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Russia-Ukraine conflict: Africans face racial discrimination in Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Africans face racial discrimination in Ukraine
FILE - African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek   -  
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Bernat Armangue/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


The Nigerian government has expressed disappointment at ongoing reports of maltreatment of some Nigerian nationals attempting to flee Ukraine.

In a statement on Monday, February 28, 2022, the government urged customs authorities in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to treat its citizens "with dignity" amid growing accusations of racism at the Ukrainian border.

Like hundreds of thousands of people, many Africans - mostly students - are trying to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine by reaching neighbouring countries.

A total of 4,000 Nigerian citizens are still stranded in Ukraine.

"There have been unfortunate reports (that) Ukrainian police and security personnel are refusing to let Nigerians board buses and trains" to Poland, said Nigerian presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu.

A video that circulated on Social media over the weekend, showed some Nigerian students sharing their plight.

Mr Shehu said there were claims that Polish officials had refused Nigerian nationals entry to Poland.

"It is important that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour," he stressed.

Poland's ambassador to Nigeria, Joanna Tarnawska, rejected accusations of racism.

"Everyone receives equal treatment. I can assure you that, according to the information I have, some Nigerian nationals have already crossed the border to Poland," she told local media.

According to Ms Tarnawska, invalid identity documents are accepted for crossing the border and Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted. Nigerians have 15 days to leave the country afterwards, she added.

The Ukrainian embassy in Nigeria was not immediately available.

Since the start of the Russian offensive, about 400,000 Ukrainians have entered the European Union, according to an AFP count.

The situation does not apply to only Nigerians. There are reports that Scores of African migrants in Ukraine are being blocked from fleeing to safety.

Black people living in the region say they have been left to languish, with some taking to Twitter in recent days to share accounts of abandonment.

Many nations are trying to evacuate their nationals from Ukraine but that has come with a lot of challenges.

Over the weekend, a member of parliament in Ghana announced an alleged attack on some Ghanaian students who were being evacuated by the government.

-Arriving in Poland-

Reports of racial discrimination keep pouring on Social media as the Russia-Ukraine conflict enters its 5th day.

Whiles some governments have been successful in evacuating their citizens from Ukraine, others are yet to settle on a perfect plan to evacuate their citizens.

At least 256 Nigerians have been evacuated from Ukraine. However, for those who are yet to be evacuated, incidents of racial discrimination are not far from them.

Cynthia Osam, is a Ghanaian student who was studying in Kharkiv in the east of the country when the city was attacked. She is very helpless now. Recounting her ordeal, she said she had trekked for over 12 hours only before she arrived at the Medyka crossing with Poland.

To her, the sight of black people sleeping on the streets may her to lose hope.

“My Nigerian friend told me before I got here; armed guards had ordered us to wait as Ukrainians had to be let through first”

“Right in front of me, I saw a few buses, which were full of white people” Eventually, few Africans were granted access to cross.

Asya, a medical student from Somalia studying in Kyiv, had a similar story. When she finally reached Poland, she said she was told, "Accommodation at the hotel was only for Ukrainians".

She is now safe in Warsaw, where she is staying in a hotel. In stark contrast to her experience at the border, she has found people in the city to be incredibly kind and welcoming.

All of the African and Asian students she has been in touch with have been offered free accommodation. She said the reception had been irresistible.

The Polish border force says that everyone fleeing conflict in Ukraine was being welcomed into Poland regardless of nationality.

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Geofrey Onyeama said he had spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and had been assured that Ukrainian border guards had been given an order to allow all foreigners leaving Ukraine to pass without restrictions.

Nigeria's ministry of foreign affairs has now advised its citizens leaving Ukraine to head for Hungary or Romania, rather than trying to enter Poland.

So far, 256 Nigerians, mostly students in Ukraine have been successfully evacuated.

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