MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Stanley Kakubo says as of today, 95 Zambians who fled Ukraine to Poland are set to return home on Tuesday.

At a media briefing, Sunday, Kakubo said the tentative date for evacuation was March 4, but due to the closure of airspace over Ukraine which resulted in airspace congestion in the Europe-controlled zone; a lot of flight schedules had been gravely affected.

“You may recall that in my ministerial statement to Parliament on Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, I gave an indication that the tentative date for the evacuation of our nationals was Friday 4th March 2022. However, following the closure of airspace over Ukraine resulting into airspace congestion in the Europe-controlled zone, a lot of flight schedules have been gravely affected. This has therefore caused for the departure of our nationals to be rescheduled to Tuesday 8th March 2022. You may wish to note that this operation is being conducted under extraordinary, difficult, volatile and complex circumstances for all governments seeking to evacuate their respective nationals out of Ukraine. That notwithstanding, I wish to reassure the nation that your government remains committed to conclude all necessary arrangements for the evacuation of our nationals. As of last night, 95 of our nationals are expected to come back. But this number by Tuesday may increase and hopefully not decrease,” Kakubo said.

He said two Zambian nationals had opted to remain in Europe after leaving Ukraine.

“A week ago today, only one national had crossed over to the Polish border and 29 were awaiting finalisation of formalities on the Ukrainian side. Other students were still scattered across different locations in Ukraine in transit to Lviv. Today, exactly 7 days after we reported on the status of our nationals, I wish to report as follows; 95 of our nationals are safely in Warsaw Poland under government care in high spirits and ready to be evacuated. Two have safely moved out of Ukraine but have opted to remain in Europe. Three in Kharkiv have opted to remain in Ukraine. Out of the 14 students who were in the city of Sumy two are in transit to Lviv after securing private transport with other foreign nationals,” Kakubo said.

“The staff from our two missions in Moscow and Berlin are in constant contact with our nationals as they move towards Poland. Through our mission in Moscow indications are that there will be a humanitarian corridor created by both the Ukrainian and Russian sides to allow for the safe passage of students. Our mission in Moscow remains firmly seized with the situation and I wish to assure the nation that our children are safe and in good health. To our students in Sumy we commend you for your bravery and resilience. Hang in there we are going to get you out of there. For our nationals who may not arrive in Warsaw in time to catch the flight to Zambia. Our diplomatic staff and the honorary consul will remain in Poland to provide assistance to you as and when you cross over from Ukraine.”

Kakubo said the students would be quarantined for two nights upon arrival in view of the pandemic.

“I would like to inform the nation that due to the nature of the evacuation, PCR testing requirement has been waived for our nationals. However, in line with our national Covid-19 guidelines, necessary measures have been put in place for the smooth screening of our nationals upon their arrival. In this regard, parents will not have immediate access to the students to allow for all the necessary health procedures to be carried out. Our nationals will therefore be required to remain in accommodation to be provided by government for at least two nights,” he said.

“Your government understands the emotions and anxieties this seemingly protracted evacuation process has triggered among parents, guardians, the students themselves and the nation at large. The evacuation of our nationals has remained a top priority of the government and as such the team of officials continues to work around the clock to ensure that our nationals return home. I wish to once again call for continued patience and calm particularly among the parents and guardians of our nationals during this trying period.”

Kakubo said President Hichilema’s interaction with the students gave them comfort that indeed their government was a responsible government.

“President Hichilema’s interaction with the students not only uplifted their spirits but gave them comfort that indeed their government is a responsible government which is concerned about the plight of its citizens and will go to great lengths to safeguard their wellbeing. As I informed the nation in my previous statements, my Ministry has continued to coordinate a team of committed and dedicated government officials from relevant line ministries and institutions to tirelessly and methodically execute the government’s evacuation plan. This includes facilitation of a smooth reunion of our nationals with their respective families,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kakubo said government was okay with the Zambian nationals that had opted to remain in Ukraine and other parts of Europe.

“In terms of the human rights, government cannot force any citizen to move against their own will. And of course some of our nationals who are in Ukraine have been there for many years and have integrated in the society there. Some of them have since had children and gotten married and they have opted out of their own will to remain in that country. Others have chosen to leave Ukraine but settle within Europe. So the government is okay with that because we have fulfilled our part as government by giving the option to our own citizens to be evacuated and that option remains open. The citizens that have opted to remain there, government will keep observing the situation and should the citizens call on us at a later date we will deal with that at that time. As things remain, some of them have opted to remain in Ukraine or within Europe. So far we have three,” stated Kakubo.