How many more Erjon Kasharis are there roaming around Canada?
That’s the question Steveston – Richmond East MP Kenny Chiu is asking of the federal government, as he pointed to a scathing Auditor General of Canada report which revealed around 50,000 live removal orders for refugee claimants across the country.
Even more concerning for Chiu is the fact that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has no idea of the whereabouts of around 34,000 of them, including almost 3,000 “high priority” cases with a criminal background.
The startling numbers have led the MP to draw parallels to the tragic death in 2014 of 34-year-old Richmond woman Christy Mahy, who was killed by the dangerous driving of Erjon Kashari, an Albanian native who has lived in Canada for four years as a refugee claimant, despite having a recent and serious criminal record from the UK.
A few months after the fatal accident on Russ Baker Way, Kashari revoked his refugee claim, triggering an immediate deportation to Albania.
He was eventually extradited to Canada last year to face justice, before being sentenced this spring to two years, equating to time already served, and was understood to have been sent back to his home country.
“Were they waiting for Kashari to commit the same offences in Canada as he committed in the UK?” Chiu told the Richmond News via a Zoom interview from his office in Ottawa.
“The (Auditor General’s) report suggests there is a good chance there is a lot of (Erjon Kasharis) out there, or worse.
“Around 33,000 of them, their whereabouts are unknown? That really scares me.”
Conservative MP Chiu said he has been utilizing the MP’s “Order Paper Question” (OPQ) avenue to try to hold the Liberal government to account.
“We have asked some of these questions just last week. We’ve also been discussing with the Immigration shadow minister and the National Security shadow minister; We’re going to be working together very closely on this.”
In direct reference to the Kashari case, Chiu said he will also be asking the question of how someone with a long and recent criminal record – who was deported from another country a year earlier - can enter Canada and claim refugee status.
“This is where we need to step up and get our act together as a country,” Chiu added.
Chiu said he was astonished by the numbers in the Auditor General’s report when it came out last summer, but subsequently found it difficult to shine the spotlight on them, with so much focus on the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
The report focused on whether the CBSA removed individuals ordered to leave Canada as soon as possible and examined the coordination of information shared by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The report stressed the importance timely removals as it “protects the integrity and fairness of Canada’s immigration system. It is also one of the most effective ways to deter those who might otherwise seek to abuse the system. In the case of criminals, timely removal protects the safety and security of Canadians.”
Overall, the report summarized that the CBSA’s approach to case management had contributed to the massive backlogs in removal orders.
“Despite a recent increase in removals, about 50,000 enforceable cases had continued to accumulate in the agency’s inventory. In two thirds of these cases, the agency did not know the whereabouts of the individuals. Most of the accumulated cases had been enforceable for several years,” read the report.
“We found that poor data quality resulted in cases missing from the agency’s removal inventories. Because of delays in processing data received from federal partners, the agency did not have the information it needed to track the status of removal orders.
“Among cases with enforceable orders, we found that many were inactive or stalled because of poor case management, even some that were considered high priority. Furthermore, many cases we examined were stalled because of missing travel documents, such as passports—yet little was done to obtain these documents.”
Just as alarming was the report’s finding that the CBSA had issued immigration warrants for the arrest of the thousands of missing refugee claimants but “seldom completed the annual investigations to locate those with criminality.”
Chiu, meanwhile, said he was initially frustrated at not being able to hold the government to account properly, in light of the report’s findings.
“But I’m not surprised (by the numbers), given by what I’ve seen with the current federal government. They invited illegal refugee claimants from across the borders.
“What is not known is that it creates a huge backlog of refugee claimant applications. And it has created a huge backlog of refugee removal orders.”
Chiu, who has been in contact with Christy Mahy’s family, said he will do whatever he can to draw attention in Ottawa to the circumstances that led to her tragic death.
“I have the utmost sympathy for the family; I always try to put myself in people’s shoes and wonder how it would feel if it was my daughter,” he added.
“I will do what I can to hold the government to account. I will work with my colleagues to continue to place pressure on the Minister (of Immigration and Citizenship) and the government to act on this report and the recommendations he has provided.”
Chiu said the “gaping holes” in Canada’s refugee and immigration system is there for all to see.
“It’s a country of immigrants and we welcome refugees persecuted from around the world to call this place home,” he added.
“But at the same time, when the integrity of the system is in question, the government has a responsibility to react and to do something to restore confidence.”
Repeated attempts to contact the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ended after eight days, with a spokesperson only able to tell the Richmond News to contact the CBSA.
The News has reached out to the CBSA for comment.
Earlier this year, the News exchanged multiple emails and phone calls with both the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), asking who was responsible for allowing the aforementioned Albanian criminal Kashari into the country and then allowing him to roam free for four years.
Each agency blamed the other.