Refugee backlogs 'unacceptable': Immigration Minister

August 21, 2014
Article Source
The Catholic Register

It is unacceptable that Canada has a backlog of almost 21,000 sponsored refugees waiting to see if they can come to this country, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander told The Catholic Register.

Alexander promised that wait times to process refugee claims made from outside Canada — it takes 62 months to bring a refugee to Canada from Pakistan — will improve this year.

The 20,969 refugees in the government's "inventory" of privately sponsored cases represents a 28 per cent decrease from 29,125 backlogged cases on the books on Dec. 31, 2011. That 2011 number was used as justification for limiting the number of applications that churches, community associations and others could submit to Citi-zenship and Immigration Canada.

Over objections from refugee lawyers and the sponsors, Ottawa imposed limits on sponsorships, promising the new rules would clear up the backlog, make the system more responsive and reduce processing times. But three years later processing times are no better, according to Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto executive director Martin Mark.

"Basically, the backlog means slow processing. It means delays, it means the program is not being managed, it means something negative," said Mark.

But at a citizenship ceremony in Toronto Aug. 19, Alexander said refugee processing times are improving.

"I'm committed to working on that. I have challenged the department to come up with options for reducing those times," he said. "There are parts of the world where you've seen processing times drop this year — such as Nairobi, such as Ankara. You will see processing times come down this year."

Citizenship and Immigration statistics from March 10 of this year indicate it takes 52 months to issue a visa to an already sponsored refugee at Canada’s Nairobi embassy. In Ankara it's 23 months.

In 2013 Canada welcomed 4,541 privately sponsored refugees. Even if no new refugees entered the system it would take four and a half years to deal with the applications pending, assuming no marriages or children born among the refugees.

Read more: Refugee backlogs 'unacceptable': Immigration Minister