The African Union released a statement on Monday condemning incidents of racial discrimination against Africans trying to flee the conflict in Ukraine.
The statement noted that the organization has been following the developments in Ukraine closely, and expressed disturbance by reports that “African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety.”
“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law. The Chairpersons urged all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity,” the statement said.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, more than a half a million refugees have fled Ukraine, head of the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday, which included Africans and other nationalities.
Africans have accused Ukrainian security forces of preventing them from boarding trains headed to the border regions, as videos were shared on social media that showed ill treatment and discrimination.
“A woman told me that if I am not Ukrainian, then I shouldn’t be on the train. It’s really sad that we have to face this, and they prefer their pets even before a black man or a black woman,” one man was reported to have said.
Another video showed a group of African students in a confrontation with officials, who appear to be refusing to let them pass. BBC reporter Stephanie Hegarty reported on Twitter that she was in touch with many African students stuck on the Ukraine border, and that some were being sent to the back of the queue and told that Ukrainians were to be let through first.
In response, the Polish government has condemned reports that it is not admitting non-white people or Africans seeking to cross the border from Ukraine, and labeled it as “fake news”.
Polish U.N. Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski said at the General Assembly on Monday that assertions of race- or religion-based discrimination at Poland’s border are “a complete lie and a terrible insult to us.”
Szczerski said people of some 125 nationalities had been admitted to Poland on Monday morning from Ukraine, including Ukrainian, Uzbek, Nigerian, Indian, Moroccan, Pakistani, Afghan, Belarussian, Algerian and more. Overall, he said, 300,000 people have arrived during the crisis.