Summary of report: Spring reports of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada: Immigration Removals


  • CBSA is responsible for enforcing the removal of foreign nationals found inadmissible to Canada.
    • Failed asylum claimants are the largest category for removal
    • CBSA receives decisions from IRCC/IRB
      • Prompt sharing of decision is key to ensuring timely action by CBSA (e.g. asylum claims)
    • CBSA prioritizes the removal of criminals, and aims to remove failed asylum claimants within 1 year of final negative decision: voluntary compliance or removal by agency
      • Impediments to reaching these standards are:
        • legal recourse
        • delay in processing travel documents
        • claimants being medically unfit for removal
        • suspension of removals due to country conditions
    • Canada's immigration system facing an increasing numbers of asylum claims:
      • 2017 (50,000)
      • 2018 (55000)
      • 2019 (64,000) and increasing

Focus of Audit

  • To determine whether CBSA removed individuals ordered to leave ASAP and assess the coordination of information shared by IRCC and IRB
  • The audit is important as its findings address the integrity and fairness of immigration system, the effectiveness of removal orders as a deterrence to those who would abuse the system, and safety and security considerations
    • Decisions on continued detention or release of claimants is under the authority of IRB (immigration detention is outside the scope of this audit)

Findings, Recommendations and Responses

Overall findings

  • CBSA's approach to managing removal cases did not lead to timely removal
    • 50,000 enforceable cases continued to accumulate in inventory, and most had been enforceable for years
  • Poor CBSA data quality resulted in cases missing from CBSA removal inventory
  • Delays in processing data received from federal partners resulted in CBSA not having the information it needed to track the status of removal orders (note: not IRB)
  • Poor CBSA case management resulted in many enforceable orders being inactive or stalled for no apparent reason

Ensuring timely removal of foreign nationals ordered to leave Canada

  • Review of National Inventory including:
    • monitoring inventory (asylum claim made)
    • stay inventory (rejected/legal recourse)
    • working inventory (review denied)
    • wanted inventory (fails to appear for removal proceeding – warrant issued)
  • Removal orders issued by IRCC; CBSA; IRB (asylum claimants given conditional removal order pending outcome of claim)
  • CBSA establishes priorities for removal
    • Criminals are the top priority
    • Failed asylum claimants entering between POE (irregulars)
      • but, in 2018 “almost all of these claims were waiting for a decision from the IRB or various stages of recourse at time of audit.”
    • Other failed asylum claimants
  • Few inadmissible foreign nationals are removed ASAP
    • Failed asylum claimants represented most of the cases in CBSA's inventory and the level of enforceable removal orders remained largely unchanged over time
      • Persistent accumulation of removal orders: 3200 cases in inventory actionable
        • Poor data quality meant many non-actionable cases wrongly flagged (no impediments)
      • Overall target of 10,000 did little to reduce number of cases accumulating in its inventory

1.26 Recommendation: CBSA should refine its strategy to ensure timely removal of removal orders especially for high priority cases.

  • CBSA agrees. Highest number in past 4 years.  Renewed efforts, including government wide approach, to issuance of travel docs; exit status; increased national coordination of the program.
    • Few incentives for voluntary returns:
      • 2009 pilot was discontinued in 2012 following internal evaluation that found that it was not effective in speeding up removals of failed claimants
      • A new program funded in 2019 that is expected to be launched in late 2020

1.29 Recommendation: CBSA should continue to explore voluntary returns in line with international commitments and safe migration.

  • CBSA agrees. Initiatives underway by end 2020-21
  • Many cases in the inventory are inactive, and sometimes remain inactive for years
    • Poor data quality meant:
      • CBSA could not effectively prioritize removals by risk
      • CBSA was unaware that removal orders had been issued
      • case management weaknesses resulted in inactivity/cases not investigated
      • little done to overcome impediments
    • Government has made significant investments to improve efficiency of asylum system including removals; however, accurate information is needed to effect removals in timely way
      • Poor data quality presents significant data integrity issues
        • Reviewed removal orders issued over time and found 1500 removal orders (16 enforceable) missing from inventory
        • errors made by immigration officials entering orders into database – 1.36: “we found no errors with agency's entry of removal orders issued by the IRB.”
      • Poor data quality also delayed enforcement
        • 1400 cases stalled due to breakdowns in update of cases with FC decisions
        • system interface failures in receiving data or late entry of decisions
        • cases identified in wrong inventory (rejected asylum claims had not yet been moved to working inventory)
      • Case management deficiencies
        • thousands of inactive cases in working inventory with no explanation
        • removal orders for 150 serious criminals should have been worked on but were overlooked
        • avoidable delays for estimated 1200 failed asylum claimants (half of 3400 cases were missing travel documents with no action taken to address this impediment)
      • Wanted cases not investigated:
        • 75% of all failed asylum cases were not reviewed every 3 years as required
        •  70% of all criminal cases not reviewed annually

1.46 Recommendation: CBSA should improve the integrity of its data and case management practices to better manage its removal program.  It should…improve its data interface with partners so that it knows when decisions have been made that affects the status of removal orders; in conjunction with IRCC establish a process to ensure that any new information entering the database is accurate and timely.  CBSA agrees. Multi year removals strategy.  Will work with partners to ensure timely and accurate input of information in support of removals, whether thru system upgrades or additional training in 2020-21.

  • IRCC committed to working with CBSA to ensure accurate and timely data entry, including by DoJ.  Building on the monitoring and compliance regime implemented in response to 2019 AG report on processing asylum claims – identifying delayed or improper data entry for corrective action monthly


  • The majority of individuals who were subject to enforceable removal orders were not removed by CBSA in a timely manner
  • Poor data quality and case management weaknesses meant avoidable delays for thousands of cases
  • Deficiencies in information sharing with IRCC also delayed cases
  • No issues with information shared by the IRB were found

About the Audit/Scope

  • This report provides objective information and assurance on immigration removals between April 2018 and May 2019 to Parliament to demonstrate the government's management of resources and programs and to conclude whether CBSA/IRCC/IRB complied in all significant respects with the applicable criteria (see Annex including working with IRCC and IRB re having access to timely and relevant information to advance removal cases).
  • The analysis focussed on CBSA's working inventory that should have been actioned for removal as well as information sharing practices between partners. 
  • This report did not examine immigration detentions, or other matters.