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Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island Helps Ukrainians Stranded by Russia’s Invasion


FILE - Residents rest along the beach during sunset near the Port of Zanzibar on the island of Zanzibar July 19, 2012.

Authorities in Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar are helping at least 900 Ukrainian tourists who were left stranded after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi on Monday said they were helping about 900 Ukrainians who were there on vacation when Russia invaded their country last week.

Authorities said the Ukrainians are not able to safely return home but cannot stay on the Tanzanian island as local media reported they are running out of money.

In comments sent to the press, Mwinyi said they have initiated talks with hotel owners on how they can help these people. He said they will help the Ukrainians until their government is ready to come to their assistance.

Authorities said they are communicating with Ukraine’s embassy in neighboring Kenya to try to evacuate the tourists to Ukraine’s neighbor, Poland.

Officials with the Ukrainian Embassy in Kenya said, "Zanzibar is a pretty popular tourism destination for Ukrainian nationals, so it was clear that there would be an issue. We contacted the tour operators who sent the tourists to Zanzibar. ... We realize that we have about 1,000 people — we got in touch with Zanzibar to see the possible measures and possible ways how the Tanzanian government can cooperate with the Zanzibars to protect our nationals."

Poland’s foreign minister on Tuesday said they have accepted 400,000 Ukrainians who have fled for safety since Russia’s invasion.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said more than 660,000 Ukrainians fled the invasion in the last six days to neighboring countries.

The East African nation reported on Tuesday that Ukraine’s Ambassador to Kenya was scheduled to meet the stranded tourists and Zanzibar officials.

FILE - Fishermen throw an approach into the sea during sunset in Zanzibar's Stone Town on Oct. 26, 2005.
FILE - Fishermen throw an approach into the sea during sunset in Zanzibar's Stone Town on Oct. 26, 2005.

Zanzibar's beaches and historic Stone Town attract about half a million tourists each year and account for 30% of the semi-autonomous island’s output.

Zanzibar’s tourism ministry says the country received more than 2,300 Ukrainian tourists and more than 18,000 Russian tourists in 2020.

Some in the industry fear Russia’s war against Ukraine could have a negative impact on tourism.

Theresia Cosmas is a tourism officer at Tanzania’s College of African Wildlife Management.

Cosmas said the fighting already affects Zanzibar since foreign income will drop as Zanzibar receives many tourists from various corners of the world, including from those two countries.

Tanzania last week ordered its few hundred citizens living in Ukraine to leave the country.

The U.N. said more than 136 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Russia’s military invaded and began striking Ukrainian military and civilian areas.

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