“The colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference”

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  • Disturbing footage and reports of racism, discrimination and violence against African, Asian and Caribbean citizens at the Ukrainian border has prompted condemnation from public figures.

    On Monday, the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said in a state house release:  “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.” He was speaking in reference to first hand reports and video evidence of racism and discrimination he’d been made aware of at the Ukrainian borders.

    “There have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police & security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses & trains heading towards 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’[sic] entry into Poland from Ukraine.”

    He goes on to describe the situation a group of Nigerian students had faced, stating that they had repeatedly been refused entry into Poland and had concluded they had no choice but to travel again across Ukraine and attempt to exit the country via the border with Hungary.

    BBC journalist, Stephanie Hegarty has also been tweeting stories of discrimination and racism at the borders. In one tweet, she tells of the a Nigerian medical student who had been waiting seven hours to cross at the Ukraine-Poland border and was told by border guards to go to the back of the queue and to “let Ukrainians through first.”

    Hegarty’s colleague, Poonam Taneja, an investigative journalist at the BBC, responded to her tweet, saying she’d heard of similar problems being faced by Indian students at the same border.

    Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week, there has been a steady stream of these grim first hand accounts and disturbing footage shared on social media about the racism and discrimination being faced at the border.

    Medical student, Korrine Sky detailed her experience on Twitter, posting a video which shows a man circling the car she’s in and shouting. She said upon reaching the border she’d experienced threats of violence from some local Ukrainians who didn’t believe she should enter. Fortunately, Sky has since managed to cross the border and travel into Romania.

    In an opinion piece in the Mirror, sports writer Darren Lewis calls out the reports as “racism in plain sight.” He goes on to write: “In tales with shades of Nazi Germany, a hierarchy system has been seen ­operating at train stations in Kyiv: ­children first, white women and men (with their pets) second, while black people are made to wait.”

    As the events in Ukraine progress and we look ahead to tomorrow’s peace talks, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.

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