Hundreds of Palestinian students leave war-torn Ukraine

Hundreds of Palestinian students leave war-torn Ukraine
4 min read
West Bank
01 March, 2022
Some Palestinians were unable to cross into Poland because crossing points were overcrowded and priority was given to Ukrainians, according to Palestinian students.
Between 3,000 and 3,500 Palestinians were estimated to reside in Ukraine before the Russian invasion. [Getty]

The majority of Palestinian students in Ukraine have left the country, according to the president of the Palestinian community in Kiev, Hatem Odeh.

Odeh told The New Arab on Monday that “the community is working jointly with Palestinian consulates in Ukraine and neighboring countries to help all Palestinians... cross international borders.” Odeh estimated the number of Palestinian residents in Ukraine to have ranged between 3,000 and 3,500, prior to the Russian invasion, several hundreds of whom are students.

“The biggest challenge is to get Palestinians from across the country to the western borders with Poland, Romania or Slovakia,” he said. “However, once they cross the border, Palestinian consulates and communities in neighboring countries are ready to receive them and help them through procedures... ,” added Odeh.

The Palestinian Authority (PA)'s foreign ministry announced on Sunday that Jordanian authorities had agreed to exempt Palestinians from the procedures required to enter Jordan, the only available way for them to return to the West Bank. According to Odeh, Egyptian authorities informed the Palestinian community of similar facilitations for those wishing to return to Gaza through Egypt.

The ministry also said that, as residents of Ukraine, Palestinians enjoyed a 15-day entry permit to remain in Poland, which is a EU member state. Although it specified that this rule was only valid until Monday night.

Palestinian Consul to Slovakia Dana Nazzal told The New Arab on Monday that “Hungary, Slovakia and Romania issue temporary entry [permits] for non-EU citizens coming from Ukraine, including Palestinians. This permit lasts for two to three days depending on the country.”

Ahmad Adi, a Palestinian fifth-year medicine student in the city of Uzhhorod, western Ukraine, told The New Arab that “thankfully me and the rest of students in Uzhhorod were able to leave for Hungary, but there are a few students still behind, especially in [the north eastern city of] Kharkiv”.

“It was difficult to cross the border. Crossing points are overcrowded and priority is given to Ukrainians,” Adi said. “Other Palestinian students who came from Kharkiv couldn't cross into Poland for the same reasons, and eventually joined us in Uzhhorod, before crossing into Hungary.”

Adi pointed out that “many students who came from Kharkiv said that bus tickets from there to the western borders had skyrocketed to up to $100, and many of them weren’t able to receive money transfers from their families because... banks had stopped [processing them]”.

Adi added that “although there was no physical help to leave the country from the Palestinian consulate or embassy in Ukraine, they remained in contact and gave us information, instructions and Palestinian contacts in neighboring countries, who also offered their help with papers and accommodation.”

Nazzal, the Palestinian consul to Slovakia, told The New Arab that “all Palestinian consular and diplomatic teams in Ukraine and neighboring countries are working together to help Palestinians who wish to leave Ukraine.”

She added that assistance is also being delivered after receiving them in neighboring countries, in cooperation with Palestinian communities. “Palestinian consulates provide accommodation for Palestinians coming from Ukraine for no more than three days, during which they have to reserve their flight tickets back to Jordan or Egypt,” said Nazzal.

Medicine student Ahmad Adi said that he would return to his home city of Hebron in the West Bank for the time being. “Some students will continue their way into other European countries,” he said, "but all of us have the same objective, which is to resume our careers in Ukraine as soon as possible.”