Canada’s clogged refugee pro­cess­ing sys­tem ‘in a jam’

IM­MI­GRA­TION AND REFUGEE BOARD

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - STEVE BUIST Process

A HAMIL­TON LAWYER who spe­cial­izes in refugee cases says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s refugee pro­cess­ing sys­tem is over­loaded “and that’s a big prob­lem.”

“They’re re­ally in a jam,” said Howard Eisen­berg, who has han­dled refugee and im­mi­gra­tion cases for the past three decades. “They just don’t have the op­er­a­tional ca­pac­ity to deal with it.”

Un­der fed­eral leg­is­la­tion, refugee claimants are sup­posed to have their cases heard by the Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Board (IRB) within 60 days, and the de­ci­sion that fol­lows will de­ter­mine whether the claimant will be el­i­gi­ble to re­main per­ma­nently in Canada.

But Eisen­berg said at least half of his cases are now be­ing ad­journed in­def­i­nitely when the hear­ing date ar­rives.

What’s worse, he said, is that claimants have no idea how far into the fu­ture the hear­ing is post­poned. Some cases, he added, can be put off for years.

“You sit there in dry dock and you don’t know when they’re go­ing to call you,” he said. “How do you set­tle your life if you’re sit­ting in limbo for so long? “It’s ridicu­lous.” Vic­to­ria Bruyn, also a Hamil­ton lawyer spe­cial­iz­ing in refugee cases, said more than half of her cases are now be­ing post­poned as well.

“It’s bad for my clients,” she said. “Of­ten they’re in a very bad place psy­cho­log­i­cally be­cause they’ve had ter­ri­ble things hap­pen to them and they’ve gone through th­ese hor­ri­ble things they’ve had to do to get to Canada.

“So they’re al­ready a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion,” she added. “And then I have to call them and say ‘I’m sorry we’re not go­ing,’ some­times the day of the hear­ing.

“I’ve had clients al­ready in their car when I’ve had to tell them.”

In the past 12 months, Bruyn said, she hasn’t had a sin­gle case that was post­poned be resched­uled.

ASPOKESPERSON for the IRB said there’s been a steady in­crease in the num­ber of claimants since 2013, which has out­stripped the num­ber of de­ci­sion mak­ers avail­able to hear cases.

Ac­cord­ing to num­bers from the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency, nearly 24,000 refugee claimants were pro­cessed across the coun­try last year, com­pared to just over 10,000 in 2013. Nearly 9,000 more

DEREK GEE, BUF­FALO NEWS

Turk­ish im­mi­grant In­cilay Kir­cali, cen­tre, and her hus­band Hakan re­view pa­per­work as In­cilay ap­plies for asy­lum in Canada at the New­comer Cen­tre at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont.

Howard Eisen­berg

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