A surge in illegal crossings at the Canada/US border since 2017 has caused the worst processing backlogs at Immigration Canada in seven years, according to the Auditor General’s Processing Asylum Claims report.
“Almost 40,000 individuals were intercepted as they crossed the border from the United States between ports of entry to claim refugee protection,” reads AG Sylvain Ricard’s report.
“Since the system was not flexible enough to respond in a timely way to higher claim volumes, the 2017 surge of asylum seekers led to a backlog and increased wait times for refugee protection decisions.”
At the beginning of 2018, the backlog of unprocessed claims sat at 71,380 and the average processing time: two years. While Budget 2018 committed an additional $174 million to deal with the logjam – on top of annual costs of $216 billion – the auditor general warns the situation under status quo will worsen.
“At the current level of funding and productivity, the backlog and wait times will continue to grow,” the report says. “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 notes that in 2012, the federal government made changes to the system and increased funding to deal with a backlog of 59,000. By 2017, however, Canada was “the world’s ninth-largest recipient of asylum seekers in 2017 (50,400 claims)…more than double the number from the previous year.”
Year-over-year asylum claims increased again in 2018 with 55,000 claims.
The report examined the three organizations involved in the claims process – Canada Border Services Agency; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – to determine “whether (they) consistently processed asylum claims in an efficient and timely manner.”