McCallum: Gov't 'considering' changing loan repayment rules for Syrian refugees
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:45AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:49PM EST
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum says the government is considering waiving loan repayments for Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada before the Liberals came to power.
As a general rule, refugees coming to Canada take out loans to cover the cost of their flights, but are expected to start repaying that loan – with interest – within three months of landing.
But Syrian refugees who arrived since the Liberals took charge on Nov. 4 have not had to pay for their flights, causing a disparity with Syrians who arrived before that date and who are now receiving notices asking for repayment.
McCallum said Tuesday the government “will consider whether we should make it a special case for the pre-Nov. 4 refugees.”
Immigration Lawyer Chantal Desloges said the loans put extra pressure on refugees to start working before they are ready.
“If they have to immediately start working, it means that they can't take advantage of things like English lessons or job retraining,” she said.
Loans can be repaid in monthly installments, and interest and due dates vary according to the size of the loan. For example, refugees have 12 months to repay loans of $1,200 or less, and up to 72 months for loans of more than $4,800.
An internal government review found that the current loan requirements can have negative impacts on some newcomers to Canada, and the Liberals are currently reviewing the program.
The government is also facing criticism over delays refugees are facing in finding permanent housing, particularly in Ottawa and Vancouver.
Tarek Ramadan of the Muslim Association of Canada said none of the refugees he’s dealt with in Vancouver have been housed and some have been living in hotels for a month.
With files from the Canadian Press and a report from Kevin Gallagher