INTERVIEW: Egyptians in Ukraine are waiting for a way back home

Zeinab El-Gundy , Friday 25 Feb 2022

Hundreds of Egyptian expats living or studying in Ukraine are waiting to be evacuated from the country soon amid the unknown following the Russian invasion, Ali Farouk , the head of Egyptian community in Ukraine, told Ahram Online on Thursday.

Traffic jams are seen as people leave the city of Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. AP

“We are asking to speed up the evacuation of the Egyptians, including students, as their parents are in complete panic and want their children to return back,” Farouk said.

As Russia began an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday morning, the Ukrainian government closed the country's airspace to civilian flights temporarily.

According to Farouk, there were 5,000 or 6,000 Egyptian nationals in Ukraine, including residents and students, but the number went down to 4,500 after the escalation between Russian and Ukraine in the past few weeks, 

“There are about 2,000 Egyptian students studying in Ukraine,” Farouk explained to Ahram Online.

Many Egyptian are studying in Ukraine’s universities, especially medicine.

Farouk added that the rest of the remaining 2,500 Egyptians live across the country with their families.

“Some are living in cities near the borders of Belarus while others are near Crimea,” he said.

Farouk said he hopes that after at least 48 hours things will be clearer as well as calmer and an evacuation route would be opened.

Farouk expressed to Ahram Online his concern that there was a group of Egyptian students studying medicine in the city of Kharkiv, which is one of the hot zones witnessing military actions.

Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, was hit by airstrikes on Thursday by the Russian Air Forces.

So far, there have been no reported casualties among Egyptians in the country.

Farouk said that fear and panic were felt by all people whether Ukrainians or foreign on Thursday morning after the start of the  Russian invasion, but things calmed down throughout the day.

“Citizens went to petrol stations and supermarkets to get all their needs for fear of things escalating,” he said, adding that there were traffic jams across the country as people began to rush from one city to another.

Things calmed down relatively when the 7pm-10am curfew imposed by the Ukrainian government went into effect on Thursday evening as part of the state of emergency that was declared earlier in the day, Farouk added.

A group of Egyptian students in Ukraine launched a hashtag “#Egyptian_students_in_Ukraine” that trended for several hours in Egypt as they asked the Egyptian government to evacuate them.

Some of the students who shared the hashtag said they could not leave the country before an invasion because their universities rejected online learning.

Stay alert - talk to embassy

Earlier Thursday, Minister of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram held a video conference via Zoom with 60 Egyptians who are living in Ukraine, including students, to check on their affairs and their needs.

According to the emigration ministry's statement, Makram urged Egyptians who are living in different cities to choose a point person in each city for regular communication with Ali Farouk, the head of the Egyptian community in Ukraine, and Khaled Mohamed, the representative of the ministry in the Egyptian students abroad dialogue, to ensure rapid transport if necessay and secure support to any Egyptian group that needs assistance in the upcoming hours inside the country.

The minister also asked all members of the Egyptian community to ignore any messages or calls directing them to move from one city to another, and to follow only the instructions issued by the Egyptian embassy in Kiev until further notice.

Earlier Thursday, the Egyptian embassy in Kiev urged Egyptian citizens in Ukraine to remain at home and to take measures to ensure their safety.

The embassy has also shared the mobile numbers of diplomats in the embassy of Egypt to Kiev, including the mobile number of Ambassador Ayman El-Gamal (+380932165877).

The embassy can also be contacted at: +380732009984 and +380634779436.

Short link: