SAINT ANDREWS, N.B. – The federal government may consider forgiving the flight costs for Syrian refugees who came to Canada before the Liberals came to power, the federal immigration minister said Tuesday.
Until Nov. 4, all refugees arriving under the government’s resettlement programs were required to cover their own airfare, a long-standing policy dating back decades.
But the Liberals decided to waive that requirement for Syrian refugees it was bringing to Canada as part of its program to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada by the end of February and a further 10,000 by the end of 2016.
“We only came to power on Nov. 4, so our policy affects post-Nov. 4 refugees,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said outside a Liberal cabinet meeting taking place in New Brunswick.
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“But we will consider whether we should make a special case for the pre-Nov. 4 refugees. That is one of the things that we will be considering very soon.”
All other refugees who arrived in Canada after Nov. 4 are still required to cover their travel costs; most do so by way of a loan. A recent internal government evaluation found the loan program often ends up having a negative impact on the lives of refugees in Canada as they struggle to pay it back.
The evaluation – which was carried out under the previous Conservative government – had recommended the policy be overhauled and the Immigration Department had already been reviewing it.
McCallum had also already committed to taking a second look at the system.
“Except for the Syrian refugees, they all receive loans and are expected to pay back the loans over time,” he said.
“And as I said, one of the things that I am about to be briefed on soon after our return is this very issue and we will be considering whether to change that policy.”