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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley Township businesses will ‘get hit hard’ by break-ins during COVID-19 closures

Store owners are being warned to leave their valuables out of sight from thieves

VIDEO: Feeding front-line medical responders at Langley Memorial Hospital

When a volleyball championship was cancelled, the teams decided to repurpose the registration fees

Smiling 98-year-old inspires new ways to connect at Langley hospital

Foundation staff liaise between patients and loved-ones who can’t visit due to restrictions

VIDEO: Sirens show support for Langley Memorial Hospital staff

Friday drive-past the latest in a province-wide campaign to boost morale at B.C. medical facilities

LETTER: Are Langley’s wildlife following #StayAtHome and self-isolation?

Advance Times reader Albert van der Heide discovered this ‘locked door’ in the Blaauw Eco Forest

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read