Immigration minister reviewing refugee loan program

Interesting – going beyond the mandate letters and platform:

The federal Liberal government will consider reforming a loan program that requires refugees to cover the hefty cost of their flights to Canada, Immigration Minister John McCallum said Friday.

Officials revealed earlier this week that the 25,000 Syrian refugees to enter Canada by February won’t have to pay the cost of their flights and pre-flight medical screening.

While that decision was praised by B.C. opposition MPs and some refugee aid groups, they said the policy should extend to all refugees. They argued that people fleeing persecution already face major challenges finding homes, work and language training, so the last thing they need is to have to service an interest-bearing loan of up to $10,000.

McCallum, in an interview with The Vancouver Sun, said his officials will brief him in coming days on the loans program and present him with options to change it.

“I don’t know what the options are, but I’m telling you this is a policy that we’re certainly considering changing,” he said.

The government’s Immigration Loans Program, created in 1951, provides up to $110 million a year in loans for travel and costs immediately after arrival, like rent deposits and buying work tools. It has a 91-per-cent payback rate.

Refugees can take up to six years to pay, depending on the loan amount, and the interest rate this year was 1.38 per cent. In some cases, loans are interest-free for one to three years, and federal officials will make alternative arrangements if borrowers are having trouble making payments, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Source: Immigration minister reviewing refugee loan program