'Justice delayed is justice denied': Fewer than half of refugee claims being heard on time

June 9, 2017

When Razak Iyal nearly froze to death walking across the border into Manitoba with Seidu Mohammed on Christmas Eve, he says he was looking for freedom and safety.

Soon after arriving, the Ghanaian asylum seekers, who lost their hands to frostbite, both made their refugee claims and were scheduled a hearing in front of the refugee board — for Mohammed it was March 23 and for Iyal it was March 27.

Mohammed's date came and he won his case to stay, but for Iyal his future remains uncertain.

"I am very, very happy me and Seidu came together and he had his hearing … He knows everything now and he can move on with his life, but what about me?" Iyal said.

"I am stuck now. I don't know what I am going to do. I don't know whether I am going back home or staying."

Iyal, like a growing number of people making a refugee claim in Canada, had his hearing postponed.

In the first four months of this year, only 44 per cent of refugee claims were heard on time. In 2016, an average of about 52 per cent made it to the board on time, a drop from more than 75 per cent in 2013, according to numbers from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRBC).

"In Razak's case specifically he is in the vast majority of cases, the vast majority of cases are postponed," said Iyal's Winnipeg-based immigration lawyer Bashir Khan.

Khan said they received a letter from the refugee board saying that Iyal's case was "administratively postponed," which means his security clearance, done by the Canada Border Services Agency in partnership with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has not been completed in time for the hearing or there isn't a board member available to hear his claim.

Khan said that kind of letter is becoming far too common.

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