African refugees fleeing Ukraine are facing 'shocking' racism

African refugees fleeing Ukraine are facing ‘shockingly racist’ treatment with border guards blocking their attempts to cross the border into Poland, continent’s leaders claim

  • Black people fleeing the escalating conflict in Ukraine are suffering racism 
  • A Nigerian family was told ‘no blacks’ as they tried boarding a bus to safety 
  • Korrine Sky, a British-Zimbabwean mother of one was threatened at gunpoint
  • Ms Sky described apocalyptic scenes of marauding, armed and racist militia 
  • African government officials have condemned the treatment of their citizens 

Black people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine are suffering racism – being denied entry onto public transport and even threatened at gunpoint by marauding militiamen. 

Korrine Sky, 26, a British-Zimbabwean national who has been studying medicine in Ukraine since September, said the situation had deteriorated and become ‘like an apocalypse movie’, with armed vigilantes roaming the streets. 

Ms Sky, mother of a nine-month-old baby, told The Independent she had been threatened at gunpoint due to the colour of her skin by local armed men as she tried to make her escape from the rapidly escalating conflict. 

According to Ms Sky’s Twitter, she has driven to the border with Romania, where she is still waiting to cross, and she reports having received ‘some threats of violence from some local Ukrainians who don’t believe we should enter’.

Meanwhile, Osarumen, a father-of-three and a Nigerian national, said he and his family were asked to give up their seat on a cross-border bus out of Ukraine, with the driver and military officers using the phrase ‘no blacks’ as justification.

Black people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine have reported falling victim to racist behaviour, with one Nigerian family told ‘no blacks’ when they tried boarding a bus and a British-Zimbabwean medical student being threatened at gunpoint. Pictured: Korrine Sky, 26, a medical student who said on Twitter she experienced racial violence while fleeing Ukraine

Korrine Sky, 26, a Zimbabwean national who has been studying medicine in Ukraine since September, said the situation had deteriorated and become ‘like an apocalypse movie’, with armed vigilantes roaming the streets

Osarumen told The Independent: ‘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.

Osatumen, who has been living in Ukraine since 2009, said he was stranded at a train station in Kyiv.

He said: ‘This isn’t just happening to black people – even Indians, Arabs and Syrians,’ he added, ‘and that shouldn’t be the case.’  

The current chair of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, and African Union Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat said Monday that they were ‘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’.

Nigerian presidential advisor Garba Shehu said on Monday there had been ‘unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards the Ukraine-Poland border’

‘Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach international law,’ they said in a statement calling for all countries ‘to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity’.

Nigeria on Monday urged border officials in Ukraine and elsewhere to treat its citizens equally.

‘There have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards the Ukraine-Poland border,’ said presidential advisor Garba Shehu in a statement.

Shehu referenced a video on social media where a Nigerian mother with a young baby was filmed being physically forced to give up her seat.

He said there are also reports of Polish officials refusing Nigerian citizens entry into Poland from Ukraine.

‘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,’ said Shehu.

Korrine Sky, a Zimbabwean-British medical student in Ukraine, has arrived at the border with Romania, although she is still engaged in bureaucratic wrangling over papers to finalise her escape, according to the latest activity on her Twitter

A GoFundMe page specifically for Afro-Caribbean students leaving Ukraine had raised over £7,000 on Monday

A group of South Africans, mostly students, were stuck at the Ukrainian-Polish border, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said on Twitter.

The South African ambassador to Warsaw was at the site trying to get them through, according to Monyela who on Sunday had said Africans were being ‘treated badly’ at the Polish-Ukraine border.  

Poland’s ambassador to Nigeria Joanna Tarnawska dismissed claims of unfair treatment.

‘Everybody receives equal treatment. I can assure you that I have reports that already some Nigerian nationals have crossed the border into Poland,’ she told local media.

She said Nigerians could stay for 15 days. Even invalid documents were being accepted to cross the border and Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, she added.

Some Nigerians who made it across the borders described frightening journeys in the dark to reach traffic-packed frontiers where they were made to wait as officials gave priority to Ukrainian women and children.

‘One of the officers came and told us it’s harder for us foreigners because they have to get in touch with our government in different countries,’ Stephanie Agekameh, a medical student now in Poland, said by text message.

Speaking from Korczowa in Poland, Nigerian managerial sciences student Agantem Moshe, said Ukrainian police had pushed Africans out of the way to make way for women and children.

‘From the Polish side it was smooth, they were professionals. In Ukraine, they kept us outside in the cold,’ he said.

The UN said that more than half a million refugees from Ukraine had so far crossed into neighbouring countries.

Nigeria’s embassy in Bucharest said it had received 130 Nigerians from Ukraine, with more being processed having reached Warsaw or Budapest.

‘We assure Nigerians that all hands are on deck and arrangements are being put in place to effectively evacuate our citizens,’ Nigerian official Gabriel Aduda said in a statement.  

Ghana’s government said it would meet with parents of students stuck in Ukraine on Tuesday and sent embassy officials to border points to help.

DR Congo Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula said on Twitter he would meet with the Polish ambassador to help with the passage across the border of about 200 Congolese, mostly students.

Ivory Coast, which according to state media has 500 nationals in Ukraine, said it was also making arrangements for their evacuation.

Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry said last week around 200 Kenyans were safe and accounted for but that some were stuck at the Polish border because of visa restrictions.

Nigerian accountant Lukmon Busari said his son, a fourth-year medical student, was already out after waiting for a day on the Polish border.

‘Initially they didn’t allow them to move as they gave priority to Ukrainians, to women and children. Eventually they allowed them into Poland,’ Busari told AFP by telephone.

According to him, the Polish authorities ‘did a marvellous job’.

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