OTTAWA - Taxpayers are out of pocket hundreds of millions of dollars to cover the costs related to failed or abandoned refugee claims from Hungarian Roma - an ethnic group that considers the term "Gypsy" pejorative.
"Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has estimated that each failed refugee claimant costs Canada approximately $50,000," says a recent Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) report. "Using this figure, for the 4,442 Hungarian claimants for 2011 alone, these claimants could cost Canadians at least $222,100,000."
Those figures include the federal cost of processing rarely successful Roma refugee claims, as well as provincial social assistance and health care coverage to the claimants.
Most of the provincial burden falls on Ontario, with Roma refugee claimants preferring to live in and around Toronto and Hamilton.
Even after failed Roma refugee claimants are deported or leave voluntarily, the report says Ontario taxpayers often continued to send them welfare cheques for up to seven more months.
"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 CBSA.
The feds say they've already taken action by passing Bill C-31 in hopes of making Canada a less attractive place for making a false refugee claim.
"This law will crack down on bogus asylum claimants' abuse of Canada's generous benefits system," said Alexis Pavlich, press secretary for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. "Starting this year, we will deport bogus asylum claimants from safe, democratic countries in a matter of weeks rather than years."
When the feds' list of countries with strong human rights and legal systems is finalized, likely in late fall, it will include Hungary and the rest of the European Union.
Immigration authorities will expedite processing of refugee claims from those countries, while limiting claimants' health care coverage.
Even with those changes, CBSA estimates each false refugee claim will still cost taxpayers $29,000.