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GOING HOME

Nigeria is documenting its citizens who fled Ukraine to bring them home

A woman wearing a thick jumper partially covers her face with a veil
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Many foreigners in Ukraine long for home comforts
  • Alexander Onukwue
By Alexander Onukwue

West Africa correspondent

Published

Nigeria’s ministry of foreign affairs said on Feb. 27 that it received over 250 of its citizens who fled Russia’s deadly war in Ukraine to the borders of nearby European countries, and was processing them for subsequent return to their homeland.

According to the ministry’s statement on Twitter, officials received 130 Nigerians at Bucharest, the Romanian capital, 74 at Budapest in Hungary, and 52 in the Polish capital Warsaw. A further 200 were expected to arrive in Budapest today (Feb. 28), the ministry said, adding that each person was provided safe accommodation while being documented.

Nigeria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Nigeria has started the process of bringing its nationals home from Ukraine

Hungary became Nigeria’s saving grace after impasse in Poland

Though Nigeria has an estimated 4,000 students in Ukraine, it was reluctant to provide specific information to them about possible evacuation in the 24-hour period after Vladimir Putin’s soldiers started shelling in Ukraine. Nigerians in Ukraine were told to stay calm and take care of themselves, a counsel that, while good intentioned, did not reflect the worsening situation in Kyiv and Kharkiv where students reported witnessing the war break out in real time.

Fearing that help would come too late, Nigerians began finding their ways out of Ukraine to the borders of neighboring countries in the hope that they would be granted entry, but that did not exactly happen. Africans have reported being subjected to racism at those borders, and even Nigeria’s foreign ministry acknowledged that the situation in Poland was “unsavory.”

A diplomatic alternative was arranged with Hungary, and Romania, while the ministry invoked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help resolve the blockade at the Ukraine-Poland border. Hungary enacted a decree that permitted people with passports with valid Ukrainian resident permits to enter its shores temporarily without needing a Schengen visa.

Nigerians who want to enter Hungary have been advised to have “some money in Euros, and cooperate with the Hungarian border authorities,” according to a Feb. 27 travel advisory by the Nigerian embassy in Hungary.

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