Handful of Syrian refugees paid sponsors to come to Canada, evaluation reveals – Politics

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 way refugees use social media.

First wave refugees

“Unlike any other refugee populations, social media and mobile applications are very commonly used by the Syrian refugees and the population who are actively connected to each other via mobile devices, specifically WhatsApp,” the report said.

“. . . 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 — how many have found jobs, how many are enrolled in language classes etc — has likely shifted since the collection of the data last September.

At that point, only 10 per cent of adult government-assisted 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.

A strong sense of belonging

Those who’ve not yet found a way to be economically…

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