Amid Reports of Racial Discrimination at Ukraine’s Border, Warner Pushes to Ensure that All Refugees Are Granted Equal Access to Safety

By: Valeria Rivadeneira

~ Foreign nationals from Africa and elsewhere have reportedly been barred from boarding modes of transportation while attempting to flee Ukraine ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter today urging the Ukrainian government to ensure that Africans in Ukraine are not blocked from evacuating the country or seeking safety amid Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

This letter comes on the heels of reports that individuals from Africa and Asia have been discriminated against while attempting to flee Ukraine. According to online videos and first-hand reporting, individuals from Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and India, as well as other nations seeking to escape the war in Ukraine, have been physically abusedbarred from boarding trains and buses, and denied entry into border nations, among other things.

“Regarding the refugee crisis that President Putin has created through his violent invasion – which so far, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, has seen more than one million men, women, and children flee their homes to safety in neighboring countries – I will continue supporting efforts to ensure that Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resourced appropriately to address this challenge,” wrote Sen Warner in a letter to Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States.

“In the meantime, 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,” he continued. “Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine. As you well know, at least 20 percent 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. 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.”

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

He further stated this point in letters to the ambassadors of neighboring nations – PolandRomaniaHungarySlovakia, and Moldova – who are working with Ukraine to process and provide refuge in response to the mass migration spurred by Russia’s aggression. He also stated he will continue to monitor the conditions relating to the African diaspora and other forcibly displaced persons at the Ukrainian borders.

As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine and has repeatedly condemned Russia’s aggression and invasion of the sovereign nation. Last week, he urged major social media companies to prevent misuse of their platforms by Russia and Russia-linked entities.

A copy of the letter to Ambassador Markarova is available here and below.

Dear Ambassador Markarova:

I write to you today at a moment of great tragedy for your nation, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his violent, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, in violation of your country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The United States stands firmly with the people of Ukraine, and you have my commitment that, as the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I will continue pressing the United States Government to share as much intelligence support as possible with Ukraine. I will also continue advocating for punishing sanctions and economic costs against President Putin and Russia, security assistance for the Ukrainian military, and robust economic and humanitarian assistance for the Ukrainian people.

Regarding the refugee crisis that President Putin has created through his violent invasion – which so far, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, has seen more than one million men, women, and children flee their homes to safety in neighboring countries – I will continue supporting efforts to ensure that Ukraine and its neighboring countries are resourced appropriately to address this challenge.

In the meantime, 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. Many of these individuals are students studying in Ukraine. As you well know, at least 20 percent 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. 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.

I certainly acknowledge the incredibly challenging circumstances that Ukrainian security personnel are under as they work to quickly and effectively facilitate historic refugee flows in response to dire and urgent circumstances. I also recognize the stated commitments that Ukraine’s neighbors have made to take in people fleeing to safety. I urge all governments and authorities to ensure that all individuals – regardless of race, religion, or nationality – are afforded equal access to their right to seek safety. Please know that I am also writing to officials of neighboring countries to ensure that their authorities are not the cause of further allegations. I will continue to monitor conditions related to forcibly displaced persons at the borders – including the African diaspora – and I will continue to support resources for Ukraine to aid in these efforts.

I thank you for your government’s attention to this matter, and I reiterate my earnest support for the Ukrainian people in this conflict. The strength and resolve that they have shown in the face of this violent invasion has inspired and rallied so many in the international community to stand with Ukraine

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