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Stranded in Ukraine

Thousands of Pakistani students and nationals have been stranded in Ukraine, frantically sending messages to evacuate them in the aftermath of Russian invasion. The Pakistan Embassy claims it is making strenuous efforts to locate citizens and rescue them from a war zone.

According to reports, there are 3,000 Pakistanis and around 1,500 students in Ukraine who are being evacuated. This is a huge logistical challenge as Ukraine has closed its airspace to all flights and citizens have to travel to neigbouring countries such as Poland or Romania to be evacuated. PIA was supposed to send two evacuation flights but they have since been cancelled.

It is not just Pakistanis but even Indians and Arabs are stranded in the war-affected country. Most of them are either married to Ukrainians, took up studies or fled violence back home. Now they face another nightmare amid a full-scale invasion and wanted to return home. Many returned home before the invasion but others who didn’t heed calls have been trapped.

There are conflicting reports about the efforts to evacuate them. Some students have praised the government’s efforts, saying embassy officials provided them support when they were able to reach evacuation points. Others claim the government needs to do more and help them leave Ukraine and even blamed for leaving them completely helpless.

There have also been reports of alleged harassment at border checkpoints. Some students claimed they were harassed and tortured on Poland’s borders by guards who stopped them from crossing over. There have also been reports that some have used the situation to slip further in other European countries such as Germany. There are long queues at borders as thousands flee the mayhem.

There are fear the conflict could trigger a refugee crisis. The UN estimates that over 300,000 people have already left the country. Amid the chaos, embassies have a huge responsibility to protect their citizens. European countries need to waive off visa requirements and ease border controls to help foreign nationals leave to their home destination.  Despite the challenges, the government needs to expedite diplomatic efforts to ensure all citizens return home safely.

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