More than half a million people have been evacuated from Ukraine to Romania since Russia began its attacks, including thousands of Turkish citizens and their families.

As Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, posing a serious threat to thousands of Turkish people living in the embattled country, Türkiye was quick to formulate an evacuation plan.

The Turkish Ambassador to Romania, Fusun Aramaz, spoke to TRT World about the evacuation process and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ effort in ensuring the safety of its citizens.

The ambassador explained that “immediately after the attack on Ukraine” a Coordination and Support Centre was set up within the Ministry to coordinate the safe passage for all Turkish citizens in Ukraine to reach Türkiye.

“More than 5,000 people, most of them Turkish citizens and their families, have been evacuated from Ukraine via Romania,” Aramaz told TRT World, calling the repatriation operations “exemplary.”

The centre has been working alongside Türkiye’s Embassy in Kiev and Consulate General in Odesa, as well as in cooperation with Türkiye’s representations in neighbouring countries.

Aramaz said the Embassy’s personnel have been actively involved in the field, especially in the Siret and Iseacca border gates.

“Following the big evacuations by train carried out by our Embassy in Kiev we had a couple of thousand Turkish citizens leaving Ukraine from Chernivtsi with buses and reaching the Siret border crossing in Romania in two days,” said Aramaz.

More than 3.62 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since Russia began its attacks last month – with a large number fleeing to Poland and Romania in particular.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 2.14 million people have fled to Poland and 555,021 to Romania.

In total, Türkiye has evacuated 15,196 citizens since the start of Russia's attacks in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a Twitter post last week.

READ MORE: Ukraine refugees: where are they fleeing to?

Siret border crossing

The Romania–Ukraine border consists of both a land and maritime boundary at a total length of 613.8 kilometres.

Over the past few weeks a number of volunteers have been seen distributing food and water to refugees waiting in frigid weather and snow conditions at the Porubne Border Crossing Point in Siret.

Several ambulances have also been dispatched to the area to provide emergency aid as the border crossings continue.

“A team from our Embassy has been facilitating the border crossing of Turkish people at Siret from the very first day of the crisis with the swift assistance and flexible attitude of the border authorities,” said Aramaz.

The ambassador said the ministry arranged a shelter for evacuees as a transit point to provide rest and food on March 2-3 with assistance from The Association of Turkish Businessmen (TIAD), Maarif School and dozens of volunteers from the Turkish community in Bucharest.

During this time, Turkish Airlines organised seven special flights for the repatriation of the people who have fled.  

In addition, the Turkish Consulate General in Constanta has been coordinating the safe passage of Turkish citizens especially through the Isaccea border crossing at the Ukrainian border, in close communication with Romanian local authorities.

READ MORE:‘They didn’t know where they were going to go’: Ukrainians flee west

Humanitarian approach

The ambassador said they have not met any problems during the evacuation process “thanks to the swift assistance and humanitarian approach of the Romanian authorities.”

“It goes without saying that the fragile situation in Ukraine causes many uncertainties. However our Embassy in Kiev has been shouldering a very crucial responsibility to reach each and every Turkish citizen in the whole of Ukraine,” said Aramaz.

“We all appreciate their heroic effort,” she added.

Romania opened up its borders to anyone fleeing Russia’s attacks in Ukraine, irrespective of their nationality or religion, she explained. The sincere support of all Romanian authorities and people ensured a successful evacuation process.

The ambassador conveyed her heartfelt appreciation, on behalf of Türkiye’s government and Embassy, to all the relevant Romanian authorities for extending “their sincere and swift assistance without hesitation” to Turkish citizens in Ukraine.

Aid efforts

The Embassy of Türkiye in Bucharest has also been coordinating humanitarian assistance and relief efforts.

AFAD (Turkish Emergency Management Authority) at the Siret border, and the Turkish Red Crescent on the Ukrainian side in Chernivtsi have set up separate stands where Turkish volunteers distribute food and basic necessities daily, she noted.

In addition, The Turkish Ministry of Health has set up a field tent in Siret, where a medical team is offering emergency care to all those in need.

“It is an undeniable fact that there is a humanitarian crisis going on in Ukraine. However, the Romanian authorities are taking all necessary measures for people crossing the borders with Ukraine,” said Aramaz.

“Our Embassy and Consulate in Constanta and our entire diplomatic mission is on duty on a 24/7 basis. We do our best to deal with all the requests of the Turkish citizens,” she added.

Humanitarian assistance is provided not only for Turkish people but also for anyone fleeing Ukraine, regardless of their nationality, said Aramaz.

Currently the evacuation process of Turkish citizens continues with the first stop at a facility run by a Turkish foundation, namely the Balkan Humanitarian Foundation in Bucharest.

The facility receives the evacuation buses arriving from the Romanian-Ukrainian border and provides a rest stop for the people before they continue their journey to Istanbul.

READ MORE: Why is Polish generosity only limited to the Ukrainian refugees?

Source: TRT World