While addressing a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, 28 May, the chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) said the backlog of asylum claims in Canada is expected to stabilize when it reaches 100,000s region come 2021.
The chairperson, Richard Wex, revealed that the goal of his board is not to reduce the backlog of asylum claims but to manage its growth. The backlog which stands at 75,000 at the moment would have reached the regions of 170,000 in a few years, as well as wait time, rising from two to five years if the federal government had not recently injected some funds.
He explained that their focus in the next two years in light of the temporary funding included in 2018 and 2019 budget is to ensure the backlog does not grow at the rate it would have grown. It is not to get rid of the backlog, Wex said.
There would be several options for handling the backlog once it stabilizes.
Insufficient funding in Canada’s asylum system
Wex's appearance, alongside other officials from his board (IRB), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), before the committee was to respond to a report released earlier this month by an auditor general which claimed the asylum system in the country is not receiving sufficient funding and accused the three agencies of poor sharing of information amidst themselves.
On the issue of funding, Wex said $1.18 billion over five years was promised in this year's budget to speed up the processing of asylum claims as well as improve security at the border. $173 million was allocated to irregular immigration in the 2018 budget. This injected fund has enabled IRB to get hundreds of new staff and adjudicators hence helping the board to work faster.
As for information sharing, acting deputy minister of immigration said the agencies have had to rely on manual means because they are finding it difficult to switch to electronic processing given the independent operations of departments. She, however, said they are doing all they can to expedite the process.
With a 46% decrease already recorded in the number of asylum seekers illegally crossing the border, Canada is also working to ensure it reduces the number of asylum seekers who eligible to make claims in the country.
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