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Friday, June 9, 2023

South African diplomat calls out Ukraine’s discrimination towards African students

Horrific details of brutal assault, abuse and dehumanizing treatment meted out by Ukrainian border guards to Bharatiya students have been reported in the last few days as civilians evacuate the war-torn country.

But it is not just Bharatiya students who are facing such treatment. African students and nationals are also experiencing discrimination and not being allowed to cross the border or board trains leaving Ukraine’s cities.

Clayson Monyela, Head of Public Diplomacy in South Africa’s international relations department, tweeted “SA students and other Africans have been badly treated at the Ukraine/Poland border”-

In a video shared by Monyela, an African woman can be heard saying, “We are at the border…this is the situation that has been happening. Whereas Ukrainians are treated based (not clear), the Africans aren’t. We have been pushed, we’ve been shoved, we are denied access, and there are so many of us compared to the Ukrainians. Ukrainians get special treatment while the Africans are waiting outside in the cold in big herds. You got people from Congo, Africans from Rwanda here…it’s just a mess at the moment.”

Another video shared on Twitter shows Ukrainian armed personnel pointing guns at Africans, who are trying to cross over into Poland, to drive them back.

The distressed students can be heard pleading with the armed guards, “We don’t have arms. We are students, we are students. We are dying of cold, we have been here for 3 days. Everybody is going down (possibly hinting at other people being allowed to cross). Are we animals? This is unfair.” All the while, a soldier is pointing a gun at them.

Several African have been stuck there in the cold weather for 2 days, forcing several to return to Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine close to the Polish border, the tweet posted on February 27 adds.

Another video shows Ukrainian soldiers blocking Africans from getting on trains which are evacuating civilians to safety. Incidentally, all military age Ukrainian men are barred from leaving.

A journalist confirmed the discrimination that African students are facing.

African academics such as Kenyan Ken Opalo, Assistant Professor at an American university, expressed shock at the discriminatory treatment being meted out to Africans at Ukraine’s borders despite the support for Ukraine declared by African nations at UNSC.

The 3 African nations – Kenya, Gabon and Ghana – currently on the UN Security Council have all condemned Russia and asked it to withdraw troops. South Africa has also called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, saying the dispute should be resolved peacefully.

Is Ukraine using non-White foreign students as hostages?

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to United Nations, had issued a thinly-veiled threat to Bharat before voting commenced on the UNSC resolution against Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

“It is exactly the safety of your nationals right now in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war, to save your nationals in Ukraine,” Kyslytsya had said before the voting. Bharat abstained from voting on that resolution and has all along reiterated that hostilities should cease immediately and differences should be resolved through dialogue.

Irrespective of the position taken by other nations over its conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s actions against innocent Bharatiya and African students are racist, criminal and downright discriminatory. In fact, there are more reports coming that all people of color, including Latinos and Arabs, are being discriminated against at Ukraine’s borders.

These people were invited by Ukraine to study and work there, and are contributing to Ukraine’s economy. Any civilized nation will ensure that foreigners on its soil are treated with humanity and dignity.

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