Every irregular border crosser who came to Canada over the last year 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.
Those numbers come from a new report by the parliamentary budget officer released on Thursday which looked at the full costs of irregular migration across Canada’s southern border.
According to the report, that means the total cost of dealing with the cohort of migrants who arrived in the 2017-2018 fiscal year will be about $340 million over the total time it takes to complete their claims, whether that be two years or five, for example.
For those arriving over 2019-2020, the cost of seeing their claims through to completion is forecast to cost a total of $396 million, based on estimates of similar numbers coming over that time period as have been seen previously.
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Officials based the estimates on the 23,755 irregular migrants who arrived between April 2017 and March 2018.
However, the report also notes there is a wide range in cost per migrant and also does not take into account the cost to provinces of dealing with the migrants.
For those who entered Canada in 2017-2018, the cost estimate ranged from $9,915 for the simplest cases or those whose claim is accepted at the first hearing.
But it can also soar as high as $33,738 when a claimant goes through every appeal process and then has to be deported.
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The report also notes that while the infrastructure in place to deal with the claims will not need to be adjusted because the costs per migrant primarily reflect personnel, medical and legal expenses, the total cost is on track to far exceed what was allocated in Budget 2018.
The federal government allocated $173.2 million over two years in that budget to deal with irregular migration.
Of that, $72 million is allocated to both the Immigration and Refugee Board and the Canada Border Services Agency over two years.
Over the next year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is getting $17 million over one year while the RCMP got $10 million and CSIS received $2 million.
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The report also notes that the more migrants come in, the higher the cost to taxpayers because the delays add to the total cost on the system.
As of September 2018, there is a backlog of 64,929 asylum cases and 28,314 of those are irregular migrants.
That comes after close to two years of a spike in the number of irregular migrants walking across the border from the United States.
The RCMP first began collecting data on that spike in January 2017.
During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the Immigration and Refugee Board could have handled hearing 24,000 cases per year but instead received 52,142, of which 23,215 of those were irregular migration claims.
The PBO also asked Quebec and Ontario for their assessments of costs, given those provinces are among the most directly impacted by the flow of irregular migrants.
Ontario estimated $200 million in costs the province says it has incurred per year from migrants, and officials told reporters on Thursday that seems like a reasonable assessment.
Quebec did not provide an estimate.