Saskatchewan. preparing a charter flight to bring fleeing Ukrainians to Regina

The Saskatchewan government is preparing for a charter flight from the Polish capital of Warsaw to Regina to bring some 230 evacuees from Ukraine to the province.

Immigration and Skills Minister Jeremy Harrison said there was flexibility around arrival, but the target date was July 4.

“We have made clear our open door policy regarding the resettlement of an unlimited number of Ukrainians seeking to settle in Canada,” he said.

“There have been approximately 600 arrivals to Saskatchewan from Ukraine since February 24 through various means.”

The government said the estimated number is based on multiple sources, including the federal immigration department, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canadian Red Cross.

Saskatchewan. Immigration Minister Jeremy Harrison said the government had been flexible when it came to changing the rules and speeding up the issuance of health cards and driving licenses for people coming from abroad. ‘Ukraine. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Harrison said there were frustrations with the Government of Canada as the original plan was to have Saskatchewan as one of the destinations for the three federal evacuation flights arrived from Ukraine at the end of May.

“This flight was redirected by the federal government away from Saskatchewan after we were told it was coming here,” he said.

“We were quite frustrated by this, especially since a number of people who landed in places like Montreal have since moved to Saskatchewan at their own expense after landing in those places.”

He said that prompted the government “to engage bilaterally with Ukraine” to provide a charter flight to Saskatchewan.

The government will coordinate with the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians, settlement agencies and other community partners to fill the flight.

Relocation services available

Harrison said the government had changed some rules to be “bureaucratic and red tape-free” to speed up the issuance of health cards and driver’s licenses.

Any newcomer with a valid Ukrainian driver’s license can transfer it “directly” for a Saskatchewan license.

“We have set up a 24/7 helpline for newly arrived Ukrainian refugees. We are working with our business community to ensure that those who wish to enter the labor market immediately can do so To do.”

Supports such as assistance with opening bank accounts for newcomers will be organized at the Regina International Airport.

While the government is still working out the logistical details, Harrison said transportation to other communities like Saskatoon will be provided.

Free hotel rooms and medium-term housing solutions, easier access to income assistance and other employment opportunities will also be provided.

“We want to make sure this is a transparent and straightforward process because these people have gone through really overwhelming circumstances both in Ukraine and then halfway around the world.”

Harrison said the government was well prepared to help with the transition period for newcomers, including financial support, and was working on plans to support people arriving with pets.

He said hundreds of Ukrainians who arrived earlier in the year were already working in the province.

“That’s what we want them to be, safe and successful here,” he said. “At the end of the day, if they choose Saskatchewan as their permanent home, we’ll welcome that as a positive thing.”

More support on the way

In March, the Saskatchewan Party government set aside $335,000 in settlement assistance for Ukrainian families who fled their country.

This initial funding was directed to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Saskatchewan to recruit three resettlement coordinators in Saskatoon and two in Regina.

Danylo Puderak, executive director of UCC Saskatchewan, said they were involved in pre-planning the charter flight with the government.

Danylo Puderak, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan, says there has been an outpouring of support from the community. (Submitted by Danylo Puderak)

He said coordination efforts with resettlement organizations were underway to ensure new arrivals had access to language classes and mental health services.

“Arriving Ukrainians will have full access to all provincially funded programs,” Puderak said.

UCC will help passengers come up with supports like interpretation when undergoing processes like medical examinations at the airport. Puderak said they will connect newcomers with clergy and other community members who can help with the settlement.

Puderak said he has served more than 200 customers between the two cities so far.

“Each customer would represent an individual or family. Over 200 would represent nearly 500 real people. Ukrainians are settling in communities across the province, large and small.”

Speaking of overwhelming community support, Puderak said hundreds of families have come forward to offer their homes to the new arrivals. They are working on screening and verifying these families.

He said the number of new arrivals was “initially a trickle”, but in recent months has increased due to Canada-Ukraine clearance for emergency travel.

Under this component, between March 17 and June 8, Canada has received 296,163 applications and has so far approved 131,763 Ukrainian applicants.

“These first applications that have been approved are now starting to arrive,” he said.

“We are ready to help. We are working day and night to help people fleeing war zones to help them find refuge here.”

Puderak said newcomers should consider Saskatchewan their home because in addition to ample support, it’s an affordable place to stay.

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