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Black Refugees at Ukraine Border Report Heavy Discrimination

A father and child in a group of other refugees wait to board a train from Kyiv to Lviv at Kyiv central train station, Ukraine, February 25, 2022. Umit Bektas/Reuters

Reports of the Polish government refusing shelter and aid to Black refugees at the Ukraine border flood social media.

As Ukrainian citizens rush to escape an active war zone, Black refugees in Ukraine (largely foreign nationals and students) are reporting heavy discrimination by Polish authorities at the border. Over the past 48 hours, multiple videos have been posted to social media from the border of Ukraine and Poland that reveal a strong disparity in treatment between white Ukrainian refugees and Black refugees from the Polish border workers.

As thousands of students seek any and all available resources to flee Ukraine to no avail, they’ve taken to social media as their only resource for help. According to Business Insider, thousands of Black and African students are in Ukraine due to more affordable access to education. However, many have been told by their own embassies to “save themselves” as they are unable to provide any assistance to them to help them flee.

Some African students are seeking out alternative methods for leaving Ukraine.

In a report from Business Insider, Vukile Dlamini, a South African student in Vinnytsia, said that when Russia launched its offensive on Thursday, she awoke to the sounds of sirens and bombs.

“When the sirens would go off, we would run to the bomb-proof bunkers until the coast was clear,” she said.

Dlamini said that she was now making her way to the Romanian border with other South African students to try and leave the country.

In one video, posted on Instagram by @chakabars and shared on the Black Is The Standard Instagram page, a young Black mother and her infant can be seen in what is reported to be 3 degree weather among a group of Black refugees at the Ukraine/Polish border. In the background, somene is commenting that only white mothers and children are being granted asylum and Black mothers and children are being turned away.

A similar video posted on Twitter shows a young Black girl being pushed off a train while a young white girl is allowed on board.

Other videos posted online from the border show police threatening to shoot a group of African students attempting to cross into Poland, who can be heard yelling that they are students.

There is also a video of a group of Black refugees at a train station who are being denied access to board the train to leave Ukraine.

Another video posted on Twitter describes how 24 Jamaican students who arrived in Lviv, Ukraine were expelled from a train and forced to walk 20km to the Polish border.

The public display of discrimination and outright racism by Polish offiicals toward Black refugees seeking asylum have been publicly displayed and condemned by social media users across the world. One Twitter user questions whether Black people in Ukraine are having a hard time leaving, because they’ve been viewed as expendable. This is based on a post from Ukraine’s Foreign Minister inviting foreign nationals (Black/African people in Ukraine) to join the defense.

Support is growing, however, for Black/African people stuck in Ukraine from various social media based relief efforts, such as this one.

To follow the current efforts and learn more, follow the hashtags #blackinukraine and #africansinukraine across all platforms.

This story is still developing.

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