No discrimination during evacuations, says Ukraine as Indians, Africans allege racism at borders
Students have accused Ukrainian security forces of stopping them from boarding trains headed to the border regions.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Wednesday rejected allegations of discrimination amid widespread reports of non-Ukranians being ill-treated at the country’s borders with its neighbours and priority being given to Ukranian nationals fleeing the Russian invasion.
“In Ukraine, there is no discrimination based on race, skin colour or nationality, including when it comes to the crossing of the state border by foreign citizens,” said the foreign ministry. The ministry said that its “first come, first served approach applies to all nationalities”.
The ministry also underlined the severity of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion, which entered its seventh day on Wednesday. It said Russia “bears full responsibility” for the deaths of civilians and “creating obstacles for the safe departure of foreign citizens”.
Indian and African citizens, most of them students, have accused Ukrainian security forces of stopping them from boarding trains headed to the border regions. “If someone tries to cross, they attack them with rods,” Mansi Chaudhary, an Indian student in Ukraine, told NDTV. “They are punching them in the face.”
Reports also said that Africans were blocked from crossing border checkpoints and beaten up. “Ukrainians have been prioritised over Africans – men and women – at every point,” Rachel Onyegbule, a first-year medical student, told CNN.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry, however, claimed that the border guards are cooperating with their colleagues from neighbouring countries and would never create obstacles to hinder the safe passage of citizens of other countries.
The ministry advised all people at the border to “comply with law and order” and “act responsibly”.
It said that as per international humanitarian law, women and children are given priority. All men, including Ukranian nationals and foreign citizens, are allowed passage after women, children and the elderly, the ministry stated.
On Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency said it was aware of the “challenges” that “third country nationals” seeking to enter Poland faced.
“We are in touch with the authorities to ensure that all those in need of international protection have access to procedures,” it said.