Posted on March 19, 2022

Refugees From Other Wars Want to Know Why White Ukrainians Get VIP Treatment

Barbie Latza Nadeau, Daily Beast, March 17, 2022

The queue outside the Baobob refugee soup kitchen in central Rome is filled with desperate migrants and refugees every single day of the week. In recent months, most are from Afghanistan and war-torn African nations like SomaliaSudan and the Tigray region of Ethiopia. There aren’t any Ukrainian war refugees standing in the cold, though. They have been welcomed into warm homes and care facilities. “They are white, so they get special treatment,” a man from Afghanistan who worked as a translator for Italian peacekeepers in Afghanistan before the Taliban regained control over the country told The Daily Beast as he crouched beside the tent nearby where he sleeps. “But the worst part is that people who used to give spare clothes and food to us are now giving them to Ukrainians.”

{snip} He and thousands of other war refugees in Italy are stuck in bureaucratic limbo that can take two or three years before they learn if they can legally stay even when they are from countries that have suffered longer wars than the four-week invasion of Ukraine, whose refugees do not have to go through the same process—even though they are not part of the European Union. Ukrainian refugees are automatically granted a right to stay for 90 days—no questions asked. If they want to extend the stay, they can apply for a 90-day extension.

While no one disagrees that Ukrainians need assistance and support as their country is besieged in this unfair war, there is a growing sense of a double standard when it comes to the color of refugees’ skin and their treatment. Andrea Costa, who runs the Baobab center in Rome, told The Daily Beast that while he agrees wholeheartedly that the Ukrainian refugees need help, so do the African and Middle Eastern refugees. And he sees hypocrisy in calling those helping Ukrainians “saviors” while those who save African refugees are often prosecuted for people smuggling, referring to a number of NGO rescue boat captains currently facing charges in Italy for rescuing migrants and refugees. {snip}


During the initial invasion of Ukraine, Human Rights Watch interviewed scores of people from Morocco, India, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tunisia in Lviv, Ukraine and again at the border with Poland. {snip}

Those experiences range from one woman from Sierra Leone being told “all Blacks must get off the bus” to being forcefully pulled out of queues of people waiting to cross into Poland, according to Human Rights Watch. Human Rights groups in Ukraine put out a joint statement calling on European nations not to hold up old biases against African and Middle Eastern refugees. {snip}


Italy has allotted 13,000 places in refugee centers for Ukrainians. “We were wondering if there was a place to sleep even for Sudanese fleeing a civil war who has already seen the deaths of 300,000 people or for Afghans stranded from Europe on the border between Bosnia and Croatia. We asked ourselves if they deserve peace too. Beyond skin color, that’s it.” The Baobob group posted, noting that Italy set up a National Emergency Fund with €10 million to respond to the “serious crisis: The Ukraine one. Only the Ukrainian one.”