Black communities around the world show support for refugees suffering racism while trying to leave Ukraine

Scores of people have been blocked at borders

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Tuesday 01 March 2022 13:41 GMT

Organisations, government officials and public figures around the world have condemned racist treatment of Black, south Asian and Mediterranean refugees attempting to flee Ukraine to safety amid fighting against Russian troops.

Scores of people have been blocked at borders while trying to make crossings while white Ukranians have been prioritised told The Independent.

Black people living in the region said they have been left to languish, with some taking to social media in recent days to share accounts of abandonment.

"UNHCR is aware of reports of individuals facing challenges entering Poland from Ukraine and is following up on them. We advocate for access to safety for all, regardless their legal status, nationality and race as well as access to asylum for those who want to seek asylum,” Christine Pirovolakis, Senior External Relations Officer at the UK branch of UNHCR, told The Independent.

Various politicians from the Labour Party have also condemned the allegations including Diane Abbott and Preet Kaur.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, chaired by Labour MP Chi Onwurah, is aware of the reports of racism,. “The APPG is looking into these worrying reports and will be raising them with UK Government. If there are specific examples/issues to be included, let us know,” she said.

Black people living in the region said they have been left to languish, with some taking to Twitter in recent days to share accounts of abandonment, sparking some media coverage.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is alarmed by accounts of racism, a spokesperson told The Independent. “The Mayor is concerned by reports of discrimination being experienced by overseas citizens attempting to leave Ukraine in search of safety” they said.

“Sadiq is clear that racism and prejudice are always wrong and urges those facilitating evacuations to provide the same support and show the same level of compassion to all those forced to flee Putin’s appalling acts of aggression.”

Osarumen, a father-of-three, said he, his family members and other refugees were told to disembark a bus about to cross the border on Saturday and told, “No Blacks”, he told The Independent. Despite challenging the driver and military officers’ orders, they were ejected from the vehicle.

“Since then, I’ve been trying to get myself together and focus as normal but it’s been difficult,” he said.

“In all of my years as an activist, I have never seen anything like this. When I look into the eyes of those who are turning us away, I see bloodshot racism; they want to save themselves and they are losing their humanity in the process.”

Elsewhere, additional reports have emerged of South Asian refugees, including Sikhs, and Latina students in Ukraine being turned away at borders.

Meanwhile, the British Red Cross, which has launched a crisis appeal in Ukraine, said: “We believe everyone has the right to get help when they’re in a crisis like this one, no matter who they are. That’s why the Red Cross exists.

“When someone comes to us for support, we don’t discriminate – we simply help the person in front of us. We’d like to remind others that everyone caught up in this crisis in Ukraine should be treated equally and fairly.”

This comes after Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, said on Monday: “All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN convention and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference,” referring to reports of Ukrainian police obstructing Nigerians.

“From video evidence, first-hand reports, and from those in contact with ... Nigerian consular officials, there have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards Ukraine-Poland border,” he said.

“We are particularly disturbed by reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety,” the African Union said.

The minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has taken the issue up with the Ukrainian ambassador, a Nigerian official said.

In addition to this, the African Union, a continental union consisting of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa, released a statement about “disturbing” reports.

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach international law. In this regard, The Chairpersons urge all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity,” the union’s statement said.

The global African diaspora has called upon government’s across the continent to ramp up efforts to evacuate their citizens from Ukraine as Russian military forces descend further into the country.

In the absence of adequate support, Nigerian communities within the UK in particular have mobilised to arrange support for those who need it through platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram.

Various Telegram groups chats have been hacked by racist trolls who have posted racist slurs and photographs of brutalised Black bodies.

Celebrities around the world have used their platforms to highlight the plight of African people attempting to flee Ukraine.

The BeyGood charity, run by American entertainer Beyonce, tweeted on Monday: “We are saddened by the news of African and other international students being denied at the border as they attempt to leave Ukraine. We are hopeful that the various embassies could swiftly rectify the situation to help those in need of support.”

US rapper Young Thug wrote in his Instagram stories: ‘If some of my rap brothers are in I’m willing to help Africans get out of Ukraine however I can sense they not letting us pass.

“‘Whoever holds the info for these movements please contact me ASAP I’m ready.”

Young Thug’s Instagram post

F1 sports star Lewis Hamilton took to Instagram stories and shared information about how people can assist Black students affected by the conflict.

On Sunday, Oscar award-winning direct Ava DuVernay tweeted ‘#AfricansInUkraine’, a viral hashtag where numerous videos and accounts of Black students being subjected to racist treatments at various borders in Ukraine.

Amnesty International has been approached for comment.

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