International Migration Research Centre

Document Type

Policy Points

Publication Date



Department of Geography and Environmental Studies


The unexpected influx of refugee claimants irregularly crossing the US-Canada border since 2016 has strained Canada’s immigration system. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), 47,425 claims were referred to the IRB in 2017, and more than 43,000 were still pending at the end of the year (IRB, 2017). This only increased in the following years; in 2018, 55,388 claims were referred to the IRB and as of June of 2019 more than 74,000 were still pending. Compared to the total claims referred to the IRB in 2016 (23,350) and 2015 (16,592), these numbers represent a significant increase which consequently strains Canadian settlement services (IRB, 2019a). While Canada has a global reputation for humanitarianism and human rights leadership (Atak, et. al 2018), the lack of coordination to effectively manage the increase in inland claims during recent years reflects systemic limitations of the reception and processing of spontaneous and irregular arrivals. This Policy Points discusses Canadian policy changes and responses to refugee claimants and analyzes how these are detrimental for their arrival and settlement in Canada.