More Personnel Needed to Process Asylum Claims
Earlier this year, in a previous entry to this blog titled No Easy Answers, I suggested that Canada may not be as prepared as it could be to deal with the potential entrance of thousands of migrants arriving at the Canadian border.
Moreover, I stated that the integrity of Canada’s immigration system, and public confidence in that system, must be upheld. Much of Canada’s success as a nation depends upon a welcoming, but ultimately well-managed, immigration system.
At that time, snow still rested on the ground and icy winds whipped through the air. Moreover, the Trump administration had not yet walked the walk with regard to its migration policy. It was the President’s words, more so than his actions, that had some US-based migrants beginning the journey north.
When summer came, and with the temporary protection status for Haitians in the U.S. granted after the 2010 earthquake closer to expiry (it is set to expire this coming January), thousands of migrants — mostly Haitian — arrived at unofficial border crossings, mostly in the province of Quebec.
This, in turn, led to politicians and others pointing the blame depending on their political stripes. Those on the left emphasized the push factor: Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies. Those on the right emphasized the pull factor: Justin Trudeau’s Twitter feed (in the midst of Trump’s original attempt at a travel ban earlier this year, the Prime Minister tweeted “To those feeling persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you.”)
The reality is that there are push and pull factors at play here, and the 140-character musings of two individuals does not tell the full story.
It is likely that over the coming weeks, months, and years, thousands more migrants, not only Haitians, will arrive in Canada irregularly (i.e. at unofficial border crossings), whereupon they will continue to be apprehended by the RCMP and allowed to make a claim to remain in Canada.
While the arrivals’ backgrounds may be diverse to some degree, we could see large numbers of them being from Central America, as well as ‘Dreamers’ who are uneasy about their future status now that Trump has handed the ball to Congress on what to do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Meanwhile, the government of Quebec is footing the bill for thousands of asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation in the Montreal area, some of whom have been put up in the Olympic Stadium. Quebec’s Employment Minister has also said that for the month of September an estimated 4,000 persons will receive a basic monthly payment of $623, plus a supplement depending on one’s family status. This amounts to around $2.5 million for the month, a figure that may only increase for as long as any asylum claims remain outstanding and more people arrive.
Now, there are some things that our government cannot do, and some things that it can do. It cannot stop the arrival of individuals and families at the border. The US administration appears happy to have some of its residents leave the country, and many of them will continue to head north. For the most part, these people will not return to the US.
But what can Canada do? For a start, the federal government must invest in bringing more personnel in to process the claims. The arrival of many people seeking asylum in a short space of time has meant that admissibility hearings are no longer completed in 72 hours, as was once the case. Indeed, the wait time for hearings is now stretching into months. All the while, temporary shelter needs to be found and children need to be placed in schools, as they should be during their formative years.
Unless more trained staff are added the wait time will only increase further, placing the integrity of the immigration system in jeopardy. Does adding additional resources cost money? Of course it does, but only in the short term. On the other hand, reducing with wait times would have benefits for those seeking asylum, as well as Canadians and the provincial and federal governments.
Asylum seekers would have a quicker decision, allowing them either to plan a future in Canada or be repatriated to their country of nationality, rather than linger in Canada not knowing what the future holds.
Canadians, by and large, would retain confidence in the immigration system, knowing that the system benefits them economically and socially, while not compromising security.
Governments, over the longer run, would not have to issue as many monthly cheques to asylum seekers, thereby keeping costs down.
As Andrew Coyne recently wrote in the National Post, ‘some problems cannot be solved, they can only be managed.’ I would add that merely managing a problem does not necessarily mean that it is being managed well. In this particular case, it is crucial for the federal government to take a lead role by planning and implementing a well-thought-out management of the issue where all stakeholders’ interests are taken into account. First and foremost, we need more personnel to deal with initial claims — and we need it now.