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African and Indian Students Are Struggling to Get Out of Ukraine


As Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, the situation at Ukraine’s borders has become increasingly complicated. Over the weekend, reports of racism at the border intensified, especially targeting Nigerians and others from African nations seeking to flee the country. A Nigerian student struggling to leave Ukraine told the BBC that Polish border staff claimed they were “not tending to Africans,” and a South African foreign office official said students were “treated badly at the border.”

Under the hashtag #AfricansInUkraine, several people have shared stories and accounts of their difficulties trying to leave the country, including reports that Ukrainian security officials are stopping Africans from boarding trains and buses. There are more than 15,000 students from African nations studying in Ukraine, the majority of them from Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt.

Africans and Indians have taken to social media to post requests for support getting out of Ukraine, alleging that they have been turned back from trains and threatened by police for attempting to leave. The BBC reported that Indian students alleged they were beaten by Ukrainian border guards in their efforts to cross the border.

In a video segment from ABC News, men waiting on a Ukrainian train platform alleged they had been experiencing racism and had been waiting days to be allowed on a train to leave the country. On February 26, BBC correspondent Stephanie Hegarty tweeted that she spoke to a Nigerian medical student attempting to cross into Poland from Ukraine: “[She] told me she has been waiting 7 hours to cross, she says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let ‘Ukrainians’ through first.”

Nigeria’s president responded to the reports via Twitter on February 27: “From video evidence, first-hand reports, and from those in contact with their wards and/or Nigerian consular officials, there have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police and security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards Ukraine-Poland border,” the statement read. “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.”

Other nations with populations seeking refuge have issued public statements regarding the situation. On Friday, Ghana issued a statement confirming it was working to evacuate Ghanaian students from Ukraine. On Monday, the Indian embassy in Ukraine tweeted a statement advising all Indians to board evacuation trains provided by the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. And there are reports that many of those who had been denied access to crossing the border have since been able to get through; over half a million people have left Ukraine for neighboring countries, according to the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees on February 28.

Some American politicians have criticized the footage. “Bombs don’t check your nationality and border security shouldn’t either,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a former refugee herself. “Everyone fleeing Ukraine is in desperate need of shelter. I hope neighboring countries who are opening their borders to Ukrainians wouldn’t discriminate against Africans and Asians. Let’s lead with grace.”





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