Racism rears its ugly head as Africans are prevented from fleeing Ukraine

Kamogelo Olaitan

Like many in Ukraine, Africans, mostly students, are trying to flee the war torn country following the Russian invasion which began last Thursday.

But the students are still stranded as they say they are facing racism while trying to leave Ukraine.

The outrageous videos were shared on social media with one showing Ukrainian border guards making it difficult for black Africans to exit the country and others showing them being refused to board buses and trains leaving the country.

The African students, most of whom are studying medicine in Ukraine, are from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The students, who have been sleeping on the streets for days, said on social media that they have been prevented from crossing the border into neighbouring countries while white refugees were allowed through.

In a statement tweeted by the Nigerian government on Monday, President Mohammadu Buhari expressed disappointment at ongoing reports of maltreatment of some Nigerian nationals and other African countries attempting to flee the country.

“All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under the UN Convention, and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference,” Buhari said in a tweet.

A Nigerian national named Isaac, who was trying to get into Poland, said border staff told him they were “not tending to Africans”.

“We’ve been chased back, we’ve been hit with police armed with sticks,” he told the BBC.

Another Nigerian University student Ruqqaya, studying medicine in Kharkiv, said she walked for 11 hours overnight before she arrived at the Medyka crossing with Poland.

“When I came here there were black people sleeping on the streets. I was told by armed guards to wait as Ukrainians had to be let through first ” she said.

More than 500,000 Ukrainians have reportedly managed to flee the Russian invasion so far.

The Polish border force told the BBC that everyone fleeing Ukraine was being welcomed into Poland regardless of nationality.

Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geofrey Onyeama said he had spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and had been assured that Ukrainian border guards had been given an order to allow all foreigners leaving Ukraine to pass without restrictions.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) condemned racism directed at Africans who were fleeing Ukraine.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said there were plans to move South Africans out of Ukraine.

“We have around 200 South Africans that are registered with our office and our ambassador in Ukraine Andre Groenewald has been busy organising their movement out of the country. Because of the situation in that country we have had to rely on trains as a mode of transport, ” Monyela said.

Image source: @AdvoBarryRoux

Video source: @Damilare_arah