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In this Aug. 7, 2017, file photo, an RCMP officer informs a migrant couple of the location of a legal border station, shortly before they illegally crossed from Champlain, N.Y., to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., using Roxham Road.

The Associated Press

Canada’s border agency failed to promptly deport the majority of people ordered to leave the country and lost track of more than 34,000 people, including criminals, facing removal orders, the federal Auditor-General says.

In a report released Wednesday, the Office of the Auditor-General said poor data quality and weak case management at the Canada Border Services Agency resulted in “avoidable delays” for thousands of deportation cases.

The report found that as of April, 2019, about 50,000 foreign nationals had been deemed inadmissible to Canada, many of whom remained in the country for years after they were ordered to leave. Of those cases, the CBSA did not know where 34,700 people – or two-thirds – were located, including 2,800 criminals.

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“Our concern is there is an accumulation of removal orders that have yet to be enforced and many of these removal orders have been enforceable for a number of years. In the case of criminal cases, these are the highest priority for removal, yet we found that many remained in the agency’s inventory for years,” said Carol McCalla, a principal with the Auditor-General’s office.

CBSA says it turned back 21 asylum seekers who tried to cross from U.S. in May

How a Liberian warlord lived freely in Canada until he was gunned down

Failed asylum claimants make up the largest share of people ordered deported, but removal orders can also be issued against visitors who overstay their visas or permanent residents who commit crimes. The report found that while the CBSA aims to deport failed asylum claimants within one year of their rejected claim, most were not removed within that time frame.

The report recommended the CBSA improve its data and case management practices by checking the accuracy of its removal inventory database and establishing a clear “triage process” for cases to ensure timely deportations. It said the agency should also regularly track the timeliness of removals against its performance targets and encourage voluntary returns of foreign nationals to their countries of origin.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the government accepts all of the report’s recommendations and the CBSA is reviewing all outstanding removal orders to locate foreign nationals whose whereabouts are unknown.

“The timely removal of individuals who have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal and due process plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s immigration system and contributes to the government of Canada’s security and public safety priorities,” Mr. Blair said in a statement.

Jack Harris, public safety critic for the NDP, said Mr. Blair needs to step in, take some ownership of the situation, and let Canadians know what will be done to address it.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus said the report’s findings are another example of the government “failing” to ensure the country has a fair and compassionate immigration system.

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“Canadians expect that when an individual has been deemed ineligible to come into Canada, or has had their case fully adjudicated, that those decisions are respected and carried out.”

Canada has received an increasingly high number of asylum claims in recent years, in large part because of an influx of arrivals at the Canada-U.S. border. More than 57,000 people have entered the country through irregular border crossings since 2017, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced a crackdown on illegal immigration. The majority of crossings have occurred at a single entry point along Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.

In a separate report Wednesday, Ontario’s Auditor-General examined the costs of irregular asylum seekers to the province. Bonnie Lysyk found that former minister of children, community and social services Lisa MacLeod overstated the costs associated with a surge of irregular border crossers.

In 2018, Ms. MacLeod said irregular crossers were costing the provincial government $200 million – while Ms. Lysyk’s office found $80.7-million was “a more reasonable estimate.”

“The accuracy of information provided by the ministry to the minister for the public announcement was far off the mark,” Ms. Lysyk said.

“Most of the $200-million of costs were for providing services to not just irregular border crossers but to all refugee claimants, including those who entered Canada at an official point of entry,” said the report.

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Ms. Lysyk wrote that of “further concern” is that these costs are still not being adequately tracked and that her work was complicated by the “lack of reliable information supporting the $200-million estimate.” She said improvement is needed to determine the costs to Ontario ministries and cities providing services to irregular border crossers and that the province needs better information on who is receiving services.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was glad the Auditor-General pointed out that irregular border crosses cost the provincial government $80-million and that he would like her to do another report in six months on the same issue.

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