Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island is helping Ukrainians stranded by the Russian invasion

Authorities on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar are helping at least 900 Ukrainian tourists stranded in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi said Monday they would help about 900 Ukrainians who were vacationing there when Russia invaded their country last week.

Authorities said the Ukrainians could not return home safely but could not stay on the Tanzanian island as local media reported they were running out of money.

In comments to the press, Mwinyi said they have started discussions with hotel owners about how they can help these people. He said they would help Ukrainians until their government was ready to come to their aid.

Authorities said they were communicating with the Ukrainian embassy in neighboring Kenya to try to evacuate the tourists to Ukraine’s neighboring country of Poland.

Officials at the Embassy of Ukraine in Kenya said: “Zanzibar is a fairly popular tourist destination for Ukrainian nationals, so it was clear there would be a problem. We contacted the tour operators who were sending the tourists to Zanzibar… We realize that. We have about 1,000 people – we got in touch with Zanzibar to see the possible actions and ways the Tanzanian government could work with the Zanzibars can to protect our nationals.

Poland’s foreign minister said Tuesday they have taken in 400,000 Ukrainians who have fled to safety since the Russian invasion.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 660,000 Ukrainians have fled the invasion to neighboring countries over the past six days.

The East African nation reported on Tuesday that Ukraine’s ambassador to Kenya will meet Zanzibar’s stranded tourists and officials.

FILE – Fishermen throw an approach into the sea during sunset in Zanzibar’s Stone Town on October 26, 2005.

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

According to the Zanzibar Ministry of Tourism, in 2020 the country received more than 2,300 Ukrainian tourists and more than 18,000 Russian tourists.

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

Theresia Cosmas is Tourism Officer at the College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania.

Cosmas said the fighting is already affecting Zanzibar as foreign revenue will fall as Zanzibar receives many tourists from different parts of the world including these two countries.

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

The United Nations said more than 136 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian military invaded and began attacking Ukrainian military and civilian areas.

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