By Florence Mafomemeh
As the Ukraine crisis unfolds, some hidden realities are coming to light. African students and nationals in the country who are also fleeing the war are decrying racism. They say they are being discriminated against as they face racism and hostility at the Ukrainian border.
African nationals have accused Ukrainian security forces of racially profiling them, and of stopping them from getting on trains. The Africans said the Ukrainian officials were picking only white people and saying “Ukrainians only.” “I said: ‘You say Ukrainians only, but I don’t see you checking passports. I see you picking white people only.’ The train was not filled before they left, but they never picked us,” one of them said
“We felt treated like animals,” a 19-year-old student said. “When we left Kyiv, we were just trying to survive. We never thought that they would have treated us like that. I thought we were all equal, that we were trying to stand together,” she added.
Over social media, several African students said they had been bypassed to allow Ukrainians and other European nationals to cross the border into Poland first. They said they were made to spend hours and days in freezing temperatures without food or sanitation facilities.
Some of them said they tried to get on train after train out of Kyiv and were able to board one only after they begged. “The train was already leaving, we jumped in and were holding the door and told them, ‘You either open the door or we die on the road,’”one recalled. “The official finally opened the door. We were the only three Africans in that particular train and the train was not full.”
Some of them said there is a lot of discrimination going on there and that they actually had to beg people to take them to the border so they could find a way to escape. They said the situation near the Polish border is very difficult because foreigners are not allowed to cross the border.
These are just a few of such episodes of abuse and discrimination reported by scores of Africans while trying to cross Ukraine’s borders.
African Union officials put out a statement about the concerning situation. “Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach” of international law.
Meanwhile, the reports of discrimination have caused uproar in Africa. During a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, African envoys spoke out strongly at the mistreatment of African nationals trying to flee Ukraine.
“We echo here the outcry of African students who are fleeing the war in Ukraine and are facing discrimination in their exodus in search of shelter. This situation is unacceptable. We say no to racism and demand respect for human dignity while calling for the fair treatment of all people in distress,” said Baudelaire Ndong Ella, the Gabonese Ambassador to the UN.
African countries have been scrambling to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine. On Tuesday, the first group of Ghanaian evacuees arrived home in Accra. The government said more will be put on commercial flights in the coming days.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the U.N. urged countries to open borders to Africans fleeing Ukraine.
Meanwhile rapper Young Thug has offered help to African immigrants stuck at the Ukraine border. Thug has voiced his willingness to spearhead an initiative among his fellow rap stars to help assist those stuck at the Ukraine border.