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‘If you are Black, you should walk,’ rampant racism at Ukraine border for droves fleeing

Indian student Saakshi Ijantkar has seen guards being violent to those waiting at the Ukrainian side of the Polish border.

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New Delhi: Angry posts have swamped social media on the racist treatment given to non-whites as they try to cross over to Ukraine’s bordering countries.

Coloured people have been stopped from boarding buses and trains by Ukrainian security forces, who asked them to walk instead in the biting cold.

Fourth-year medical student Saakshi Ijantkar told CNN: “They (Ukrainian guards) allow 30 Indians only after 500 Ukrainians get in. To get to this border you need to walk 4 to 5 kilometres from the first checkpoint to the second one. Ukrainians are given taxis and buses to travel, all other nationalities have to walk. They were very racist to Indians and other nationalities.”

She had also seen guards — in uniform — being violent to the students waiting at the Ukrainian side of the Shehyni-Medyka border (with Poland).

One Nigerian student told the BBC that an official told her, “If you are Black, you should walk.” She had made it into Hungary and was trying to get to her home Nigeria. She said: “If your skin is dark, you’re at a disadvantage.”

Ukraine acknowledged this differential treatment when Foreign Minister Dmytor Kuleba tweeted Tuesday: “Africans seeking evacuation are our friends and need to have equal opportunities to return to their home countries safely. Ukraine’s government spares no effort to solve the problem.”

The UN too has criticised racist behaviour towards non-whites among the fleeing thousand.

United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi said: “There should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans… (UN) plans to intervene to try to ensure that everybody receives equal treatment.” He added: “Everyone is fleeing from the same risks.”

This tweeter thread by a distressed CNN journalist, Bijan Hosseini, speaks of his sister’s painful 108-hour journey to Poland, and the racism she faced on the way.

He tweets: “During her escape she experienced racism, injuries, freezing temps and sleep deprivation. Her story is only one of the hundreds of thousands of people trying to get out.”

He said: “Firstly, my sister is adopted. She’s from Sierra Leone. Her birthplace played a significant role in prolonging her exit.”

He describes how his sister and others had to beg a driver to take them to any of the border areas, only to be ditched after 30 hours on the road. And far from the nearest border.

He said there were 8 of them, packed in that small sedan, along with a 13-month-old baby.

The group walked ten hours in freezing cold, dumped their luggage to lighten the load, but more horror awaited them at the border.

At the border, “two lines were formed. One for white people, the other for everyone else”.

Hosseini ended the thread with: “My sister is lucky. She’s safe, in a hotel where she was finally able to shower and sleep in a bed. There are still thousands of people in her shoes trapped on the other side…”

Also read: Air Force’s C-17 flies out to Romania to evacuate Indians from neighbouring Ukraine


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