The immigration consultants have been targeting Syrians living in the Gulf states, many of whom are there on work permits and are able to earn a living. In that sense, they are potentially a more lucrative client base than those in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The consultants advertise on social media and make visits to the region, setting up shop in five-star hotels.
In the case of one such agency, information available online and documents obtained by CBC News reveal that the consultant is not only charging prospective refugees thousands of dollars to process their applications but also asking them to pay the full cost of their resettlement up front, which violates the financial guidelines of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
“I find it appalling, honestly,” said Toronto lawyer Jackie Swaisland, who is part of a network of lawyers, immigration consultants and law students that has helped hundreds of refugees get to Canada without charging for their services.
Canada has resettled more than 26,000 Syrian refugees since last November, about 9,000 of whom are privately sponsored and another 2,225 of whom receive a combination of government and private funding.