Asylum-seeker claims to be processed faster: immigration minister

OTTAWA — Asylum seekers who cross illegally into Canada — only to wait many months for their refugee claims to be processed — may find their cases finalized sooner as a result of federal changes.

The arms-length board that handles refugee claims plans to speed up the handling of files from irregular border crossers like those seeking refugee status after crossing into Canada from the United States through unofficial forest paths.

The changes will see dozens more Immigration and Refugee Board staff dedicated exclusively to processing irregular border-crossing claims.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the changes Friday, saying anyone coming into the country illegally from now on will have their cases finalized within 12 months.

“We believe it will send a very strong message to those who assume that coming to Canada through irregular means will result in them waiting for a long period of time, for years, in Canada and then forming an attachment here. That’s not going to happen,” Hussen said.

The refugee board has been wrestling with a massive influx of files over the last year as a surge of “irregular” migrants — those who cross the border at non-official ports of entry — continue to enter Canada. A response team was set up in 2017 to cope with the increased workload and long wait times.

The 2018 budget earmarked $74 million over the next two years to allow the refugee board to hire more staff to help process irregular migrant claims. Those joining the Montreal office will focus mainly on Nigerian and Haitian irregular claims, which make up the majority of these cases. This will develop a specialization among board decision-makers to help increase their productivity, government said Friday.

In order to ensure non-irregular claims do not get pushed into a backlog, files will be allocated proportionally. This means in Montreal, for example, where 60 per cent of cases involve irregular border crossers, staff will ensure 60 per cent of files they finalize will be claims of irregular migrants.

Resources will be juggled between regions to respond to shifts in caseload demands.

Hearing rooms will also be reopened in Ottawa and a dedicated group of appeals division staff will prioritize irregular appeals cases, with a “last-in, first-out” approach that will see newer cases heard sooner.

The agency estimates these measures will allow it to deal with 17,000 more claims by March 31, 2020.

Hussen added the changes will essentially mean half of the board’s resources will be dedicated to dealing with the backlog of older “legacy” cases, while the other half will focus on quickly processing new files.

NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan says she agrees with the concept of creating specialized teams to help streamline processing.

But with an existing backlog of 53,000 files and the number of asylum seekers increasing at a rate of over 2,000 cases a month, clearing an additional 17,000 files by 2020 does not go far enough, she said.

“It’s just a drop in the bucket and the wait times will continue to accumulate and the backlog will continue to accumulate.”

She wants government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. and allow asylum seekers the ability to claim refugee status at official ports of entry — something currently not permitted under the existing agreement.

But Hussen argues doing so would be “completely irresponsible,” as it could lead to an even greater number of asylum seekers at official border crossings.

But he did acknowledge the agreement needs updating.

“The fact of the matter is the agreement needs to be updated because it is not enforced in between ports of entry and that is something we have highlighted to the United States and we have to work together to fix that.”

Just Posted

Central Alberta school divisions to support rural students through agreement

Wolf Creek to bring Enhanced Learning Model courses to Clearview schools

WATCH: Red Deer Catholic students re-envision a local wetland for school project

Father Henri Voisin Grade 3 teacher introduces ‘real-life’-based education

Manslaughter charge stayed against Maskwacis man

Man was accused of manslaughter in connection with the death of his mother in 2015

Red Deer Mounties make numerous arrests over the past two weeks

Over the past two weeks, Red Deer RCMP have made a number… Continue reading

Leslieville Elks’ new hall rising from the ashes

Leslieville Elks Lodge grateful for outpouring of support

WATCH: Red Deer Catholic students re-envision a local wetland for school project

Father Henri Voisin Grade 3 teacher introduces ‘real-life’-based education

Charges dropped against Alberta property owner in rural shooting

OKOTOKS, Alta. — All charges have been dropped against a man accused… Continue reading

China blocks John Oliver on social media after scathing show

BEIJING — A popular Chinese social media site is censoring discussion of… Continue reading

Most Red Deer Advocate readers would call police when witnessing a crime

An overwhelming number of Advocate readers would call the police if they… Continue reading

So much TV, so little summer: Amy Adams, Kevin Hart, Dr. Pol

LOS ANGELES — The fall television season is months away but that’s… Continue reading

BlackBerry Q1 revenue, adjusted earnings beat estimates but stock falls

TORONTO — BlackBerry Ltd. shares sank almost 10 per cent to their… Continue reading

OPEC countries to pump more oil to contain price increase

VIENNA — The countries of the OPEC cartel agreed on Friday to… Continue reading

Man sentenced for Edson triple murder

EDMONTON — An Alberta man who fatally shot three people has been… Continue reading

‘Hot Dog Water’ seller in Vancouver gets laughs, sales with savvy marketing

VANCOUVER — A Vancouver man who sold bottles of “Hot Dog Water”… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month