African refugees fleeing Ukraine face 'shockingly racist' treatment at hands of border guards

1 March 2022, 12:35

African refugees fleeing Ukraine are said to be facing 'shockingly racist' treatment (stock photo)
African refugees fleeing Ukraine are said to be facing 'shockingly racist' treatment (stock photo). Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

African refugees attempting to flee Ukraine have faced "shockingly racist" treatment at the hands of border guards.

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Several reports from African citizens have suggested that they are being blocked from crossing the Ukrainian border, with others retelling their negative experience trying to flee the war-torn country.

It comes after the UN Refugee Agency revealed that the number of refugees from Ukraine in neighbouring countries has now surpassed 660,000.

Medical student Korrine Sky revealed on Twitter that she was threatened at gun point while trying to leave.

In a thread of tweets, she said: "We just stopped by a road side three hours away from Lviv to stretch our legs and there were some armed local men, who at first offered us directions but when got out of the car they told us if we don’t leave in 5 minutes they will shoot us and held up a gun."

Ms Sky, who is mother to a nine month old baby, later told The Independent: "As a community we are generally fearful of armed police and being frequently stopped by people with guns is terrifying.

"I think I'm running on adrenaline at the moment; I'm assisting people while on the road so I need to remain calm so I can support others."

In her Twitter thread, she later added: "We saw a Nigerian man walking along the roadside and we stopped to see if he was okay and asked him to join us in the car.

"He has come from Kyiv and friends left him on the side of the road because they don’t want to continue on with the journey.

"He was waiting on the side of the road for over an hour (its cold) until we took him with us. He is showing us pictures of what he witnessed in Kyiv. He is very shaken up. He shared with videos of apartments being bombed in Kyiv.

"He told us he has never seen anything like this in his life it’s like a horror movie, but he is feeling a lot safer now we have taken him with us and travelling as group."

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Meanwhile, Osarumen, a father of three, told the Independent that he had been asked to give up his seat on a bus that was crossing the border on Saturday, with the reason being given as "no blacks".

Despite challenging the driver and military orders, the whole family was ejected from the vehicle.

"Since then, I've been trying to get myself together and focus as normal but it’s been difficult," he told the outlet.

The revelations have caused an outrage online over the "racism and contempt".

Dr Ayoade Alakija, a special envoy at the World Health Organisation, tweeted: "Black Africans are being treated with racism and contempt in Ukraine & Poland.

"West cannot ask African nations to stand in solidarity with them if they cannot display basic respect for us even in a time of war.

"Ignored in a pandemic and left to die in war?!! UNACCEPTABLE."

Meanwhile, African leaders have been quick to condemn the "unacceptable" treatment too, calling for everyone to have an equal opportunity in fleeing Ukraine.

African Union chiefs said in a statement: "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."

Presidential advisor Garba Shehu said: "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."

However, Poland's ambassador to Nigeria, Joanna Tarnawska, dismissed the claims of unfair treatment.

She told local media: "Everybody receives equal treatment. I can assure you that I have reports that already some Nigerian nationals have crossed the border into Poland."

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