Canada plans to speed up asylum-seeker claims process

A group of asylum seekers walk down the street as they are escorted from their tent encampment to be processed at Canada Border Services in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Asylum seekers who cross illegally into Canada — only to wait many months for their refugee claims to be processed — may find their cases finalized sooner as a result of federal changes.

The arms-length board that handles refugee claims plans to speed up the handling of files from irregular border-crossers like the ones crossing into Canada from the United States through unofficial forest paths to claim refugee status.

The changes will see dozens more Immigration and Refugee Board staff dedicated exclusively to processing irregular border-crossing claims, as the board continues to wrestle with an existing large backlog of files.

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Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he hopes this will send a message to the world that jumping the border does not offer a free ticket to Canada, that claims will be heard quickly and those found without a legitimate claim will be removed from the country.

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The board is in the process of hiring 64 employees who will be assigned to process irregular migrant claims.

The agency estimates the additional staff will allow it to deal with 17,000 more refugee claims by March 31, 2020.

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