Morning Chronicle - Ghana, Nigeria to fly home citizens stranded by Ukraine crisis

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Ghana, Nigeria to fly home citizens stranded by Ukraine crisis
Ghana, Nigeria to fly home citizens stranded by Ukraine crisis

Ghana, Nigeria to fly home citizens stranded by Ukraine crisis

A first group of Ghanaian students evacuated from Ukraine arrived home on Tuesday as African governments stepped up efforts to extract stranded citizens following the Russian invasion.

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Nigeria plans to start using chartered planes to evacuate hundreds of its citizens on Wednesday from neighbouring Poland, Romania and Hungary, where they have fled the conflict.

More than 660,000 people have fled Ukraine while around one million people are internally displaced, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Nigeria's government and the African Union (AU) on Monday condemned reports that Africans had been mistreated and in some cases denied the right to cross Ukraine's borders to safety.

Looking cheerful after finally reaching the capital Accra, the Ghanaian students said they wanted to get back together with their families after the difficult journey.

Ghanaian officials said the 17 students were the first batch of over 500 students expected to be brought home. They arrived on commercial flights paid by the government.

"I was afraid for my life, that is why I decided to leave. Some cities were being bombed close to my place and I spoke to my parents who asked that I should leave," Priscilla Adjai, one of the students, told AFP in the capital Accra.

"It has not been easy but thank God we managed to move out and have finally made it to Ghana."

Another student, Esther Edze, said her group had been helped by the Church of Pentecost to leave Ukraine and meet up with Ghanaian diplomats on the other side of the border.

"It’s not an experience I would wish for anyone," Edze said.

The deputy minister for foreign affairs, Kwaku Ampratwum-Sarpong, said the government would help the students reintegrate and reunite with their families.

Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said 527 Ghanaians had crossed the Ukrainian border to various European countries and would soon be evacuated if they wanted.

- 'Not moving an inch' -

Nigeria's minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said there were plans to start evacuating more than 1,500 Nigerians from countries neighbouring Ukraine from Wednesday.

There are about 5,600 Nigerian students in Ukraine and maybe a total of 8,000 Nigerian citizens in the country, the minister said.

He said he had spoken to Ukrainian and Polish officials to get assurances that Nigerians would not be stopped from crossing the border.

AU leaders on Monday voiced concern at the reports of mistreatment of Africans trying to flee the conflict and said such conduct would be "shockingly racist".

Poland's ambassador to Nigeria had earlier said all people crossing the frontier from Ukraine get equal treatment.

But some Africans and other foreigners at the Ukraine-Poland border said they were still struggling to get across.

Several African students said they had been bypassed to allow Ukrainians to cross over the frontier first.

"It is stuck, nobody is telling us anything. They call 20 people there to let them pass, but we are still there, we are not moving an inch," said Ghanaian student Richard Adjei Kusi at the Polish border.

"If you look at the queue, our friends, some of them have been here for more than four days now."

Governments from South Africa to DR Congo were making preparations this week to help their citizens who have crossed Ukraine's borders to other nations.

Senegal's secretary of state for citizens abroad, Moise Sarr, said more than 20 Senegalese had crossed into Poland and were being looked after by the embassy in Warsaw.

Sarr also said a dozen African embassies had "pooled their resources and efforts" to improve support for African nationals in Ukraine.