International civil rights lawyers filed an appeal to the United Nations earlier this month. These lawyers, led by George Floyd’s case lawyer Ben Crump, are against the racial discrimination happening at the Ukraine-Poland border. Apparently, black people are being denied safe passage to the refuge for being black. This story developed when students from Ghana and Nigeria shared videos showing the atrocity on social media.
Experts have identified the leading cause of discrimination as racism. Some of the black residents reported being told things like; “you have to pay for this because you are foreign.” Border officers have gone as far as shooting at them when they attempted to cross the border. Luckily, no casualties have been reported as a result yet.
The complaint raised by the attorneys
The coalition formed by these lawyers is appealing to the United Nations to give focus on the issue. In a virtual webinar that was held on 2nd March, the team announced their appeal to the UN via the High Commissioner for Human Rights office.
The call is for the UN to cultivate a peaceful end to the hostilities black people are facing at the various borders in Ukraine and Poland. The coalition feels that racial discrimination happening to Africans violates human rights. They will not stop until the civilians have evacuated the active war zones.
Reactions from the public, leaders, and officials
African Presidents among other leaders have maintained that what is happening is unacceptable. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari commented on the issue, saying;
“…all who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN Convention and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference.”
UN’s High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and other officials have also gone on record to condemn these acts. These officials include Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba and UN High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi.
In some parts of Nigeria, citizens protested the unlawful actions at the various borders. A section of the protestors showed up at the Russian embassy at Abuja calling for peace. They want their children to be allowed fair passage to safety, just as everyone else.
Other efforts to end the racial discrimination
Africans who felt the need to help have held peaceful protests and created petitions to support the UN’s appeal. For instance, this petition is seeking 150,000 signatures to support the cause. A non-profit organization called Concerned Nigerians created a petition. As of 9th March, over 130,000 people had signed the petition.
Well-wishers have donated money and other forms of supplies to organizations seeking to help the refugees. More so, they have started online fundraisers to help bring the Africans home. The Coalition To Support Black People In Ukraine fundraiser is a good example.
What happens now?
Even though the United Nations is condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, much of what is left is not in the UN’s control. The discrimination black people are facing at the various borders is a domino effect of the Russian-Ukraine war. As such, de-escalation of these racist acts will depend on the progress of the war.
African governments have established rescue missions, especially for young students fleeing Ukraine. For instance, the Federal Government of Nigeria authorized Max Air and Air Peace airlines to airlift its citizens out of Ukraine. This will help international students that have been stranded in Ukraine since the war struck.
In the meantime, Africans are teaming up and helping themselves before getting external help. A section of Africans in the safe zones are using social media to mobilize help. This help is in the form of rescue missions and the distribution of donations. These smart moves will help them stay afloat before administrative help reaches them.