29 more Ukrainian refugees en route to St. John's

·3 min read
A plane carrying more than 160 Ukrainian refugees landed in St. John's on May 9. Another 29 Ukrainian refugees are heading to St. John's via Halifax. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
A plane carrying more than 160 Ukrainian refugees landed in St. John's on May 9. Another 29 Ukrainian refugees are heading to St. John's via Halifax. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)

Another group of Ukrainian refugees is heading to Newfoundland and Labrador, and should arrive in St. John's in the next few days.

They flew out of Warsaw early Thursday morning, as part of a group of 300 refugees en route to Halifax aboard the last of three federally chartered flights.

Newfoundland and Labrador's Immigration Minister, Gerry Byrne, said 29 of those refugees will make their way to St. John's from there on a free WestJet flight.

He said Ottawa filled the plane in Warsaw by random draw, but the province's Ukrainian Family Support Desk was able to get 29 people who wanted to come to Newfoundland and Labrador on the flight.

"We were on the ground to fill up any empty seats that we could possible fill," he said.

According to the United Nations, as of May 24, 6.6 million Ukrainians had fled the country, more than half of them to neighbouring Poland.

The N.L. government launched its support desk in March, establishing a satellite office in Warsaw to help Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks resettle in the province. The office worked with the incoming Ukrainians to sort out details like obtaining passports, visas and transportation.

"We knew that the best way to treat and to assist Ukrainian refugees that were very vulnerable, that had many many questions, many uncertainties in their life — the only way that that could be dealt with properly and fairly and responsibly was to develop direct relationships with them as they took the decision as to whether or not they would travel 3,000 miles to a place they … were uncertain of or might not have known," said Byrne.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

He said a team with the support desk was on hand to meet the refugees in Halifax to help them get hotel rooms, and arrange travel to St. John's.

"We're the only province that have really kind of established that as a service. Because these are very vulnerable people, so we recognize that they, they have a lot of questions, there's a lot of uncertainty that they face," said Byrne.

The first planeload of refugees to Newfoundland and Labrador — this one chartered by the province — arrived at the St. John's International Airport at the beginning of May, carrying 166 refugees, including 55 children, seeking shelter from the war.

They were met by politicians, including Premier Andrew Furey, local employers and non-profit groups like the Association for New Canadians.

Byrne said there are 189 Ukrainian refugees in Newfoundland and Labrador, and these next 29 should arrive over the weekend, starting Friday.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said 115,000 Ukrainian refugees have been approved to come to Canada and 32,000 are already in Canada.

Jennifer L'Esperance, senior executive director of immigration and population growth with Nova Scotia's Department of Labour Skills and Immigration, said the flight includes people of all ages.

"There'll be infants as well as people who are a bit older and need some physical assistance," she said. "And of course they're bringing their pets, too. So we're expecting some dogs, cats and even maybe a fish on the flight."

Byrne said these latest 29 won't be the last Ukrainian refugees to come to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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