Last Updated on February 25, 2017
The number of asylum claims received by Canada is rising sharply, pushing back older claims that already fall outside statutory time limits.
It means the subjects of so-called legacy claims have been waiting since before 2012 for an answer on whether they will be allowed to stay here.
As many as 6,300 claimants are stuck in the system after the previous Conservative government imposed time limits for the processing of new cases, causing resources to be exhausted.
With the number of new claims rising, from 10,356 in 2013 to 16,521 in 2015, it appears as though the legacy claims will remain at the bottom of the pile.
The Immigration and Refugee Board received a further 5,327 claims in the first quarter of 2016, with the annual number expected to jump to more than 20,000.
Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum will take part in a consultation in July aimed at dealing with the clogged up asylum system.
According to the board, the refugee protection tribunal only filled its 94 adjudicator positions in September after a period of delayed hearings due to inadequate staffing levels.
The number of available judges is expected to rise to 113 this fall after a funding boost.
But there remains a backlog of new asylum cases, which only pushes the legacy claims further towards the back of the line.
Officials have called for very strong and very weak claims to be approved or rejected more quickly.
Mexico Visa Lift
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently went against official advice to grant visa-free travel to Mexicans.
The Conservatives had imposed the restriction back in 2009 because of large numbers of asylum claims. The number of claims dropped from 9,000 to 1,199 as a result of the move, with associated costs falling from $304 million to $44 million.
Trudeau was very careful in saying the restriction would be put back in place in the event of another surge in asylum claims.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said it would be made clear in his country that Canada is no soft touch when it comes to granting asylum.
Canadian officials are working with their Mexican counterparts on final details to ensure a successful visa lift by December.
Until November 30, the visa requirement is still in place for Mexico and – until it is lifted – Mexican citizens must continue to apply for a visa to visit, study or work in Canada.
Mexicans can apply online for a visitor visa on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website, or can use the services of one of the Visa Application Centres in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.
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