World Refugee Day an opportunity to focus on refugees’ realities

Canadian Council for Refugees

Media release

For immediate release
19 June 2009

World Refugee Day an opportunity to focus on refugees’ realities

The Canadian Council for Refugees invites Canadians to mark World Refugee Day on June 20th, celebrated this year on the theme ‘Real People, Real Needs’. 

Refugees in Canada struggle daily with problems that could be easily solved if Canadians worked to bring about some simple changes.  Two of these problems are the threat faced by refugee claimants of forced return to persecution, and the huge burden of repaying transportation loans, faced by resettled refugees.

“The best way to mark World Refugee Day is through taking concrete steps to protect refugees and support their efforts to make a new home here,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President.

Refugees who make a claim in Canada have a real need for protection.  Canada’s refugee determination system must first and foremost ensure that no refugee is sent back to persecution.  Although the core of Canada’s system is excellent and has become a model for protection internationally, it has a major flaw because the appeal has not been implemented and errors therefore go uncorrected.

Parliament has the opportunity to correct this serious flaw by quickly adopting Bill C-291. 

Bill C-291 is a private member’s bill that will compel implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), created by Parliament in 2001.  Without the RAD, the fate of refugee claimants is determined by a single person, with no appeal on the merits. 

“Every day that the Refugee Appeal Division is delayed means that more refugees risk being denied safety and forced to return to face persecution,” said McWeeny.

World Refugee Day is also a time to recognize the challenges that continue to face refugees who have been resettled to Canada, including repayment of loans for travel and medical expenses.

“Refugees come to Canada determined to take up the challenge of starting up a new life having lost almost everything, but for many a debt of up to $10,000 is one challenge too many,” said McWeeny.  “The burden of the loans is taking a tremedous toll, especially on young refugees who can’t focus on their education because they must work in order to repay the loans. This is a huge loss to their future success and their contributions to Canada.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees is urging the government to assume the costs of transportation and medical expenses, thus eliminating the burden on refugees of these loans.

Many CCR member organizations and allies are participating in local events across Canada to mark World Refugee Day 2009.

For more information on the refugee appeal, see

For more information on realities of refugee claimants, see Lives in the Balance,

For more information on the repayment of refugee transportation loans, see


Contact: Colleen French, Communications Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext. 1