The Ukrainian government on Tuesday finally addressed reports that Africans were being treated poorly in Ukraine because of the color of their skin.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has affected Ukrainians and non-citizens in many devastating ways. Africans seeking evacuation are our friends and need to have equal opportunities to return to their home countries safely,” tweeted the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba. “Ukraine’s government spares no effort to solve the problem.”
African nations condemn treatment of Africans in Ukraine and Poland
On Monday, the three African nations on the United Nations Security Council, Ghana, Kenya and Gabon, condemned racial discrimination against Africans in Ukraine and along the Ukraine-Poland border, with the representative from Gabon describing it as “unacceptable.”
The condemnation during the UN security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City on Monday afternoon came after video evidence and several testimonies confirmed that Africans were being denied entry into trains in Kyiv and across Ukraine to escape to safety amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while other Africans who managed to reach the border with Poland were sent back into Ukraine.
The United Nations Ambassador from Gabon Michel Xavier Biang called reports of racism “unacceptable.” “We ask for the respect of the dignity and for equitable treatment of all people in dire circumstances. It is an opportunity for my country to recall the African Union appeal for respect of international law that requires equal treatment for all people who cross international borders in conflict areas,” Biang said.
“In the unfolding emergency, there have been disturbing reports about the racist treatment of Africans and people of African descent seeking to flee Ukraine to safety. The media is covering these appalling incidents and several states have confirmed that their citizens are suffering such treatment,” Kenyan Ambassador to the UN Martin Kimani said. “We strongly condemn this racism and believe that it is damaging to the spirit of solidarity that is so urgently needed today. The mistreatment of African peoples on Europe’s borders needs to cease immediately, whether to the Africans fleeing Ukraine or to those crossing the Mediterranean.”
Kimani called on the Security Council to “understand that there are actors who want to magnify this story for cynical reasons that have nothing to do with the wellbeing and safety of Africans.”
He also thanked Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia for allowing Kenyan citizens fleeing Ukraine visa-free entry into their countries.
Ghanaian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Carolyn Oppong-Ntiri called for everyone fleeing the war in Ukraine to be treated “without discrimination.”
They should also be provided humanitarian assistance, “including medical care in line with the principles of humanity, neutrality, and impartiality,”Oppong-Ntiri added.
For the rest of the world, Ukraine is a beautiful country facing Russia’s aggression. On American television networks, clips of white Ukrainians, women and children, fleeing Russian bombs and tanks are displayed all day long. But for Africans in Ukraine and Africans trying to enter Poland from Ukraine, racism is alive and well, even in war.
Nigerian presidency condemns ill-treatment of Africans in Ukraine and Poland
On Sunday, the Nigerian presidency was outraged over the ill-treatment of Nigerians and Africans in Ukraine, and issued a strong statement after video evidence showed that Nigerians and Africans were being denied entry into trains in Kyiv and across Ukraine to flee to safety in Poland as Russian troops continued to close in on the Ukrainian capital.
Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who signed the statement on behalf of the Nigerian government, asserted that Nigerians were also being denied entry into neighboring Poland.
“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 the Ukraine-Poland border,” Mr. Shehu wrote. “In one video widely circulating on social media, a Nigerian mother with her young baby was filmed being physically forced to give up her seat to another person. There are also separate reports of Polish officials simply refusing Nigerian citizens’ entry into Poland from Ukraine.”
Shehu added that “one group of Nigerian students having been repeatedly refused entry into Poland have concluded they have no choice but to travel again across Ukraine and attempt to exit the country via the border with Hungary.”
Mr Shehu wrote, “While efforts to begin talks between Russia and Ukraine are underway, paramount on our minds is the safety and human rights of some four thousand Nigerian citizens and many others from friendly African nations today stranded in Ukraine.
“There is a long history dating back to decades of Nigerians and other Africans studying in Ukraine, particularly medicine. The majority of Nigerian citizens in the country today are university-enrolled students.
“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 the Ukraine-Poland border.
“In one video widely circulating on social media, a Nigerian mother with her young baby was filmed being physically forced to give up her seat to another person.
“There are also separate reports of Polish officials simply refusing Nigerian citizens’ entry into Poland from Ukraine.
“One group of Nigerian students having been repeatedly refused entry into Poland have concluded they have no choice but to travel again across Ukraine and attempt to exit the country via the border with Hungary.
“We understand the pain and fear that is confronting all people who find themselves in this terrifying place.
“We also appreciate that those in official positions in security and border management will in most cases be experiencing impossible expectations in a situation they never expected.
“But, for that reason, it is paramount that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour.
“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.
“As a nation, we are proud of those educated in Kyiv and Kharkiv and other cities and centres of learning who have returned to Nigeria to perform great service for our nation and our people.
“Without the generosity of spirit of the Ukrainian people that would never have been possible.
“We pray for those directly affected by this conflict.
“Nigeria, with our 200 million people, support all and every diplomatic effort to bring this war to an end.”
What Africans in Ukraine are saying
Ukrainian security forces are denying entry into trains to Africans in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, as they try to escape to Poland, even as Russian forces close in on the capital with bombs and tanks.
In several testimonies and recorded videos received by Today News Africa in Washington DC, Africans told this medium that on several occasions, women, children and men of all ages were forced to wait for all Ukrainians to board first before they were given the chance to escape. Most of them contacted us from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.
The Africans who contacted us were all Blacks and claimed they were being discriminated against because of the color of their skin.
They rejected claims that only African men were being barred from leaving the country to fight the Russians and said women and children were suffering the same fate in Kyiv as well.
Racism is high in Ukraine and Russia and Africans have been at the back of the line there for decades. The war in Ukraine only seems to exacerbate it all with mobile phones ready to broadcast it to the world.
Many Africans have also told this publication that they were shocked that the same western European countries that invaded and colonized them and sold them into slavery in the United States of America and elsewhere have suddenly become the moral compass of the world.
Africans express outrage on Twitter
Dr. Ayoade Alakija@yodifiji· “Black Africans are being treated with racism and contempt inUkraine & 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.”
Bishop Talbert Swan@TalbertSwan· “While empathetic Black people in America are donating money, advocating against the war, and praying for the people of Ukraine, Racist Ukrainians are blocking Africans from trains to escape the war torn nation.”
Damilare / ViF@Damilare_arah· “#AfricansinUkraine the community of AfricansinUkraine stranded at the boarder much of them women and children. — This is happening now The lady in the video is holding a 2 month old and it’s 3°c outside we are in search of aid and hostels”
Bishop Talbert Swan@TalbertSwan· “While empathetic Black people in America are donating money, advocating against the war, and praying for the people of Ukraine, Racist Ukrainians are blocking Africans from trains to escape the war torn nation. White supremacy and anti-Blackness are global.”
“I’m glad many brought this to my attention, the thousands of Africans stuck in Ukraine, or being blocked from leaving. Even in war racism rears its ugly head. Many are African students who went to Ukraine to train to become doctors and engineers. Their lives are equally valuable”
BeLong@BeLong_Arsenal· “Glad y’all seeing how Europeans are mistreating AfricansinUkraine. I am disappointed with Africans tweeting “Pray for Ukraine” when our own Africansin Somalia, DRC, Libya are suffering from the aftermath of America and Europe’s military incursion in these countries. #RacistEU“
Ilhan Omar@IlhanMN· “Bombs don’t check your nationality and border security shouldn’t either. 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.”
“#Przemysl. Train tickets are free for #Ukrainians citizens, but not for Africans who studies inUkraine. A group of them are stranded at the station – they have no money, no phone, no relatives in #Poland. Shame on you @PKPIntercityPDP for this discrimination”
tori ?️⚧️@MarxistWonk·Feb 27 “In the past 48 hours, dozens of videos showing Africans stranded in Ukraine turned away from trains and buses, forced away (at gunpoint!) from border crossings – unable to evacuate.”
“All of Europe is united in anti-Blackness.”
Lilibeth Jaquez@LilibethJaquez· “I DON’T stand with Russia and I DON’T stand with Ukraine. I stand in solidarity with the Latinos, Africans, Indians and Arab students that aren’t being allowed to leave Ukraine because their lack of whiteness. #racism#UkraineArmy#UkraineRussiaWar#UkraineWar#UkraineRussia“
Ken Opalo@kopalo· “After the African statements at UNSC, the shameful mistreatment of Africans fleeing Ukraine at EU borders is a slap in the face.”
Senator Shehu Sani@ShehuSani· “Racial discrimination against Nigerians & other AfricansinUkraine;it’s tragic to learn that even in the midst of war,the skin colour of some victims can place them in a ‘deeper’ disadvantageous position than others.Those who discriminate are as insane as those who invade.”
Damilare / ViF@Damilare_arah· “#AfricansinUkraine the community of AfricansinUkraine stranded at a boarder much of them women and children. — This is happening now The lady in the video is holding a 2 month old and it’s 3°c outside we are in search of aid and hostels”
Why are Africans fleeing to Poland?
Africans are trying to escape to Poland to reach safety and also because the United States is providing humanitarian assistance there.
On Saturday, for instance, U.S. aid chief Samantha Power met with Witold Dzielski, Advisor to the President of Poland, “to discuss joint efforts to respond to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
“Administrator Power emphasized the partnership between the United States and Poland in meeting the needs of the increasing flow of Ukrainians across the border. She thanked the Polish Government for its willingness to welcome Ukrainians displaced by the conflict, including the decisions to waive of COVID-19 restrictions, to allow fleeing Ukrainians to enter Poland without travel documents, and to provide free train travel across Poland to Ukrainians who arrive,” spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said in a statement.
Chalif added that “Administrator Power also met with USAID staff currently based in Poland, including staff with the Office of Transition Initiatives and members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) leading the U.S. response to the escalating humanitarian crisis resulting from Russia’s aggression and brutality. The team relayed that USAID’s humanitarian partners were ramping up their assistance in very difficult security conditions. They also shared that even in the country’s east where fighting was especially intense, Ukrainian community volunteers were actively responding to needs, showcasing the resolve of the Ukrainian people. Administrator Power expressed her gratitude to the DART for the team’s tireless efforts to work with partners to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs following Russia’s invasion.”
“Finally, the Administrator met with staff from the Embassy and Mission in Kiev who have left Ukraine in recent weeks due to the fighting. She expressed her sincere thanks on behalf of the United States for their continued service to the people of Ukraine and emphasized that the United States would never give up on the vision of an independent, democratic, prosperous Ukraine,” she said.
U.S. provides additional assistance to Ukraine
The United States government on Sunday announced that it was providing $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
“This funding includes nearly $26 million from the Department of State and $28 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development,” United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement. “This additional assistance will enable international humanitarian organizations to further support the people of Ukraine, working closely with the Government of Ukraine and European allies and partners at the forefront of any response.”
Blinken added that the United States “is one of the largest humanitarian donors to Ukraine, and our humanitarian assistance now amounts to nearly $405 million to vulnerable communities since Russia invaded Ukraine eight years ago.”
He wrote, “Our partnership with the people of Ukraine is steadfast and enduring, and we are focused on Ukraine’s urgent humanitarian needs as an important part of our response to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack. It is with the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians in mind that we are announcing the provision of nearly $54 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia’s further invasion. This funding includes nearly $26 million from the Department of State and $28 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“The United States is one of the largest humanitarian donors to Ukraine, and our humanitarian assistance now amounts to nearly $405 million to vulnerable communities since Russia invaded Ukraine eight years ago. This latest tranche of humanitarian assistance will flow through independent humanitarian organizations that deliver needs-based assistance with impartiality, humanity, neutrality, and independence.
“This additional assistance will enable international humanitarian organizations to further support the people of Ukraine, working closely with the Government of Ukraine and European allies and partners at the forefront of any response. This includes the provision of food, safe drinking water, shelter, emergency health care, winterization, and protection. Our funding will also help humanitarian organizations maintain contact between family members who have been separated due to the conflict, hopefully leading to reunification in some cases.
“The United States commends the hospitality of the neighboring countries in the region hosting fleeing Ukrainians, and we are engaging diplomatically to support their efforts to keep their borders open and assist those seeking international protection. As with any refugee situation, we call on the international community to respond to the needs of those seeking protection in a way consistent with the principle of non-refoulement and our shared obligations under international law. We welcome the contributions of other donors toward this crisis response and urge still others to generously support the immediate humanitarian needs in Ukraine and the region.”