AS the Russian war drums continue to beat around the Eastern Europe-based Ukraine, the Jamaican Government has moved to allay fears that it has abandoned it citizens, mainly medical students, in that country.
Responding to questions at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday, Robert Morgan, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for information, argued that every effort had been made to assist the students who were identified.
According to Morgan, seven Jamaican students were scheduled to leave Ukraine on Tuesday with two scheduled to leave today.
“We can also confirm that we have tried to facilitate as much as possible, the interest of the students in the Ukraine but we have also faced challenges,” said Morgan.
“While our staff, and the foreign service, have been making efforts, the reality is that we have not been able to contact all of them. We have reached out [and] while some have responded, some have not.
“The public should remember that at the last [post-Cabinet] briefing we mentioned that the students would be able to transit through Germany without the need for a Schengen visa if they are transiting within a 24-hour period,” added Morgan.
His comments came hours before a media release from Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, in which she underscored that the Government had made a special offer to assist Jamaican students seeking to return home, and that ultimately no students had utilised it.
“On February 12, 2022, our offer of assistance was communicated to the students by our embassy in Berlin, in the form of a loan for airfare to Jamaica, whereby the Government would book and pay for the tickets for their return to Jamaica. Although seven students had requested assistance, ultimately they decided not to go this route,” said Johnson Smith.
“The seven Jamaican students who had indicated their interest in accepting an offer of support from us to purchase tickets for their return home, decided against returning to Jamaica.
“We understand that while some students are making private arrangements to travel to other cities in the region until the situation in Ukraine improves, others are still cautiously monitoring the situation. We are aware of eight students who have left thus far, with an additional five travelling from Ukraine over the course of this week,” added Johnson Smith, in an update of the numbers earlier provided by Morgan.
She noted the cancellation of flights between Ukraine and Germany and warned that this has increased the complexity of travel, should students still choose to return to Jamaica.
“We have shared the options available to them, for example, through Turkey, and have highlighted our concern that travel may become even more challenging as events unfold and would even become impossible should Ukraine's airspace be closed entirely. Our message to them has been that they need to take immediate action if they intend to leave,” declared Johnson Smith.
According to Johnson Smith, the Government of Jamaica remains hopeful that diplomatic efforts will yield a de-escalation of tension, but noted with concern the intensification of tension in the region.
“In the meantime, the ministry remains actively engaged with the students as well as with their family members in Jamaica. The ministry may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via WhatsApp at 876-469-4058,” added Johnson Smith
It is estimated that just over 40 Jamaicans are privately pursuing tertiary studies in Ukraine.