Maya Brown, CNN, March 3, 2022
An international coalition of activists and human rights attorneys on Wednesday announced they filed an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of African refugees facing racial discrimination in Ukraine and Poland.
The filing follows numerous reports from Black refugees who said they faced segregation, racism and abuse as they tried to flee for safety from war-torn Ukraine to Poland.
Coalition members said during a news conference Wednesday they have also heard reports of segregated lines for white and Black people at the Polish border and Black mothers and children have been thrown off trains. Videos shared on social media have shown groups of Black people stranded at the border not being allowed in and various threats against Black people who attempt to cross.
“They face one war waged by Russia, and they face a second war waged by racism because of the color of their skin. We are here today because Black Lives Matter in times of war, and in times of peace,” civil rights attorney Jasmine Rand said during the conference.
The appeal asks the United Nations to support the coalition’s call for the Ukrainian and Polish state and local governments to issue executive orders directing all governmental agencies to treat people of African descent — and other racial minorities — with equity and to stop using violent means. The coalition also wants Ukraine and Poland “to admit persons of African descent and racial minorities at rates equal to other persons.”
The African Union said it is “disturbed” by the reports of racial discrimination against Africans in Ukraine, which they described as “shockingly racist,” according to a statement released on Monday.
“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law,” the statement said. It also urged countries to “show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity.”
Coalition members believe the conduct they are seeing at the borders is consistent with war crimes. According to the United Nations, its definition of a war crime includes violations of international humanitarian law taking place during an armed conflict.
During Wednesday’s news conference, coalition members also brought up the bias and stereotypes they are seeing in media coverage through comparisons of conflict.