4th Dec 2023

Canada steps forward to help EU with Ukrainian refugees

  • "It's necessary that we have the possibility of fair share of the burden to receive these people," said EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson. (Photo: European Union, 2022)
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The European Commission has said Canada is ready to take an unlimited number of refugees from Ukraine to help share responsibility for looking after the millions of people fleeing the Russian invasion.

The discussions with Canada come ahead of a visit to Brussels by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who will deliver a speech in the European Parliament and meet with Nato and G7 leaders later in the week.

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Ylva Johansson, the EU home affairs commissioner, was set to speak to the Canadians on Tuesday on how to best facilitate travel of Ukrainians wishing to settle in countries outside the European Union.

Most of the 3.5 million refugees from Ukraine have so far fled to EU member states, including Europe's poorest nation Moldova, as a result of the invasion of their country by Russia.

But more will arrive, raising the pressure on others outside the European Union to offer more help.

Germany estimates eight million could flee, possibly more as those displaced inside Ukraine tops 10 million, or a quarter of the total population.

Canadian red tape

Europe also has reached out to the United States and the United Kingdom in a wider effort to ease pressure on EU member states in the wake of the Russian invasion.

As for the plans with Canada, the commission did not respond earlier Tuesday when asked for more details.

But Johansson, the home affairs commissioner, spoke Monday about the need for Europe to bear its "fair share of the burden," and she said Canada was ready to assist.

Canada has set up a so-called Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, which allows Ukrainians to reside for up to two years without a visa, and to work. The online application takes 14 days to process.

That compares to the EU protection regime, which is being used for the first time and offers Ukrainians the right to reside and work until next March. That could be extended, if needed.

And although Ukrainians won't have to present a Covid-19 vaccination certificate for Canada, they may still be required to quarantine upon arrival. By comparison, Ukrainians fleeing to the EU are not required to be in possession of travel or medical documents.

Some arriving in Canada may also be required to undergo medical diagnostic tests like chest x-ray and blood test.

A spokesperson from Canada's department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said free work permits would also be issued.

He said Canada is relocating staff and moving additional supplies and equipment, such as mobile biometric collection kits, to Europe. "We are also adjusting operations in offices across our global network to ensure service continuity for Ukraine," the spokesman wrote in an email.

Canada currently has offices to process visa applications in Austria, Moldova, Poland, and Romania.

Around 1.4 million Ukrainians already live in Canada. Over 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since the start of January.


China and Hungary on the spot This WEEK

Top EU officials are expected to tell Chinese president Xi Jinping that his country will face serious consequences if it sides with Russia. Hungary's Orbán will face a united opposition at the polls.

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