African students experience racial profiling at Ukrainian border

African Ukrainian border
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African students experience racial profiling at Ukrainian border

As at least half a million refugees flee Ukraine, more reports of mistreatment by Ukrainian border guards surface.

Barlaney Mufaro Gurure, a space engineering student from Zimbabwe, had finally reached the front of a nine-hour queue at Ukraine’s western border crossing of Krakovets after an exhausting four-day trip.

Read Two Jamaican students in Ukraine fall ill on walk to Poland

It was her turn to cross. But the Ukrainian border guard pushed her and four other African students she was travelling with aside, giving priority to Ukrainians. It took hours, and relentless demands, before they were also allowed to go through border control.

“We felt treated like animals,” the 19-year-old said in a phone interview from a Warsaw hotel. Gurure, a freshman at the National Aviation University, fled Kyiv hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine on February 24.

“When we left [Kyiv] we were just trying to survive,” she said. “We never thought that they would have treated us like that […] I thought we were all equal, that we were trying to stand together,” Gurure added.

Her story is not isolated as scores of Africans have reported episodes of abuse and discrimination while trying to cross into Ukraine’s neighbours.

Since the war started, more than 870,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine to neighbouring countries, the United Nations said. Half of those are currently in Poland. Queues along the border are now tens of kilometres long with some African students describing to Al Jazeera how they have been waiting for days to cross amid freezing temperatures and with no food, blankets or shelters.

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For others, issues started before reaching border crossings. Claire Moor, another Black student, was pushed down as she tried to board a train at Lviv’s train station. The guard insisted that only women could take the train. The officer looked away, Moor said, as she pointed out that she was, indeed, a woman. “I was shocked because I did not know the extent of the racism,” she added.

More African students decry racism at Ukrainian borders  Al Jazeera English


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Cleo Jn. Baptiste

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