Canada will send up to 150 troops on a humanitarian mission to Poland to support its massive influx of Ukrainians who fled Russia’s invasion of their country, defense minister Anita Anand announced Thursday.
With more than half of Ukraine’s over 4.7 million asylum seekers having gone to neighboring Poland, the NATO ally is facing a refugee crisis and has asked for assistance.
Only 100 of the total number of troops assigned to the mission will be deployed immediately, Anand told a news conference at Trenton Air Force Base in Ontario, adding that they would “assist Poland’s efforts to support and care for Ukrainians fleeing violence.”
The soldiers, who are fluent in Ukrainian, are to be sent to frontline reception centres across Poland to “provide general support, spiritual services and limited medical care,” she said.
They will also support a Poland-led humanitarian task force, and help resettle Ukrainians in Canada.
Ottawa last month said it would take in an unlimited number of Ukrainian refugees, and has so far approved 30,000 applications under new special immigration rules for Ukrainians.
But only 12,000 Ukrainians have landed in Canada under the measure and other migrant programs since the beginning of the year, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said recently.
In its budget last week, the Canadian government also earmarked an additional Can$1 billion (US$800 million) in loans for Ukraine through the International Monetary Fund and Can$500 million (US$400 million) in military aid.