Liberals plan to boost immigration to be matched by cash in federal budget - InfoNews

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Liberals plan to boost immigration to be matched by cash in federal budget

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday, October 20, 2017. Tuesday's federal budget is expected to detail how the Liberal government will financially manage their planned increase in immigration to Canada over the next three years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
February 26, 2018 - 2:33 PM

OTTAWA - Tuesday's federal budget is expected to detail how the Liberal government will financially manage their planned increase in immigration over the next three years.

The Liberals last fall announced a move to a three-year planning cycle for admissions, seeking to inject more certainty into the immigration system by taking a longer view of the admissions process while heeding the call from numerous groups to allow more people in each year to spur economic and population growth.

Previously, immigration targets were set annually. In 2017, Canada had aimed for 300,000 people — by 2020, the Liberals want to take in 340,000.

The increases over time are expected to cost about $440 million, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said, as he promised the details of those funds would be outlined in the budget.

"This additional funding will enable my department and its partners to process and screen more applications for permanent residency in a timely manner while we continue to provide high quality settlement and integration services to newcomers," Hussen said earlier this month.

The Liberals have not said how much it is costing to manage the unplanned increase in new arrivals — namely, a surge of asylum seekers, some entering illegally from the U.S. and others filing claims at formal border crossings like airports.

The government released the latest figures on asylum late last week. They show that in January of this year, the RCMP stopped 1,517 people coming into Canada from the U.S. between official border offices. In December, they had stopped 1,978.

While that number is down slightly, asylum claims in general rose last month. Canada Border Services Agency and immigration officials processed 3,965 asylum claims in January, up from 3,800 in December.

The cost of this irregular migration remains a mystery. The Liberals mounted a full-scale diplomatic and technical response last year when upwards of 200 people were crossing into Canada a day.

Among other things, members of Parliament made several outreach trips to the U.S. to try and stop would-be asylum seekers. The government has purchased tents and other supplies to help people at the border and dozens of staff have been redeployed to process the applications.

Repeated questions to agencies about costs have been met by a similar response over the last several months — they are still tallying the bills.

"Canada's response to the irregular arrivals movement involves multiple departments," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said on Feb. 16.

"We realize that it is taking some time to provide these costs, but this is a complex issue and we need to take the appropriate time to consolidate and validate the data."

That same week, however, the department quietly revealed it had requested an additional $10.4 million from the federal treasury to address irregular migration at the border — $5.8 for health care for asylum claimants and $4.6 million for processing.

The department says those numbers represent estimates and not final costs.

Meanwhile, those claimants are facing wait times of up to 20 months at the Immigration and Refugee Board, which currently only has funding to hear about half of the new claims it has been receiving each month.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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