The Canadian immigration system is not flexible enough to handle the influx of irregular migrants that began in early 2017, according to the country’s auditor general.
A lack of information sharing and use of outdated technologies by the three federal bodies responsible for processing asylum claims has compounded the problem, leaving those agencies unable to process claims in the required time frames, according to the spring report by the auditor general.
“Overall, we found that Canada’s refugee determination system was not equipped to process claims according to the required timelines,” wrote auditor general Sylvain Ricard in his spring report.
“Since the system was not flexible enough to respond in a timely way to higher claim volumes, the 2017 surge of asylum seekers led to a backlog and increased wait times for refugee protection decisions.”
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Since early 2017, roughly 40,000 migrants have crossed the border irregularly from the United States into Quebec.
Nearly two-thirds of the asylum claims during that time were postponed because of issues within the control of the government, leading to delays lasting months, which have yet to be resolved.
Much of that backlog comes as the result of a lack of information sharing between the Canada Border Services Agency, Immigration and Refugees Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board, the auditor general said.
The report also warned that if current funding and procedures continue, wait times for asylum applications could more than double by 2024.
That would see applicants wait up to five years for a decision.
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Backlogged applications have been a persistent challenge for the Canadian immigration system for years.
The former Conservative government passed legislation in 2010 and 2012 aimed at reducing that backlog by setting mandatory time frame requirements for processing asylum claims that said hearings for most applicants had to be scheduled within 60 days.
But the report found that the influx of irregular migrants “outstripped” the capacity of officials to process them within those time frames and added that, “As a result, at the time of our audit, the system faced a backlog of unresolved claims that was worse than in 2012, when the system was last reformed.”
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—With files from Global’s Mike Le Couteur