Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Ukraine: International coalition including George Floyd lawyers files UN appeal over racism at borders

Appeal comes after both the Ukrainian government and the UN acknowledged that Black refugees had been subjected to racism at the country’s borders

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Wednesday 02 March 2022 14:28 GMT
'There is so much crap out there' BBC's Clive Myrie explains why he’s staying in Ukraine

Internationally renowned human rights lawyers who represented the family of George Floyd will file an urgent appeal to the United Nations as part of a coalition, on behalf of Black refugees facing racism at Ukraine’s borders.

Ben Crump and Jasmine Rand will hold a virtual news conference on Wednesday afternoon to announce the petition to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Peter Herbert, one of the first Black judges in Britain and co-chair of the Bandung Conference, is part of the coalition of lawyers and activists, along with Jamaican MP G Anthony Hylton, solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie, and Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association in the US.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Herbert said: “The quality of any nation must be judged by how it respects all its citizens as well as those lawfully present in its borders to work, visit or study.

“The blatant racism exhibited by both Ukrainian and Polish border guards and police is a disgrace.

“Freedom rights should not be subject to racism whatever the circumstances. Russia also has a duty to safeguard the lives and liberty of all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity or nationality.”

The appeal comes after both the Ukrainian government and the UN acknowledged that some refugees had been subjected to discriminatory treatment while trying to flee to safety at Ukraine’s borders, after their experiences were dismissed as lies and “Russian disinformation” by online commentators.

A map showing the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (PA)

British politician Anna Rothery, formerly the first Black lord mayor of Liverpool, said: “A quarter of the world is at war. Millions of children are caught up in immeasurable conflict. We will never be able to gauge the psychological damage done to these children, for many decades to come.

“We call for an immediate halt of the Ukraine bombings to allow the children to be evacuated. We also request safe passage for the young students studying in Ukraine, which is currently proving impossible. We pray for the day children wake to the sound of birds singing instead of bombs being dropped.”

Video evidence has circulated on social media of physical violence and segregation being employed by some Ukraine military officials to prevent Black and brown refugees from fleeing the war-torn European country.

Some reports allege that Polish authorities are threatening to shoot Black refugees, and segregating the refugee lines to enter Poland based on race.

Celebrities around the world have used their platforms to highlight the plight of Black people in Ukraine, from singer Beyoncé and Formula One star Lewis Hamilton to Hollywood film director Ava DuVernay and civil rights pioneer Jesse Jackson.

Zita Holbourne, who chairs national campaign Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts UK (BARAC UK), said: “The targeting of Black and brown people in this way is a racist human rights abuse on top of a human rights crisis impacting all people forced to flee Ukraine.

“Such blatant racism cannot be tolerated. The human rights of Black and brown people, predominantly students situated in Ukraine, must be honoured and safe exit facilitated for all, free of discriminatory selection processes at borders.”

Lawyer Hilary Brown, chair of Butetown Community Centre in Wales, said: “The eyes of the world are anxiously scrutinising the events as they unfold in Ukraine, and already, just a few days into the illegal incursion by Russia, we see Black and brown people facing discrimination as they try to flee for their lives.

“Even in times of war, when bombs do not discriminate, it is clear that those who are meant to help with the evacuation of all people operate a hierarchy based on skin colour.

“We will not stand by and allow a segregation mentality to decide who can flee and who cannot. In this illegal war, Black lives matter.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in