NO ASY­LUM FROM CHAOS

The Sudbury Star - - OPINION - An­thony Furey

The govern­ment agen­cies tasked with speed­ily pro­cess­ing the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who have crossed il­le­gally into Canada to make asy­lum claims are drop­ping the ball big time, a new Au­di­tor Gen­eral of Canada re­port re­veals.

The three agen­cies — Canada Border Ser­vices Agency; Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada; and the Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Board of Canada — “did not process asy­lum claims in an ef­fi­cient and timely man­ner,” the re­port re­leased this week con­cludes.

Back in De­cem­ber 2012, the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment said most asy­lum claimants — whether they were reg­u­lar or il­le­gal crossers — had to have hear­ings within 60 days. Now, ap­pli­cants typ­i­cally won't re­ceive an­swers for two years.

As if that isn't bad enough, it's only set to get worse. “We project that if the num­ber of new asy­lum claimants re­mains steady at around 50,000 per year, the wait time for pro­tec­tion de­ci­sions will in­crease to five years by 2024 — more than dou­ble the cur­rent wait time,” the re­port states.

The feds have done lit­tle to dis­cour­age peo­ple from cross­ing il­le­gally into the coun­try in the first place. Re­cently, they an­nounced new mea­sures to make it eas­ier to turn away im­me­di­ately those who have pre­vi­ously made a claim in the United States. It's not yet known what ef­fect, if any, this has had on the in­flux.

The num­ber of peo­ple cross­ing il­le­gally into Canada sky­rock­eted in 2017 and 2018, with ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 peo­ple each year be­ing in­ter­cepted by the RCMP. The 2019 num­bers to date show the monthly to­tals are de­creas­ing, sitting at about half that of the pre­vi­ous year.

The AG re­port also draws at­ten­tion for the first time to ma­jor in­ef­fi­cien­cies within these agen­cies. For ex­am­ple, the agen­cies con­tinue to share in­for­ma­tion by pa­per as op­posed to quicker, less ex­pen­sive dig­i­tal op­tions.

The re­port also notes about 400 asy­lum claimants did not re­ceive bio­met­ric se­cu­rity checks, mostly be­cause fin­ger­prints weren't prop­erly taken or “sys­tem er­rors oc­curred when in­for­ma­tion was trans­mit­ted.”

One of the big­gest prob­lems con­tribut­ing to long wait­ing pe­ri­ods is about 65 per cent of hear­ings get post­poned at least once. The top rea­son for post­pone­ment was an im­mi­gra­tion and refugee board member was not avail­able to at­tend the hear­ing.

These in­ef­fi­cien­cies aren't good for any­one. Not for the govern­ment, the tax­payer or the asy­lum claimants. And it seems much of it can be chalked up to shoddy man­age­ment.

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