Refugee claimants still collecting welfare even after being deported

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

My parents were refugees to Canada in the 1970s.

As a result, I have a lot of sympathy for those who are forced to give up their lives, families, and belongings and start anew in strange country with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

On the other hand, when I hear stories like this, I understand the reasoning behind the Harper government's tough new measures with regards to refugees.

According to a CIC/CBSA report obtained by the Sun News Network, some failed refugees continue to receive welfare cheques, even months after being deported.

"Although information sharing does occur between CIC, the CBSA and the (Ontario) Ministry of Community and Social Services, the mechanisms currently in place may generate obstacles that minimize the ability to immediately terminate a claimant's benefits upon their departure from Canada," says the report according to Sun News.

The report also suggests that the cost to taxpayers of each failed refugee applicant is approximately $50,000. In 2011, there were 16,122 rejected claims.

Over the past two years, the Harper government has made significant changes to the refugee act speeding up processing times and placing restrictions on claimants from countries unlikely to produce legitimate refugees.

And, to a large outcry by doctors and refugee groups, they restricted claimants' health benefits leaving some refugees with only 'urgent health care' and others with care only if they have a disease that would be a risk to the public.

[ Related: Refugee mental health at risk with cuts, experts warn ]

Individuals classified as 'government-assisted refugees' will, however, maintain the same coverage as before.

The government has justified the changes citing reports that some applicants — primarily from Hungary and Mexico — come to Canada solely for the purpose of "exploiting" social assistance and health benefits.

Immigration minister Jason Kenney offered up some statistics earlier this month, saying that between Jan. 17 and Dec. 31, 2011, 8,819 Mexicans racked up nearly $7 million in health care costs under the Interim Federal Health Program. To add insult to injury, 5,068 refugee applications from Mexico were either rejected, withdrawn or abandoned in 2011.

My parents were forced to leave their country, Uganda, in 1972, after a brutal military dictator named Idi Amin came to power.

Amin tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and in the summer of 1972, issued an edict that all the Israelis, Europeans and Asians who were living in Uganda had to leave the country within 90 days.

At the urging of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Canadian government accepted my parents along with 7,000 other Ugandans who essentially came to Canada with nothing.

That 'batch' of refugees have made significant contributions to Canada's economy, as have a lot of other refugees in our country's history.

But what's happening here is clearly wide-spread welfare and health care fraud — some refugee claimants are essentially stealing taxpayer dollars.

And, for that reason, the Harper government's refugee reforms are justified.

[ Related: Cuba won't allow refugee's son to come to Canada ]