Ukraine-Russia conflict: African victims of racism at the Polish border

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As Moscow intensifies the bombings of certain Ukrainian cities, people are trying to leave Ukraine. Among them are thousands of Africans. But the treatment received by them is most degrading.

African governments such as Nigeria, South Africa and ECOWAS have denounced the treatment of African nationals in Ukraine and at the Polish border. Indeed, at the peak of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Africans, mostly students, tried to take refuge in Poland. But, the Polish border guards deny access to their country to people with colored skin.

Isaac, a Nigerian student in Ukraine confides that after arriving at the border, the personnel on duty told him “that they do not take care of Africans” he continues his declaration on the microphone of BBC by saying: “We have chased away, we were beaten by policemen armed with sticks”. However, Isaac is not the only African in this situation. His compatriot Osemen, still on the BBC microphone, said he tried to take a bus in the city of Lviv to go to the Polish border. But he was denied access to the bus. He was told that only Ukrainians were allowed on this bus.

Many Africans therefore find themselves traveling several tens of kilometers on foot. This is the case of Ruqqaya, a medical student in the city of Kharkiv. She had to walk for 11 hours to reach Medyka, the crossing point for Poland. She says that when she arrived, she found lots of Africans sleeping on the streets, exposed to the cold. At the time of the crossing, she was notified that the Ukrainians had priority and that she had to join the queue, where the other Africans were crammed. Asya, a student from Somalia, after reaching Poland, was unable to find accommodation because, she was told, “hotel accommodation was only for Ukrainians”. Gloire Mavinga, president of the Congolese diaspora in Ukraine explains that he observed scenes of racism, especially when two ladies, a Congolese and a Somali arrived with their babies. These ladies, he continues, had a hard time getting through. Yet when a Ukrainian woman arrives with her child, people rush to help her.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari strongly condemns this treatment of Africans. On Twitter, he said: “All those fleeing a situation of conflict have the same right to safe passage under the UN Convention, and the color of their passport or their skin should make no difference.” . African governments have therefore asked Africans in Ukraine to go to the border of Hungary and Romania instead while awaiting their repatriation. Following up on this recommendation, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Romania, Safiya Nuhu, told the BBC that more than 200 compatriots were already in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, and many more were expected to arrive soon.

This situation is highly regrettable. Several centuries after the end of the slave trade, blacks continue to be victims of racism and humiliation. We call on African governments to assume their responsibilities and come to the efficient aid of all our compatriots stuck in Ukraine.

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