Somali students leaving Ukraine to study in Hungary, Serbia: minister

Monday March 07 2022
People flee the conflict in Ukraine to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border crossing near Beregsurany.

People flee the conflict in Ukraine to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border crossing near Beregsurany. PHOTO | AFP


Somalia’s foreign minister Abdisaid Muse Ali tweeted on Thursday that Somali students fleeing the war in Ukraine will continue their studies in Hungary and Serbia.

Ali said his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó had assured him that the students will receive accommodation and take courses at the country’s universities.

“I received reassurances that Somali students whose studies in Ukraine have been interrupted will be offered to continue their studies at Hungarian universities with accommodation provided,” he said.

Read: EU: Africans in Ukraine crossing into bloc ‘unrestricted’

Ali received a similar pledge from Sebia’s foreign minister Nikola Selakovic. He said that over the past week, he spoke with the foreign ministers of central and eastern European countries affected by the Russian invasion on Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Somalia voted with 140 other nations for a United Nations General Assembly resolution deploring Russia's actions and calling for the immediate withdrawal of its forces.


Somalia’s ambassadors in Belgium and Germany helped secure safe passage for about 130 students and an unidentified number of Somali residents.

Read: EA citizens may pay their way out of Ukraine

In a public notice on Tuesday, the foreign ministry directed Somalis stuck in Ukraine to cross to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia or Moldova following assurances of safe passage from the four governments.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s ambassador to Kenya, Andrii Pravednyk, has denied allegations that Africans faced racial discrimination on the Ukraine-Poland border, saying all refugees are treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Read: African Union slams ‘racism’ in the wake of Ukraine war

Speaking at the embassy, Pravednyk defended his country, saying women and children are given priority according to international law. 

This comes just days after people took to social media to complain that Africans were being pulled out of trains and buses heading out of Ukraine. Social media reports showed that Africans were not allowed to cross the border and some had to sleep in the cold.

“All men, both Ukrainian nationals and foreign citizens, pass checks and check-in operations after women, children and elderly people,” said Pravednyk.

“The Ukrainian border guards in cooperation with colleagues from neighbouring EU countries and Moldova are doing everything possible to speed up the passages of all citizens from Ukraine and have never created obstacles that would hinder this.”

Read: Ukraine horror: East Africans tell of violence, racism

To help stranded students, he said, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established an emergency hotline for foreign students who want to leave Ukraine. Those who need help can call, Viber or Telegram through +380 93418 56 84.

To ease transit, Pravednyk said all checkpoints on Ukraine’s western border now operate 24 hours a day. Besides simplifying check-in processes, he said, Ukraine requires travellers to carry fewer documents that are necessary to cross the border.

“All people at the border are asked to comply with the law and order and to act responsibly. This will allow the state border guard service of Ukraine to speed up the border-crossing process. Those who are crossing are asked to have their documents ready and be organised as possible,” he said.

“We also ask that those crossing show mutual respect and understanding to everyone at the border during this extremely difficult time. 

“Border guard personnel are working round the clock on both sides, in difficult conditions, to make crossing as fast and straightforward as possible.”

Read: What are East African countries doing for citizens in Ukraine?

Addressing claims that students were being given deadlines to leave Slovakia, Katarina Zuffa Leligdonova, the country’s ambassador to Kenya, explained that foreign students are welcome to stay for as long as they need before they are evacuated or are able to return to their countries.

For her part, the European Union ambassador to Kenya, Henriette Geiger, explained that the Kenyan government had agreed to buy plane tickets for students or citizens who are unable to pay.

“I think they have already paid or made arrangements for ticket purchases with some airlines,” she said. 

“I am sure all different countries in the continent are finding solutions for that, and we will get the students back home in cooperation with their countries of origin. But at the moment there is no arrangement for a systematic repatriation at the EU level.”

She added: “The European Union is in solidarity with Ukraine, and that all countries surrounding Ukraine are doing all they can to assist those attempting to leave.”