About four Ukrainian refugees have been arriving in Kamloops weekly since war began on Feb. 24 when neighbouring Russia invaded the country.
The conflict has displaced millions of Ukrainians and Canada has been accepting those fleeing under its Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET), the program defining refugees as temporary residents who are able to work and live in Canada for up to three years.
However, the program excludes refugee resettlement groups, making it difficult to know precisely how many people are arriving, as they are doing so on their own.
In March, Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS) launched a grassroots effort in connection with various groups to assist and liaise with what is believed to be most of the Ukrainian refugees who have taken up residence in the city.
According to KIS executive director France Lamontagne, the organization is aware of about 61 displaced Ukrainians residing in the Kamloops area to date — including three families in living in nearby Sun Peaks.
She said the first refugees began arriving in Kamloops on March 18, noting KIS is expecting to greet another four people in each of the next two weeks.
“That’s pretty much the average every week we’ve been helping, four to six people,” Lamontagne said.
Of the Ukrainians who have arrived, 41 are women and 20 are men, with those in the teenage and middle age ranges the largest demographic. There are five children ages six and under, 15 people ages seven to 17 and six people who are ages 18 to 24. Nine people are between the ages of 25 and 34, another 19 are between the ages of 35 and 54 and seven people are over the age of 55.
Most have come in family groups — about 14, which is just shy of the 15 families Lamontagne expected would arrive in Kamloops all year.
“We’re going to get more than 15 families here, for sure,” Lamontagne said.
Lamontagne believes KIS is connecting with most, if not all, of the Ukrainian refugees coming to Kamloops, noting they work well with TRU World and a local Ukrainian society that has inter-related Ukrainian Facebook groups.
“I think the word is out,” she said. “People are coming to us because we have the team that can help them the most.”