Foreigners fleeing Ukraine unite to help others flee

Discriminated and left to evacuate from Ukraine, people from African, Asian and Latin American countries who manage to escape are setting up makeshift networks to help thousands of other people hoping to escape.

For 25-year-old Alexander Somt Ora, a Nigerian student from Ukraine who, like some others, described xenophobia and the threat of violence as he approached the border with Poland shortly after Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian border guards “separated the Africans along with the Indians from the rest and sent us to the Romanian border” tens of miles away, Ora said. “They told us that if we tried to break through, they would shoot us.” The video, published by the Associated Press, shows opposition.

United by fear and indignation after a few days in the cold, the young foreigners began to protest. “We raised our hands and told them we were students and just wanted to go home,” Ora said. Eventually, they were allowed to cross.

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Since arriving in the Polish capital, Warsaw, he has returned to the border several times to help other foreigners leave Ukraine, drawing on his experience.

Nearly 80,000 third-country nationals from 138 countries have fled, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday.

Some say they are denied access to bomb shelters, transportation and even access to consulates of their countries of origin in neighboring countries, UN Special Rapporteur on Modern Racism Tenda Achiume said on Thursday, calling racist and xenophobic treatment “vital”. threatening. “

The experience shapes the efforts of the grassroots to help others leave.

21-year-old medical student Ojonugwa Zakari from Nigeria said she and hundreds of other foreigners remain detained in Sumy, a city in northeastern Ukraine. When they wake up to the sound of shelling, their phones are now filled with tips on how to escape: the phone numbers of friendly locals across the border. Instructions on emergency stocks and what documents to show at checkpoints.

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“Basically, basic military advice,” said Zachary, who has never been to war before.

She added: “This is no longer where people come from. People just want you to be safe when you are a foreigner in Ukraine. “

The Ukrainian government has considered allegations of discrimination against fleeing foreigners amid harsh comments, such as the African Union’s continental body, which called the ill-treatment of Africans “shockingly racist” and violating international law.

“Africans seeking evacuation are our friends and must have equal opportunities to return safely to their home countries,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba wrote on Wednesday. He later shared on Twitter a hotline number set up to help African, Asian and other students wanting to leave.

Within 12 hours the phone number was retweeted more than 21,000 times. However, the next day the hotline called without answer.

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Other official statements of help, even from the home countries of foreigners, also feel remote.

Shortly after the Russian invasion began on February 24, the Zimbabwean government told its citizens in Ukraine to contact its embassy in Germany, on the other side of Poland. The Kenyan government has offered an embassy in Austria, just as far away.

Since then, some countries have announced deals with Ukraine’s neighbors to facilitate the entry of their citizens. Others are trying to evacuate those who cannot get out. But the death of Fr. Indian student Russia’s shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has brought new urgency.

Concerned students and others have set up WhatsApp and Telegram messaging groups for Africans, Brazilians and other populations trying to leave. Some platforms offer financial or even mental assistance.

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Feith Chemari said she has helped more than 50 Zimbabwean students by coordinating their bus trips to Poland.

“I grouped the students together, and the boys were the first to leave to give feedback to the other students on whether it was safe,” she said.

Along the borders of Ukraine began to gather the world community to welcome exhausted compatriots who are elected. Others inside Ukraine help travelers to their next destination. “In Odessa, our Azerbaijanis met us and helped us reach the border with Moldova,” said Elkson Salmanov Ilham, a 28-year-old Azerbaijani student who fled Kharkiv.

As support grows, some locals from Ukraine’s neighbors are participating.

After spending the night at the train station in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Nigerian student Sanus Salih urgently needed food and shelter. He found both in a resident he met shortly after entering Slovakia.

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“There are seven of us in his house,” Salihu said. “He just brought us all to dinner (and) … was very kind.”

Now Saligu is also doing everything he can from his new security post, talking to foreigners who are still in Ukraine.

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Tswanghirai Mukwaji in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Grace Expo in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed.

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Follow the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in the AP /hub/russia-ukraine

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