Leo Karunanayake is one of the unlucky newcomers to Nova Scotia who entered a troubled immigration program.


Immigration Minister Len Goucher yesterday announced those who have been victims of the failed program may see a refund of the $100,000 fee they paid to participate, but Karunanayake wondered if the decision would stick.


“Is it solid, this decision they have come to?” said the Sri Lankan man, who has been waiting for news on the issue for several months.


Goucher’s announcement came in response to auditor general Jacques Lapointe’s report on the economic stream of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program. Lapointe said the program’s goal — to provide newcomers with valuable six-month business mentorships — was not met.


Immigrants in the program paid $130,500 for an internship with a local business during which they should have been trained for middle management and paid a salary of up to $20,000.

Participants complained they weren’t properly trained, weren’t paid, or were mistreated.

Kaminaben Patel of India was employed by a fast-food restaurant and her husband says instead of receiving training she was told to wash dishes, refill containers and wipe tables.

“When she came from work, she cried all the time,” said Paresh Patel.

After four months she terminated her contract.

Businesses received $50,000 for the first half of the work term and $50,000 for the second half.

“The other $50,000 is still with the government and that’s our money, our life savings,” Patel said.

Goucher said he may expand the refund program to those who signed contracts before Oct. 12, 2007, pending the second half of the report in the fall.