MANILA: The first group of Filipinos have crossed the Polish border to escape Russian attacks in neighboring Ukraine, the Philippine government said on Sunday, as Manila’s top diplomat is in Poland to oversee the evacuation.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, authorities in neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova have mobilized to give shelter to refugees.
About 40 out of some 400 Filipinos living in Ukraine have fled the capital, Kyiv, where Russian strikes have intensified, and on Saturday arrived in the western city of Lviv, near the Polish border. Thirteen of them have crossed the checkpoint in Hrebenne, where they were received by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
“We are on high-alert 24/7 to ensure that Filipinos are safe in this conflict,” Locsin said in a statement issued by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Our Embassies in Poland and Hungary have been working hard these past days to account for each Filipino in Ukraine, and to repatriate them as soon as possible. Our people only need to ask, and we will get them home safe.”
The evacuees were led from Lviv to the Polish side by Philippine Ambassador to Poland Leah Basinang-Ruiz. The Philippine embassy in Warsaw, which oversees the situation of Filipinos in Ukraine, last week sent a consular team to Lviv to establish an emergency contact base.
Locsin arrived in Poland on Friday to personally supervise evacuation efforts.
EU countries neighboring Ukraine have relaxed COVID-19 rules and entry requirements for those fleeing the violence.
Nearly 188,000 refugees have already crossed into the countries on Ukraine’s western border as Russian forces unleash a full-scale invasion, with 156,000 arriving in Poland, the Polish Border Guard said on Sunday.
With the Ukrainian airspace closed, tens of thousands of people are queuing at its land borders to leave. Those traveling by car have to wait for up to 70 hours at the busiest checkpoints.