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B.C. will ‘open arms’ to Ukrainians fleeing violence, but leaving isn’t easy

February 28, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Ron Nikkel is working to help his sons and their families come to B.C. from Ukraine, but with the country in chaos he’s afraid they may not be able to leave.

“I’m definitely worried,” said the Abbotsford man, whose two sons, their wives and four kids live in Kryvyi Rih near the eastern border. While his sons are Canadian citizens, their wives are Ukrainian, and only some of the kids have Canadian passports. “(I was) hoping that they would have left sooner.”

The federal government has promised immigration support for Canadian citizens in Ukraine trying to return to Canada, including permanent residents and their accompanying immediate family members. A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said about 800 Canadians are currently living in Ukraine according to a registration service for Canadians abroad, but there might be more as registration is voluntary.

But while Immigration Canada has been prioritizing applications by Ukrainian citizens, with about 2,000 approved since mid-January, some say Canada could do more.

Speaking from Bulgaria where she fled about 10 days before the invasion began, Ukrainian Ivanna Syvokon said she wants Canada to drop its visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals — an emergency measure Ireland has already taken. She’s been trying to join her husband in B.C. since her visa expired shortly after the couple married in Victoria while on a university exchange. She hasn’t seen him in two years.

“My plan was to come back when I could get another visa, but my first application was refused due to economic situation and family ties,” she said.

Her husband, who is originally from Turkey, lives and works in B.C. after being granted asylum. The couple is working with an immigration consultant, but has been told a reunification visa can take two years. She is now “stuck in the middle,” unable to return to Ukraine to be with her family and unable to join her husband in B.C.

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