Immigration target recruiters
Posted By TOM GODFREY
October 22, 2008
Immigration officials are targeting a network of shady recruiters who are charging foreign construction workers huge fees for jobs available free in Canada, forcing them to turn over their earnings and live like slaves once they arrive.
Some of the unscrupulous recruiters, who bring workers for the booming Toronto, Alberta and B. C. construction trades, are like “loan sharks,” who prey on the men. Some pay up to $30,000 each for a package trip here that includes a job and a few days accommodation, officials said in documents.
“Some of these workers are forced to live similar to the old slavery days and maybe live a life of servitude,” said Quebec immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained details of the scheme in an Access of Information request. “They have to work until they repay their debt.”
Kurland said it's hard to nab the recruiters since most conduct transactions outside Canada.
Among the hardest hit are workers from the Philippines and Central and South America, and include a large contingent from Mexico, where no visas are required to travel here and so-called visitors can start work the next day. Immigration program advisor Logan McNamara said a labour shortage in Olympic-driven B. C. and Western Canada is creating a demand for hundreds of workers.
Immigration officers said in many cases the workers obtain low-paying jobs in Canada, and it's hard for them to keep up or send money home. Tony Letra, of the Undocumented Worker's Committee, whose members help illegal Portuguese construction workers, said there's still a demand for workers in the Toronto area.
He said Portuguese workers aren't affected since they're well-informed and have been here for a long time.