John McCallum promises probe into immigration consultants’ fees for Syrian refugees

April 18, 2016

CBC News | CBC News investigation reveals some consultants are possibly violating federal rules on private sponsorship

Immigration Minister John McCallum says he has ordered a three-part investigation into the practice of immigration consultants charging Syrian refugees thousands of dollars to process applications and possibly violating federal rules on private sponsorship by asking them to pay resettlement costs that should be paid by their sponsors.

“We are very concerned about this, and we want to explore all avenues as to possible wrongdoing,” McCallum told Rosemary Barton on CBC’sPower & Politics Tuesday.

The minister was responding to a CBC News investigation that found that some immigration consultants are charging Syrians who want to come to Canada under the private sponsorship program between $3,000 to $6,400 per person to process their applications.

The investigation also found that some consultants are asking refugees to pay the cost of their resettlement in Canada up front before even arriving in the country. Under federal rules, these costs are supposed to be covered by private sponsors, not refugees, for a full year. Refugees can contribute to their settlement costs once they arrive in Canada but cannot be made to prepay or repay them, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

McCallum said he has asked for investigations on three fronts:

  • Law-enforcement agencies will determine whether any laws have been broken.
  • The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), which oversees immigration consultants in Canada, will determine whether any of its rules have been broken.
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will determine whether any sponsorship agreement holders have violated federal rules. If they did, those agreements could be nullified.

“I do think it’s a serious allegation. Given how generous the vast majority of Canadians have been, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth,” McCallum said. “With this three-front investigation, we should get some answers.”

McCallum said the investigation will also look into why immigration consultants are getting involved in the refugee sponsorship process at all.

“I don’t see why they’re there,” he said.

CBC News revealed Tuesday that some immigration consultants, in partnership with some refugee sponsorship groups, have been marketing their services to Syrians living in the Gulf states, many of whom are there on work permits and make potentially more lucrative clients than refugees in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey.

In some instances, the consultants are asking refugees to pay costs and “donation” amounts that violate the financial guidelines of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

The federal government does not charge refugee applicants or their sponsors any fees to process applications. Usually, refugees pay only for the medical checks they must undergo before arriving in Canada and the cost of their travel, and in some cases, these costs arewaived or covered by a loan from the federal government.

Canada has resettled more than 26,000 Syrian refugeesbetween November 2015 and the end of March, 15,001 of whom are government-assisted refugees, 8,981 privately sponsored and 2,225 a mix of public and privately funded.

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