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As Russia continues its attack, millions of Ukrainians have fled the country. The refugees leaving Ukraine are predominately women and children, as President Volodymyr Zelensky prohibited most men 18-60 from leaving the country. The refugees are exiting to Poland and other neighbours. The United Nations has warned the Ukrainian exodus is likely to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.

How many Ukrainian refugees are there?

A United Nations agency said more than 5.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s war against Ukraine began. In the first seven days of the war alone, more than one million fled the country – the most rapid exodus since the Second World War. The UN agency anticipates more than four million may be in need of refugee protection in the coming months.

Which countries are taking Ukrainian refugees?

Refugees have fled to countries neighbouring Ukraine, with the greatest movement to Poland – either to stay, or on their way to other European countries.

Which United Nations body is working to help refugees?

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, operates in more than 125 countries to assist refugees. The organization’s stated mission is to provide legal and political protection for refugees and resolve refugee problems around the world.

What has Canada’s response been?

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on Feb. 28 the country is ready “to do our part when it comes to refugees.” Ms. Joly said she’s reached out to neighbouring countries, such as Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, to offer help with Ukrainian refugees.

On Mar. 3, Canada announced two programs for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war.

Under the new Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, Ottawa will offer a streamlined process that eliminates most of the normal visa requirements said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. If Ukrainians pass the background check and security screening, their stay in Canada could be extended to up to two years. Applications will open in two weeks.

Canada is also setting up a family reunification program allowing relatives in this country to sponsor Ukrainians who want to move to Canada permanently. This would put applicants on an expedited path to permanent residency in Canada.

The government still requires Ukrainians seeking refuge to undergo a visa-application process. The program’s security check and background screening aims to weed out pro-Kremlin actors who mounted a war against Kyiv in eastern Ukraine for the past eight years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during a trip to Europe that Canada will spend $117-million to help speed up the arrival of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war and match an additional $20-million in donations for Ukraine made through the Canadian Red Cross. But the government did not specify how fast people who apply will be able to land in Canada and has not set a number for how many Ukrainians they will settle.

Earlier, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Canada will provide $100-million to the UN to support aid operations in Ukraine for refugees fleeing the country. The UN is asking for US$1.7-billion to help address urgent humanitarian need.

What has been the European response?

Member states of the European Union moved to provide Ukrainian refugees temporary protection and residency permits for up to three years. The EU said it expects millions more people seeking shelter, employment and education to move to the 27 nations that make up the bloc.

The EU Commission has already promised at least $560-million in humanitarian aid for the refugees.

Germany puts lessons learned during Syrian crisis to practice as it readies for influx of Ukrainian refugees

What can I do for Ukraine refugees?

Canadians looking to support Ukrainian refugees can consult this list of Canadian and Ukrainian organizations providing humanitarian support and emergency relief, including the Canadian Red Cross or Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

More reporting

Ukrainian refugees at risk of being targeted by human traffickers, aid groups warn

In Slovakia and Poland, loved ones and volunteers come from far and wide to help Ukrainians fleeing invasion

Former Afghan translator flees Ukraine to safety: ‘This is the second war. I hope there will not be a third’

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