Calm has returned among Namibian students who made their way out of Ukraine and are now assured that the government will pay for their flight tickets back home.
Etuweda Hiwete, a third year medical student at the National Pirogova Memorial Medical University in Vinnitsa, Ukraine told the Windhoek Observer that Namibian diplomats have been dispatched to the border since Saturday to ensure the safe exit of every Namibian.
“We thank God for our lives that my group acted fast. There were people who got out late and it was chaotic at the border. You can imagine a country of 42 million people and women and children are supposed to get out of the country and just leave the men. The officials have been there and they are really trying. Most of us are here in Poland, Some are in Romania, Slovakia and some in Hungary. We are safe now, we’re just waiting for the government to finalize our flight tickets because they confirmed that they would cover the cost. We’re just waiting for them to let us know when we will fly home,” Hiwete said.
The Executive Director in the Ministry of International Relations and Corporation, Penda Naanda said that in total, 114 Namibians, including 93 students were in Ukraine.
The minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah today in parliament said that of the 93 Namibian students, 36 are funded by NSFAF, while 56 are privately funded. 21 other Namibians in Ukraine are either working there, married to Ukrainian nationals and former students who opted to remain in Ukraine.
Poland will only accommodate foreigners for 15 days and the Namibian government as of today started looking for a place to welcome the returnees, Netumbo said.
As of today, 34 Namibians have arrived in Poland, Romania, and Hungary, with Poland hosting the majority, where the Government of Namibia supported by Navachab Mine are providing the necessary support, while Hungary has welcomed one student and Romania five.
“The Ministry is in consultation with all stakeholders, including the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) as well as the Ministries of Higher Education and Vocational Training; Finance; Home Affairs and Immigration and Safety and Security, and Defence to ensure the safe repatriation of all Namibian nationals back home. We would like to urge all Namibian nationals that are stranded to inform the relevant authorities accordingly. Equally the parents or relatives of stranded Namibians are requested to assist MIRCO with all relevant information,” Naanda said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the African Union has condemned the discriminatory treatment of Africans at the border crossings out of Ukraine. It was reported that border officials were giving preferential treatment to Caucasians to cross the border into Poland. A statement by the Chair of the AU and President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall, as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat said that they are closely following the developments in Ukraine and are particularly disturbed by reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety, adding that Africans too have the right to cross international borders during conflict and should enjoy the same rights to cross to safety from the conflict in war-ridden Ukraine, notwithstanding their nationality or racial identity.
“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment are shockingly racist and in breach of international law,” the statement reads. The Chairpersons also called on all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity, while commending the efforts by African Union member countries and their embassies in neighbouring European countries assisting Africans in crossing the Ukrainian border to safety.