The war waged between Russia and Ukraine has left thousands of African students fearing for their lives, as they desperately seek to escape the ex-Soviet nation.
The hashtag #AfricansinUkraine on Twitter is shedding light on disturbing treatment Africans are receiving as they attempt to flee Ukraine.
#AfricansinUkraine has been a trending topic on the social media platform throughout the weekend. Videos of what appears to be Ukrainian military officials and police blocking Black men and women from boarding a train can be seen.
There are also clips of Black people waiting in a space that is believed to be a shelter. According to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, there are about 4,000 Nigerians currently studying in Ukraine.
Nigerians make up the second biggest group of foreign students in Ukraine, the outlet reported, while the biggest group are from Morocco with 8,000 students, and Egyptians are in third place with 3,500 students.
#AfricansinUkraine the community of Africans in Ukraine stranded at the boarder much of them women and children. — This is happening now
The lady in the video is holding a 2 month old and it’s 3°c outside we are in search of aid and hostels pic.twitter.com/Ae2Iwn4zpg
— Damilare / ViF (@Damilare_arah) February 26, 2022
Several of the Nigerian students spoke with the outlet about the current situation.
A 23-year-old Nigerian student named Sarah Ajifa Idachaba, who is studying medicine in the Ukrainian capital along with her older sister, told DW that her and her sister are in “panic” because they don’t know what to expect.
Ukraine has closed its airports to civilian flights, due to the high safety risk. However, several Africans are attempting to escape by crossing the border to neighboring countries like Poland.
#AfricansinUkraine sheltered Africans in Ukraine. Women and children left in the cold. Men too.
No safe harbour out of Ukraine for Africans https://t.co/ibbDqbPgxG
— Damilare / ViF (@Damilare_arah) February 26, 2022
“We are citizens of Nigeria, and we need help. Please don’t neglect us, don’t leave us alone,” Idachaba said.
On Thursday (Feb. 24) as Russia launched a “special military operation in Ukraine,” Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama advised Nigerians in Ukraine to “stay in their residence.”
“What we plan to do is once the airports are open the embassy will assist those who are ready and willing to leave the country,” he said via Twitter.
— Government of Nigeria (@NigeriaGov) February 27, 2022
“The advice that we were getting is that Nigerians in Ukraine should not panic.”
On Sunday (Feb. 27), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office released a press release stating that evacuation to the Hungarian Zahony border and Romanian Suceava, Tulcea, Satu Mare County and Maramures borders is advised since areas have approved “visa free access to all Nigerians coming from Ukraine.”
“…Remain calm as the Federal Government of Nigeria is working very hard to get them all home safely,” the press release states.
Stephanie Hegarty, population correspondent for BBC, has also been reporting on the treatment Africans have received as they attempt to evacuate war-torn Ukraine.
A Nigerian medical student at Poland/Ukraine border (Medyka-Shehyni) told me she has been waiting 7hrs to cross, she says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let 'Ukrainians' through first.
— Stephanie Hegarty (@stephhegarty) February 26, 2022
She reported via Twitter that a Nigerian man trying to enter the Poland border was told “Ukrainians and then Turkish had to pass first.”
A Nigerian medical student at the Poland border (Medtka-Shehyni) told Hegarty they had been waiting seven hours to cross into Poland. “She says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let ‘Ukrainians through first.”
Hegarty clarified that the student said it was Ukrainian soldiers, not Polish border guards who treated them in that manner. She confirmed with a Polish border force spokesperson that “Poland is allowing anyone who comes to the Ukraine border entry.”
Hearing from another student in Lviv this morning who says Africans are not being allowed to board trains to the border are being left on platform. Too many testimonies now to discount. #AfricansinUkraine
— Stephanie Hegarty (@stephhegarty) February 27, 2022
“Hearing from another student in Lviv this morning who says Africans are not being allowed to board trains to the border are being left on platform,” Hegarty tweeted this Sunday (Feb. 26). “Too many testimonies now to discount.”
Clayton Monuela, who is head of public diplomacy in South Africa, tweeted that Ambassador Mngonezulu is helping South African students at the Poland border as well.
“She’ll stay there till all have crossed the border,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commision, has also been tweeting about the dire situation for Africans in Ukraine. She has listed nidcom.gov.ng as a legitimate resource for Nigerians to call for help and assistance.
Here are some of the tweets from the #AfricansinUkraine hashtag below:
— Abike Dabiri-Erewa (@abikedabiri) February 27, 2022
27/02/2022 (7pm GMT)
Please if you know any Nigerian fleeing Ukraine Moving towards the Hungarian border with Ukraine:- Below are the numbers to call for help and assistance.
— Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (@nidcom_gov) February 27, 2022
1/2 We understand how difficult things are at the border. We are reaching high authorities in those countries and the International Organization for Migration to assist our people suffering at the borders.
— Geoffrey Onyeama (@GeoffreyOnyeama) February 27, 2022