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May 25, 2022



Roma and other people of color fleeing war in Ukraine face discrimination and racism, Jaroslav Miko tells ROMEA TV that volunteers are refusing to help Romani families

3.3.2022 10:41
Romani Ukrainians fleeing the war, 1 March 2022. (PHOTO:  Czechs Are Helping - Češi pomáhají)
Romani Ukrainians fleeing the war, 1 March 2022. (PHOTO: Czechs Are Helping - Češi pomáhají)

Ukrainian Roma fleeing the war are facing border-crossing problems - according to information made available to the news server and other media, discrimination is occurring and some are even being targeted with racism. Students of color leaving Ukraine are also facing racism.

"Ukrainian Roma are being discriminated against at the border," Jaroslav Miko of the Czech Republic described the situation on the Slovak-Ukrainian border to ROMEA TV. "There are a lot of volunteers who are bringing refugees further into the interior."

Jaroslav Miko: "Ukrainian Roma are being discriminated against at the border."

"However, if a Romani Ukrainian family arrives and asks for help, they are rejected," Miko reported. "Romani coordinators with the Apostolic Church are trying to help the Roma on the ground."

Working with the "Czechs Are Helping" Initiative, Miko organized the transport of 115 Romani refugees from Ukraine on two charter buses from the Slovak-Ukrainian border to the Czech Republic. The refugees are mainly Romani women and 45 children. 

Some have gone to stay with relatives, others to a detention facility in the village of Vyšní Lhoty in the Frýdek-Místek district of the Czech Republic. Reporter Luboš Palata, writing for the Czech daily newspaper Deník, came across Romani refugee families from Ukraine at a fire station in Humenné, east Slovakia and described similar experiences with racism in his article. 

The base commander, Colonel Marián Pouchan, verbally attacked the Romani refugees in an unprecedented way, telling the reporter they had no reason to flee and that they were "abusing" the aid. "They have abused this situation," Pouchan alleged. 

"They are not people who are directly threatened by the war. They are people from near the border, they have abused the opportunity for us to cook them hot food here and to receive humanitarian aid," the Slovak firefighter said before asserting that Romani Ukrainians should not even be allowed to cross the border.

Dark-skinned students have also encountered racism while leaving Ukraine, according to testimony given to the American television station CNN that the guards at the border between Poland and Ukraine were racist towards some of them. "More than 10 buses arrived and we saw all the Ukrainian [refugees] getting on board," Rachel Onyegbule, a Nigerian woman studying medicine in her first year at the University of Lviv, was reported as saying by CNN Prima News in the Czech Republic.

"We thought they would take us too, but we were rejected and told we had to walk. I was weak after four sleepless nights and frozen," the Nigerian medical student said.

"They wouldn't allow me on the bus, though, nor did they allow any of the African students on the bus," Onyegbule told CNN. Saakshi Ijantkar, a 22-year-old Indian national and fourth-year medical student, also described her experiences with racism at the border crossing connecting Medyka, Poland and Shehyni, Ukraine. 

"Before you can cross the border, you have to go through three checkpoints," she explained. "They simply refused to let us Indians in."

"Just 30 Indians were allowed to cross after 500 Ukrainians did," the Indian medical student described. "To get to the border, you have to walk four or five kilometers from the first to the second checkpoint."

"Taxis and buses are waiting there for the Ukrainians, but all other nationalities have to walk," the Indian national said. "They have been extremely racist towards Indians and some other foreigners."

More than a million people have fled Ukraine in the week since the Russian invasion began. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is an unprecedented exodus this century.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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