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Top US Senator urges Ukraine to end racial discrimination at its border

'Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine.'

Poland Russia Ukraine War Refugees, fleeing from Ukraine, sleep in a shelter designed for women and children at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, Thursday, March 3, 2022 | AP

A top American Senator has urged the Ukrainian government to end racial discrimination at its border, a prickly issue that has been pointed out by numerous students who have been frantically trying to flee the war-ravaged country.     

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified, foreign students, especially Africans and Asians, who are attempting to flee the country have been complaining that they have been experiencing racist treatment by Ukrainian security forces at border check-posts.

“I want to call attention to a growing body of disturbing reports along Ukraine’s western borders, which allege discriminatory treatment and processing of certain non-Ukrainian individuals – in particular, individuals from African nations,” Senator Mark Warner said in a letter to Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the US on Thursday.    

Warner is Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and is also Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus.  

According to online videos circulating on social media, individuals from Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and India, as well as other nations seeking to escape the war in Ukraine, have been physically abused, barred from boarding trains and buses, and denied entry into border nations, among other things, the Senator's office said.

“Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine. As you well know, at least 20 per cent of the more than 80,000 international students studying in Ukraine come from an African nation, with sizable populations of Moroccan, Nigerian, and Egyptian students,” Warner wrote.     

“These students and other individuals must be able to seek safety, and any discriminatory treatment or actions that deny them that ability are unacceptable. I echo the sentiments of the African Union, the US Department of State, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and highlight this right of all people who are fleeing conflict,” he said.     

Acknowledging the challenging circumstances being navigated by Ukrainian security personnel who are rapidly working to facilitate historic refugee flows, Warner in his letter has stressed the importance of affording all individuals the ability to seek safe evacuation, regardless of race, religion, or nationality.   

Warner also stated this point in his letters to the ambassadors of neighbouring nations – Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova – who are working with Ukraine to process and provide refuge in response to the mass migration spurred by Russia’s aggression.     

The Senator also stated he will continue to monitor the conditions relating to the African diaspora and others who are being forcibly displaced at the Ukrainian borders.  

An international coalition of activists and human rights lawyers on Wednesday filed an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of African and Asian refugees who were facing discrimination and abuse while trying to evacuate from the eastern European nation. 

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