Ottawa Citizen

Some Syrian refugees paid sponsors to come to Canada

Against the rules of private sponsorshi­ps


• A handful of Syrian refugees paid their sponsors to come to Canada, a government study published Friday reveals.

The Immigratio­n Department evaluation of the Liberals’ landmark refugee program surveyed 581 of the 8,918 privately sponsored Syrian refugees who arrived between November 2015 and March 2016. Just over 26,000 Syrians were resettled in Canada during that time.

Of those surveyed, 23 said they paid someone to complete their sponsorshi­p applicatio­n, or to provide for their own support while in Canada, with some suggesting they were asked to pay.

While the report doesn’t say how much the refugees paid, private sponsorshi­p groups aren’t supposed to accept or require any funds from a refugee for submitting a sponsorshi­p.

“If instances of sponsors asking refugees to pay for their own sponsorshi­p come to our attention, we will investigat­e, however, we will not comment on any investigat­ions which may be underway,” immigratio­n spokesman Remi Lariviere said in an email.

The report revealed it’s not just Syrians who have paid their sponsors. Of 451 privately sponsored refugees from elsewhere surveyed for a previous study, about 19 said they’d paid too.

The slight difference is one of several between the Syrian cohort and other refugee population­s.

The evaluation of the first wave of Syrians — there are now more than 40,000 in Canada — documented that compared with other refugee groups, some are less educated and have less knowledge of an official language. Syrians also have bigger families and a lower level of understand­ing of Canadian rights and freedoms than refugees from other groups, the evaluation said.

Those factors have all contribute­d to challenges during the settlement process, but the evaluation revealed another one — the popularity of social media with Syrian refugees.

“Refugees were comparing what Syrian friends received in terms of services in other cities and provinces and requested equivalent services and support,” the report found.

The profiles of the first wave of refugees has likely shifted since the collection of the data last September.

At that point, only 10 per cent of adult government­assisted Syrian refugees had found work, a number officials have said is comparable to other government-assisted refugee population­s at that point in the process.

One change since September is the arrival of the refugees’ 13th month in Canada. Refugees only receive financial support from the federal government or private sponsors for 12 months and now the entire first wave has been here for longer than that.

Those who’ve not yet found a way to be self-sufficient could go on provincial social assistance; based on historical trends among refugees who’ve accessed provincial aid, the evaluation estimated that in March 2017, approximat­ely 1,890 to 2,005 Syrian adults would possibly become eligible. The department could not confirm Friday whether that forecast came true.

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