Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands hit by huge car insurance rates

St. John’s-

Ukrainians who fled the Russian invasion of their country and arrived in Newfoundland are being asked to pay thousands of dollars for car insurance, and advocates say the high rates are complicating refugees’ efforts to save themselves. settle in the province.

The Canadian Press viewed two auto insurance quotes provided to Ukrainian refugees in St. John’s – one for $5,592 a year and another for $8,288 a year. Meanwhile, the average annual rate in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2020 was just over $1,200, according to the General Insurance Statistical Agency.

Adilya Dragan, a liaison for many of the 166 Ukrainian refugees who recently landed in the province, says high rates are a priority for many who have chosen to settle in the St. John’s area.

“It’s really a lot,” Dragan, originally from Russia, said in an interview on Tuesday. Most landed jobs earning between $15 and $20 an hour, putting high insurance rates out of reach, she added.

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first country to bring Ukrainians to Canada. The province opened an office in Warsaw, Poland, in March to help those fleeing Russian attacks, and it was the first province to charter a plane carrying refugees to Canada. This flight landed May 9 in St. John’s.

Dragan said some Ukrainians — especially those who don’t speak English — have only been able to find jobs outside the city center. Others have found jobs in St. John’s but cannot find housing in the area’s tight rental market, she said. The vacancy rate in St. John’s was 3.1% in October 2021, down from 7.5% the previous year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Dragan drives a 31-year-old Ukrainian man to work every weekday because he cannot afford insurance, she said. He works in the construction industry in Conception Bay South, about 30 kilometers southwest of St. John’s.

Monica Abdelkader, director of settlement services for the province’s Association for New Canadians, says she agrees that high insurance rates are putting pressure on the need for affordable housing in the St. John’s area. Abdelkader, like Dragan, notes that there are many single mothers in the group who will also have to pay for summer camps and daycare as schools are closed for the summer.

She says sky-high insurance rates are not unique to Ukrainian refugees.

“It’s a problem that has plagued newcomers for a long time,” Abdelkader said in an interview on Tuesday. “A lot of work has been done in this area, surveys have been done in the past, and nothing has really changed.”

Refugees arrive without Canadian driver’s licenses, from countries where it is likely difficult or impossible to obtain driving records and other documents, she said, adding that costs tend to come down a bit. after their first 90 days in the country, and then again after a year. .

But in the meantime, Abdelkader said, newcomers are starting from scratch and often on their own to find a solution. In the case of Ukrainians in Newfoundland and Labrador, some employers have raised refugee wages to help pay for insurance until rates are more manageable, she added.

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said insurance companies were not required by the province or its public utilities commission to charge such high rates.

“The government is calling on the insurance industry in our province to do like the rest of the province, which is to come up with solutions and not use this as an opportunity to increase revenue,” he said. Byrne said in an interview Tuesday.

The province is working on a way to obtain Newfoundland and Labrador driver’s licenses for refugees with permits in Ukraine, and an announcement is expected in the coming days, he added.

Amanda Dean, Atlantic vice president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said it could be “helpful.”

She encouraged Ukrainians and insurance brokers to call the office to voice their concerns. Ukrainians should also let brokers know why certain documents or driving history might be missing, Dean said, so brokers can then explain the situation to underwriters — who ultimately decide prices.

“We’re having an awful lot of conversations about this, this same subject and others right now,” Dean said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s something new, and we absolutely want to work with brokers and the government.”


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 8, 2022.

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Justin D. O'Neill