Human Lives Human Rights: As Russia and Ukraine enter into conflict, thousands of African students have become displaced as they are being removed from evacuation trains to make room for white Ukrainians and African students being pushed to the back of evacuation lines are widespread.
Ukraine is home to thousands of African students who study medicine, engineering, and other technical fields at affordable prices compared with the rest of Europe and the United States.
Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt are in the top 10 countries with students in Ukraine, in total sending over 16,000 students to the country.
Students are organizing themselves into groups through social media apps Twitter and WhatsApp. The goal for many right now is to get out of Ukraine and in to one of the neighboring countries.
Students are reporting a lot of anxiety over this move to the borders as some embassies have not communicated with their citizens whether or not they will be granted refugee status when there, and some fear being turned away.
Many Africans have also reported spouts of anti-Black racism while trying to find shelter and survive.
African students are facing blatant racism at the border. There is a hierarchy of crossing: White women and children, white men, followed by African women, and then African men.
The African Union (AU) says it is “disturbed” by reports that African nationals in Ukraine are been prevented from safely crossing the border to flee the raging conflict in the country.
In a statement late Monday, the pan-African body said: “All people have the right to cross international borders during conflict, and as such, should enjoy the same rights to cross to safety from the conflict in Ukraine, notwithstanding their nationality or racial identity.”
African nationals, mostly students, have accused Ukrainian security forces of stopping them from boarding trains headed to the border regions. Videos shared on social media also show Ukrainian border forces pushing African nationals as they attempt to leave Ukraine.
“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach international law,” the AU statement continued.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government expressed concern over reports of discriminatory behavior by Ukrainian and Polish border guards against its nationals.
“There have been unfortunate reports of Ukrainian police & security personnel refusing to allow Nigerians to board buses and trains heading towards [the] Ukraine-Poland border,” the Nigerian presidency said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN Convention and the color of their passport or their skin should make no difference,” the statement added.