The Silence of the Right on Ukrainian Refugees

Of note (not unique to USA as contrasting Canada’s previous firm policies in terms of access to work permits, healthcare and settlement services to Ukrainian temporary residents under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel program compared to Afghans and others illustrates:

Last summer, anti-immigration advocates mobilized in opposition to the resettlement of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in the United States. “It threatens the national security of the United States,” wroteStephen Miller, the former top Donald Trump adviser. Miller charged in another tweet that President Joe Biden had “cruelly betrayed his oath of office” by expediting the entry of Afghans fleeing the Taliban without, Miller said, proper vetting. A prominent immigration-restrictionist group issued a report warning of fraud and abuse in the nation’s refugee programs, and immigration hard-liners flooded conservative airwaves throughout the fall to denounce the administration’s plans.

Then came another refugee crisis, this time in Ukraine. In March, Biden said the U.S. would admit up to 100,000 of the millions of Ukrainians who had left their country after the Russian invasion. The announcement was sure to provoke the outrage of the nation’s most ardent immigration foes, whose cries about an influx of refugees from a war-stricken region had barely faded from the news.

Except it didn’t.

Anti-immigration advocates have been far quieter about the Biden administration’s policy toward Ukrainian refugees than they were about its stance toward Afghan refugees. What’s more, the criticism they have leveled has had almost nothing to do with concerns about vetting or national security. Miller, for example, tweeted dozens of dire warnings about Afghan refugees during the summer and fall of 2021. He has also tweeted frequently about Ukraine since the crisis escalated at the beginning of this year, but not a single time about Biden’s plan to accept 100,000 refugees. (Through a spokesperson, he declined an interview request.)

To the groups who resettle refugees in the U.S., the divergent responses from the political right are a stark but familiar example of the long-standing bias against immigrants from poor or predominantly Muslim countries in favor of those from Europe, who are predominantly white. Those attitudes are also reflected in—and might contribute to—public opinion about America’s refugee policy. In a poll conducted last month for The Atlantic by Leger, 58 percent of respondents supported the U.S. accepting refugees from Ukraine, while just 46 percent backed admitting those from Afghanistan. Asked whether the U.S. should admit more refugees from one country than the other, 23 percent of respondents said the U.S. should take more people from Ukraine, while just 4 percent said the U.S. should accept more from Afghanistan, despite America’s two-decade involvement in the war there. Gallup found even broader support for admitting Ukrainian refugees, the highest for any refugee group it has polled about since 1939.

“Americans get a certain amount of compassion fatigue for certain parts of the world that are chronically in turmoil, and no American alive today can ever remember a time of peace in the Middle East,” Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that seeks a reduction in overall immigration to the U.S., told me. “It’s also true that Ukraine has not been viewed routinely as a source of refugees, of political conflict, at least not in the modern world.”

Senior officials with refugee-resettlement groups told me that they haven’t put much stock into the reaction of immigration hard-liners, because Republican governors and leaders in Congress have remained broadly supportive of accepting Afghan refugees. But they have sharply criticized the Biden administration for what they say is unequal treatment of refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. “It certainly appears that Ukrainians are receiving special treatment,” Adam Bates, a policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, told me.

Under its Uniting With Ukraine program, the Biden administration is waiving all fees associated with applying for humanitarian parole. By contrast, IRAP says, the U.S. government charged more than 40,000 applicants from Afghanistan as much as $575 to seek similar protection last summer. The government is also scrapping requirements that Ukrainians submit evidence that they were specifically targeted by the Russian military or President Vladimir Putin, whereas Afghan applicants must provide proof of individualized, targeted violence against them by the Taliban.

The White House declined to comment. The administration has touted its evacuation of more than 82,000 Afghans to the U.S., including many allies who helped the U.S. military during its 20-year war. In both crises, the government has sought to route many applicants around the official refugee and special-immigrant visa programs because they are so backlogged. Officials have said that the humanitarian parole that the U.S. is offering to Ukrainians lasts for only two years, which Bates took as a suggestion that the government assumes many refugees will want to stay in the country only temporarily. I asked him what he thought was the real reason the Biden administration was expediting the process for Ukrainians in ways it did not for Afghans. “This is just speculating,” he cautioned in his reply. “But to me, I do not think that the influence of systemic racism and xenophobia in this country has been limited to just one party in the context of immigration.”

The politics of immigration have bedeviled Biden from his first days in office. Republicans have accused him of countenancing a veritable invasion of the southern border by migrants and asylum seekers, while progressives criticized his decision to keep in place some Trump-administration policies reviled by immigrant advocates. Biden’s critics on the right say his lax handling of the southern border has left the country stretched too thin to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. “The problem is that resettling refugees takes work and money and infrastructure, which has been overwhelmed by all the illegal aliens who were using asylum as a gambit to get past the Border Patrol,” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, told me.

Many others, however, say the U.S. has both the moral obligation and the capacity to open its doors to those fleeing war and persecution.

Conservatives who have raised alarms about resettling Afghan refugees say the need to vet them is stronger because the American invasion created enemies who could try to sneak into the U.S. to exact revenge. They’ve also warned about the cultural differences between Afghanistan and the U.S., highlighting reports of child trafficking by male evacuees who claim young girls as their brides.

Krikorian has assailed the nation’s refugee policy across the board and told me the U.S. could do more good simply by sending money overseas to help resettle evacuees in countries closer to their homeland. But he had harsher words for the Biden administration’s pledge to admit refugees from Ukraine. “We clearly have more obligation to Afghans than we do to Ukrainians,” Krikorian said. At the same time, he said, individual Afghan refugees presented bigger security and cultural concerns than did Ukrainians. As an example, Krikorian referenced reports of widespread sexual abuse of young boys by members of the Afghan security forces made by members of the U.S. military during the war. “I wouldn’t say because of that, we don’t take Afghans, but we do take Ukrainians,” he said. “But in individual cases, in doing vetting and assessing whether it’s a good idea to bring somebody into the United States, we definitely should take that into consideration.”

Those reports and the stereotypes they feed may help explain why the public voices stronger support for refugees from Ukraine than from Afghanistan, and, on some level, why the government has treated them differently. But to those who work on behalf of refugees, they are beside the point. “Of course, we need to vet immigrants who are coming into the U.S. to make sure that they are not a threat to the American public. But we need to do that consistently,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told me. “Both populations have strong rationales for seeking refuge here in the U.S. We shouldn’t pit one population against the other.”

Source: The Silence of the Right on Ukrainian Refugees

Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

Of note:
Canada’s treatment of Ukrainians fleeing war has been distinctly different to those fleeing other humanitarian crises, the House of Commons immigration committee said Wednesday, and MPs want that to change.
The committee voted Tuesday to issue a public statement, urging the government to provide the same special immigration measures it extended to Ukrainians to refugees from other regions.The statement reads that “time is of the essence,” and said the committee calls on the immigration minister to ensure Canada’s response to humanitarian crises in other regions “are treated with the same vigor as Ukraine.

Canada has expedited immigration applications from Ukraine and created an extraordinary program to allow Ukrainian citizens and their families to come to Canada and work or study for three years while they decide their next steps.

The program does not apply to non-Ukrainians who fled the country.

Canada has received 112,000 applications from people fleeing Ukraine and has so far approved more than 26,500, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at a press conference Wednesday.

The MPs on the committee say the measures should also be available to Afghans who are still in their Taliban-controlled home country, and refugees from other regions facing humanitarian crises such as Yemen, Myanmar and China.Fraser didn’t address the committee’s request in his press conference, but did say Canada remains “extremely committed” to helping people escape Afghanistan.

Canada has so far welcomed 10,025 Afghans since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Fraser said refugee resettlement efforts, including initiatives in Afghanistan and Syria, can take years to implement and must be accounted for in the government’s annual immigration-level targets tabled in Parliament.

Meanwhile, consultations with the Ukrainian community reveal many wish only to come to Canada temporarily and then return home when it is safe“We will continue to look at more ways that Canada can settle refugees, complementary to our resettlement efforts,” spokeswoman Aidan Strickland said in a statement. “Each situation is unique and should be considered as such to ensure that Canada is responding accordingly.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi applauded Canada’s actions to bring Ukrainians to a safe haven, but also reminded government officials of other refugee crises.

In February, before Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, the UN refugee agency counted about 84 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

“Since then, that number has probably grown to well over 90 million. We must be in the region of 95 million now,” Grandi said at the press conference with Fraser.

Grandi was in Ottawa Wednesday to announce a new global task force, chaired by Canada, aimed at finding other ways to bring refugees to safe countries.

The initiative builds on a Canadian pilot program to allow skilled refugees to apply for permanent residency through economic channels. The idea is to bring additional refugees to the country, in addition to those welcomed through humanitarian processes.

The pilot removed some of the barriers that would traditionally have precluded refugees from applying for permanent residency in Canada through economic channels.

It was expanded late last year to accommodate 500 skilled refugees, and Fraser says he hopes to see even more welcomed under the program in the future.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says the idea behind the pilot program is great, but she has noted some issues with the execution. For example, the program is supposed to include a loan option to allow refugees to meet the economic requirements to support themselves when they come to Canada, but that loan is not yet available.

Source: Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

And a good op-ed by Naomi Alboim and Karen Cohl:

It is hard to rationalize the strikingly different approaches the Canadian government has taken to two major refugee crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

There have been benefits offered to Ukrainians looking to escape the Russian invasion, but not to Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover, including authorization for emergency travel to enter Canada on a temporary basis with open work permits for up to three years. In addition, the government has promised to develop a family-reunification sponsorship program for both immediate and extended-family members.

There have also been benefits offered to Afghans, but not to Ukrainians, such as special programs for arrival as refugees with permanent residence and entitlement to all associated supports and services.

Certainly, the specific context of a refugee crisis can necessitate unique policy responses. But a common framework should be in place to provide similar support for individuals in crisis, with differences in treatment only where demonstrably justified.

The Canadian government has said that the “temporary residence” approach is justified by the assumption that most Ukrainians will return home. The reality, however, is that many Ukrainian refugees who choose to come to Canada can be expected to stay. No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will last, what the outcome will be, how much destruction will occur and whether or when it will be possible for individuals to return. The large Ukrainian community in Canada provides an added incentive to stay.

Indeed, an example from the past may foreshadow future decisions of Ukrainians coming to Canada. In response to the crisis in Kosovo in 1999, Ottawa initiated emergency airlifts of Kosovars on the expectation that many would return home as soon as the situation abroad was resolved. They were provided with permanent residence to entitle them to supports and services while in Canada. Kosovars were also offered transportation to return home and funding to re-establish themselves there. Despite these incentives to return, and the absence of a significant Kosovar community in Canada, only 30 per cent did so.

It would therefore be well worth providing supports and services that meet the needs of new Ukrainian arrivals. Many people fleeing Ukraine are women with small children, so even with open work permits, they may not start work immediately, and many won’t be able to earn enough money to support the needs of the family. Support from the community will be invaluable in many cases, but it cannot be expected to carry the full load.

Although the federal government has announced that Ukrainians arriving as temporary residents will have access to national settlement services, they are not eligible for federal income support or interim health coverage normally provided to refugees, leaving it up to individual provinces to decide on access to health care, schools and income support.

Afghans, for their part, need emergency travel authorization and reunification of extended-family members. Such measures would help to compensate for the fact that the implementation of the two special programs for Afghan refugees has been slow and rife with problems, and that private-sponsorship applications remain blocked.

Many Afghans are at greatly increased risk from having helped Canada in Afghanistan, and many have fled to neighbouring countries that don’t want them and are unable or unwilling to provide support. Ukrainians are in a horrendous situation, but they are at least being welcomed by EU countries who want and are able to help them. Some Afghans were airlifted to Ukraine from Afghanistan. Yet, even these Afghan refugees are not entitled to Canada’s new policies, which are available only to Ukrainian nationals.

We see no justification for Canada to offer such different treatment to two groups coming to our country at around the same time. Some observers have already begun to wonder if the policy differences have been influenced by race, religion or political benefit, and the lack of limits to the number of Ukrainians being allowed to enter Canada only fuels that argument. The perception is heightened by the fact that crises under way in Africa and elsewhere have gotten no special response at all.

Canada needs a common refugee framework that includes expedited entry and permanent residence, eligibility for supports and services and reunification of extended family members. Fair and equitable responses – for any refugee group – will help people in need of protection to make the transition to a successful life in Canada, no matter how long they choose to stay.

Source: Canada needs a unified approach for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Canada expands settlement support for Ukrainians coming to Canada

Press release confirming these precedents, again drawing contrasts with other groups of refugees:

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that Canada is offering temporary federal support to help Ukrainians settle in their new communities. Settlement Program services, which are typically only available to permanent residents, will soon be extended until March 31, 2023, for temporary residents in Canada eligible under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). This is an extraordinary temporary measure aimed at supporting Ukrainians arriving under this special, accelerated temporary residence pathway. Key services that will be available to Ukrainians as they settle into their new communities include

  • language training
  • information about and orientation to life in Canada, such as help with enrolling children in school
  • information and services to help access the labour market, including mentoring, networking, counselling, skills development and training
  • activities that promote connections with communities
  • assessments of other needs Ukrainians may have and referrals to appropriate agencies
  • services targeted to the needs of women, seniors, youth and LGBTQ2+ persons
  • other settlement supports available through the Settlement Program

Settlement services are delivered through more than 550 agencies across Canada. The Government of Canada will continue working closely with provinces and territories, which are mobilizing to support Ukrainians arriving in Canada. They play a key role in helping temporary residents through settlement and social services.

Starting early April 2022, the Canadian Red Cross, in support of the Government of Canada, will provide arrival services at the Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver international airports. This support includes providing translation services, as well as information in their language of choice to help connect Ukrainians with government and community services.

We have also created a Ukraine Cross-Sectoral Collaboration Governance Table, which will bring together settlement sector leadership, provincial and territorial representatives, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Canadian Red Cross, federal partners and other stakeholders. This table will facilitate communication and collaboration on the Ukraine response and will help to triage logistics for cash donations and volunteers.

IRCC is exempting certain individuals who are low-risk from providing biometrics on a case-by-case basis at the decision maker’s discretion. Biometrics are currently a requirement before arrival in Canada for the majority of Ukrainian nationals. IRCC relies on biometrics for identity management and to ensure the integrity of Canada’s visa programs. The collection of biometrics is an essential component of the security screening process to protect the safety and security of Canadians and Ukrainian nationals when they arrive on Canadian soil. The easing of biometrics requirements will ensure Ukrainian nationals arrive in Canada as quickly and as safely as possible.

Service Canada is working with service delivery partners to provide Ukrainian newcomers with information about Government of Canada programs and services, in particular the social insurance number (SIN), including through SIN clinics delivered at convenient locations. To help connect Ukrainian newcomers with available jobs, the government also launched Job Bank’s Jobs for Ukraine webpage, including a fact sheet in Ukrainian, on March 17, 2022. Since its launch, the site has been viewed close to 96,000 times.

Canadians have been stepping up to help Ukrainians. Together, and with our partners, we will welcome Ukrainians into our communities and provide the supports they need to thrive, until they can safely return home.

Source: Canada expands settlement support for Ukrainians coming to Canada

Canada to offer language training, employment assistance to Ukrainians fleeing war

Significant change, one that continues to blur the previous lines between temporary residents, previously not able to access settlement services, and Permanent Residents who were, as well as highlighting the preferential treatment of Ukrainian nationals compared to others fleeing from their country.

Reality, both policy (the distinction between temporary and permanent has become increasingly arbitrary given that most new Permanent Residents are not former temporary residents) and political (the size and influence of Ukrainian Canadians), results in a major change.

The government will help Ukrainians arriving in Canada find a job and learn to speak English or French, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Monday.

Applications opened March 17 for a program to allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians fleeing war in their home country to come to Canada for up to three years while they decide whether they want to apply for permanent residency.

Those who are approved can work or study in Canada during their stay.

The Immigration Department says nearly 60,000 Ukrainians and their family members have applied for the program so far.

“We’re expanding the federal settlement program to offer key services such as language training, orientation, employment assistance and other supports for Ukrainians as they settle into their new communities,” Fraser said as part of a series of Tweets Monday.

More details are expected Tuesday.

The department estimated it would take about two weeks to process each application, so Ukrainians could begin to arrive under the new program as early as this weekend.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a mass exodus of mainly women and children who fled the violence that erupted one month ago.

The UN refugee agency estimates 3.8 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24.

The temporary program for people who have left Ukraine is unlike the regular process for refugees, which includes help to find housing and community orientation.

Fraser’s department is working on more ways to help settle the potentially thousands of Ukrainians who could come to Canada over the next several weeks.

“We’ll continue to support Ukrainians, before and after they arrive in Canada,” the minister tweeted.

Beginning Friday, help will be available at certain airports to welcome Ukrainians, with assistance and arrival information in their language.

The Ukrainian Congress has called on the government to provide the new arrivals with financial support for food and shelter during a three-month transitional period.

On Monday the government announced a special grant program for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers affected by the invasion.

“We are establishing this measure as another way of demonstrating our support for Ukraine, to help Ukrainian researchers and students working in Canada to continue their important work,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.

“It will also help protect the future growth of the Ukrainian scientific community.”

The program will provide grants of up to $45,000 for Ukrainians who wish to continue their studies and research in Canada, as well as Ukrainians in Canada who can’t return home because of the war.

Source: Canada to offer language training, employment assistance to Ukrainians fleeing war

Immigration Experts Contrast US Support for Ukrainian, Afghan Refugees – Voice of America

As elsewhere:

More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine in the month since Russia’s invasion began. United Nations officials said this kind of exodus has not been seen since World War II. And just as uncommon, some immigration attorneys say, is the quick response from countries welcoming refugees.

Ukrainian refugees are crossing mainly into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. Currently, Poland has taken the majority of refugees. Ukrainians also are trying to reunite with family members in the United States and have even arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border

Given the growing pressure on the Biden administration to find direct paths for displaced Ukrainians to come to the United States, the White House announced Thursday it would welcome as many as 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the eastern European nation.

But is the U.S. accepting Ukrainian refugees differently from Afghan refugees, who similarly fled war in large numbers?

“Absolutely,” said Ally Bolour, an immigration lawyer in California, adding, “I really need to preface by saying that it’s amazing that the U.S. is going to let in supposedly 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.”

But, Bolour said, there is a disparity between the ways the U.S. has welcomed Afghans and Ukrainians, starting with the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation. That program provides legal status in the United States and protection from deportation for up to 18 months. It also provides work permits for people to work legally in the country.

For Ukraine, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced its TPS designation a month after Russia’s invasion.

For Afghanistan, the administration didn’t grant TPS for Afghan refugees living in the United States until about seven months after the U.S. left Afghanistan.

“I’m not criticizing the announcement that Ukrainians are getting in,” Bolour said. “It’s to show the comparison and contrast. It’s just to show that there’s a disparity.”

Humanitarian parole

Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University, agreed that the U.S. was quick to announce TPS for Ukrainian refugees but noted that both Ukrainians and Afghans have to go through the normal immigration system.

“And we don’t have a good system for allowing people to come to the United States quickly,” Yale-Loehr said.

Yale-Loehr said that for Afghan refugees, the humanitarian parole process has been overwhelmed by more than 40,000 applicants, many of whom have been waiting for six months for a decision on their cases.

“I don’t see how the administration is going to be able to speed up processing with the expected flood of humanitarian parole applications from Ukrainians. And if the administration does speed it up for Ukrainians, I think there will be legitimate complaints about why they were able to do it for Ukrainians so much more quickly than for Afghans and people from other countries,” Yale-Loehr said.

Humanitarian parole is special permission given to those hoping to enter the United States under emergency circumstances. While it does not automatically lead to permanent residency, parolees can apply for legal status — either through the asylum process or other forms of sponsorship, if available — once they’re in the U.S.

Refugee resettlement is a complex bureaucratic process with strict vetting to determine whom to accept for resettlement.

But with the White House promise to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the Russian invasion, some experts doubt the administration’s ability to process refugees faster than its current pace.

Yale-Loehr said he does not believe the administration will be able to admit anywhere near 100,000 people in the next six months.

“I think it will take a lot longer than people think to get those people here,” he added.

The process, for both Ukrainians and Afghans, begins at the United Nations, when a person is officially designated a refugee.

Once applicants pass the initial U.N. screening, they are referred to the United States. At this point, the refugees have to pass interviews, medical exams and background checks. Getting the green light to travel to the U.S. can take two to five years.

The number of refugees allowed under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was dramatically cut under the Trump administration, leaving fewer resources within the government and resettlement agencies to handle the significant increase of refugee applications and arrivals.

“The refugee resettlement agencies were devastated by the cuts that the Trump administration made. So, they’re not geared up again to be able to handle large flows of refugees yet. And it often takes a year or more for background checks for normal refugee processing. I don’t know how they’re going to speed that up,” Yale-Loehr said.

This fiscal year’s cap for refugee acceptance is 125,000 but only 6,494 refugees were admitted in the first five months mostly because refugee resettlement agencies are straining to support 76,000 Afghan evacuees, who are not counted toward the refugee cap.

Title 42 exemptions

Some Ukrainians have traveled to Mexico to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border where they hope to receive asylum in the United States.

Under current U.S. immigration law, officials at the border are expected to screen those who say they are afraid to go back to their home country because of persecution or ongoing conflict or a significant chance they might be tortured or killed.

But reaching the border does not guarantee immediate access into the U.S. because of the Title 42 guideline, which is a pandemic-related policy that mandates the rapid expulsion of migrants as a public health precaution. However, the Biden administration has agreed to allow U.S. immigration officials to use discretion toward Ukrainians at the border and decide on a case-by-case basis

“They just made an exception for Ukrainians as part of our foreign policy. I don’t think there’s anything in the legal framework that necessarily would have exempted Ukrainians from Title 42. So, I think they just made a foreign policy decision that they were about to let Ukrainians cross but not Russians or Afghans or people from other countries,” Yale-Loehr said.

As reported by the San Diego Tribune, Ukrainians have walked to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to request asylum and were allowed entry into the country.

Support from the American public for Ukrainian refugees and Afghan refugees also differs.

In March, a YouGov poll of 1,500 Americans showed that 54% of respondents are in favor of admitting Ukrainian refugees and 25% opposed.

For Afghan refugees, about 42% support welcoming Afghans.

Another poll, from Pew Research Center, showed that Democrats are more supportive of admitting Ukrainian refugees to the U.S. than are Republicans: 80% of Democrats said they supported admitting Ukrainian refugees, while for Republicans, the number was 57%.

A State Department spokesperson told VOA via email the U.S. commitment to Afghan refugees will not “wane as we open our doors to Ukrainians.”

“We are proud to have welcomed more than 75,000 Afghans in the United States since Kabul fell in August 2021. We continue to welcome Afghans through Operation Allies Welcome, including more than 600 who arrived within the past two or so weeks. Our commitment to resettling Afghans – particularly those who served on behalf of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan – remains steadfast,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Source: Immigration Experts Contrast US Support for Ukrainian, Afghan Refugees – Voice of America

Streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a ‘two-tiered,’ ‘racialized’ system, opposition says

Interesting that a Conservative MP, Brad Redekopp, raised the issue, given the party’s close connection to Ukrainian Canadians and that 14 percent of his riding, Saskatoon West, is of Ukrainian ancestry:

Opposition parties says the Liberal government’s streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a two-tiered, racialized system that prioritizes Ukrainian immigrants over refugees from other conflict zones, including Afghanistan.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser appeared before the House of Commons immigration committee Thursday, where he faced questions about the differences between the government’s new special program and its dedicated refugee resettlement initiatives. During the meeting, Conservative committee member Brad Redekopp accused the government of prioritizing Ukrainian immigrants over Afghan refugees.

“Under your watch, it seems like you’ve set up a racialized system, a two-tiered system, where white Europeans come in faster than people from Afghanistan. How do you explain that?” Mr. Redekopp asked the minister.

Mr. Fraser rejected Mr. Redekopp’s claim, saying the situation in Ukraine demands a different response. He noted that Ukrainians can find their way to other Western countries for Canadian processing and biometrics screening more easily than Afghans.

“It has more to do with their ability to leave Ukraine, compared to … those who don’t have that ability to leave Afghanistan, than it does a decision by the federal government to be more kind to one group of people than another,” Mr. Fraser said.

He added that the government opted to offer streamlined immigration measures to Ukrainians, rather than a dedicated refugee program, because European counterparts and the Ukrainian Canadian community have indicated that most Ukrainians who come to Canada will want to eventually return home. This is not the case with people coming from Afghanistan, he said, hence the need for a refugee program.

“With respect to Afghanistan, I wish the circumstances were the same. I don’t have the same hope that it will be safe for the people that we are welcoming permanently as refugees to return home one day, despite their potential desire to do so, and that’s allowed us to create difference responses for the unique circumstances.”

Jenny Kwan, NDP immigration critic, also said the government has made it easier for Ukrainians compared with refugees from other countries. She noted what witnesses have told the committee regarding the discrepancy.

“They all said that they support the special measures for Ukraine, but what they’re concerned about is that it’s not being applied elsewhere. All the witnesses agree that government should extend those special immigration measures to other regions also experiencing conflict, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Hong Kong, et cetera,” Ms. Kwan said during the committee meeting.

Mr. Fraser said he wants to see the impact of the special measures for Ukrainians first before considering any similar streamlined programs.

Last year, the government committed to resettling 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan, and so far more than 9,500 have arrived in Canada since August. Much like the Liberal government’s Syrian refugee resettlement program, Afghan refugees have access to federal services and the Resettlement Assistance Program.

More than 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since Jan. 1. Most travelled to Canada under their own devices before the government announced the special immigration measures last week, Mr. Fraser said.

The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel eliminates most of the normal visa requirements and allows Ukrainians to stay in Canada for up to three years if they pass a background check and security screening. The measures are offered through the immigration stream; as a result, Ukrainians are not considered refugees and will not have access to the same support.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress recently called on the federal government to implement departure and arrival plans to assist Ukrainians with travel to Canada, provide financial support for a transitional period and encourage provincial governments to recruit and sponsor displaced people. The UCC is also urging the government to provide funding for settlement agencies, which could help Ukrainians co-ordinate transport, housing and health care and assist with work permit applications.

The government is in the process of setting up a family reunification program that would allow relatives in Canada to sponsor family members from Ukraine to move here permanently. Details are expected in the coming weeks.

Source: Streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a ‘two-tiered,’ ‘racialized’ system, opposition says

Non-white refugees fleeing Ukraine detained in EU immigration facilities

Of note:

Non-white students who have fled Ukraine have been detained by EU border authorities in what has been condemned as “clearly discriminatory” and “not acceptable”.

An investigation by The Independent, in partnership with Lighthouse Reports and other media partners, reveals that Ukraine residents of African origin who have crossed the border to escape the war have been placed in closed facilities, with some having been there for a number of weeks.

At least four students who have fled Vladimir Putin’s invasion are being held in a long-term holding facility Lesznowola, a village 40km from the Polish capital Warsaw, with little means of communication with the outside world and no legal advice.

One of the students said they were stopped by officials as they crossed the border and were given “no choice” but to sign a document they did not understand before they were then taken to the camp. They do not know how long they will be held there.

A Nigerian man currently detained said he was “scared” about what will happen to him after being held in the facility for more than three weeks.

Polish border police have confirmed that 52 third-country nationals who have fled Ukraine are currently being held in detention facilities in Poland.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said they were aware of three other facilities in Poland where people non-Ukrainians who have fled the war are being detained.

Separately, a Nigerian student who fled the Russian invasion is understood to have been detained in Estonia after travelling to the country to join relatives, and is now being threatened with deportation

This is despite a EU protection directive dated 4 March which states that third country nationals studying or working in Ukraine should be admitted to the EU temporarily on humanitarian grounds.

Maria Arena, chair of the EU parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, said: “International students in Ukraine, as well as Ukrainians, are at risk and risking their lives in the country. Detention, deportation or any other measure that does not grant them protection is not acceptable.”

The findings of the investigation, which was carried out in collaboration with Lighhtouse Reports, Spiegal, Mediapart and Radio France, comes after it emerged that scores of Black and Asian refugees fleeing Ukraine were experiencing racial discrimination while trying to make border crossing last month.

‘They took us here to the camp… I’m scared’

Gabriel*, 29, had been studying trade and economics in Kharkov before war broke out. The Nigerian national left the city and arrived at the border on 27 February, where he says his phone was confiscated by Polish border guards and he was given “no option” but to sign a form he did not understand.

“It was written in Polish. I didn’t know what I was signing. I said I wouldn’t sign, but they insisted I signed it and that if not I would go to jail for five months,” he said in a recorded conversation with a Nigerian activist.

The student said he was then taken to court, where there was no interpreter to translate what was being said so that he could understand, and then taken to a detention centre in the small village of Lesznowola.

“It is a closed camp inside a forest,” said Gabriel, speaking from the facility. “There’s no freedom. Some people have been here more than nine months. Some have gone mad. I’m scared.

“We escaped Ukraine very horrible experience, the biggest risk of my life […] Everything was scary and I thought that was the end of it. And now we are in detention.”

Gabriel said there are at least two other Nigerian students in the camp, along with students from Cameroon, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and French African nations.

Guards at the centre said inmates have their mobile phones confiscated, with only those who have a second sim card given a phone without a camera.

Many can only communicate with the outside world via email – and even this is said to be limited to certain times.

Another individual detained at the centre is Paul, 20, a Cameroonian who had been studying management and language at Agrarian University Bila Tserkva in Kyiv for six months when the war started.

His brother, Victor, who is in Cameroon, said Paul had told him that he had been apprehended while crossing the border and that on 2 March, a Polish judge ordered that he be transferred to Lesznowola detention centre.

“From his explanation, the camp doesn’t seem like one that welcomes people fleeing from the war in Ukraine. It’s a camp that has been existing and has people that came to seek for asylum. No one knows why he is being detained,” he said.

Victor said that Paul was given seven days to appeal the decision to detain him, but that he has been unable to access the internet in order to file the appeal in time.

“Since that day he filed the appeal, police and guards try to restrict them. He used to get five minutes of internet but on that day they stopped letting them use the internet. The phone he used to communicate with me was blocked. Maybe it’s because they realised that the issue was taking on a legal dimension,” he said.

‘He’s not allowed to be in Estonia’

This investigation has also heard reports that a Nigerian student, Reuben, is facing deportation from Estonia after being detained having fled the war in Ukraine.

Prior to his arrival in the eastern European country, 32-year-old Reuben emailed the head of International House, a service centre that helps internationals in Estonia to communicate with the state, explaining that he wanted to join his cousin living in the country.

The head of the organisation Leonardo Ortega responded by letter that he may relocate to Estonia.

Reuben, who attended Bila Tserkva National Agrarian University in Ukraine and is married to a Ukrainian woman, arrived on 9 March through Poland with his cousin Peter.

After being delayed for three hours at the Estonia border, the pair were escorted to a police station, according to Peter, 30, who has an Estonian residency permit.

He said three police officers escorted his cousin away with his luggage and said he would be detained for two days themn deported back to Nigeria.

The officers reportedly advised that the 32-year-old would be banned from entering any Schengen country for the next five years; his phone was confiscated and he’s been in detention since.

“A few officers said ‘he’s not allowed to be in Estonia’. Even after asking for international protection, we were told that my cousin needs to have a lawyer to fight his case, but most of the lawyers I initially contacted refused to take my cousin’s case,” said Peter.

“He received an email in advance saying it was okay to come – and after everything we went through, the next thing they want to deport and ban him for five years. I don’t know why deportation came into the picture.”

Criney, a London-based campaigner who has been supporting the affected students on a voluntary basis, said there was an “emerging pattern of arbitrary detention of students coming out of Ukraine fleeing the war”.

“There are other cases in Austria and Germany with regards to students who have applied for asylum or asked for permits to remain,” the campaigner said.

Detained ‘for the purpose of identity verification’

The EU directive on 4 March aims to help refugees fleeing the invasion to stay for at least one year in one country and also have access to the labour market and education.

It states that it also applies to “nationals of third countries other than Ukraine residing legally in Ukraine who are unable to return in safe and durable conditions to their country or region of origin”.

This can include third-country nationals who were studying or working in Ukraine, it states, adding that this cohort should “in any event be admitted into the union on humanitarian grounds”, without requiring valid travel documents, to ensure “safe passage with a view to returning to their country or region of origin”.

Michał Dworczyk, a top aide to the Polish prime minister, said when war broke out that “everyone escaping the war will be received in Poland, including people without passports”.

But the Polish government has admitted that it is sending some of this cohort to closed facilities once they cross the border.

In a tweet on 2 March, the Polish ministry of internal affairs and administration said: “Ukrainians are fleeing the war, people of other nationalities are also fleeing. All those who do not have documents and cannot prove Ukrainian citizenship are carefully checked. If there is a need, they go to closed detention centres.”

In a letter to a member of the EU Parliament, Poland’s border police admitted that 52 third country nationals who had fled from Ukraine had been taken to closed detention centres in the first three weeks of the war.

The letter stated that this was necessary “to carry out administrative proceedings for granting international protection or issuing a decision on obliging a foreigner to return”.

Ryan Schroeder, press officer at the IOM, said the organisation was aware of three other facilities in Poland where “third-country nationals arriving from Ukraine, who lack proper travel documentation, are brought to for the purpose of identity verification”.

The Polish government, the Polish police and the Estonian authorities declined to comment on the allegations.

A spokesperson for the Polish border force said it “couldn’t give any detail about the procedures on foreigners because of the protection on personal data”, adding that it is “the court which takes the decision each time to place people in guarded centres for foreigners”.

‘Clearly unsatisfactory and discriminatory’

Steve Peers, a professor of EU law in the UK, says that even if member states choose not to apply temporary protection to legal residents of Ukraine, they should give them “simplified entry, humanitarian support and safe passage to their country of origin”.

“In my view this is obviously a case where students could not have applied for a visa and might not meet the other usual criteria to cross the external borders, yet there are overwhelming reasons to let them cross the border anyway on humanitarian grounds. There are no good grounds for immigration detention in the circumstances,” he added.

Jeff Crisp, a former head of policy, development and evaluation at UNHCR, said it was “clearly unsatisfactory and discriminatory” for third country nationals who have fled from Ukraine to be held in detention centres in EU states, “not least because of the trauma they will have experienced in their efforts to leave Ukraine and find safety elsewhere”.

He added: “They should be released immediately and treated on an equal basis with all others who have been forced to leave Ukraine.”

It comes after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned this week that, although he had been “humbled” by the outpouring of support seen by communities welcoming Ukrainian refugees, many minorities – often foreigners who had been studying or working there – had described a very different experience.

“We also bore witness to the ugly reality, that some Black and Brown people fleeing Ukraine – and other wars and conflicts around the world – have not received the same treatment as Ukrainian refugees,” he said.

“They reported disturbing incidents of discrimination, violence, and racism. These acts of discrimination are unacceptable, and we are using our many channels and resources to make sure that all people are protected equally.”

Mr Grandi appealed to countries, in particular those neighbouring Ukraine, to continue to allow entry to anyone fleeing the conflict “without discrimination on grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin and regardless of their immigration status”.

*Names have been changed

Source: Non-white refugees fleeing Ukraine detained in EU immigration facilities

It’s not just Ukrainians looking to come to Canada. A flood of disgusted Russians are asking too

Of note. Will be interesting to see if there is a surge in web interest and applications from Russia, with a likely brain drain from Russia:

Shortly after the Kremlin invaded, Toronto immigration lawyer Lev Abramovich offered free legal advice for displaced Ukrainians seeking temporary shelter in Canada. He got tons of requests for assistance, many of them from a less-expected avenue: Russia.

Through Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and email, inquiries began pouring in from Ukrainians, yes, but also from Russians looking to escape Russia and come to Canada — some say they are disgusted by President Vladimir Putin’s ruthless aggression while others are deeply concerned about the collapsing economy and future of the country under an increasingly authoritative regime.

“This war was shocking for many Russians. I’ve seen the measures announced by the government with respect to the criminalization of speech and measures designed to stop independent thinking and stop independent reporting. Really, they’re draconian laws designed to quell unrest,” said Abramovich, who is of Russian descent and speaks the language.

“And then the sanctions started being introduced. A segment of the population, which is sort of younger and educated, realize that Russia is increasingly getting close to sort of North Korea and the level of isolation. There’s fear. There’s anxiety.”

Immigration lawyers are reporting a surge of interests among Russians about coming to Canada as students, foreign workers or permanent residents. Some lawyers representing already pending immigration applicants, meanwhile, are concerned about how their files would be affected by Canada and Russia’s now-strained relationship.

Polina Elizarova, another Toronto immigration lawyer whose firm has been helping Ukrainians navigate the immigration system, said she has received dozens of inquiries so far from Russians in Russia as well as those now abroad in Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and Mexico, where they don’t require visas and can stay temporarily.

Most inquirers are looking for fast-track options, which is not easy because applicants are all subject to biometrics, language test and background checks.

So far, Ottawa has not followed some European countries such as Greece, Iceland and Latvia by ceasing to accept visa applications from Russians or even revoking their residency permits, said Elizarova. However, Canadian visa processing takes time and there are plenty of logistical obstacles, given the limited flights out of Russia as well as the economic sanctions that have made e-payments and transfers of funds to simply hire an immigration lawyer here impossible.

“The situation in Russia is changing very fast. The economy is collapsing. People who have savings in Russian currency are losing money every day,” said Elizarova, who is Russian but whose husband is Ukrainian.

In recent years, Canada has not received a lot of permanent residents from Russia — about 2,200 a year between 2015 and 2019, before the pandemic — because the economy there was improving steadily.

Now, with Russian banks being banned from international money and security transfers through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications system, many global companies including Mastercard and Visa, have suspended and withdrawn from operations in Russia.

“Three months ago, there were McDonald’s in Russia and whatever franchises and all the big businesses and consulting firms had people there. Three months later, things are closing up,” said Toronto immigration lawyer David Garson, who has also received a rising number of inquiries from Russians about coming to Canada.

“People are upset about the morality of the situation and as well, the long-term effect on their country, on their reputation and their ability to function. They now have come from a country that is, at this point, an outlier in world opinion. Your future may not be great.”

Garson agrees with his colleagues that there just isn’t a fast way out for the Russians, who need to get a visa to visit any western country, even public opponents of the Russian invasion, who could make a refugee claim on the grounds that they’re persecuted for their political opinions or if they refused to serve in the military and participate in the war.

“Not only do Russian nationals need a visa, they need biometrics and background checks. I’m assuming the background checks will be very closely monitored now,” Garson said. 

“Canada is going to be extremely careful with regard to processing and the background checks will be enhanced for Russia.”

In the long run, as a result of the country’s military aggression in Ukraine, he expects more skilled Russians will look to leave — a brain drain.

“It depends on how the war goes and if Russia is going to be governed in a different manner or if there’s peace made, then we have a tendency, as time goes on, to be forgetful and forgiving,” he said. “But if this continues and is expanded, it will be an issue.”

Just last week, Abramovich had a successful Russian businesswoman in his office for consultation and the woman here on a visitor visa was exploring her options to stay in Canada.

“They’re living in an increasingly authoritarian system with a very stagnant economy. I think the brain drain could be quite significant. And ultimately, how many people leave will depend on their ability to actually get a visa,” said Abramovich, whose immigration inquiries from Russian nationals have seen a tenfold increase the last couple of weeks.

“Many Russians have suffered as a result of this war, as a result of Putin’s actions. There’s a lot of animosity toward Russia and some of which translates to ordinary Russians. People who do not support this regime are trapped.”

Source: It’s not just Ukrainians looking to come to Canada. A flood of disgusted Russians are asking too

Ukrainians fleeing war can stay in Canada for three years, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says

Including for some of the messaging and commentary:

The federal government has extended the amount of time Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia can stay in Canada through a streamlined visa program.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser had previously said Ukrainians would be allowed to stay for two years. But in announcing the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel on Thursday, he said Ukrainians and their immediate family members of any nationality will be able to stay in Canada for three years.

“The stay was increased from two years to three, to give Ukrainian nationals the flexibility to stay longer, should they choose to do so,” Aidan Strickland, a spokesperson for the Immigration Minister, said in a statement.

Under the visa program, Ukrainians can leave and return to Canada any time while their visa is valid, Ms. Strickland said.

Overseas applicants will have to apply online for a Canadian visitor visa and provide their biometric data – which includes fingerprints and a photo.

Ukrainian workers, students and visitors, as well as their family members already in Canada, can either apply to extend their visitor status or work permit for three years, apply for a new work or study permit, or extend their existing permit.

All application fees are being waived.

On the shift to three years, Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said in a statement, “We view it positively.”

But Mr. Michalchyshyn said there’s a need for additional funding and support to make the transition to Canada work.

“Our community is committed to working with the government to welcome and support these Ukrainians,” he said.

The UN refugee agency says three million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

This week, Canada’s border agency said 3,368 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada in that time.

Meanwhile, the federal government is under pressure to lower barriers for Ukrainians coming to Canada via such measures as lifting visa requirements and co-ordinating a special airlift from the region.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not ruled out the airlift option. “If there is sufficient demand that requires us to do more like sending airlifts, we will look at that,” Mr. Trudeau said during a news conference this week.

Earlier this month, Mr. Fraser said the government has looked at waiving visa requirements, but decided against the option because it would take 12 to 14 weeks to make the change.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, the party’s opposition critic, said he was happy for the people of Ukraine that the minister was able to deliver on his timeline announcing the launch of a new temporary resident pathway.

“However, I continue to share the frustration I hear from far too many immigrants facing our broken immigration system’s endless backlogs, red tape and inflexibility; including Afghan refugees who are still waiting on previous special immigration programs promised by this government to fast track them into Canada,” Mr. Hallan said in a statement.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the extension of the program to three years is a positive development.

“I would welcome that change so that people would have a longer time to contemplate their plans, and whether or not they want to stay in Canada or return to Ukraine when the conflict is over,” Ms. Kwan said in an interview.

However, Ms. Kwan said she is concerned that the government still requires people to go through a visa process, with the challenge of securing access to sites to provide their biometric data.

She said visa-free travel would be the best approach for the government to pursue because it would allow Ukrainians to fly to Canada without going through this process.

Ms. Kwan noted that, for example, Ireland implemented visa-free travel for Ukrainians within a few days.

Source: Ukrainians fleeing war can stay in Canada for three years, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says