process migrants and refugees

Latest numbers and update on impact of the change to first-come-first serve:

A small change marks a troubling time in our immigration system.

Overwhelmed by an endlessly ballooning backlog, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) recently ditched the 60-day timeline to process asylum claims. People wanting to claim asylum will now be processed on a “first-in, first-out” basis.

The 60-day rule was put into place by the previous Conservative government in 2012. It required officials at IRB to process asylum claimants in order of their designated country of origin. Moreover, decision makers within the board had to process claims within two months. A generous analysis would say those changes were meant to improve procedural efficiency. I am not a generous person.

At the same time that Canada was promising ease of access to foreign millionaires, it created massive procedural obstacles for refugees.

In 2015, a federal court concluded that the major elements, specifically the lack of access for those deemed to be from “safe countries” ( i.e. a safe Designated Country of Origin) was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, that program has remained largely in place.

The effect has been catastrophic.

In 2012, when the Designated Country of Origin program was instituted, less than 10,000 claims were rolling in. Starting in 2014, those numbers have grown substantially. So, too, has the backlog.

By the end of the last year, the backlog was as high as 43,000 cases. The organization had anticipated a backlog of 30,000. The average wait time is now 20 months for new claims. Thousands of much older cases have languished.

Some have waited for an answer for more than six years. The new first-in, first-out system has thrown an already-lengthy process into disarray. Thousands of scheduled hearings have been cancelled, reports the Star’s Nicholas Keung.

IRB spokesperson Anna Pape said, “(The board) must postpone recent referrals at this time due to the operational limitations.”

The change at IRB is necessary but, make no mistake, it’s a move made out of desperation. With inadequate resources, the board has performed a herculean feat.

They’ve put in place a two-year task force to sort through legacy cases. Early last year, they dabbled with the first-in, first-out system under its former leader Mario Dion.

Dion had been unequivocal, saying to CBC News in July, “I am afraid the way things are at this point we will need additional resources … because there is a limit to how much you can stretch one person’s time.” He saw no hope in meeting the demands on the system, saying it was “essentially impossible to close the gap using existing resources.”

Money was a major hindrance, said Dion to the Canadian Press: “Efficiency has increased significantly, but there is no way we can deal with 30,000 cases when we’re funded for about 17,000.”

The most recent federal budget does lay out some money for the board but it lags behind what is needed. There is an additional $12 million in legal aid support for asylum claimants. Lawyers for refugees often tell me that a major obstacle is the lack of representation available to claimants.

Significantly, the budget allocates $173.2 million dollars for security operations at the border and for processing at IRB. Of that, $74 million dollars will be spent over the next two years on irregular migration.

There are bright spots within the asylum system. Funding for Yazidi women and girls fleeing ISIS’s terror remains in place. Canada recently stepped up to accept 1,845 refugees of 30,000 African asylum claimants that Israel is planning to mass deport. Canada’s move isn’t game-changing, but for those few, it is life saving.

Nonetheless, without an international action plan, the global migrant crisis will continue unabated. Simmering global hostility to migrants — refugees and non-refugees alike — looks likely to end up at Canada’s ports, airports and borders. For example, rumors and the eventual fact of the Trump administration’s rescinding of Temporary Protected Status is responsible for the Haitian migrants who have walked across the border.

The ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is aware of the need to pour attention and resources into the board. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has received an interim report on the IRB and a full report is expected later this year.

More migrants will come here and we need to be ready.

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