Among the hundreds of thousands of people trying to flee Ukraine to neighboring countries, including Poland, are many African nationals – mostly students.
And the accusations of racist behavior towards them are multiplying.
The African Union (AU) has expressed itself
particularly concerned by reports that African citizens, being on the Ukrainian side of the border, are being denied the right to cross the border to safety.
The Senegalese Head of State Macky Sall, Chairman of the AU, and the Chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, recall that
everyone has the right to cross international borders during a conflict […] regardless of nationality or racial identity.
unacceptable different treatment to Africans would be
shocking and racist and
violate international lawthey point out.
Nigeria on Monday urged border authorities in Ukraine and neighboring countries to treat its citizens
Regrettable information indicate that
Ukrainian police and security personnel refuse to let Nigerians board buses and trains towards Poland, said Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu.
In a video circulating widely on social media, a Nigerian mother with her young baby was filmed being physically forced out of her seathe continued, and according to other reports, he added, Polish officials have refused entry into Poland to Nigerians coming from Ukraine.
Everyone fleeing a conflict situation has the same right of safe passage under the UN convention, and the color of their passport or skin should make no differencehe insisted.
South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela also claimed that Africans were victims of
bad treatments on the border between Ukraine and Poland, and that the South African ambassador had gone there to help a group of stranded South Africans, mostly students, to enter Poland.
Nigerians have 15 days to leave Poland
These accusations of racism have been rejected, in particular by the Polish ambassador to Nigeria, Joanna Tarnawska.
Everyone receives equal treatment. I can assure you that, according to the information I have, some Nigerian nationals have already crossed the border into Polandshe told local media.
According to Ms. Tarnawska, invalid identity documents are accepted to cross the border and restrictions related to COVID-19 have been lifted. Nigerians have 15 days to leave the country, she added.
Some Nigerians who crossed the border described their journey in darkness to crowded borders where officials prioritized Ukrainian women and children.
Now in Poland, Stéphanie Agekameh, a medical student, said that officials at the Medyka border post were dealing with Ukrainians first:
One of the officers came and told us that it is harder for us foreigners because they have to contact our government in different countries.
Since the beginning of the Russian offensive, more than 500,000 Ukrainians have reached neighboring countries, half of which have joined Poland, according to the UN.
Welcomed by their embassy
So far, more than 260 Nigerians have been welcomed by embassies, scattered between Romania, Hungary and Poland. Nearly 200 more are expected on Monday, according to the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Christophe Lutundula, for his part said that he would receive the Polish ambassador on Tuesday to facilitate the passage of some 200 DRC nationals currently in Ukraine.
They are at the border where we do not allow them to access these countries neighbours,” said the minister.
The Ghanaian government meanwhile said it would meet the parents of students stranded in Ukraine and sent embassy officials to border crossings to help them.
Ivory Coast, which has about 500 nationals in Ukraine, according to local media, also said it was making arrangements for their evacuation.
According to the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 201 Kenyans are in Ukraine, mostly students. The ministry recently reported that they are all safe, although some remain stranded at the Polish border due to visa restrictions.