The federal government is late in making a decision on more than half of applications for permanent residence in Canada, and demands even more patience from asylum seekers and Africans, the auditor general of the Canada.
A report tabled Thursday shows that despite its investments and hiring, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department has not managed to fully catch up on the delay accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
Paradoxically engaged in a mad race to break records for admitting newcomers to the country, the government is putting “operational pressure” which ensures that more recent applications are processed. This causes old requests to gather dust in the stack, which is against the best practice of “first come, first served.”
“All permanent residence programs had significant backlogs of applications waiting to be processed,” laments Auditor General Karen Hogan.
The problem of delays particularly affects certain categories of immigration and certain regions of the world. Immigration offices in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from a “chronic lack of resources” and are consequently overwhelmed by backlogs of applications. The ministry is doing nothing to share the burden with other offices, even though it has been planning to do so since 2016.
“For example, the workload of the office in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) was five times higher than that of the office in Rome (Italy), even though the two offices had comparable staff numbers,” observes the auditor.
The Nairobi office in Kenya is also bearing the brunt of this problem. Government-sponsored refugees from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also more likely to end up in the delay box than Syrian refugees.
To go further
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The picture is not entirely negative, since the federal government has managed to improve its processing times for two of the three major immigration categories, namely economic immigrants and family reunification. On the other hand, the situation worsened in 2022 for people who were refugees and protected on a humanitarian basis.
At the end of 2022, 99,000 asylum seekers were still awaiting a decision in their case. At the rate at which civil servants are being processed, it will likely take several years to get through the requests already in the system.
“The number of applications submitted under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program awaiting processing was already three times higher than the number of refugees the department could admit during this year ,” writes the officer of Parliament.
This means that the average time for the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is one of the longest, at 30 months, or two and a half years. The department is regularly behind on its service standards, set at between 6 and 12 months depending on immigration category.
According to the Auditor General, asylum seeker files remain untouched for between 15 and 20 months before an official even begins to verify their eligibility. “It’s not normal that just to open a file it takes two years. These people are refugees! » said Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe.
He notes that various reports have concluded that there are problems of racism within the Canadian bureaucracy. Dutyalso reported that African students were more numerous than others to be refused entry into the country.
Files increasingly dusty
Each late file adds to the long list of backlogs, but old requests also end up being examined. Even when the government manages to reduce the number of backlogs, the age of the remaining files increases from year to year. For example, in 2022, old applications to Canada's spousal or common-law partner sponsorship program were submitted on average 47 months ago, or almost four years.
To speed up processing, the government has created an automatic method to assess the admissibility of files. However, this is not equally available in all offices. This particularly penalizes Haitian applicants, whose “almost all” forms are sent manually, the old-fashioned way.
For all these reasons, the Auditor General officially recommends that the government address “racial disparities in processing times” by collecting data on late applications.
The Minister of Immigration , Marc Miller, said Thursday that these findings will make him “ask questions” of the civil service. “Systemic racism exists in every department,” he said. I am the head of a particular ministry that, in the past, only let white people in. It has changed, but it needs to change more. »
The minister promises to allow online asylum applications to be filed “soon,” which was another gap identified by the auditor.
By 2022, Canada has achieved its admission target of 431,645 new permanent residents. The federal target is to welcome 500,000 people by 2025. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has 2,600 employees to process applications for permanent residence, spread across 87 offices in Canada and around the world.