CANADA MORNING POST (TORONTO)
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OTTAWA—Early next week, Ottawa will start booking seats on a first-come, first-served basis for the first of three federally chartered flights to ferry Ukrainian refugees to Canada.
Some 900 Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive in late May and early June, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told the Star Friday, as efforts to accommodate the migrants come together.
Registration for the flights for those who have received a Special Ukraine Emergency Travel authorization hasn’t yet started, his office said later, but will open via an online portal early in the week.
Starting with a May 23 flight arriving in Winnipeg; followed by a May 29 charter destined for Montreal, and a June 2 flight arriving in Halifax, planes carrying some 300 passengers at a time will depart Warsaw for Canada.
Fraser said he also expected a program that encourages Canadians to donate air miles to Ukraine relief efforts, that is expected to fly 10,000 refugees here, will soon hit its goal and get flights underway.
However, the logistics have been complicated because many refugees who received approval to come under the special measures Ottawa announced March 17 are still wary of leaving Europe or travelling too far from Ukraine. After the Feb. 24 invasion by Russia, husbands, brothers and fathers between the ages of 18 and 60 were required to stay to aid in the war effort, and many of their families want to remain closer to that country.
Other families are also still on the move even after receiving approvals to migrate to other countries, Fraser said, noting Belgium was willing to receive 200,000 refugees but only 35,000 had arrived.
The Miles4Migrants program that Air Canada is co-ordinating with the Shapiro Foundation has reached about 95 per cent of its goal to collect 150 million points.
Canada has not set a limit on the number of Ukrainians it is willing to admit for up to three years under the emergency measures program. Once here, they would be eligible for a work or study permit, and Ottawa expects that many would return to Ukraine once it is safe to do so.
Up to Thursday, 223,664 Ukrainians had applied for entry to Canada under the program, and 104,553 had been approved.
Ottawa says since Jan.1, more than 28,000 Ukrainian nationals have arrived in Canada, most by air.
Last week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly appealed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to waive the visa requirement for Ukrainian nationals altogether. But Fraser has insisted the special travel authorization was the swiftest way to facilitate their entry.
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc