Stranded in a warzone

Reem Leila , Tuesday 1 Mar 2022

Thousands of Egyptians fleeing Ukraine anxiously await repatriation

Stranded in a warzone
Stranded Egyptians leaving Bucharest to Cairo on Tuesday

Hundreds of Egyptians who were stranded in Ukraine arrived in Cairo on 1 March. An estimated 6,000 Egyptians, including 4,000 students, were living in Ukraine at the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Thousands of Egyptians who were residing in Ukraine had already arrived in Poland and Romania last week.

Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram said the ministry was following up on the situation in order to help everyone exit Ukraine. Egyptians have been informed that they can cross the borders with Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, even with expired passports and residency permits.

Not everyone, though, can make it to a neighbouring country.

“I was in Dnipro, with no money, no food, and did not know what to do,” Sherine Tarek, an Egyptian student studying in Ukraine, told Al-Ahram Weekly. Eventually Tarek was able to leave with friends to Lviv, in the west of Ukraine and close to the border with Poland.

Lina Abul-Nour, another student stuck in Ukraine, said 500 students who fled Kharkov in northeast Ukraine — the city was targeted by multiple Russian missile attacks on Monday — had arrived in Lviv.

For parents in Egypt, the wait for news has become a nightmare. Rania Sabri, a businesswoman, told the Weekly that her daughter is currently in Lviv, waiting to cross the border alone.

An operation room has been formed to follow up the situation of Egyptians in Ukraine. It is in direct and continuous communication with members of the Egyptian community in Ukraine and is working to arrange for the safe return of Egyptians, says Makram.

Egyptians can cross the Ukrainian-Hungarian border and into Poland or Romania. Makram’s ministry has also urged expats to send a photo of their passport to the Bratislava Embassy in Slovakia via WhatsApp.

“There are air strikes all the time. We see dead bodies in the streets, soldiers with their weapons everywhere. We don’t know whether they are Russians or Ukrainians. We are living a nightmare. I want to return home to my family and friends,” Egyptian student Haya Attar told the Weekly.

On 27 February, the Egyptian Embassy in Kyiv created a Telegram group to communicate with Egyptians stranded in Ukraine. The group is being used to send instructions to Egyptian nationals on how to exit Ukraine safely.

A version of this article appears in print in the 3 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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