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International Students Fleeing Ukraine Are ‘Dying By The Roadside’

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Refugees say that international students fleeing Ukraine are dying by the side of the road from hypothermia and heart attacks, after being stuck for days in the snow and having guns pointed at them by Ukrainian soldiers.

Thousands of students from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East are trying to flee Putin’s invasion of Ukraine into neighbouring countries like Poland and Hungary. But the United Nations said on Tuesday that black and brown refugees are facing racism at the border.

Dozens of refugees who recently made it through into Poland also told The Telegraph they had been racially abused and treated “worse than animals” as they tried to escape.

“[The border guards] screamed very bad words in Ukrainian. They are humiliating us. We felt like a pack of sheep waiting for the farmer to open the door for the sheep to go outside,” said Fedy Ben Bahim, an 18-year-old medical student from Tunisia who fled the city of Dnipro five days ago.

Mr Bahim, who has just arrived in Poland, says he saw five non-Ukrainian refugees dead by the side of the road.

Fedy Ben Bahim, an 18-year-old medical student from Tunisia who fled the city of Dnipro five days ago


“I saw people [at the border] dying because it’s suffocating. I almost suffocated [in the crowd when] I was very close to the [gate next to the check point]. There is no water. I’ve seen a lot of black people being knocked out [at check points].

“Everyone was trying to make a campfire, but soldiers or guards, try to stop the fire, in general, they come, and they try to stop the fire, and they really hit [us]… If you resist, they will hit you back,” added Mr Bahim.

A woman from Western Africa cries at the border checkpoint in Medyka as she talks on the phone after fleeing Ukraine following the Russian invasion

Ahmed, a Palestinian medical student at a Ukrainian university who made it into Poland, said stranded international students without proper clothes for the cold were falling unconscious from hypothermia.

“People were just vomiting and passing out. You don’t see them wake up,” he says. “One [woman] had a heart attack. Two people were beaten by the bats” by soldiers drafted in to help with the flow of refugees.

There were more than 70,000 international students in Ukraine when the war broke out, including many training to be doctors or nurses.

Students caught up in the human tide leaving Ukraine find themselves without the visas needed to enter the EU and unable to withdraw money from ATMs or speak Ukrainian

Universities in Ukraine offer high-quality education for students from developing nations for a fraction of the price of elsewhere in Europe. It is estimated that about 20 percent of all international students in the country are African.

According to the United Nations, more than half a million civilians have already fled into the neighbouring countries of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania in the last week. The European Union estimates that as many as four million people could flee Ukraine in the coming days and weeks because of the Russian invasion.

But students caught up in the human tide leaving Ukraine have found themselves in an interstate limbo, often without the visas needed to enter the EU and unable to withdraw money from ATMs or speak Ukrainian.

Indian girls wait for transport as refugees arrive at the Medyka pedestrian border crossing fleeing the conflict in Ukraine

The bloc has relaxed its rules of refugees and has said it will welcome the refugees with “open arms”. But the situation for non-white refugees is grim. On a Telegram messaging app group chat set up by frantic parents, officials to help the students, dozens of messages come in every few minutes.

“We’re 4 stuck in here, we need funds to get out. Pls [sic]assist us, its critical here,” one refugee pleads on the group.

On Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, acknowledged that there had been different treatment at the border for some non-Ukrainians.

“There has been a different treatment,” Mr Grandi said. “There should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans. Everyone is fleeing from the same risks.”

The refugees say they were separated from Ukrainian nationals before they reached the first checkpoint at the border.

African, Asian, and Middle Eastern refugees say they were taken off buses as far as 20km from Poland and made to walk the rest of the journey, whilst Ukrainians were delivered to the border on buses.

Some of the non-Ukrainian refugees have walked nearly 100km from Lviv to reach the border.

The refugees say there are multiple checkpoints to the border. Due to exhaustion and lack of sleep, they could not say precisely how many checkpoints there were.

The refugees are forced to wait between five and 12 hours to move as far as 50 metres to the next checkpoint. They said that if they moved, went to the toilet or tried to get food, they would lose their place.

“A friend of mine who was sitting next to me passed out. We were calling an ambulance saying, ‘help, help, help.’ When we tried to talk to them and show them, but [the paramedics] didn’t care,” says Abdul, a medical engineering student from the United Arab Emirates who fled the bombardment of Kharkiv.

Reports of Africans being abused at the border as they try to flee have caused outrage across the continent. Many of the reports appear to indicate that racist incidents experienced by black refugees have been the result of individual prejudice and hostility, rather than a blanket policy of discrimination by the Ukrainian authorities.

But on Monday, the African Union said if the reports were true of Africans being refused the right to cross the border safely, it would be “shockingly racist and in breach of international law.”

The air around Polish border village Medyka where tens of thousands of refugees are arriving, is thick with acrid smoke. Snow coats the ground, and people huddle around campfires burning anything they can find to keep warm.

Many refugees who stumble away from the final Polish border checkpoint are crying. Several hobble – knees and legs visibly damaged from walking miles in the freezing temperature.

One man carries another unconscious refugee who has both his kneecaps broken. Others told The Telegraph that some people were losing their minds from stress and exhaustion.

“One guy could only say his name,” a man from Ghana said. “He couldn’t even answer any questions.”

“People would rather die in Ukraine than staying here and dying in the cold, or of famine, or dehydration or suffocation of anything,” says Mr Bahim. “I just want to say to anyone who’s coming or willing to come: please do not come, please stay in Ukraine. I think it’s more safe.”

Source: Telegraph

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