African students still trapped in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson in the south of Ukraine are appealing for help to leave the town and return home.
The students, numbers are estimated to be between 34-83, mainly from Francophone Africa-West and Central African regions, claim that Russian forces are stopping them from leaving the besieged city, saying that it was too unsafe to leave on foot in the absence of any vehicular transport.
Some students in a video widely circulated in media channels and online, among them France 24 and in social media groups, are angry that the world seems to have abandoned them in the city of 280,000 people, by failing to prioritise them, yet vehicles bringing essential supplies such as food were freely entering and leaving the city.
They claim that instead of helping in evacuating them authorities in universities where they had been enrolled in were asking them to continue undertaking their studies online.
“It is not true what you are hearing in the news channels that all foreign students have been evacuated from Ukraine, we are still here. They are telling us to continue learning online, but is it possible in a war zone?” said Christophe Elobo who identified himself as a Cameroonian student in the video where the stranded Africans speak in both English and French.
“We are more than 100 foreign students here living like prisoners, please send us the means to leave. If food can enter this town, then it means we can also leave,” the student pleaded.
“We are scared, please we are asking the Ukrainian government and the Russians get us a way out”
He claimed that they had tried leaving the city on foot and walked for 14 kilometres out of Kherson, but were turned back by Russian soldiers who advised them that it was too dangerous for them to try to walk for 200 kilometres to safety in a war zone, and in -10 degrees’ Celsius temperatures.
In another video shared by CNN Christophe pleads for evacuation saying they had no food or water, while their female counterparts were crying all day in their rooms, traumatised by the situation.
“We are scared, please we are asking the Ukrainian government and the Russians get us a way out. This is not our war, we have nothing to do here, we are suffering and are traumatised. Somebody closed the way out of here, they are saying they cannot allow civilians to leave, but we are not Ukrainians we are foreigners,” he pleaded.
“We are Nigerians, we are Ghanaians, we are Ivorians, We are Cameroonians, we are Senegalese, we want to go, please allow us to go.”
More students have shared posts on social media.
3. An account from a person in Kherson explaining the situation there: pic.twitter.com/aDMPNbGktL
— Black Women For Black Lives (@BW4BL_official) March 14, 2022
According to Elizabeth Murimwa, a Zimbabwean parent whose daughter was evacuated from Sumy last week, at least 87 Africans students were stranded in Kherson.
“They are still in Kherson, a humanitarian corridor has not been opened yet for them to leave,” Murimwa, who has been coordinating rescue efforts as the leader of 257 African parents who had children in Ukrainian universities, told The PIE News.
She shared the breakdown of the number indicating that 47 of the learners were at Kherson State Maritime University, 20 at Kherson State University, and the rest were sheltered in neighbourhoods around the city.
One of the organisations supporting the stranded African students is the Global Black Coalition which is actively working to help evacuate and out of Kherson, according Vukile Dlamini, an Eswatini student who was studying in Vinnytsia, central-western, and an activist with the group.
“A humanitarian corridor has not been opened yet for them to leave”
“They are still in Kherson. A humanitarian corridor has not been opened yet for them to leave so they are still stuck there. We are in contact with them but they want us to respect their privacy for their safety’s sake,” she told The PIE News.
Vukile who escaped to Romania on February 27 arrived home a week ago shared the nationalities of 34 students, who included 16 Cameroon, six each from Nigeria and Gabon, and two each from Guinea, Senegal and Ghana.
RFI has reported that 300 African students have applied for a scheme in France that will allow them to continue their studies in the country.
“Each student presents a different case depending on whether they would like to continue studying in France or not and whether French universities can take them,” coordinator of the program Wilfrid Lauriano do Rego told RFI.
“And we also need to liaise with the French authorities to make this project feasible.”
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