Canadian Government Aims to Establish a More Efficient System for Processing Refugee Claims
On June 9, 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen ordered a comprehensive review of the asylum process in Canada. The Minister stated the review aims to improve efficiency and speed up the processing times for asylum claims, which have been steadily increasing since 2015.
According to the government’s announcement, a third-party expert will spearhead the review. An independent secretariat will provide assistance in examining how the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) processes claims for protection. This independent review will provide recommendations for speeding up the system and ensuring that the claims are handled efficiently.
Although the IRB has recently implemented reforms to asylum claims processes, these alone are not enough to address the rising influx of individuals seeking refugee protection. A shortage of decision-makers and judges, coupled with an extensive backlog, has led to longer processing times and extensive delays. A recent analysis indicated that wait times for asylum claims are likely to increase even further. It's possible claimants will face up to 11-year-long wait times before the Board hears their case. The government's review seeks to address these issues and determine ways to improve asylum claims. The first findings and recommendations from the review will be presented by way of an Interim Report in December 2017.
The proposed review is certainly a step in the right direction as it illustrates the government’s acknowledgement of the significant problems currently impeding the asylum process. Indeed, a more efficient and productive way of offering protection to persons fleeing persecution has been long overdue in Canada. Under the current system, many refugee claimants spend indefinite amount of time waiting for the IRB to decide their case. Even worse, some have spent years just waiting for the Board to schedule a hearing.
A review of the system alone, however, is not sufficient to address these problems. Insufficient resources, funding, and a lack of staff capable of handling the increased workload are leading obstacles to a productive asylum system. As such, the government must first and foremost address this obstacle if it hopes to resolve the issues currently plaguing Canada’s refugee system. The problems before the IRB require immediate action and attention, not several months of wait time for recommendations.