The federal government is offering up to $2,000 and a plane ticket home to rejected refugee claimants who are willing to leave Canada voluntarily.

The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration pilot project, launched in the Greater Toronto Area last week, will offer incentives to refugee claimants whose applications have been rejected and who have exhausted the appeal process to return to their country of origin.

Those who qualify can get a plane ticket home and up to $2,000 to help them resettle in their home country – find a job, go back to school or set up a business.

On its website, the Canada Border Services Agency says the new pilot project is “a cost-effective alternative to an enforced removal.”

Deporting a rejected refugee claimant can cost up to $15,000, and many unsuccessful applicants refuse to leave Canada voluntarily, the CBSA said.

“Bogus asylum seekers…were staying in Canada for years, on welfare, costing us on average, $50,000 per person, and then costing us money to remove them,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told CTV News.

“This program will help us get those people back to their countries of origin, much more quickly in a humane way,” he said.

But some critics are calling the offer a “bribe” and an “insult” to those who are fleeing dangerous conditions in countries around the world.

“It’s somewhat of a bribe that won’t work,” immigration lawyer Michael Niren said. “If they’re genuine refugee claimants, $2,000 is not going to cut it.”

Laszlo Sarkozi, whose refugee application has been rejected twice, said he would not accept the money to return to his native Hungary. Because his family belongs to the minority Roma group, he feels the return would be too dangerous for his wife and children.

“No, I would never take that money,” he told CTV News. “And I think it’s nothing but an insult.”

The voluntary refugee return program is being offered in partnership with the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration.

The program is currently only open to those who made unsuccessful refugee claims in or around the GTA and several locations in Ontario, including Windsor, London, and Sault Ste. Marie.

Individuals who have made unfounded or fraudulent refugee claims and those with a criminal record are not eligible.

The CBSA said the pilot program could encourage up to 7,000 voluntary returns.

It also said that safeguards are in place to prevent participants from abusing the program and misspending the money. Any funds given out will be managed by the International Organization for Migration and the person’s home country, according to individual resettlement plans.

The CBSA said similar programs in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have “proven successful in reintegrating people into their home countries.”

With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan