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Ukrainian refugee impact might be low in Canada, says U of G prof

A U of G expert said the current situation might not lead to a refugee crisis within Canada's boarders
02 28 2022 Edward Koning
Edward A. Koning, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph.

As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict continues, a University of Guelph political science expert said at the moment there is little to worry about in terms of a heightened local impact.

Associate professor Edward A. Koning weighed in on the conflict and how the European Union’s actions, sanctions targeting Russia and the potential fallout from a humanitarian crisis could unfold.

With experience in research on the politics of immigration, Koning said the humanitarian crisis created from refugees felling Ukraine will have a minimal impact in Canada when compared to the crisis that followed the mass exodus of refugees from Syria.

Using Syria as an example, Koning pointed out the vast exodus of refugees flowed into neighbouring countries, and with the current European countries accepting the flow of refugees from Ukraine the brunt of the humanitarian crisis will be felt there.

“It’s a very, very small portion that would see a process of going to Canada through this formal process of government-sponsored refugee-ship,” said Koning. “Of course, another example is Ukrainian citizens already having family members or friends in Canada and flee to these friends and relatives of theirs and maybe try to secure permanent residence status in Canada through the family migration route.”

Through the different routes, the asylum seekers at the border stream is likely to be small due to the geography, the government-sponsored refugee option would see individuals with no question of their merit as a refugee questioned and the third option is privately-sponsored refugees.

As for this humanitarian crisis unfolding as the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis is still underway, Koning said those already working through the system should not worry.

“If you’re saying are any refugees coming out of Ukraine going to replace or displace anyone out of the queue, that’s not how it works,” said Koning.” What could happen is – and I don’t know if this is at all being discussed but this is a possible thing that could happen – the government says this is a humanitarian crisis, therefore we now decided to increase the number of refugees we are going to take in, specifically out of Ukraine.”

A Tweet from UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Saturday said more than 150,000 refugees have fled Ukraine.

“More than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have now crossed into neighbouring countries, half of them to Poland, and many to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and beyond. Displacement in Ukraine is also growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid,” the Tweets reads.

“I think that the demand for this will be relatively small, at least for now, considering we see that most of the refugee streams are going to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine,” said Koning.

In response, the Government of Canada has updated its immigration measures for people affected by the situation in Ukraine. Those updates include speeding up the process for travel documents, prioritizing applications from people who currently live in Ukraine and increasing support for those seeking information. They are also extending a temporary public policy that lets some visitors in Canada, including Ukrainians, apply for a work permit from within Canada.