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Open houses will not be enough for refugees, says Ukrainian Congress


Canada expects 90,000 people to arrive after fleeing Russian invasion

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The Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is concerned about the challenges facing tens of thousands of people expected to arrive in Canada – either as refugees or on temporary visas – as they flee Russian aggression in Ukraine.

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“We’re getting offers from people everywhere for houses and apartments,” said UCC’s Peter Schturyn. “The community can probably absorb a few thousand families; but beyond that, it’s going to be very, very difficult.

Nearly 17,000 refugees have already arrived in the country, according to the Canada Border Services Agency. But it is estimated that up to 90,000 Ukrainians could end up in Canada.

“They obviously live somewhere. They are with families and they have that support,” said Schturyn, whose son expects to welcome a family in the next week.

Thousands of people have opened their homes – some to complete strangers.

“The biggest problem is housing,” Schturyn said, explaining that 95% of refugees are women and children, and many will struggle to find a place to live and work.

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“It’s very difficult,” he said. “Fortunately, the province provides health care coverage.

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As the flow of millions continues out of Ukraine, Ottawa said most visa applications are being made in Warsaw, Poland, and Berlin, Germany.

The federal government issued an update on Wednesday saying it will provide charter flights, six weeks of income support and two weeks of temporary housing for people in need.

“We know a lot of them have connections in Canada that got them here very quickly,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said. “Because their family was very willing to support them when they arrived.”

Schturyn said he was worried about those without ties to Canada.

“Sooner or later there will be people who come to the airport and say, ‘I came here on a visa and I have nowhere to stay,'” he said.

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Since Canada unveiled measures to help Ukrainians, it has received 140,877 temporary resident visa applications as of April 10.

About 46,417 have been approved.

The community says they’re ready but they can’t take that much.

Also, adds Schturyn, not everyone who comes to Canada will want to stay.

“A very large number of these people are planning to return to Ukraine,” he said. “But everything depends on the violence of the war.”

slaurie@postmedia.com


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