African students fleeing Russian invasion face racism and violence on Ukraine-Poland border

African students fleeing Russian invasion face racism and violence on Ukraine-Poland border
3 min read
28 February, 2022
African students stranded in Ukraine-Poland borders call out 'racism' and 'segregation' against non-Europeans.
Students who reached the Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Moldovan borders have reported good assistance from guards and diplomats posted there [Getty]

African students and expatriates fleeing the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine have complained of racism and discrimination at some border crossings out of the country.

Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Poland remain the last escape for more than 10,000 stranded African and Arab students after the closure of Ukraine's airspace to civilian flights.

Neighbouring Belarus has sided with Russia's Vladimir Putin in the war against Ukraine and has been the launchpad for the invasion.

Students who reached the Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Moldovan borders have reported good assistance from guards and diplomats posted there.

Those choosing Poland as the nearest means of escape have told a different story.

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"I have been waiting here for more than two days. We are freezing. We have been beaten and humiliated, just because we are not Europeans," Mehdi, a Moroccan student stranded in Midyka on the Ukrainian-Polish borders, told The New Arab.

After walking more than 10km reach the border, Mehdi and his friends were left stranded at a crossing unable to reach diplomats waiting for them on the Polish side.

"They segregated us into two groups - Africans and Europeans. The European bus came every 15 minutes, the African bus came every four hours. It's like a colour filter for refugees," added Mehdi.

Soukaina, a Tunisian student who managed to cross into Poland, told The New Arab how the chaos first erupted on the Polish-Ukrainian borders.

"Africans were stranded there for more than two days, while Europeans made it to the other side in a few hours. A group of Africans forced their way through the border facing racist treatment and since then the guards have [further] tightened their policy," said Soukaina, who was studying in Ukraine.

A Nigerian student named Nze filmed Polish guards pointing guns at a group of unarmed African students, who were yelling: "This is unfair, we are students."

He also documented his journey from the capital Kyiv to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where he said Ukrainian forces prioritised Europeans boarding trains over Africans.

Similar experiences were shared across messaging service Telegram groups, where African and Arab students shared recommendations about the safest ways to escape the war.

Human Rights associations have not responded yet to the documented racism on the borders.

Meanwhile, the chancellery of the Polish prime minister called the students’ shared experiences "fake news", as it stressed that Warsaw welcomes all refugees regardless of their nationalities and ethnicities.

The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association issued a statement on Sunday, condemning some of the "racist" rhetoric in western media regarding the Ukraine war.

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