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Africa

Ukraine's crisis triggers security concerns for African students

The crisis in Ukraine - set to reach a new climax on Sunday with a referendum in Crimea - is causing upheaval and uncertainty for foreign nationals as well as Ukrainians.

Jackson Sanguya is a Tanzanian mining engineering student at Donbas State Technical University in the eastern province of Luhansk, Ukraine. He spoke to DW about how he and other African students were coping.

DW: How would you describe the situation for African students in Ukraine?

Jackson Sanguya: Students travel all the way from Africa hoping to get a job, to work and study but when they come here jobs are not available. Students are stranded. They don't get enough money to meet their everyday needs and it's really hard for them. I know some of the students are experiencing a really hard time.

DW: What about security?

The security depends also on the city in which the students are located. For the people that are located on the Maidan, it's very dangerous for them to walk at night. And most universities put out announcements and warn that the students that they are not supposed to go out at night because it's not safe outside.

DW: Have there been instances of African students being attacked by mobs?

Of course! But you never hear about them on television. But there are situations in which students are attacked.

DW: Pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled by mass protests. What effect did the demonstrations have an your daily life?

The difference that the demonstrations have on our daily lives? First of all, the insecurity on the streets. It's so hard for us to walk at night. And another thing is that all the ATM machines rarely work. It's really hard to transfer money. If you're in need of money, you go maybe to a bank and find that the ATM machine is not working. The cards that we are using to purchase goods at the supermarket stopped working for two or three days. We had to go with our passports to the counter and that is how you get your money. It has really affected us. I've been coping normally because I get my funds from home and I purchase everything that I need for a month or two and that's it. But I know some students are really experiencing a hard time.

Donbas Staatsuniversität Ukraine

Donbas State Technical University: "Many Africans are living and studying in Ukraine "

DW: Have the authorities promised any kind of support?

The authorities, actually no. The only support they can give you is advice on security, giving you information that you are not supposed to go out at night. You can't expect the authorities to offer you financial support. It is really hard also for them. They haven't received their salaries yet.

DW: You are lucky to get support from home. Let's talk about those other students, other Africans, who don't get support from anywhere. What is next for them, what are they planning to do?

Actually, I think the governments are the ones who should be responsible for tackling the problems of students studying in Ukraine. They should try and see how they can help them financially because most of the students over here are studying courses that are going to be beneficial to African countries. They are going to help our economy in Africa. So the prime ministers in African countries should look into how they can help our students studying here.

DW: And have the embassies in Ukraine been able to reach out to students, to support them?

According to what people say, the embassies don't do anything. I don't know what is the point of African embassies in Ukraine, in Russia. They don't support us at all. If you're going to call, no one is going to pick up the phone, if you're going to send an e-mail, no one is going to reply your e-mail. That doesn't make sense at all. What are they doing - what is the work they are doing?

DW: And are you optimistic that the situation will get better and you will be able to continue with your studies in peace without having to fear for insecurity?

I hope so, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. Actually, today everything looks fine. We are able to go to class just normally. But you don't know what is going to escalate tomorrow. There are certain regions where people are being attacked.

DW: What compels them to attack the Africans there?

Maybe because of faith. That nature of hate that they have. Like when they see an African student, they think or say “what are you doing in my country?” The Russians - they call you “the monkey”. If you understand Russian, you are going to know what they are saying. There are some bandits that are going to beat you - really going to beat you so bad.

DW: Approximately how many Africans are living there in Ukraine?

In my city, I think, in Luhansk, maybe 1500 to 2000. But there are many Africans living and studying in Ukraine, especially from the western and southern part of Africa.

Jackson Sanguya is a mining engineering student in Ukraine.

Interviewer: Isaac Mugabi

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