07/05/2012 10:51 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Failed Refugee Claimants Offered $2,000 To Leave Canada

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The federal government is offering to pay some failed refugee claimants to leave the country and will pick up the tab for their plane ticket to speed up their departures.

A new pilot project, run by the Canada Border Services Agency and the International Organization for Migration, was launched last week in the Greater Toronto Area. The IOM has been operating similar projects all over the world for more than 30 years.

The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration is for refugee claimants whose applications have been rejected and whose appeals have failed. It's up to the CBSA to enforce their removal, but the federal government is now providing an incentive for them to leave on their own.

Those who qualify can get a plane ticket back to their country of origin and up to $2,000. The money, however, is to be used to help the rejected claimant find a job, set up a business or go back to school.

"A voluntary return offers you a way to return home with support, dignity and anonymity," the CBSA's website says in its description of the new program.

How much money someone can receive depends on whether they have started an appeal process of the IRB's initial rejection. They are eligible for the full $2,000 if they apply before going to the federal court for a review of the decision, $1,500 if they apply before asking for a pre-removal risk assessment, and $1,000 if they have already made that application and received a decision.

Pre-removal risk assessments can be done when a rejected refugee claimant has been ordered to leave. It is an attempt to prove that the applicant would be in danger and at risk of torture or persecution if the removal order was enforced.

The new program is offering an added incentive to help get it off the ground — until July 13, applicants can be eligible for the full $2,000 even if they have filed appeals.

Budget for program is $31.9M

CBSA has placed limits on who can apply for the program. Rejected claimants with a criminal record, for example, can't take part.

The department also says the program has a number of safeguards to prevent abuse or fraud. Other than for small expenses, recipients won't see most of the money. The IOM in Toronto and in the person's home country manages and disburses the funds, and a reintegration plan is developed for each recipient to ensure the funds are appropriately spent to help them resettle.

The pilot program is set to last until March 31, 2015 and to result in the voluntary return of 6,955 failed asylum seekers.

The CBSA says this program will enable it to focus on higher priority removal cases and that it will save taxpayers money, because it will devote less resources to tracking down claimants, apprehending them, possibly detaining them and removing them. That can costs anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000, according to figures provided by the agency.

If failed claimants leave the country faster, it also means some of them will be tapping into social assistance programs for less time, the CBSA said, and saving taxpayers even more money.

The government has dedicated $31.9 million to the program, and $26.9 million goes to IOM to manage it.

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