‘I have hope’: Most refugees now waiting 16 months to have claims heard

In News by MIIC

Abdikadir Ahmed Omar, left, and Guled Abdi Omar arrived in Manitoba in July, but both men have had their refugee board hearings delayed. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

They survived a dangerous trek through Colombia and Panama and dodged human smugglers in Nicaragua, and now Guled Abdi Omar and Abdikadir Ahmed Omar are navigating the uncertainty and backlog in the bureaucratic jungles of Canada’s refugee system.

Like the majority of people hoping to call Canada home, the two Somali asylum seekers — who walked across the Canada-U.S. border near Gretna, Man., in July — have no idea when they will get their opportunity to argue their claim in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

“It is something that you must have that faith in, you must have that patience,” Ahmed Omar said.

The average wait time before people can go in front of the board has grown to 16 months, but officials say it could become even longer.

“The math is clear — unless you put more resources to this problem, then it takes longer time to schedule, so there will be longer wait times,” said Shereen Benzvy Miller, the head of the board’s refugee protection division, during a House of Commons immigration committee hearing on Oct. 3.

A flood of asylum seekers walking over the border into Quebec over the summer has created long delays for refugee board hearings for thousands of refugee claimants in other parts of the country.

More than 8,000 people have crossed into Quebec from New York since July, most of them Haitians worried they’ll be deported if the United States lifts their temporary protected status. Many have based their decision to flee on misleading or false information posted online and in messenger groups.

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