Period offer of accommodation to Ghanaians in Hungary too short – Honorary Consul 

The Deputy Minister Thomas Mbomba has started his visit with meetings with all stakeholders involved in the temporary resettlement of stranded Ghanaian students from Ukraine to Hungary.

Participants in that meeting included the Honorary Consul, Mr. Boldizsar Peter Entz, Mr. Kpodo, an architect, an elder from the church of Pentecost, Mr. Kwesi Asemanyi, consular officers from our Berlin, Berne, and Vienna Missions, who were on the ground to assist in the evacuation exercise.

He stated that he was in the country on the instructions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to have firsthand information about the plight of the students and to advise government on how best to assist our stranded compatriots to return to Ghana in the meantime, as government contemplate longtime solution to their predicament  depending on the outcome of the situation in Ukraine.

He expressed gratitude to the stakeholders for their efforts in ensuring the safety and comfort of the students.

The various stakeholders took turns to brief the Deputy Minister on what has transpired prior to his arrival. The Honorary Consul intimated that as of 2nd March, 2022, 205 Ghanaian students had entered Hungary following the unfortunate events in Ukraine.

Following that development, a number of individuals and organizations had come to the aid of the students by providing them with accommodation and essential supplies to take care of their immediate needs. He singled out a Hungarian company with business interests in Ghana, Purico, with operations in Kumasi and Tamale, which had graciously offered  accommodation to 25 Ghanaian students, while a Nigerian-Ghanaian businessman on his part helped sheltered more than 30 students. He added that ordinary Hungarians were also assisting in taking in Ghanaian students. The Honorary Consul however expressed concern that the offer of accommodation to the compatriots was for a limited period and the students were expected to make arrangements to leave such facilities after about four days to make way for new refugees.

He then suggested that the Ministry on behalf of the Government of Ghana may wish to write officially to the Hungarian authorities to seek their assistance for all Ghanaian students who may be passing through or transiting in Hungary.

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On his part, Mr.  Kpodo stated that when there was steady stream of Ghanaian students into Hungary at the initial stage of the conflict, he stood in for the Honorary Consul who was then in the United Arab Emirates at the time. He stated that he worked closely with the leadership of the Ghana students union and the church of Pentecost, with the latter offering its place of worship to accommodate the stranded students.  He therefore called for recognition of the critical role the two bodies played by the government of Ghana. He however cautioned that students under government scholarship in Hungary were not particularly happy, owing to non-payment of their stipends and called on the Deputy Minister to intervene to help salvage the situation. He disclosed that at least eight students were at the verge of being ejected from their hostels by the end of the month due to their inability to pay their rent and called on the Government to come to their aid.

On his part, the president of the Ghana students union in Hungary, Mr. Gabriel Asante, stated that when the conflict between Russia and Ukraine started, he was informed by the Honorary Consul of the decision of the Hungarian government to allow entry of refugees fleeing the conflict into its territory on humanitarian grounds. He subsequently contacted the church of Pentecost to allow for its church to be used as holding facility. He joined Mr. Kpodo in calling for the recognition of the efforts of such organizations and individuals by the government of Ghana. He expressed concern that most students fleeing the violence in Ukraine were unfortunately not ready to return to Ghana. He then informed the Deputy Mnister that he had since compiled a list of two groups of students, including those who are willing to return to Ghana and those who have chosen to stay in Hungary for now, with the latter group comprising a paltry 40 students.

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He disclosed that their immediate concern now is the 93 students currently being holed up in a school in Ukraine near the Russia-Ukraine border. He said due to high risk of attack, they were being advised to remain in bunkers for their own safety.

The student leader, in reference to a press release by his office on the non-payment of their monthly stipends by the Scholarships Secretariat, urged that urgent steps be taken to avert ejections of many of the students from their hostels, as their rent payments were due by the middle of March 2022.

Subsequently,the Deputy Minister paid visits to a number of shelters housing Ghanaian students. He began his visit at the Church of Pentecost, an underground structure housing a large number of stranded Ghanaian and other African students. There, he informed the students that the Government of Ghana was deeply concerned about their welfare and safety, and as such, he had been delegated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to visit them to have firsthand information about their plight and to reaffirm the commitment of the government of Ghana to assist all students currently stranded in Hungary, Romania and Poland, as well as those who were still at the epicentre of the conflict in Ukraine, to return safely to Ghana, as government contemplates long term solution to their plight taking into account the unfolding situation in that country.

The Hon. Deputy Minister praised the students for their courage and bravery in organizing themselves to flee the conflict in Ukraine

He informed the students that the Government of Ghana had put in place a team to identify all those who were ready and willing to return to Ghana to be provided with air tickets to do so. He said this exercise was being carried out in concert with the student leadership in Ukraine, who were compiling the list of such students and urged them to take advantage of the opportunity to return to Ghana. He assured them that they would still have the opportunity to return to Ukraine when normality return to the country.

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He reminded the students that the humanitarian permit granted them by the Hungarian government was a temporary one and limited to their stay in Hungary only, and not the wider Schengen region. He added that per that regulation, they were expected to return to their country within the shortest possible time, as failure to do so will make them illegal immigrants in Hungary; that could have negative consequences for them.

With regards to the delay in payment of stipends of Ghanaian students based in Hungary, Hon.Mbomba assured the students that the government was seized with the matter and that everything was being done to mobilize funds to pay them as soon as possible.

He used the opportunity to express the gratitude of the government of Ghana to all stakeholders who have played various roles, ranging from provision of basic supplies to transportation to safety and accommodation of the students in Hungary. He thanked the student leadership, the Church of Pentecost, private organizations and individuals, including ordinary Hungarians, who graciously made donations of various items to support the students. The Deputy Minister also visited three other shelters, including Kulker Hotel, Torokbalint Koran Munkacsy communication centre and Semmelweis University and interacted with our students, where similar concerns were raised

Concerns of the students

That the government of Ghana delayed in coming to their aid; as they had to make private arrangements to get into Hungary by themselves

The students sought to know what government was doing to rescue their colleagues who were still trapped in Sumy, near the Russian border;

They wanted assurances that arrangements would be made by the Government of Ghana to integrate them into institutions in Ghana for them to continue their education, particularly, the medical students who were at the verge of completing their programmes of study;

Others were concern about retrieval of their original certificates that were deposited with their universities in Ukraine.