The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) applauds new money in the 2019 budget for refugee determination hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), legal aid, and CBSA oversight, but expressed dismay at the budget’s policy on irregular crossings.

“These new investments are essential to keep the refugee system fair and efficient” said CARL President, Lobat Sadrehashemi. “Refugee claimants are currently being told they will need to wait 12-24 months before their refugee claims are heard. We are hopeful that this new money will reduce these wait times, and ease the hardship and stress for refugees and other vulnerable migrants who are left in limbo.”

CARL welcomed new money for legal aid services. “The refugee determination system is more fair and more efficient when claimants have adequate legal representation,” said Sadrehashemi. “As a practical matter, this means adequately funding the legal aid system”.

CARL was encouraged by the commitment to independent CBSA oversight. “This is a long-standing commitment of this Government. The time has come to fill this accountability gap. CBSA is Canada’s only law enforcement agency without an oversight body, and the stakes are simply too high for it to be policing itself” said Lorne Waldman, a Founder and Past-President of CARL.

CARL also welcomed the commitment to increasing judicial positions at federal court to improve access to the court.

At the same time, CARL expressed concern about the budget’s policy on irregular migration.

“The policy announced in the budget on irregular crossings – of removing individuals who cross into Canada outside ports of entry on a priority basis – is just wrong-headed” said Aris Daghighian, a member of CARL’s National Executive. “A refugee’s mode of entry into Canada says nothing about the risk they may face if returned to the country they fled, and there is no justification for treating that refugee claim any differently from any other.”

“The Government is wrong to present irregular migration as an effort to ‘exploit Canada’s immigration system’”, said Daghighian. “In fact, at international law, and in Canadian law, irregular migration is not illegal. Instead, it is a symptom of out-of-date border rules that simply don’t account for the level of hostility that this US President has shown asylum seekers. The vast majority of people who are crossing into Canada irregularly come in at one specific point and they are processed immediately into the refugee determination system, just as they would if they presented themselves at the airport.”

The budget also announces a policy of “discouraging and preventing irregular migration”, and plans to amend the governing legislation to that effect.

“Refugees are fleeing the US because the current administration is hostile to asylum seekers. If the government wants to discourage individuals from crossing irregularly, and encourage them to make their claims at ports of entry, it needs to allow people to seek refugee protection at ports of entry by suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement” said Sadrehashemi.

For more information, please contact:

Lobat Sadrehashemi, 604-374-4860

Lorne Waldman, 416-254-4590

Aris Daghighian, 416-737-6133