A Refugee Law Office Argues for Equal Treatment of All Refugees
In recent months, thousands of Syrian refugees have been welcomed to Canada thanks to the federal government’s resettlement initiative. This highly-publicized program, the result of a Liberal campaign promise, has seen already seen almost 15,000 refugees relocated to communities across Canada, and is receiving tremendous support from Canadians country-wide. While lawyers at refugee law offices across the country certainly admire the government’s commitment to these Syrian refugees, they are quick to point out that this initiative has highlighted a troubling inequality among different groups of refugees.
Syrian refugees who have come to Canada under the federal government’s refugee program were not only awarded full health coverage under the Interim Federal Health program, they were not required to repay the cost of their flight to Canada or their initial health exams. As a point of comparison, all other refugees are responsible for the repayment of these costs, with interest. These policies are a result of cuts imposed by the Conservative government years ago, and while Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has recently pledged to reverse these cuts, this is not yet the case.
While lawyers at refugee law offices country-wide are applauding the government for their efforts with regards to the Syrian crisis, they also emphasize the importance of providing similar levels of aid to refugees from other countries. Unfortunately, current policies often mean that these refugees are thousands of dollars in debt before they even arrive in Canada. Not only does this destroy their credit rating, it makes it much more difficult for them to integrate economically and become self-sufficient. If a refugee was sponsored privately, their sponsors are often saddled with the responsibility of paying for healthcare and other expenses.
In recent months, refugee law offices have received an increasing amount of questions from refugees. Refugees from other countries, including Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan may also be questioning the government’s priorities as a result of recent developments.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has stated that they are considering waiving transportation loans for all refugees, but this has not definitively been decided. Refugee lawyers in Canada believe it is imperative that all refugees arriving in Canada be given due consideration for their vulnerabilities. Each of them deserves the warm welcome and fair treatment received by Syrian refugees in recent months.