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Recent figures tabled in the House of Commons show that only 866 of 45,000 “irregular” asylum seekers have been removed since 2017 by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) following an asylum claim rejection.
According to reporter Teresa Wright of The Canadian Press, “Since early 2017, more than 45,000 migrants have arrived in Canada irregularly by entering the country mainly through a forest path between New York State and Quebec, avoiding official border checkpoints where they would be turned away and told to file refugee claims in the United States”.
Once in the country, difficulties arise in the processing and determination of each migrant claim. This is in large part due to a loophole in Canada’s “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the United States. This agreement grants migrants who have managed to make it to Canada the right to make refugee claims without being immediately turned away. This contributes to migrants opting for illegal rather than legal immigration, as the asylum claims process is more favorable than the Canada Points System in the long run and appeals often go unattended.
Furthermore, existing laws surrounding asylum claims dictate that the claimant is entitled to explore every legal avenue available before a final determination can be made, including appeals of every rejection of the migrant’s claims. A final hurdle to deportation exists due to pre-removal risk assessments, whether migrant home countries are too dangerous to return to, and if missing any travel or medical documents.
As of 2017, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has been struggling to deal with the sudden influx of migrants, only managing to process 33 percent of refugee claims. As Wright reports, “6,885 people have been accepted for refugee protection and 5,650 have been rejected. Another 1,322 claims have been abandoned or withdrawn. Tens of thousands remain in a queue, waiting to be processed.” More specifically, as of September 2018, 64,929 asylum cases, with 28,314 of those being irregular migrants, have been stored in the IRB’s backlog, which is increasing on the daily.
The cost of each ‘irregular’ migrant can be quite substantial. Figures from the parliamentary budget officer in late 2018 showed that the total cost of dealing with migrant claims and their expenses was roughly $340 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year, with forecasts for the 2019-20 fiscal year expected to be an additional $396 million.
As Global News’s Amanda Connolly reported in 2018:
Every irregular border crosser who came to Canada over the last year [2017-2018] cost the federal government on average $14,321. That cost includes the entire process of handling their asylum claim through federal agencies and is expected to increase to an average cost of $15,483 this year and to $16,666 in 2019-2020… But it can also soar as high as $33,738 when a claimant goes through every appeal process and then has to be deported.
These costs can also be attributed to the lengthy process and difficult to enforce laws that surround asylum claims. Given the volume and potential complexity of each claim, it isn’t unusual for asylum claims to take years, not months, to process.