Refugee Limbo

For a number of years the Immigration and Refugee Board which is tasked with determining who is or is not a bona-fide refugee has had a backlog of refugee cases. Recently, that number seems to hover at about 40,000.  Among the refugees that are waiting for their hearing are people who arrived since 2013.

We know that according to the Immigration Law that was in place before December 2012, there is another group of about 5,000 cases that have to be dealt with; A separate unit of adjudicators, who have knowledge of the old law, are expected to be  processing them. However, what we have learned at last November’s meeting in Niagara Falls, is that the IRB will no longer give priority in scheduling to the most recently arrived; According to the existing legislation the newly arriving asylum seekers have to be given a date for their refugee hearing at arrival. The previous conservative Minister of Immigration, the Honorable Jason Kenny has suggested that the refugee need to be processed as soon as possible and the legislation states that they have to have a hearing within one or two months of their arrival.

However, this does not seem to work out as expected. Most of the refugees who arrive at the appointed hearing date would be informed that their hearing has been cancelled because their security clearance has not been completed. At some point, they are informed in writing of the new date for their hearing.  Some of these families are waiting as long as five or more years to have their case determined. The new scheduling will start with the people who have been waiting the longest; starting with refugees who arrived in 2013, and gradually process those who arrived in 2014, then 2015, etc.

According to the current legislation, the Border Services still have to provide a date for the hearing.  To get around this, the newly arrived refugees are given a “fictitious” date.  Later they are informed that the date they were given is fictitious, and that they will be informed of the real date, that could be in less than 24 months.  Therefore, the backlog will now include all newly arrived refugees who will be in limbo, waiting for their hearing that will take place in 2 or 3 years.