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Ukraine: Feds announces additional measures for refugees

The federal government has announced additional measures to help refugees trying to flee Ukraine and come to Canada.

Speaking at the Global Citizen-organized social media rally Stand Up for Ukraine on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of measures to make it easier for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion to come to Canada.

These measures include charter flights to Canada for Ukrainians, short-term income support to help ensure their basic needs are met for six weeks, as well as temporary hotel accommodation for up to two weeks.

Minister of Transport of Canada Omar Alghabra said during a virtual press conference on Saturday the federal government is in the process of finalizing the details with Canadian airlines on the number of flights that will be chartered, as well as their pick-up points for refugees.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser said Canada will also exempt biometrics – fingerprints and identification photos – for Ukrainian refugees under the age of 18, over the age of 60 and those with previous Canadian visas that have no immigration issues. He said the government is making the move to “reduce the pressure on biometrics collection.”

Speaking during the press conference, Fraser said the new measures will help more Ukrainians take advantage of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, and further details will be available in the coming days.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that Ukrainians are supported over the course of their stay in Canada,” Fraser said.

Fraser said the government continues to prioritize the issuing of Canadian passport and travel documents, proofs of citizenship, and visas, as well as student and work permit applications for Ukrainian nationals in Ukraine.

Fraser added that the Government of Canada is also working to help facilitate travel for those Ukrainian refugees who may not have travel documents.

“This means that for family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents currently residing in Ukraine who don’t hold valid travel documents IRCC can issues single journey travel documents on an exceptional basis to support their travel to Canada,” Fraser said.

Since the CUAET program launched last month, Fraser said the federal government has approved over 30,000 applications from Ukrainians seeking refugee in Canada under the program. He noted that this number is in addition “to the thousands” of applicants who were approved under different, pre-existing programs.

According to the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canadian government had received nearly 60,000 applications as of March 26. The minister had previously stated there would be no limit on the number of applications that would be accepted.

The CUAET program, which the federal government launched on March 17, is designed to create an “expedited pathway” for temporary residence within Canada and involves streamlining current visa and travel requirements, removing most fees, and providing expedited processing.

With the CUAET, Ukrainians and their family members can stay in Canada as temporary residents for three years. Those who arrive through this stream will also be eligible for an open work permit allowing employment with almost any employer in Canada for up to three years. The federal government is urging Canadian employers to register job offers with Job Bank’s Jobs for Ukraine webpage in order to hire displaced Ukrainians.

The government also recently expanded its settlement supports for Ukrainian refugees, offering “key services” to help them settle into their new communities including language training, information about life in Canada, employment aid and services for women, seniors, youth and LGBTQ + individuals.

“This is what we have to do. We know that coming to live in a new country, even temporarily, is not easy and we will continue to look for ways to support Ukrainians after they arrive,” Fraser said.

During the Stand Up for Ukraine event, Trudeau also announced an additional $ 100 million in humanitarian support for Ukraine to help provide added emergency health services on the ground and in neighboring countries, including trauma care, protection, and basic necessities such as shelter, water and food.

Including the new funding announced Saturday, the federal government has provided $ 245 million in humanitarian aid since January 2022 in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

“Whether it’s food, water, shelter, or medical aid – we will continue to have your backs and provide the assistance you need at this time. We are also making it easier for Ukrainians fleeing the war to come to Canada. We are standing up for Ukraine, ”Trudeau said.

He added that the Government of Canada continues to work “around the clock” to help Ukrainians.

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