Mexico sends a flight to rescue citizens trapped in Ukraine

(photo: el pais)

Dozens of Mexicans will have a new opportunity to get home. The second plane sent by the Government of Mexico has taken off for Romania with the aim of evacuating as soon as possible the compatriots who had not been able to escape from the war in Ukraine.

(EL PAÍS) These are, above all, families who fled to neighboring countries and people who are in transit to the west and are still trying to leave Ukrainian territory. They will make a journey of more than 11,000 kilometers, on a flight of the Mexican Air Force.

The authorities had evidence until last week that between 100 and 130 members of the Mexican community and their relatives of other nationalities had left Ukraine. On the first flight, which arrived in Romania on February 28 and landed in Mexico on March 4, only 81 evacuees were able to travel: 44 from Mexico, 28 Ukrainians, seven Ecuadorians, one Peruvian and one Australian. The people who were left at the doors of the Air Force Boeing 737-800 are multi-member families, most of whom cannot afford the ticket and are in a dire situation.

Others sought to withstand the attacks until there was no other alternative, as they expressed in community forums on social networks. There is a record of some 220 Mexicans who lived in Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion. “No Mexican is going to stay in the conflict zone, we are going to get them all out,” said the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, three days after the war broke out.

The Mexicans in this second group come from different points. A good number left their homes in Kyiv and Kharkov, the two most populous cities in Ukraine and two key points in the Russian offensive. The strategic importance has resulted in a permanent siege, bombings, missile attacks and explosions on civilian populations. Adding to the challenge of fleeing in the midst of war are obstacles such as road closures, long waits at overcrowded border crossings and the cold, with sub-zero and freezing temperatures.

On the ground, the humanitarian crisis is getting bigger and bigger: there have been more than two million Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict, according to the United Nations Organization. That number is expected to rise to at least four million people in the coming days. In just over two weeks, 1 in nearly 20 Ukrainians, especially women and children who are exempt from the martial law conscription policy, have left their land. It is the largest exodus since World War II.

The flight left at ten in the morning from military air base number 19, behind the International Airport of Mexico City. The plane has capacity for 150 passengers and is loaded with 1.5 tons of mattresses and medicines to provide humanitarian aid to refugees in Romania, according to Marcelo Ebrard, the secretary of Foreign Affairs.

The Boeing 737-800 is a medium-sized aircraft, almost 40 meters long with rows of three seats on each side, and it is the same model that lines such as Aeroméxico, American Airlines or KLM use.

As with the first flight, three stopovers are planned, two in Canada and one in Ireland, before heading to the airport in Bucharest, the Romanian capital. The repatriation operation has mobilized the Presidency, the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Embassies in Ukraine and Romania. Since the first days of the conflict, Mexico has coordinated with a dozen Latin American and Caribbean governments to repatriate as many of the approximately one thousand Latin Americans who were trapped in Ukraine.

The means to escape the hell of war and return home is already en route crossing the Atlantic, and all of Europe. 

The Yucatan Times
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