Dr Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, Member of the European Parliament representing Germany on the platform of the Greens, writes on the reports of discrimination against Africans fleeing the war in Ukraine and she makes specific demands from the European Union on the situation of African students displaced by the conflict
On behalf of ARDI, the European Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, we express our solidarity with all the people who are currently experiencing Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. We support all the people in Ukraine and Russia who do not want this brutal war.
At the same time, we are very concerned about the wave of racism that Africans living in Ukraine are facing in their attempts to leave the country. We are shocked to see that some European countries bordering Ukraine are refusing to allow them to cross the border and enter their country because of the colour of their skin.
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly clear that in some places within the war-torn country, Ukrainians are denying Black people access to public transport and thus denying them the opportunity to leave Ukraine as quickly as possible.
According to the international media, African students are subject to ‘racial profiling” that entail a discriminatory “Ukrainians first” approach. This discrimination of control is only aimed at blacks, a visible minority.
The international press reports shocking scenarios at border crossings. Nigerian students were detained by law enforcement officers at the Ukraine-Poland border and held at gunpoint. They were afraid they would be shot and chanted “We are students, not criminals”.
A mother with her two-month-old baby was refused entry to Poland. All the African men and women interviewed reported cases of untold violence they had experienced at the various borders of Ukraine.
They feel that they are degraded to the status of second-class citizens. And even those who have managed to escape Ukraine face unequal treatment in terms of, for example, current residence rights. It is unacceptable from a human rights perspective that refugees receive different protection depending on their passports.
There are increasing reports of harrowing scenarios at Polish and Romanian border crossings. This is shocking beyond measure, especially in a state of emergency of war and in the context of a worldwide call for peaceful solutions.
Europe stands in solidarity with Ukraine based on European values. A peaceful Europe, and a Europe struggling with war, strictly rejects classification on the basis of skin colour, religion or sexual orientation in every respect. In order to escape war and thus the endangerment of one’s own life, the decisive factor must be to be a human being, no more and no less. Neither skin colour nor nationality must play a role here.
The African Union and most African countries maintain diplomatic, friendly relations with all European countries bordering Ukraine. Dealing with African citizens fleeing Ukraine in a way that is out of the question from a human rights perspective is in stark contrast to the partnership that we as the European Union would like to develop with the African Union. The African Union is extremely concerned, and there are countless reactions from the African side.
We call on neighbouring European countries to allow all people to pass through their borders without reservation, regardless of the colour of their skin. We also call for African students to be given the opportunity to complete their studies elsewhere, which they had to abandon in Ukraine. Leaving them empty-handed would counteract any European aspiration to see the continents on an equal footing.
On behalf of all these people in need, we urge a real and all-encompassing show of humanity. People who wish to flee Ukraine must all be treated equally.
Dr Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, MEP, is Vice-President of the Development Committee and Co-President of the Intergroup Anti Racism and Diversity (ARDI)