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Foreign Students Say They Have Faced Racism, Violence While Attempting To Flee Ukraine

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  • Foreign students studying in Ukraine said they have experienced racism while attempting to flee the country amid Russia’s invasion, according to reports.
  • Asian and African students, in particular, have reported discriminatory treatment from Ukrainian security forces and border officials, CNN reported. The country is a hub for foreign students studying medicine due to its reputation in the field and lower tuition costs compared to other Western nations.
  • “They allow 30 Indians only after 500 Ukrainians get in,” Saakshi Ijantkar, a fourth-year medical student from India said. “To get to this border you need to walk 4 to 5 kilometers from the first checkpoint to the second one. Ukrainians are given taxis and buses to travel, all other nationalities have to walk. They were very racist to Indians and other nationalities.”

Foreign students studying in Ukraine said they have experienced racism while attempting to flee the country amid Russia’s invasion, according to reports.

Asian and African students, in particular, have reported discriminatory treatment from Ukrainian security forces and border officials, CNN reported. The country is a hub for foreign students studying medicine due to its reputation in the field and lower tuition costs compared to other Western nations.

Rachel Onyegbule, a first-year medical student from Nigeria living in western Ukraine said she was stranded in a border town after more than 10 buses left with Ukrainian nationals, CNN reported. She said she thought they would eventually board a bus after all the Ukrainians had left, but she said they were later told they had to walk because there were no more buses.

“My body was numb from the cold and we haven’t slept in about 4 days now,” Onyegbule said, CNN reported. “I just want to get home.”

Saakshi Ijantkar, a fourth-year medical student from India said many Indians weren’t allowed to go through checkpoints to reach the border, leaving many stranded, CNN reported.

“They allow 30 Indians only after 500 Ukrainians get in,” Ijantkar said, CNN reported. “To get to this border you need to walk 4 to 5 kilometers from the first checkpoint to the second one. Ukrainians are given taxis and buses to travel, all other nationalities have to walk. They were very racist to Indians and other nationalities.”

She also said she saw guards being violent toward students waiting on the Ukrainian side of the border.

“They were very cruel … the Ukrainian army don’t allow Indian men and boys to cross when you get there,” she told CNN. “They only allowed the Indian girls to get in. We had to literally cry and beg at their feet. After the Indian girls got in, the boys were beaten up. There was no reason for them to beat us with this cruelty.”

“I saw an Egyptian man standing at the front with his hands on the rails, and because of that one guard pushed him with so much force and the man hit the fence, which is covered in spikes, and he lost consciousness,” she said, CNN reported. “We took him outside to give him CPR. They just didn’t care and they were beating the students, they didn’t give two hoots about us, only the Ukrainians.”

Andriy Demchenko, a spokesman for the Border Guard Service of Ukraine told CNN that the allegations of segregation at the country’s borders are untrue and insisted that border guards’ actions are in line with the law.

“Due to the increase in the volume of the individuals crossing, people have to stay in long queues,” he told CNN. “However, I can state that everything happens according to the law. There is absolutely no division by nation, citizenship, or class at the border.”

Nneka Abigail, another medical student from Nigeria, also reported experiencing what she called racist behavior at the border, CNN reported.

“For instance, around 200 to 300 Ukrainians can cross, and then only 10 foreigners or 5 will be allowed to cross … and the duration of time is too long,” Abigail said, CNN reported. “It’s really hard.. they push us, kick us, insult us.”

Africans attempting to flee the country have taken to social media, using the hashtag #AfricansinUkraine, sparking public backlash against the alleged actions of border guards and prompting crowdfunding efforts.

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breech international law,” a statement from the African Union said. “In this regard, The Chairpersons urge all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people feeing war notwithstanding their racial identity.”

At least 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine as of Monday, according to Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.

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