Canada should prepare to provide asylum for Ukrainian refugees: Expert

By The Canadian Press

Europe is facing a massive new migration crisis because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Canada should prepare to provide asylum to those fleeing the violence, says a Canadian security expert.

“This would be a chance for Canada to really, really step up to the plate,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian in Ukraine who served as the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe during the height of tensions following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

“Telling Ukrainians: you are welcome in Canada. And, you know, easing of visa rules, temporary stays, that sort of thing.”

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Canada has promised to prioritize immigration applications from Ukraine to bring people fleeing the country to safety as quickly as possible.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced the creation of a new hotline Thursday, “for anyone at home or abroad with urgent Ukraine-related immigration questions.”

“We have worked over the past many weeks to prepare exactly for such eventualities,” the prime minister said in a sombre address Thursday.

Bociurkiw spoke Thursday from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where the day started quietly with an orderly procession of local residents lining up at ATM machines and stocking up on supplies at shops before giving way the blast of air raid sirens and “organized panic.”

He said many of the residents of Lviv, described as the cultural capital of Ukraine, could be well-suited to new lives in Canada.

Indeed, more than a million Ukrainians already call Canada home, and in 2016, about four per cent of people in Canada who responded to the census identified as being of Ukrainian descent.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation in Ukraine and the devastating humanitarian consequences it will have, has urged neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to people from Ukraine who seek safety outside the country.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it has prepared extra resources in anticipation of a large influx of requests to come to Canada.

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