Irregular border crosser statistics

Canada has been experiencing an influx of individuals crossing the Canada-United States border between ports of entry (“irregular border crossings”). The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), Canada’s largest independent administrative tribunal, plays a crucial role in Canada’s immigration system. The IRB, comprised of four distinct divisions, makes well-reasoned decisions on refugee and immigration matters, efficiently, fairly, and in accordance with the law. Below you can find IRB statistics in relation to these individuals.

Important notes about statistics on irregular border crossers

  • For the purposes of this report, irregular border crossers are defined as individuals who entered Canada between official ports of entry. Like other refugee protection claimants, irregular border crossers are referred to the IRB’s Refugee Protection Division (RPD) after Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) makes a determination of their eligibility.
  • The IRB is unable to report on irregular border crossers prior to February 2017, when system changes gave us the capacity to capture data on this population. However, due to some early inconsistencies in data entry it is possible that not all irregular border crossers are reflected in the statistics. In addition, only partial data is available for the months of February and March 2017.
  • The national level statistics in this report are generated by using data entered at referral by IRCC and the CBSA, as well as data from the IRB’s electronic case tracking system.


Refugee claims by irregular border crossers

The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the IRB hears and decides claims for refugee protection made in Canada. Refugee protection can be conferred in Canada if the RPD determines that the claimant meets the United Nations definition of a Convention refugee, which has been incorporated into Canadian law, or that the claimant is a person in need of protection. Convention refugees are people who have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Membership in a particular social group can include sexual orientation, gender identity, being a woman, and HIV status. Persons in need of protection must show that if they return to their country of nationality, they will face a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

A claim for refugee protection can be made by speaking to an officer from the CBSA at any port of entry upon arrival in Canada, or to an officer from IRCC or CBSA at an inland office. The officer decides whether the claim is eligible to be referred to the IRB. If the claim is eligible, it is sent (“referred”) to the RPD to start the claim for refugee protection process.

Statistics on refugee claims made by Irregular Border Crossers, by Calendar Year and Quarter

AcceptedRejectedAbandonedWithdrawn & OtherTotal Finalized
Total 34,854 3,142 2,429 487 482 6,540Footnote 2 28,314
February to March 2017Footnote 143300000433
April to June 20172,159131247111732,419
July to September 20178,559409139229466410,314
October to December 20176,9086004931711071,37115,851
January to March 20185,589519620109731,32120,119
April to June 20186,18368857971791,41724,885
July to September 20185,0237955741071181,59428,314
Note 1

Partial data for February and March 2017.

Return to note 1 referrer

Note 2

It is premature to draw conclusions based on this very small sample size.

Return to note 2 referrer


Refugee Protection Claims Made by Irregular Border Crossers, Top 10 Countries of Alleged Persecution

Refugee appeals by irregular border crossers

The Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of the IRB decides appeals of decisions of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) to allow or reject claims for refugee protection. A person whose claim was rejected by the RPD can ask the RAD to review this decision in order to assess whether the RPD was wrong. An error by the RPD can be about the law, the facts, or both. The RAD decides whether to confirm or to change the RPD’s decision. It may also decide to send the case back to the RPD to hear it again, giving the directions to the RPD that it considers appropriate. The Minister can also appeal to the RAD a decision by the RPD allowing a claim.

Statistics on refugee appeals by irregular border crossers, by Calendar Year and Quarter

Calendar Year and Quarter Filed Non-Merit Merit Total Finalizations Pending at end of period
Dismissed - Lack of RAD Jurisdiction Dismissed - Appeal not Perfected Dismissed - Withdrawn, Abandoned & Other Dismissed - Confirmed RPD Allowed - Referred Back Allowed - Substituted Determination
Total 2,012 32 44 8 376 62 19 541 1,471
April to June 201710000000011
July to September 2017970010001107
October to December 2017361941124030438
January to March 201856441306211393909
April to June 201850712351273261851,231
July to September 2018473724217515102331,471

Detention reviews for irregular border crossers

The Immigration Division (ID) of the IRB reviews, at intervals established in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the grounds for detention of foreign nationals or permanent residents detained under the IRPA. The grounds for detention are:

  • Danger to the public;
  • Flight Risk (unlikely to appear for examination, an admissibility hearing, removal, or at a proceeding that could lead to the Minister issuing a removal order under subsection 44(2) of the IRPA);
  • The Minister is taking necessary steps to inquire into a reasonable suspicion that the person concerned is inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality, criminality or organized criminality;
  • Identity of the person concerned has not been established; and
  • Identity of the designated foreign national has not been established.

When the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) detains a person and that person is not released, the ID must review the grounds for detention and decide whether there is reason under the IRPA to continue detention. The ID carries out a review:

  • within 48 hours of the start of detention or without delay afterwards;
  • then within 7 days of that first review; and
  • after that, the ID reviews the grounds for detention at least once every 30 days.

Based on the evidence and the testimony of both parties (the CBSA and the person concerned) and any other witnesses, the ID may order the release of the person, with or without conditions, or order continued detention.

Statistics on irregular border crossers subject to a detention review

National Total Persons
Total 541
February to March 20171 6
April to June 2017 58
July to September 2017 128
October to December 2017 96
January to March 2018 74
April to June 2018163
July to September 2018 170

Partial data for March 2017.

Return to note 1 referrer

Statistics on total detention reviews concluded for irregular border crossers

National 48-hour reviews 7-day reviews 30-day reviews Total Concluded
Total 554 487 762 1,803
February to March 2017162210
April to June 2017564832136
July to September 201711995121335
October to December 20176771109247
January to March 2018515095196
April to June 2018127107194428
July to September 2018128114209451

Partial data for March 2017.

Return to note 1 referrer

Admissibility hearings for irregular border crossers

The Immigration Division (ID) of the IRB conducts admissibility hearings for certain categories of people believed to be inadmissible to Canada under the law.

At the request of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), foreign nationals or permanent residents who are believed to have contravened the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) appear before the ID for admissibility hearings. In a limited number of cases, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may also request an admissibility hearing. A person may not be able to enter or remain in Canada for one of the following reasons:

  • Security (s. 34)
  • Human or international rights violations (s. 35)
  • Serious criminality (s. 36)
  • Organized criminality (s. 37)
  • Health grounds (s. 38)
  • Financial reasons (s. 39)
  • Misrepresentation (s. 40)
  • Non-compliance with the IRPA (s. 41)
  • Inadmissible family member (s. 42)

Statistics on admissibility hearings for irregular border crossers

 ReceivedFinalizedPending at end of period
Departure OrderDeportation OrderExclusion OrderFavourableFailed to AppearWithdrawn & OtherTotal
Total 188 58 67 4 11 7 19 166 22
February to March 2017100000001
April to June 201716450010107
July to September 20173831413062718
October to December 201743121224253724
January to March 201826121202333218
April to June 20183061211112226
July to September 201834211201043822