Open borders to Africans fleeing Ukraine: UN urges nations

According to UNHCR, authorities in countries bordering Ukraine have been asked to open their borders to African residents fleeing the war there, despite allegations that some have been denied passage to safety.

Since Russia’s incursion on February 24, tens of thousands of African and other foreign nationals, notably students, have been scrambling to flee Ukraine. Nearly 700,000 refugees have been taken in by European Union neighbouring nations fleeing Ukraine.

Videos and testimonials of Africans being discriminated against at train stations and border crossings have been spreading on social media. These accounts have not been verified by Reuters.

According to Buchizya Mseteka, a UNHCR spokesman based in South Africa, the organisation has not validated the reports but is pushing nations bordering Ukraine to make asylum and protection available to all.

“The UNHCR is aware of and worried about reports of racial profiling; we’re aware of many of these reports, we’re following up on them, and we’ve intervened where possible,” Mseteka said.

“Our opinion is that anybody seeking protection, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, should be permitted to seek safety and leave the country.”

Mseteka said UNHCR was aware of reports that some Africans in Ukraine are being denied access to railway stations that transport them to neighbouring EU countries, as well as to cross their borders.

“The UNHCR has been convinced that racial profiling is not a policy of the state,” he said.

The African Union has also expressed concern over claims that African citizens in Ukraine are being denied the opportunity to traverse borders for safety reasons.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said in a tweet that Africans seeking evacuation must have equal possibilities to safely return to their home countries, and that his country will assist in resolving the issue.

“Poland grants shelter to everyone who is escaping Russian aggression against Ukraine, regardless of their country or ethnicity,” the Polish prime minister’s office announced on Twitter.

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