Letter: Canada Should Cover Refugee Travel Costs

At the end of September, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced proposed changes to interest charges on travel loans offered to refugees. The new policy changes outlined that no interest charges would apply to future loans and any outstanding loans would not accrue additional interest. As well, the period for paying back immigration loans will be extended by two years.

In CPJ’s A Half Welcome report, most Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) expressed concern over the financial burden posed by travel loans on refugees already struggling to establish themselves in a new country. CPJ is very pleased to see positive movements by the Canadian government to address the very important issue of poverty among newly resettled refugees in Canada. 

CPJ wrote to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, to express our support for this policy change. We also repeated our recommendation for the federal government to cover costs for resettled refugee travel to Canada.

Letter

Dear Minister Hussen,

On behalf of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), I would like to congratulate you for proposing beneficial changes to the refugee loan repayment program. 

CPJ is dedicated to promoting public justice in Canada, by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing, and public dialogue. CPJ encourages citizens, leaders in society, and governments to support policies and practices which reflect God’s call for love, justice, and environmental flourishing.

In our April 2017 report, A Half Welcome, we urged the Canadian government to consider how travel loan requirements could negatively affect the process of refugee resettlement in Canada. The results of a survey, conducted as part of this report, determined that most Sponsorship Agreement Holders were concerned about the financial strain associated with the travel loan program and how it could particularly harm vulnerable refugees. 

We wholeheartedly believe that the decision to remove interest charges on travel loans is the right one to make, and an essential step in the equitable treatment of all refugees in Canada. As a country that takes pride in its welcoming stance towards refugees, we felt that imposing interest charges sent a mixed message, and placed undue stress on newcomers upon arrival. Without the burden of escalating debt, refugees will be better equipped to take on crucial steps in the integration process, including the pursuit of language training and secure employment.

Accordingly, we’d like to take this opportunity to repeat our recommendation, together with the great majority of Sponsorship Agreement Holders, for the federal government to simply cover costs for resettled refugee travel to Canada, thus ending the travel loan program for all these vulnerable persons.

CPJ would like to express appreciation for your thoughtful consideration of the various challenges affecting refugees in Canada. We are proud of the leading role that Canada has taken, and continues to take, in response to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

Sincerely,

(Rev.) James C. Dekker
Chairman of the Board