Posted on August 25, 2011

Refugee Groups Not Impressed with Plan

Tom Goodfrey, Edmonton Sun, August 24, 2011

Toronto-area immigrant groups aren’t impressed with Ottawa’s plans to provide free airline tickets and a $2,000 “golden handshake” to failed refugees to return home.

They doubt many claimants will take up the offer when sweeping changes to the refugee determination process takes affect next June.

“If people fear for their lives they won’t be returning home for any money,” said Victor Wong, of the Chinese Canadian National Council. “We should be doing more to help people who need our assistance.”

It’s difficult for claimants to receive protection after their refugee claims have been turned down, Wong said.

He said the upcoming, controversial Balanced Refugee Reform Act will have to undergo reviews to determine if it is working.

The act will give Ottawa the power to purchase airline tickets and hand out up to $2,000 to failed refugees if they return home. Ottawa said the claimants can used the funds to upgrade their education or training at home.

Francisco Rico-Martinez, of the FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto, said the law will require mechanisms to handle complaints from claimants.

“The program is good but there is little attraction for people to leave,” Rico-Martinez said. “There is nothing here to motivate people to change their mind to go back home.”

He said the program will only affect those who arrive in Canada after next June.

“People who need the program now will be excluded,” he said. “The program should continue for many years.”

Rico-Martinez said the “independent service provider” chosen by Ottawa to provide funds to the failed claimants will have to be monitored to curb abuse.

“Canadian taxpayers will save a lot of money by getting these people to leave right away,” lawyer Richard Kurland said. “If they don’t leave, we will have to pay much more later to carry them.”

Kurland said it costs millions of dollars to “track, monitor and remove” failed claimants who may go underground and not leave.

By kicking out the claimants, Canadians won’t have to pay for their health coverage, pension, employment, Old Age Security and other benefits, he said.

Toronto lawyer Mendel Green said most of the claimants won’t return for money.

“People who fear for their lives won’t be returning home,” Green said on Wednesday. “Offering them money to return home is ridiculous.”