Canada’s clogged refugee processing system ‘in a jam’
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE BOARD
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
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.