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Ukraine War: Africans stuck at European borders as they seek refuge

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Ukraine war

As more and more people scramble to flee Ukraine, several reports have emerged of some non-white residents including Nigerians, Indians and Lebanese, getting stuck at borders.

Unlike Ukrainians, many non-Europeans need visas to get into neighbouring countries.

Embassies around the world were scrambling to assist their citizens get through chaotic border crossings out of Ukraine.

Videos shared on social media posted under the hashtag #AfricansinUkraine allegedly showed African students being held back from boarding trains out of Ukraine, to make space for Ukrainians.

At the Medyka border crossing into Poland, Abdirahim Syleiman, a Kenyan medical student in Vinnytsia, told The Associated Press that "foreigners were segregated to one side".

"They were treated differently," he said.

Axel Ebalanke, a Congolese student of public administration in Kharkiv, said Ukrainian police made them stand in the cold for many hours on their way to the border, while Ukrainians were helped to board buses to the border crossing.

"We had to walk, we were really shocked," she said.

Cihan Yildiray, a Turkish national working in Kyiv, said non-Ukrainians trying to leave the country were not given the help that Ukrainian nationals were given.

"All the time Ukrainians can pass every checkpoint, every passage, every door easily, but we always wait one hour, two, three hours and always (there) was some discrimination, some racism," he told The Associated Press.

"People wanted to walk they ( Ukrainian police) stopped us for three hours, they didn't let us walk, and people get like aggressive and they just use the curse too. After that every border, every check-point, like never treated like a human."

The African Union in Nairobi said Monday that everyone has the right to cross international borders to flee conflict.

The continental body said “reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law.”

It urged all countries to “show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity.”

Polish U.N. Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski said at the General Assembly on Monday that assertions of race- or religion-based discrimination at Poland's border are “a complete lie and a terrible insult to us.”

“The nationals of all countries who suffered from Russian aggression or whose life is at risk can seek shelter in my country,” he said.

Szczerski said people of some 125 nationalities had been admitted to Poland on Monday morning from Ukraine, including Ukrainian, Uzbek, Nigerian, Indian, Moroccan, Pakistani, Afghan, Belarussian, Algerian and more.

Overall, he said, 300,000 people have arrived during the crisis.