The high cost of Canada
Refugees struggle to pay loans
By PAUL TURENNE
Last Updated: 22nd October 2009, 1:27am
Asking refugees to repay the Canadian government for the cost of bringing them into the country is “unconscionable and shameful,” a Winnipeg immigration lobbyist said yesterday.
The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg released a report yesterday showing nearly 32% of children of recent immigrants live in poverty in Manitoba. That number rises to more than 38% in Winnipeg.
The report calls on governments to help change this situation, suggesting the province allocate more resources to shelter, train and employ immigrants, and call on Ottawa to eliminate permanent residence fees and stop requiring refugees repay transportation loans.
“For us to continue to do this is unconscionable and shameful. It makes me embarrassed to be a Canadian,” said Marty Dolin, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, a Winnipeg-based refugee settlement organization. “The policies of the government of Canada ensure that refugees will be in poverty their first year here.”
The federal government introduced immigration loans in 1951. It now offers refugees loans for travel to Canada, assistance in finding housing and employment when they arrive, and medical exams to determine their admissibility.
The loans are repayable and interest is charged on delinquent payments, although there is a mechanism in place for people to request a review of their payment schedule if they're having trouble paying.
John Chol, who arrived in Winnipeg from Sudan in 2004 at the age of 15, said his family knew nothing of having to repay the loan.
“We didn't know there was money you had to pay after you came,” Chol said. “If there's any chance they could take this thing out, that would be awesome.
“It's hard when you come from somewhere that you didn't have anything.”
He said his family and four others were facing a total bill of about $14,000 between them.
“Where are we going to get $14,000?”
Kelli Fraser, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said loan repayment is “an essential component” of the program because it allows the government to finance loans for other refugees.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that if Marty is so embarrassed to be Canadian, perhaps he can hope for a free ride when he leaves Canada for a better country to live in. Don't expect a good-bye from anyone here, just good riddance. Perhaps you can re-pay all these loans if you feel so bad for these peoples' debts.So, he is suggesting we forgive travel loans AND pay for their training, housing, etc. Perhaps my husband should feel sorry for himself & latch on to these benefits. We are happy to have new people come to Canada, so long as they make the effort to contribute to society & respect this country. I'm sick of people making excuses. Life is hard, suck it up & deal with it as most others have. There are plenty of people willing to help.
NB, October 22nd 2009, 3:01pm