NGOs and MP Kwan Call on Canada to End Refugee Transportation Loan Program

OTTAWA, May 30, 2017 – STAND Canada, a youth-led anti-genocide organization; the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, which supports LGBT refugees awaiting resettlement in Turkey; and New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan are calling on the Canadian government to replace the refugee transportation loan program with a grant program.

Starting only 30 days after arrival, refugee families are required to repay with interest the costs of their transportation to Canada, which severely hurts their ability to adapt and thrive in Canadian society. According to government figures, 47% of all loan recipients have left school and language training programs in order to work and repay loans. Faced with such limited resources, 76% of government-sponsored refugees have used social assistance to repay their loans.

STAND Canada has recently learned that travel loans for 1,200 Yazidis being resettled into Canada have been waived. This type of support should be available to all refugees, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or country of origin. In addition, government decisions regarding which groups of refugees are subject to loans have been made without clarity or transparency, as indicated by the fact that this new information has not been released to the public.

Petition e-547, created by STAND Canada, will be tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 30 by Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan, the New Democrat Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. 2,300 Canadians are calling on the government to waive travel loans for all refugees admitted into Canada, thus treating all refugees of any nationality equally and compassionately.

Quotes

“Refugees settling in Canada must be treated with equality and fairness and be supported with the resources they need to thrive. The transportation loan program needs to be abolished. It puts an undue burden on refugees, and recent loan waivers for some groups of refugees has shown that the Canadian government is capable of supporting refugees from all countries with similar welcome. The dearth of information regarding refugee resettlement and assistance perpetuates the continuation of the loan program, and does not benefit current and future refugees. We urge the government to immediately replace the existing transportation loan program with a system of grants, while maintaining the number of refugees resettled in Canada, thereby reducing the economic burden on both refugees and Canadians.”

– Scott Fenwick, Executive Director, STAND Canada

“LGBT refugees in Turkey, who are being referred to Canada for resettlement by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara, Turkey, are required to sign a loan agreement at the Canadian embassy to repay not only the transportation costs but also the government required medical check-up expenses prior to their arrival. LGBT refugees have no support from their families and in most cases, they are abandoned by their families due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These refugees live in extremely difficult conditions in Turkey for up to three years or until they are resettled in a safe country. Their challenging life in Turkey makes them vulnerable and in need of emotional and physical support. As a result, finding employment in Canada is more difficult for them and immigration allowances does not cover their basic needs, especially in metropolitan cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. In order to pay their debts to government and cover their basic living costs, they have to find a job and unfortunately in many cases they are being offered a cash job. They cannot continue their education or learn English and it will prevent them to integrate into Canadian society and build their future. Relieving them from transportation and medical loan is essential to help them grow and become a successful member of Canadian society.”

– Arsham Parsi, Executive Director, Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees

“Waiving the transportation loan for refugees should not just be for political expediency. If the government recognizes that the transportation loan is a huge burden for some, they should recognize that it’s an enormous burden for all refugees, no matter when they fled and came to Canada.”

– Jenny Kwan, New Democrat Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Member of Parliament for Vancouver East.

About STAND Canada

STAND Canada is a national youth-led organization advocating to make preventing and ending genocide a cornerstone of Canadian foreign and domestic policy. We are dedicated to providing Canadians with the informational foundation and advocacy tools required to take action towards a world without genocide.
Since its founding in 2005 in response to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, STAND has become the leading organization in Canada for youth-led anti-genocide advocacy. With university chapters across Canada, our volunteers are driven by our joint vision and passion for human rights, political advocacy, genocide education, and the social responsibility of Canadians. To learn more, visit standcanada.org.

About the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR)

IRQR is a registered charity in Canada and its mission is to relieve poverty for Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) refugees living in Turkey by providing basic necessities of life. IRQR vision is to provide education, guidance, and food and shelter assistance to LGBT refugees while in Turkey until they are resettled in a safe country.

As of February 2017, IRQR was able to help process more than 1500 refugee applications since 2005. Approximately 83% of refugees who approached IRQR were successfully granted refugee status. We provide consultations to about 90 clients per week; this includes working with LGBT people who currently live in Iran, Iran’s neighboring countries such as Turkey and in Canada. IRQR has worked closely with UNHCR office, NGOs and the government to assist refugees.

Contact

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director, STAND Canada
info@irqr.ca

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