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UN urged to act over ‘abominable’ racism towards black and ethnic minority refugees at Ukraine’s borders

AN INTERNATIONAL coalition of renowned human rights lawyers has launched an urgent appeal to the UN to act over “abominable” racism at Ukraine’s borders. 

Black people and other ethnic minorities fleeing Ukraine are facing “two wars” – one inflicted by the Russians and another over racial discrimination by Ukrainian and Polish officials, the new coalition said today. 

Convened by US lawyers Ben Crump and Jasmine Rand, who represented the family of George Floyd, the civil society coalition has petitioned the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the UN on behalf of refugees reportedly facing discrimination at the border. 

An appeal has also been made to the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.

It urged the UN to “support our call for the Ukrainian and Polish state and local governments, military and police to enter executive orders directing all governmental agencies, military and police to treat all persons of African descent and other racial minorities with equity.”

Announcing the appeal at an online press conference on Wednesday, Mr Rand said the coalition has also urged the UN to support its call for border countries to “admit persons of African descent and racial minorities fleeing the war at rates that are equal to other persons.” 

She said the group of leading lawyers had come together to declare that “black lives matter in times of war and times of peace.”

The intervention comes amid reports black and south Asian people fleeing the Russian invasion are facing racial discrimination and abuse at the border from Ukrainian and Polish officials. 

African citizens living in Ukraine have shared accounts of being blocked from leaving the war-torn country by soldiers, while white Ukrainians are prioritised. 

Videos on social media have shown officials appearing to threaten to shoot groups of African students attempting to flee the country. 

Mr Crump told the conference: “When you see people turned away to be slaughtered because you thought they were more expendable because of the colour of their skin – that is a crime in and of itself.  

“That is a very dangerous slippery slope that we cannot allow to happen in 2022.

“If no-one else wants to give them the respect of humanity, we declare their humanity. With every ounce of conviction we have in our body declare and be unapologetic in defending black life, black liberty, anywhere on the face of this Earth.”

Mr Crump suggested the UN was not doing enough to raise the alarm on the “urgent matter.”

Asked if the UN was “dragging its feet,” Mr Crump responded: “This is an urgent matter and they have the power to ring the alarm and for whatever reason, we don’t think that alarm has been raised. 

“How many more guns have to be put to the heads of descendants of African descent, told to get off the train or go to the back of the bus, before the United Nations says this is an urgent matter?”

Members of the coalition also hit out at the “offensive” press coverage of the conflict, and urged the UN to call for the global media to stop using “comparisons of conflict that perpetuate racism and stereotypes.”  

The shocking treatment of African citizens has been condemned by several African nations, including Nigeria and Ghana.

However, authorities have attempted to deny the reports, with a delegation of the European Union (EU) to Kenya today claiming that “deliberate disinformation” was being spread on the issue. 

Ms Rand rejected this and said the coalition believes that cases of racist discrimination are systematic and not individual incidents. 

Prof Rosalea Jamilton, the founding director of the Institute of law and economics in Jamaica, told the conference that one Jamaican student in Ukraine had reported having a “gun pointed at his head” to force him to leave a train, delaying his exit from the country. 

Jamaican MP G Anthony Hylton, another member of the coalition, said: “What we’re witnessing is people of African decent fighting two wars, one against the Russians and the other against racial discrimination in Ukraine itself and Poland.”

Mr Hylton said this was abominable, adding: “We want the United Nations to hold accountable those governments who either through their policies or practices are encouraging discrimination.”

The coalition includes Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association in the US, which represents 65,000 lawyers and judges of colour, as well as several British figures, including Windrush lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie and anti-racism campaigner Zita Holbourne. 

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