Illegal immigrants could cost Canadians $600 million by 2020

For every irregular migrant that crossed into Canada during fiscal year 2017-18, there is an average cost of $14,321. As the backlog grows and wait times increase, that cost will rise to $16,666 by 2019-20.

Lucas Holtvluwer Montreal QC

The Parliamentary Budget Office released today their much anticipated report on the costs of irregular migration across Canada’s southern border.The 26 page document dives deep into the various costs associated with the rapid rise of irregular asylum seekers over the past two years.So how much is this irregular migration costing Canadian taxpayers? Let’s break it down.

Individual costs average $14,321 a year

For every irregular migrant that crossed into Canada during the 2017-18 fiscal year, there is an average cost of $14,321. As the backlog grows and wait times increase, that cost will rise to $16,666 by 2019-20.

This is just the average however. The actual cost per migrant in 2017-18 ranged from $9,915 all the way to $33,738. This variation depends on whether the persons claim is accepted at the first hearing or not. If it is accepted, the cost will remain at the lower end of this range. If the claim is not accepted, the person will often appeal the decision through every means possible thus driving the cost of their irregular entry up to the $33,738.

Overall cost for 2019-20 projected to be $400 million

All told, the cost of irregular migration to the federal government in 2017-18 was $340 million. The PBO projects that based off of current irregular migration trends, that number will rise to nearly $400 million in 2019-20.

This estimate does not include the likely cost of future transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces to help cover their costs in dealing with irregular migration. So far, the government has dished out $50 million to Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba but the report states that “This sum is significantly less than the total costs reported by provincial and municipal governments.”

PBO projects a maximum cost of $609 million by 2020

The PBO also looked at what it would cost the Government of Canada if the number of irregular migrants was to decrease or increase by 10,000 in 2018-19 and 2019-20. If the numbers were to decrease by 10,000, you could see costs as low as $208 million in 2018-19 and $211 million in 2019-20. However, if the numbers we to increase by 10,000, you could see costs balloon up to $538 million in 2018-19 and $609 million in 2019-20.

The cost of the IRB backlog

The report also gave Canadians some insights as to number of cases heard and processed by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) during 2017-18. As stated in the report, “In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the IRB had the capacity to hear 24,000 claims per year. During the same period, there was a total of 52,142 new asylum claims submitted to the IRB, as well as 5,736 appeals, of which irregular migrants represented 23,215 and 1,032, respectively.”The PBO goes on to say that over 50% of the asylum cases have yet to be finalized. They report that as of September 2018, the backlog sits at 64,929, 44% of those being irregular migrants.

Interim Federal Health Program costs

The Interim Health Program (IFHP) provides health insurance for refugees and asylum claimants as long as they are here in Canada. If they are successful in their application, they can transfer to the provincial health plan as a protected person. In the meantime, they are covered under the IFHP which is in turn funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The PBO estimates that the average annual cost per IFHP claimant was $1,066 in 2017-18. However, as wait times increase, this cost will continue to rise, as demonstrated in the chart below.

What does this mean for Canadians?

Overall, this spike in irregular migration has been a costly ordeal for Canadian taxpayers. Even if the numbers of irregular migrants were to substantially decrease in the next few years, the federal government alone would still be facing hundreds of millions in processing costs. Regardless of who you blame, Canadian taxpayers will be bearing the cost of this immigration debacle for years to come.


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