Indian diaspora groups and students in the UK have mobilised networks to facilitate the evacuation of Indians, largely students, attempting to flee Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
Thousands have managed to cross the border into neighbouring regions of Poland, Slovakia and Romania to be flown out on one of the rescue flights, launched by the Indian government to evacuate Indians from the conflict zone.
The Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK has partnered with the humanitarian charity to coordinate efforts.
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INSA UK President Amit Tiwari said: “Through INSA and the wider diaspora volunteers, students are being assisted round the clock – helping them reach the border safely and then advising on how to contact Indian missions for emergency evacuation arrangements.
“We encourage all our students to stay safe and if they need help and are in need of support, as this helps us to calibrate the necessary support in addition to logistics.”
The message came as the tragic news broke of Indian student, Naveen Shekharappa, being killed in an airstrike in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been chairing high-level meetings for Operation Ganga, contacted Shekharappa’s family over their tragic loss.
Earlier this week, the confirmed a batch of 40 students successfully crossing over into Romania and then being flown back to Delhi. However, the student group estimates over 18,000 students remain stranded in the region as their long-distance rescue efforts continue.
“We have 24/7 helplines where we are non-stop coordinating with impacted students and advising them with the government instructions and advisories,” said , NISAU UK chair and UK advisor to the Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas (REDIO), launched by minister of state for external affairs Meenakshi Lekhi.
“Students are saying that they are unable to reach Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials on the ground for coordination; our team is helping by ensuring the right information reaches students in a timely manner,” she said.
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With the use of social media groups on WhatsApp and Telegram, NISAU UK says it has been active since the conflict broke out last week to ensure the MEA advisories are filtered through to students desperate to evacuate.
Reports from Poland have highlighted concerns for the safety of many of the Indian students who have undertaken the tough journey to escape the violence in Ukrainian cities towards the Polish border.
The Indian Embassy in Romania warned students against fraudulent money-making attempts for a transfer from the Romanian border to the capital Bucharest. It has also clarified that Indian students evacuated from Ukraine to shelters in Romania need not worry about visa requirements for the special flights under Operation Ganga.
The MEA has created a to coordinate the massive rescue mission.