The IRB carries out its work in a global environment of a growing flow and shifting mix of human mobility, where various “push and pull” factors – both international and domestic - have had a significant impact on the number and complexity of refugee cases recently received in Canada.
Refugee claims and appeals
This is especially the case for the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) where rising intake reflects global migration patterns that have in recent years been marked by unprecedented refugee flows around the world. For its part, the Board is experiencing significant pressure as refugee claim intake continues to substantially exceed funded capacity to process claims. The past 24 months have seen the highest volumes of refugee protection claims referred in the IRB’s 30-year history. As a result, a backlog of over 86,000 claims have accumulated as of December 2019, resulting in wait times for refugee claimants that currently stand at close to two years.
The Refugee Appeal Division also faces a significant and growing inventory of claims, as its workload consists largely of appeals against negative RPD decisions. At the end of December 2019, this backlog stood at over 10,000 appeals, resulting in an average wait time of close to one year.
Temporary funding provided in Budget 2019 will enable the Board to finalize up to 50,000 refugee protection claims and 13,500 refugee appeals in fiscal year 2020-21. However, this funding, though significant, does not yet align with intake volumes at the RPD. This temporary funding will only allow the RPD to slow the growth of the backlog.
Admissibility hearings, detention reviews and immigration appeal
The Immigration Division (ID), responsible for conducting admissibility hearings and detention reviews of individuals detained for immigration reasons, has a proven track record of keeping pace with divisional intake and meeting legislative time limits for detention review hearings. However, as highlighted in an internal audit conducted in 2018, certain changes to the way the ID manages, conducts and decides detention reviews were required to strengthen the quality and fairness of proceedings and reflect evolving standards in the law.
In response to the auditor’s recommendations, the ID is actively implementing a wide-ranging action plan that includes the implementation of a new Chairperson’s Guideline on Detention; the development of a rigorous quality assurance program with respect to ID proceedings; strengthened case management reporting and oversight by the Division’s management; and the delivery of advanced training to decision-makers in key areas, including the best interests of the child and mental health and addiction issues. In addition, the IRB is working closely with stakeholders, CBSA and provincial corrections authorities to provide detainees with greater access to disclosure of documents and representation, with a notable positive development being the establishment of a pilot with Legal Aid Ontario where detainees are provided with legal counsel at the 48-hour detention review at the Immigration Holding Centre (IHC) in Central Region.
The Immigration Appeal Division has recently eliminated a longstanding backlog of unresolved appeals, the product of an historic shortfall in GIC decision-maker appointments and reappointments, combined with sustained elevated intake over a number of years. Through the Division’s focused efforts to increase output together with a recent decline in intake and efforts towards early resolution of cases, the IAD has cut pending appeals in half and now has a manageable working inventory of cases. Its current focus is to improve the timeliness of case processing, with most appellants now receiving decisions within 12 months of filing their appeals.