Canada must overcome its fear of infiltration by Russian spies and speed up the issuance of visas for Ukrainian refugees, according to a report released Thursday.
“Applications from Ukrainians are starting to far exceed the number that is being granted by the Canadian government and we don’t even have a really clear picture of how many Ukrainians are coming into the country,” said Robert Falconer, author of University of Calgary Report.
Statistics show that as of June 22, around 190,000 Ukrainians were waiting for Canadian visa approvals while the number in May was 140,000.
“Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine earlier this year,” the study said. “Yet Canada has only accepted a small number of Ukrainian refugees compared to other countries, despite the overwhelming willingness of citizens to welcome them.
“Canadian immigration policies are the problem and need to be overhauled to allow faster and easier access for Ukrainians,” he said.
The route to Canada via a new program meant to speed up the process for Ukrainians has instead become a bottleneck.
“While the federal government has launched a program to expedite the processing of Ukrainian refugees, the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization (CUAET), statistics show that it is not enough,” according to the report. “Under CUAET, visas and temporary residence permits are being accelerated for Ukrainians and their families. As the number of applications increases, the number of approvals for the program is slowing.”
Meanwhile, other countries are admitting Ukrainian refugees at a much faster rate. Ireland, for example, has completely dropped its visa requirements.
Falconer said the Canadian parliament did not follow Ireland’s lead because it feared a fast-track visa-free procedure would allow Russian spies to infiltrate Canada.
“If we don’t follow the Irish model, I would say we follow what’s called the arrival model, which many countries do. When you get to the airport, you have to wait a little while while the government officials do the security checks,” Falconer said.
“You do risk assessments and can probably control this eight-year-old who is probably not a Russian spy while an unaccompanied man in his mid-twenties…you could hold him while you process the background check and let him into the country. First let them get here to safety and then deal with them from there,” he said.
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