On the official list of Ecuadorians in Ukraine, there are those who want to return and those who prefer to stay, despite the uncertainty. The government is asking them to return and is preparing more flights to bring them.
A group of Ecuadorians who managed to flee the war in Ukraine will arrive in the country on Thursday night, March 3rd. The Government confirmed this date after promising that the first humanitarian flight will leave Budapest (Hungary) on Wednesday, March 2nd.
At a press conference yesterday, Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín reported that there was a last-minute change: the plane will leave first from Budapest (Hungary) and from there it will pick up the Ecuadorians who crossed the border into Poland and who arrived in its capital, Warsaw.
Originally, the flight was going to depart from Poland; but, with this adjustment, the route that the Airbus A-330 that was chartered by the government will take will be: Budapest-Warsaw-Quito.
Holguín hopes that the plane, with capacity for 350 passengers, will arrive in Ecuador full. While most of the refugees are in Poland, not all of them have confirmed their wish to return to the country.
As of Tuesday night, only 256 of the 337 Ecuadorians who are in Poland had confirmed their return. Another 164 Ecuadorian citizens managed to leave Ukraine and are now in five other countries.
The Foreign Minister said that Ecuadorians who do not manage to take this first flight will have other options, which are being arranged with the help of the Armed Forces and organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross, the UN and different governments, including the European Union.
One confirmed possibility will be to travel from Bucharest (Romania) on a flight chartered by the Mexican government, which is holding talks with Ecuador to give up to 20 seats for Ecuadorians.
“The ambassador, Francisco Carrión, will wait for them in Mexico to help them in their immediate return to Ecuador,” said Holguín.
The Ecuadorian government is also working on the arranging new humanitarian flights that will be announced on Wednesday.
Some don’t want to return
The foreign minister warned that Ecuadorians who do not want to leave Europe “must sign a discharge statement, in which they assume their responsibility for staying irregularly” in another country.
According to Holguín, “we will take care of bringing home Ecuadorians who have decided to get out of a war, safe and sound. We are not going to promote irresponsibility.”
The minister said that the Government does not manage tourist visas for those who leave Ukraine and choose to stay in other European countries, as some people had requested from the Foreign Ministry.
This statement was made after stating that dozens of students prefer to stay in Europe and not return to the country. Holguín warned that there are unscrupulous people who negotiate trips with students and want to convince them to stay.
Why they are staying
One of the collateral problems left by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the possibility that young Ecuadorians who study in Ukraine will not finish their degrees.
Foreign Minister Holguín said that a plan has been rolled out, “together with the Secretary of Higher Education (Senescyt) and UNESCO, to immediately create all public insertion policies as of the arrival of the students, so that they have these opportunities that they did not have and that made them leave.”
One of the goals is for students to finish their careers in Ecuadorian universities. “We have already analyzed 300 cases to find out where they studied and what career they were pursuing,” he reported.
The first solution found by the government is that 103 medical students will receive support from the Ministry of Health, so that they can complete the year of rural medicine once they return to Ecuador.
These official plans are not an option for Álvaro Quinlumbango, one of the students who refuses to return to Ecuador.
He says he is only one year away from finishing his International Business degree at Taras Sevcheko University, adding that going back to Ecuador would mean losing the money and time he has already invested in more than three years of study.
“In addition to money and time, it is the effort he has made to be away from his family,” says his mother, Paulina Fiallos.
Quilumbango fears that when he returns to the country, he will not find a stable job that allows him to help his parents pay the credit they took out so that their son could live in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Holguín, however, insists that Ecuadorians who return to the country will have the support of the government, “what we want is to keep them safe and sound.”
Although nothing has been said about cases like these, in which they must respond for credits or scholarships or for careers that will remain unfinished.
201 Ecuadorians still in Ukraine
According to the latest data from the Foreign Ministry, there are still 201 Ecuadorians who have not managed to reach the border areas to escape from Ukraine.
This means that they are at serious risk, and Foreign Minister Holguín said that there is danger throughout Ukraine. The Ukrainian government itself warned that due to the “active struggle,” it is safer for foreign students to stay in their residences in the country and not leave.
Elena Tacle is an Ecuadorian who, along with her five-year-old daughter and her elderly mother, has not been able to escape from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.
She told one news agency that she has received no help from the Ecuadorian government. “They tell us that we must get to the border, but how do I get there if leaving home is dangerous?”
Defense Minister Luis Hernández agrees that “the most difficult part” is leaving that country. And he said that it is not possible for any government to help its citizens to reach the borders, that this requires an individual effort.
Due to the war, “the queues to leave Ukraine are up to 15 kilometers long with waiting times of around 60 hours,” according to Hernández.
And he added that there are priorities of the Ukrainian government that cannot be transgressed, such as women and children leaving first.
According to Minister Holguín, the diplomatic work of the government has opened a 14-day window in which Ecuadorians will be able to remain in the countries that welcomed them, until their return to national territory is organized. This is because they all require a visa to stay on European soil.
But the Ecuadorian Foreign Service only has one embassy in the five countries that are receiving the refugees; that is in Hungary. There is also a small consulate in Slovakia.
In Poland, Romania, and Moldova there are no Ecuadorian offices, but there are ‘concurrent embassies’ that oversee the offices of other countries in the area.
Also, the Foreign Ministry has mobilized 23 officials to the borders of the countries that are receiving the refugees, so that they can assist them in their entry, stay and return.