Crisis in Canada: Refugees


Efficiency Through Awareness

Imagine leaving behind everything you knew and cared for, in fear of your life. Your family, your friends, war, civil unrest, poor living conditions, everything. Now picture the relief of arriving in a safe haven, Canada. However, there’s a crisis in Canada as well, a crisis that is often not heard of – because the victims usually have little voice or say. A crisis that refugee advocates and lawyers, such as The Canadian Council for Refugees and Mitchell Goldberg of Montreal’s Refugee and Immigration Law Firm, say can be avoided.
One of the most recent and pressing issues that refugees and claimants in Canada are faced with is the hurdle of government inefficiency. More specifically, it has been brought to light that the branch of government that processes, accepts or rejects refugee claims is severely understaffed, causing long wait time and uncertainty for many people fleeing their country. The Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), has undergone much restructuring since 2006.
In 2007, of the 127 positions of decision-makers who are required to evaluate refugee claims, only 81 are filled. By November 2008, 95 were filled.
The issue has been brought up and debated on the Canadian Senate floor in December 2007. The consequences of the board not being able to function at full efficiency are dire.
As of December 2008, the total number of unprocessed refugee claims was 51,000. This number is expected to hit 65,000 by March 2009. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) states that, on average, it takes one year to process a claim. However, many claimants have been waiting up to 2 years to receive an answer. Up from the average nine month waiting time that was previously in effect.

While a claimant can still work and receive social assistance during the process, he or she cannot find out whether family members could be sponsored until his or her claim is recognized or rejected, which may, as mentioned, take up to 2 years or even more.

This means 2 years of life away from family members and loved ones. That means 2 years of anxiety and solitude. That means 2 years of struggling between hope for a new life, and fear for their family’s safety as they may still be trapped in dangerous parts of the world.
Though some may disagree on which refugee policy works best for Canada, we as Canadians cannot turn a blind eye on the inhumane nature of such a prolonged waiting time, especially considering that the government has both the budget and resources to maximize the IRB’s efficiency and to speed up the process. Qualified candidates are currently available, and therefore the government has no reason to drag its feet on the task of appointing decision-makers.
Regardless of one’s political beliefs on the refugee issue, we cannot deny the fact that refugees who have fled their own countries for fear of their lives, choosing Canada as their safe haven, deserve an answer – as quickly as possible.