By Rohan George, Canada Immigration Lawyer
After his visit to the UK, Rohan George decided to use this opportunity to travel to Poland, where he offered his support to help the Ukrainian refugees there navigate the specially set up Canadian support program. Here are his thoughts on his experience in Poland and what he could learn himself.
Poland was never a place I planned to visit.
It was never on my bucket list (or any list).
I ended up there on a last-minute decision to travel after the conference — simply because it cost less to travel across Europe than it was for a full tank of gas in Toronto.
I decided on Poland because I’d read that most of the displaced Ukrainians would end up there. Out of the 2 million in Poland I assumed most would transit through Krakow since it was only a few hours drive from there to the Ukrainian border.
Like I said Poland was never a place I planned to visit — but Krakow caught me by surprise.
Krakow is one the largest cities in Poland but without the concrete jungle feel of most urban centres.
It’s downtown core (Main Market Square) used to be the Kingdom of Poland’s main market 800 years ago and has maintained that history.
Now it’s one of the oldest and largest public squares in Europe.
But why was I looking for Ukrainians in Krakow’s Main Market Square?
Not everyone’s idea of spontaneous travel I’m sure.
For me, Canada’s CUAET program (special emergency travel authorization for Ukrainians) is the gold standard for responding to people in crisis.
There are a few key service/policy/legal innovations that we can be proud of as Canadians (that’s a series in itself), and CUAET is one of them.
It puts dignity first and politics second.
CUAET pulls out all the stops in terms of cutting out barriers that would prevent a person in crisis from accessing it. It was launched within a short window. and whatever shortcomings it may have — it’s a strong example of how we can (and should) respond to people in trouble.
But it didn’t look like too many people were coming to Canada. After arriving in Krakow and writing to the Mayor’s office to seek permission for an info session at the square, I found out that Newfoundland had actually set up an office in Warsaw the capital and had chartered planes to bring Ukrainians over.
But despite these efforts, the uptake of the program seemed significantly low (data released May 29, 2022 confirms the same). Out of almost 13M displaced, 35,000 doesn’t seem like much. So I just wanted to understand why.
I went as a learner not as an expert.
I learned many Ukrainians had little understanding of the benefits of the Canadian program. Neither did the Mayor’s office for the city welcoming the most Ukrainians in the world.
I reached out to Relocate as I was aware of their previous efforts to support Ukrainians through their UkrPass initiative. The idea of a pop-up shop with public legal education re the program took shape.
The rest is for another day.
Get More Information About Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel Program
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