Black Immigrants Report Racist Treatment As They Try to Flee Ukraine

Black immigrants have reported experiencing racism and being stopped from fleeing to safety as Russia continues its assault against Ukraine.

More than 500,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russian invaded its neighbor last week.

But African students trapped in the country have taken to social media to document the hurdles and hostility they have faced while trying to flee, raising awareness for their plight using the hashtag #AfricansInUkraine on Twitter.

Several videos that have gone viral on social media appear to show Black people being denied access to trains, including one that showed Ukrainian forces apparently pushing a Black girl off a train but allowing a white girl aboard.

Other videos captured ugly incidents at border crossings and African immigrants left stranded, including one clip that captured a Black woman feeding her two-month-old baby in freezing temperatures.

A Nigerian student at Ukraine's border with Poland shared videos on Twitter that showed Polish border guards apparently threatening to shoot African students trying to cross over from Ukraine.

"Their Police and Army refused to let Africans cross they only allow Ukrainian," the student wrote alongside the clip. "Some have slept here for 2 days under this scorching cold weather, while many have gone back to Lviv."

In another tweet, the student wrote: "They actually wanted to crush us with their bus, and even pointed guns at us while we were shouting 'we are students, allow us to cross' because we didn't allow them to cross their people first before us. We forced our way in, and they gave up."

The student has been contacted for additional comment.

Another student, Gabriel, told the BBC that border guards were "just so heartless... they treated us like animals."

Korrine Sky, a student doctor who told Newsweek that she was still at Ukraine's border with Romania on Monday, shared a video on Twitter showing a man circling the vehicle she was traveling in.

"We have reached the actual border experiencing some threats of violence from some local Ukrainians who don't believe we should enter," she wrote.

In an Instagram livestream on Sunday, Sky said there had been "a lot of segregation and racism."

"There's been a lot of segregation and racism from the people who've managed to actually get to the passport control. It seems there is a hierarchy of Ukrainians first, Indians second, Africans last," she said.

"So there has been a lot of segregation in that sense and then among the communities trying to flee to Ukraine, there's been a lot of violence among people. So it's a very stressful situation."

Ukraine is home to tens of thousands of African students studying medicine, engineering and other subjects at affordable prices.

A fundraiser to help African and Caribbean students stranded in Ukraine has raised more than $26,000 (£20,000). One of the fundraiser's organizers, Tokunbo Koiki, told British broadcaster ITV News that she was inspired to launch the appeal after seeing the videos circulating on social media.

"People are scared," she said. "People are really, really terrified. Especially for the people in the major cities who are currently under attack."

On Twitter, activist Shaun King reported that it wasn't only Black people experiencing discrimination at border crossings.

"It's not just Africans having trouble crossing, but ALL immigrants of color including Indians, Latinos, Arabs," King wrote on Twitter on Sunday, citing conservations with people across Ukraine. "European immigrants crossing easily."

In another tweet, King wrote: "To be clear, government officials in Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary are SAYING they will welcome all people crossing over from Ukraine, but those policy statements still have not been implemented at those same borders. Each border, today, is still having ugly incidents of racism."

Men fleeing the conflict
Men fleeing the conflict carry their suitcases on their heads as they walk past queuing cars towards the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing between Ukraine and Poland on February 28, 2022. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images