Cheap fix for refugee problem
A free flight home and $2,000 may be the best way to deal with Canadas longstanding issues with bogus claimants
By GREG WESTON, QMI Agency
The Ottawa Sun
Last Updated: April 4, 2010 2:00am
Bogus refugees already stiffing Canadian taxpayers for years of welfare and useless legal appeals will soon be collecting government bribes and free airline tickets just to show up for their deportation.
The federal government admits it has lost more than 38,000 failed refugee claimants who have been ordered out of the country after exhausting the myriad legal appeals and other delaying tactics.
Most are likely still here, but no one really knows Canada has no exit visas, and therefore no way of knowing who has left the country.
We do know another 15,000 are ready to be removed from the country, but the way the system works, they may still be packed and ready to leave years from now.
Under a four-year pilot project being launched in Toronto, the federal immigration department will be offering up to $2,000 in reintegration assistance and a free one-way ticket out of the country for just about any failed refugee claimant actually complying with a deportation order.
The airfare is free, and the cash is for education, training or other resettlement services in the country to which a failed refugee is being returned.
The so-called assisted voluntary returns program is all part of the welcome and long overdue reform of Canadas broken refugee system, announced last week by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
On the face of it, it all sounds a bit nuts come to Canada, rip off social assistance for years, and the worst that can happen is the government will give you $2,000 and a free flight back home.
Taxpayer revolts have been born of lesser stuff.
But the sad truth is publicly funded inducements may be the cheapest way to address a longstanding problem that desperately needs to be fixed.
The easy answer, of course, would be to lock up all refugee deportees, and escort them to the border.
But aside from obvious humanitarian and legal issues that would raise, theres also a rather large matter of public expense.
In 2008, Auditor General Sheila Fraser reported that it was costing up to $228 a day to detain a single refugee claimant in a provincial jail or federal immigration holding facility.
Multiply that by the almost 20,000 failed refugee claimants ordered deported every year plus the backlog of 15,000, plus up to another 38,000 who are missing and the cost would be staggering.
The auditor general estimated that in 2008 alone, detaining a fraction of all refugee claimants cost taxpayers over $38 million.
Forcing refugees to post cash bonds as an alternative to detention apparently doesnt always work too well, either.
The auditor general reported that about 18% of all those who posted bonds instead of going to jail in 2005 did not comply with the terms of their release that is, they disappeared.
Half of those were still missing at the time of the audit three years later, including 18 with criminal records.
Even when failed refugee claimants show up at the deportation office, taxpayers can be on the hook for a very expensive goodbye.
The auditor general reported that in one year alone, the government had coughed up $8.4 million just to send Canadian border escorts on flights with deportees considered criminally dangerous or likely to skip out the back door of the airport.
Sometimes those with rejected refugee sob-stories are considered so dangerous that taxpayers get them a private jet home at a cost of up to $300,000 per trip.
None of which takes into account the welfare, health care, housing assistance, drug coverage, education costs and other social services provided to failed refugee claimants waiting to get the boot.
The system is so clogged that even those volunteering to leave the country as ordered by the courts can be on the dole for months or even years before they are officially shown the door.
All things considered, if the Conservative governments offer of two grand and a one-way ticket is enough to get deportees on a plane out of here, its an offer taxpayers cant refuse.