The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time for us here at STAND Canada. With our chapter members preparing to head back to their campuses to engage and energize the community for another campaign cycle, STAND’s national team has been hard at work all summer developing our newest initiative.
This August 25th marked the official launch date of our new #WhyDoRefugeesPay campaign, which will be focused on bringing reform to Canada’s outdated and unfair Immigration Loans Program (ILP)/Refugee Transportation Loan (RTL). You can watch a recording of our live campaign launch meeting here for an overview of the RTL campaign and how it relates to STAND Canada’s mandate of making genocide prevention a cornerstone of Canadian foreign and domestic policy. You can also find more detailed information about the campaign in our campaign handbook.
Did you know that all government-assisted refugees entering Canada – with the exception of a limited number of Syrian refugees – are expected to pay the government back for their travel and resettlement costs? Or that Canada, alone among all other countries, actually charges interest on the loans that refugees must take out to pay for their entry into Canada? In light of the difficulties already faced by new immigrants to Canada in adapting to a new language, culture and economy, we believe that the added financial burden placed on refugees by the ILP severely undermines the credibility of the program, as well as Canada’s commitment to the well-being of refugees generally.
Many of those who decide to seek asylum in Canada do so in order to escape ethnic and religious persecution that is tantamount to genocide (for example, members of religious and ethnic minorities within Syria and Iraq that have recently been targeted by the Islamic State ). As such, the debt burden placed on refugees by the ILP represents a re-victimization some of the most vulnerable members of Canadian society. Given that advocating for the well being and fair treatment of victims of genocide is a core part of STAND Canada’s mandate, we believe the negative impacts of transportation loans on refugees should be an area of grave concern both for STAND and the human rights advocacy community as a whole.
A recent report on the ILP published by the government itself found that the loans are “are a source of stress” for new immigrants, and “create additional challenges, such as the ability to pay for basic necessities”. The report also acknowledges that some recipients do not even understand the terms of their loan when agreeing to it due to language barriers and the limited time available to explain the program to applicants. In light of all these concerns, how can the government of Canada justify the continued existence of such a policy?
STAND Canada is calling for our government to put an end to this unfair and socially harmful practice, and replace the RTL with a system that allows all refugees to begin their lives as Canadians free from the burden of debt. For more information on our campaign as it unfolds, keep an eye on our blog and social media accounts, and make sure to sign up to our mailing list for regular campaign updates. As well as running educational initiatives via the STAND Canada blog, podcast and info-graphics series, we will also be reaching out to individuals and organizations across Canada to help get our message out to key decision-makers and media outlets.
By reforming the Refugee Transportation Program, we have a chance to make a tangible difference in the lives of refugees. Please join us in helping to make this goal a reality.
Co-Director of Communications