Budapest, Hungary – More than 2,500 Mongolian nationals have been stranded in European countries, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, since the Mongolian government closed its border to its own citizens in March.
Landlocked between Russia and China, Mongolia became one of the first countries to close its borders in the face of the growing Covid-19 pandemic.
“Mongolians in Europe are in despair. We have no visas, no money, no job, no medical insurance and no support from our government at all,” tells us Oyunaa, who has been stuck in Hungary for more than five months and who created the Facebook group “Mongolians stuck in Europe” (Европид гацсан Монголчууд).
“As far as I know, there are 241 Mongolians in Hungary, 260 in the Czech Republic, 160 in Latvia and Poland, 264 in Germany, 60 in France, 370 in Great Britain, 130 in Sweden, and 80 in Austria and Ireland,” she says, many of them were tourists, attending seminars and workshops, or visiting friends and relatives.
“We are sending many requests to our embassy, government organizations and state commissions to send more flights to Europe to repatriate us but no success,” she says, adding that the government’s limited capacity only allows for two repatriation flights a month.
For Oyunaa, the worst part is that despite the fact that Wizz Air and LOT airlines have agreed to repatriate the stranded Mongolians back home with their own planes, the Mongolian government would still not let them back. “We do not understand why they just cannot accept these offers since Mongolian Airlines does not have capacity to carry all citizens,” she says.
Desperate Mongolians stranded across Europe are organizing protest campaigns calling for more flights to Europe and begging the Mongolian government to allow foreign repatriation flights to land in the country.
“We are in despair,” says Oyunaa. “We do not know how to persuade Mongolian government to let us go home. We are so desperate, and we have no one to address our issue except press.”
We spoke to representatives of the many Mongolian students who came to Hungary funded by the Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship program and who are now stuck in no man’s land.
“Our scholarship contract and medical insurance have ended completely in June. Literally, we have no financial support, no medical insurance and no opportunity to find job here in Hungary. We desperately want to go back to Mongolia with our diploma. It is our government obligation to repatriate us back to our home,” they say, claiming that so far only four have had a chance to have seat in a flight back.
They explain that one of the regulations is that those who land in Mongolia then would have to stay in quarantine for 21 days in special hotels and camps, plus 14 more days in home quarantine. The cost of repatriating the flight ticket and the quarantine facility is approximately 5 million Mongolian tugriks which is equal to 1,500 euro.
“It is very expensive for some people who have been stuck in European countries for 5 months without any income,” they say.
In the Czech Republic, Dash tells us that there are approximately 260 people who are registered at the Mongolian Embassy in Prague for going back to Mongolia.
“I came to the Czech Republic at the beginning of March for business. I was supposed to go back the following week,” she says.
“I left my two sons back home alone and really concerned about their well-being. We have sent many requests to go back to Mongolia to all possible authorities of Mongolia including Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The State Special Commission, Mongolian Embassy in Prague but still no luck to be included in a plane.”
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh announced last month that the country will maintain strict coronavirus regulations until a vaccine is found, raising the prospect of the country being locked down for months to come.