Chris Selley: Ukrainian refugees would do well to flee to more serious countries than ours

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It’s unclear how long it will take the federal government’s glacial immigration bureaucracy to process their applications.

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As Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in late April 1975, tens of thousands of South Vietnamese rushed to planes and helicopters, or tried their luck on decrepit and incredibly overcrowded ships. in the South China Sea. Under American escort, these ships arrived in convoy in the Philippines from May 5; from there, most of the refugees were flown to Guam for processing. The first of what would become more than 100,000 “boat people” to arrive in Canada landed in Vancouver on May 6, just seven days after South Vietnam’s unconditional surrender.

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Twenty years earlier and 9,000 kilometers away, on November 4, 1956, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the student-led revolution that had begun in earnest two weeks earlier. An estimated 200,000 Hungarians fled across the Austrian and Yugoslav borders, of whom about 40,000 eventually ended up in Canada. The first of them arrived in Montreal on November 17, just a week after the revolutionaries conceded defeat.

On Thursday’s edition of CBC’s Power and Politics, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser explained why Canada cannot open its doors immediately, even temporarily, to tens of thousands of Ukrainians, mainly women and children, fleeing Vladimir Putin’s insane bombings.

“I asked myself: ‘Could we stand up and speed up the process of resettling the refugees?’ And the answer (from his department) was no, not in a timely manner,” Fraser said. “My next reaction was to wonder if we could actually issue a visa waiver” – that’s what the New Democrats, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois are calling for. “What we learned very quickly was that it would have required some regulatory changes and some changes to our IT systems in three different departments, as well as potential changes to systems used by airlines, and the timeline that we understand could be workable for this. would be 12 to 14 weeks.

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Fraser mentioned the risk of pro-Russian undesirables traveling to Canada. It’s a plausible risk – although that sort of thing doesn’t seem to hamper Hungarian or Vietnamese resettlements, even at the height of Cold War paranoia. But let’s set aside for now the wisdom of allowing visa-free travel for Ukrainians and consider the proposed explanation for why it can’t be done.

Currently, to come to Canada, Ukrainians need a sticker in their passport to board a plane to Canada and to clear customs upon arrival. The proposed change is to stop requiring the sticker. It would be telling airlines to allow people with Ukrainian passports to board flights to Canada and telling our border guards to allow those people free passage.

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  1. Ukrainian refugees arrive in Budapest, Hungary, March 3, 2022. Hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring countries after Russia launched a full-scale invasion a week ago.

    Less talk, more action on visas for war refugees, urges Canada

  2. EU prepares for millions of Ukrainian refugees

We can all agree that in total this would mean less work for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) rather than more. Airlines and airports have been dealing with ever-changing requirements for travelers for the past two years – requirements far more complex than the presence or absence of a sticker. Canada’s immigration bureaucracy wants us to believe that it could somehow take 14 bloody weeks to stop doing something. The new minister not only seems to believe in it; he seems to agree! The decidedly icy pace of work at IRCC should come as no surprise to any Canadian news consumer. But it’s no less pathetic to be entirely predictable. (Asked about the logistical challenges of dropping visa requirements, an IRCC spokesperson referred to the need for “consultation and coordination with our North American security partners,” in addition to the regulatory changes needed to IRCC, Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada.)

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In contrast, it has been remarkable in recent weeks to see Putin’s invasion turn Western nations upside down and reconsider long-standing comforting truths. Former President Barack Obama looks like a fitting heel for his smirking retort to Mitt Romney, who argued during the 2012 presidential campaign that Russia was America’s biggest security threat: “The 1980s call for asking the return of their foreign policy.”

Current President Joe Biden must now mop that up.

German delegates to the United Nations look equally foolish mocking former President Donald Trump when he warned in 2018 that “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.” heading”. Now he is changing course, reconsidering his still bizarre decision to move away from nuclear.

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For years, Canadian Liberals have rolled their eyes at the idea that Canada should favor imports of oil and gas from democratic countries. Now, suddenly, ending our already meager imports of Russian crude oil and refined petroleum products is the least we can do. (And we still import Saudi oil…why?)

Somehow, we need this sudden re-examination of long-standing comforting truths to break into Canada’s ossified immigration bureaucracy. We need a minister who will not take no for an answer. It will be difficult, “no” being the default position of the IRCC bureaucracy on just about everything. But our so-called reputation on the world stage as a beacon for the downtrodden cannot survive in a world where Putin has suddenly knocked the scales off our allies’ eyes. We are a nation struggling to do almost literally anything big or unexpected. Somehow that has to change.

For the record, IRCC announced this week that it will be introducing two new “immigration streams” for Ukrainians, with details to come, “including processing times, … in the days and weeks to come.” Ukrainians seeking refuge would be wise to read “weeks” as “several months” and look for better performing countries willing to accept them.

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