Ukrainian children stuck in Mexico after visa issues will be able to return to Canada soon, guardian says

Ukrainian children stuck in Mexico after visa issues will be able to return to Canada soon, guardian says

The legal guardian of three Ukrainian children who became stuck in Mexico during a trip, learned Thursday she will be able to get the kids back to Canada where they fled during the war, after CBC News made multiple inquiries with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Olga Ostapiv said immigration officials instructed her to take the children and their passports to Mexico City, where the paperwork will be processed. She said she now hopes to have the children back in Edmonton early next week.

This is a breaking news update. The earlier story is below.

Three Ukrainian children who fled to Canada after the start of the war with Russia are now stuck in Mexico — unable to come home because of visa complications.

Olga Ostapiv took in the children — a nine-year-old boy and two 12-year-old girls — and became their legal guardian because she wanted to help people from her homeland. One of the girls is her sister’s granddaughter while the other two are the children of family friends.

The children arrived in Canada in May and she said they had been adjusting to their new lives in Edmonton.

“They are very sweet, good behaviour kids,” Ostapiv said.

Her family was slated to take a trip to Mexico, postponed because of the pandemic, and Ostapiv said she could not bear the thought of leaving the three kids behind, so they accompanied her to Puerto Vallarta.

The family arrived in Mexico on Dec. 11 and Ostapiv said the kids were happy and enjoying themselves.

The three children - Maksym, Yuliia and Anastasiia - eat ice cream in a supplied photo from Olga Ostapiv.

Maksym, Yuliia and Anastasiia arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Dec. 11 for a vacation with Ostapiv, their legal guardian. They have been unable to return to Canada because of visa issues. (Submitted by Olga Ostapiv)

But when they tried to board the flight back on Dec. 18, Ostapiv said she was told they could not return to Canada.

The children arrived on Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel visas (CUAET), but the type of CUAET visa they received only allows for a one-time entry into Canada, something Ostapiv did not realize.

“It make[s] me sick,” Ostapiv said.

Ostapiv submitted new visa applications for the three children on Dec. 22 but there was no response. The children were stuck in Mexico, moving from hotel to hotel as they await word on their fate.

“Every day, twice a day, I’m going to my computer. I’m checking. Maybe it’s some news,” she said.

Two months and counting

Ostapiv initially stayed with the children but as the issue dragged on, she became desperate and even considered sending them back to Ukraine.

“When I told this [to] the kids, they [were] looking at me, ‘Please don’t send us back home,'” Ostapiv said.

She changed her mind and stayed with them until the beginning of January, when she had to go back to Edmonton for work.

Another relative is now with the children.

“I’m doing my best to bring them home … to fix my mistake,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

“It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s only my fault.”

Olga Ostapiv sits in her house in Edmonton as she speaks with CBC News.

Ostapiv took in the three children after the start of Ukraine’s war with Russia. They arrived in Edmonton in May. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

CBC News spoke with the children over video chat in Puerto Vallarta.

“We really want to return to Canada because it is very difficult for us,” said 12-year-old Yuliia.

“We miss our friends and family,” said 12-year-old Anastasiia.

Frustration from those helping

Mike Thomas is a Ukrainian relief organizer who has been helping Ostapiv with the situation.

Thomas said he has been talking to MPs and reaching out to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on the family’s behalf. He is frustrated by the inaction.

“Enough is enough, you know? We realize there’s a mistake made and everybody understands that,” Thomas said.

“But we have a five-minute solution to this problem … The minister signs a letter, they can issue a travel document instantaneously and [the kids] could be on the next flight home.”

Fraser was not available for an interview. His spokesperson noted that Fraser is not able to speak to specific cases.

“The time it takes to process an application varies according to a number of factors and more complex applications may take longer. We continue to process applications as quickly as possible,” reads a statement provided to CBC News from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

As for Ostapiv, that wait is unbearable.

“When I am looking [at a] calendar, it is two months. But my feeling, it is like forever,” she said.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Kraken Onion Market