The number of asylum seekers in Manitoba waiting to hear if they can stay in their new homes is going up.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 40,000 asylum seekers are currently backlogged to have their refugee claims heard.
The number has skyrocketed in recent years due to federal funding, staff limitations, and an intense influx of those coming to Canada through non-border crossings in recent years.
Ibrahim Chambu left Ghana 2014 because he felt unsafe after coming out as a bisexual. Now, in late 2017, Chambu is still without an official country as he waits in Winnipeg to have his claim heard. He was originally supposed to go in front of a tribunal in August of this year, but — like many before him — had his date postponed.
“They sent me a letter that they were rescheduling my hearing date,” Chambu said. “But up to now, I have not heard from them.”
“I want to know my status so I know my next steps and what to do next.”
Chambu’s situation is not a unique one: many other asylum seekers had dates pushed back or completely cancelled with only a few days notice.
It used to take about four months before a claim was processed. Now, the average claim takes at least 16 months — a time frame that has quadrupled.
“Almost all of them now are getting a letter saying their claim has been postponed for administrative reasons and they don’t get a new date,” Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke said. “We’re just waiting and waiting and waiting.”
Clarke said Tuesday many of his clients are feeling anxious due to the uncertainty the delay brings.
“While he’s waiting and doesn’t know what’s going on, he’s worried about what might happen,” Clarke said. “He’s worried he might have to go back, he’s worried about his family in his home country.”
24,000 claims are processed each year — up from 20,000 previously — but the Immigration and Refugee Board said on Tuesday that it’s just not enough.
The winter months in 2016 brought an influx of asylum seekers to Manitoba’s borders, and the number in 2017 has already started increasing as the weather gets colder: 45 people have already crossed into the province this month, just ten days into October.