Image taken from Khabar online which does have a little issue with spelling

Ukraine ‘crisis’: a blessing for many Nepalis

Nepali online says war has made “sneaking into Europe” easy and cheap

“A lot of Nepalis” studying in Ukraine have taken advantage of the war to enter Europe “without spending as much as they would have had to otherwise”.

This is the gist of a story in Nepali online Khabar, which cites a Nepali diplomat as a source, and has managed to speak to some of the students themselves.

The terrible conditions in Ukraine have left many of the young people just as traumatised as Ukrainian nationals, but now that they have escaped the country, they are realising the positives of their situations.

The young students are making for all kinds of European destinations, including Portugal.

The online talks about one small group who has made it here. “We didn’t face any big problem because people knew we were fleeing from a war-torn country. We travelled mostly by train”, said one of the young men.

No-one wants to go home

Jeevan KC, described as president of NRNA Portugal (standing for ‘non-resident nepali association’) is part of a network helping students caught up in the crisis.

He says that as far as he is concerned “everyone’s key destination is Portugal”.

That may be a slight exaggeration, as a source for the Nepali embassy in Spain told the online that as far as its records show, 536 Nepalis have left Ukraine for bordering countries. Out of them, 427 have gone to Poland, 71 to Slovakia, 27 to Romania, 7 to Hungary and 4 to Moldova.

KC however says that “apart from Portugal, many have gone (on) to France and some to Germany”.

The only destination none of them seem to want to reach is their own homeland.

“No one has asked to be rescued back”, admitted KC.

Bratislava restaurateur says “everyone who he gave refuge to has left for Portugal”

Again, the online spoke with a Nepali restaurateur who “did his part to help Nepalis who fled the war zone. He turned his restaurant into a refuge camp where Nepalis could come and stay. (He) says everyone he gave refuge to has left for Portugal”.

“I wanted to give a place they could call home. But, wherever they go from here is their choice,” the man told Khabar’s journalist, Basanta Ranabhat. 

“He says he is preparing to help more Nepalis who he thinks will flee as the Ukraine crisis escalates.

“Slovakia doesn’t have a lot of Nepali and I feel really happy whenever I meet one. So I want to tell people if you flee Ukraine, you can come here,” the restaurateur added.

“People are going to Portugal because the country has opened its door to Ukrainians. People other than Ukrainians can stay in Portugal and apply for asylum”, explains Khabar online.. 

Why Portugal?

The reason seems to be that “most people get a residency card after spending a year in the country” and there are few countries offering asylum to Nepalis.

“According to government data, over 7,000 people have taken up Portuguese passports. This is what attracts people, say NRNA officials from Portugal.

“But as soon as they get their passports, they leave for other European countries,” Kamal Bhattarai of the NIALP, intercultural association based in Lisbon, told Khabar – Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Germany being at the top of most lists.

Some genuinely just want to finish their studies

But it is not all about ‘sneaking into Europe’ and somehow fulfilling the idea that this will lead to a much better life.

Khabar online’s choice of words is in some places delightful. The journalist explains “many Nepalis who went to study in Ukraine are now in a pickle regarding what to do…”

One of these is Rakesh Chaudary from Rajbiraj who went to Ukraine three years ago to become a doctor. “He did not go there with the dream of entering a Schengen country”, says the online. He “enrolled in the MBBS programme that can go up to six years; he has only completed half of it and the Ukraine crisis has now forced him to think of other options.

“I don’t know what to do now,” he says from Warsaw (Poland).

“Unlike others, he is not bothered about obtaining a permanent residency”, says the online. “All he cares about right now is his education. He has spent nearly 3 million rupees in Ukraine and is now looking for places in Europe he can transfer his credits so he can complete his MBBS”.

“If I can’t find a solution, I’ll have wasted a lot of money and three years of my life,” he told the online, stressing that he could not think of returning home “because he knows how much his parents went through to get him there. 

I pray to God every day to help me find a solution. I don’t know what to do,” he says, adding there are a few more students like him who need help. 

Reading between the lines, Rakesh would do well to follow his peers and head for Portugal where doctors are at a premium. Maybe Khabar online will pick up his story at another date.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com