There are at least 232 Belgian nationals in Ukraine. An additional 44 individuals who are close relatives of the identified Belgians are also with them in the same country. Because of this, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is on its toes to monitor the condition of these 276 individuals.
However, there may be more Belgian nationals in Ukraine than what is known. This is because the unreported citizens may not have been captured by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for various reasons.
Sophie Wilmès, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that “our priority is and remains to guarantee consular assistance.”
Consular Assistance Teams Stationed at the Borders are Ready to Accept Fleeing Belgian Nationals in Ukraine
Consular assistance teams designated by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are on the borders of Ukraine. They will provide help, to the extent of their capabilities, to Belgian nationals in Ukraine who are trying to get out of the country.
Specifically, the assigned Belgian consular workers can be found at the following border crossing points:
- Medyka, Poland
- Košice, Slovakia
- Suceava, Romania
- Honorary consul in Chisinau, Moldova
What Should Belgian Nationals in Ukraine Do?
Traveling by foot, land, or air in Kiev comes with a lot of risk. Because of this, Belgian nationals in Ukraine are advised to assess their situation and act accordingly.
Furthermore, all the airports in Ukraine, together with its airspace, are currently closed. This means that individuals will not be able to leave the country through the use of air transport modes.
Individuals in a Safe Place
Belgian nationals in Ukraine are advised to stay where they are. This should be done if they are in a relatively safe place and have an adequate supply of food and water. It would be better to stay indoors but, at the same time, distance themselves from windows.
Individuals Unable to Stay Where They Are
Belgian nationals in Ukraine who are unable to remain in place because of the high level of risk to their safety should head out of their current residence. They should seek shelter in a nearby area where it is safer for them to stay. Avoid traveling long distances, as this increases the risk of coming into direct contact with weapons of war.
Individuals Planning to Leave the Country
Belgian nationals in Ukraine are only advised to leave the country if they can do so safely. Choosing to take on this journey will be a long one. Because of this, they are advised to prepare as much as possible. It would be prudent to pack a sufficient supply of food, fuel, and water so that they could traverse the distance to the border crossing points. Warm clothes and blankets will also be needed to protect oneself from the cold weather.
However, regardless of how citizens choose to travel, it is important to note that a curfew has been implemented in many of the cities in Ukraine. Travel is prohibited during this time period.
Apart from this, any male between the ages of 18 and 60 years old who has dual Ukrainian citizenship will not be allowed to leave the country. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said that this will remain in effect throughout the period of martial law. This was done for the purpose of “guaranteeing Ukraine’s defence and the organisation of timely mobilisation.”
Register with Travelers Online
Belgian nationals in Ukraine are urged to register with Travelers Online. At the same time, they should contact the Crisis Center of the Federal Public Service (FPS) Foreign Affairs at +32 (0)2 501 4000.
Because of the unpredictable situation in the country, Belgian nationals are also advised to keep themselves updated with the latest happenings. However, they should be wary of unreliable news that only seems to promote fear among its readers. It is recommended to read from credible or official sources to obtain accurate information about the situation. Citizens are also told to adapt to any changes as quickly as they can so that they can safeguard their lives.
Belgian Nationals in Russia
As many as 900 Belgian nationals were also unable to leave Russia and return to Belgium after every country in the European Union closed their airspace to Russian aircraft.
Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium, tweeted that “Belgium has decided to close its airspace to all Russian airlines. Our European skies are open skies. They’re open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress.”
Because of this, flights from Russia were intercepted and forced to return to where they took off. One of the passengers, Stefan Vandierendonck, said, “while we were checking in, I heard from family in Belgium that Belgium airspace had been closed (to Russian planes), but we took off only to have to turn back just under an hour later.”
Mr. Vandierendonck said that the decision of the EU to ban all flights from Russia came earlier than expected. At the same time, he believes that there was not enough warning given to them. There should have been a deadline by which citizens could have expected this to occur. Doing so would have given them ample time to make the necessary arrangements so that they could fly back home safely and without any further delays.
However, the closure of European airspace does not mean that Belgian nationals in Russia will be unable to return home. Wouter Poels, the spokesman for the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that they can “travel by road to one of Russia’s neighbouring countries, or take the train, and fly on from there.” He also said that Belgian nationals in Russia were given prompt warnings of the possibility of this situation occurring.