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Refugee Transportation Loan Program

Somali Women

Canada charging refugees cost of getting to the country

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refers refugees who are in urgent need for protection to Canada. Canada sponsors these Government Assisted Refugees (GAR). The refugees are chosen and brought to Canada based on Canadian targets/criteria. Refugees are selected in their respective countries before entering Canada.

The GAR Transportation Loan covers:

  • The cost of pre-entry medical exams
  • Transportation documents
  • Transportation costs

Canada is one of the few countries to charge refugees the cost of getting to the country and the only country to charge interest. Bringing refugees to Canada is a humanitarian gesture. Reaching out and helping them begin their new lives should include paying for their transportation.

The burden of paying back these loans has a huge impact on thousands of GARs. It makes it extremely difficult for refugees to enjoy their improved lives and reach their full potential. Most of the refugees that are selected to come into Canada are coming from refugee camps in war torn areas. Many struggle to find a well-paying job in Canada in order to try to pay back the loans.

The loan payment often takes priority above food, clothing, rent, or furniture. There are many stories of youth in refugee families missing on educational opportunities because they feel obliged to go to work to help their parents make loan payments.

Refugees chosen to come to Canada are required to sign the loan documents before they arrive which states they have to pay back the loan [a year after] they’ve settled in Canada. However, it’s uncertain whether they fully comprehend what a challenge it will be once they arrive in Canada especially when their main priority, at that time, is to keep their family safe and getting away from danger.

Many refugees fear deportation if they are unable to pay back their loan. It’s a huge loan debt and an extremely stressful emotional burden for these refugees who are struggling to:

  • Settle in a new country
  • Learn a new language
  • Find a job

Sign the Petition

Sign the petition in support of eliminating the Government Assisted Refugee Transportation Loan. Print out and sign the petition, then return the original copy to: Councillor Judy Villeneuve, City of Surrey, 13450 104 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3T 1V8.

Local Refugee Stories

Hear the stories of local refugees and learn about their experience with repaying the loan:

  • Read Global Voices newsletters (Issue No.1, Issue No. 2 & Issue No. 3)
  • Read through testimonials of refugee experiences paying back the loan

Advocacy to terminate the program

The City of Surrey put forward a Resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities’ Annual Convention. It called for the termination of the transportation loan program for refugees. It was endorsed by all BC municipalities.

A Resolution was sent to the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) for their consideration. It was discussed at a FCM’s National Board of Directors meeting. A letter was also sent to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jason Kenney, asking the federal government to cancel outstanding loans and terminate the transportation loan program for refugees.

See the UBCM Resolution B177

Check out the GAR Bulletin published in August 2013