Asylum seekers go through unimaginable lengths to get to a country they want to call home. From human smugglers to dangerous terrain, the journey to Canada is rarely easy for most of these refugees. What’s even more frustrating is that the asylum seekers have to spend months waiting to argue their claim in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The Canadian refugee system has a backlog of cases to handle and if more resources are not provided by the government, then asylum seekers will have to wait longer for their cases to be heard.
According to officials at the Immigration and Refugee Board, asylum seekers will now need to wait for an average of 16 months to argue their claim in front of the board. The officials claim that this wait period could become even longer in the future. They argue that there is a need to direct more resources to deal with this issue. Failure to do this would mean cases take longer to schedule. Since July, there has been an influx of asylum seekers from the US who were afraid they would be deported with current rumors that the Trump administration would lift their temporary protected status.
There is a need to hear the cases of asylum seekers urgently because many of them are being held in tents and other forms of temporary housing. Since winter is soon approaching, the IRB has provided additional resources to ensure at least 1,500 cases are cleared by end of November. This is just a drop in the ocean considering there is a backlog of 29,000 refugee claims that are yet to be heard. An estimated 1,400 claims per month continues to add on to the existing backlog. As a result, asylum seekers need to exercise patience and wait for their claims to be heard by an independent decision-maker.
Time and time again, the IRB has given hearing dates only for them to fail to meet the deadlines because of the backlog of cases they are dealing with. Normally, the IRB has the capacity to hear 20,000 claims by asylum seekers each year. However, the institution received funding and it was able to raise this number to 24,000 per year. According to the latest project, the IRB stated that they should be able to handle 48,000 refugee claims in 2017.
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Immigration lawyers in Canada work tirelessly to ensure their clients can move on with their lives, particularly those seeking refugee status. They provide legal assistance when their clients are presenting their claims to the board, but can do little to prevent a case from being delayed by the Refugee Board. Asylum seekers have to go through the stress and depression with the uncertainty of whether their refugee claims will be accepted. The IRB needs to develop better strategies of dealing with the backlog by understanding that thousands of lives are affected due to the delays.