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Ukraine: UN expert condemns racist threats, xenophobia at border

03 March 2022

GENEVA (3 March 2022) – The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Tendayi Achiume, today expressed grave concerns about racist threats and xenophobic treatment against non-white people fleeing Ukraine. She issues the following statement:

“I have joined other independent experts in condemning the Russian Federation’s attack on Ukraine, and urging swift action to protect the millions forced to flee this attack. Since then, Black Africans, Indian nationals, Pakistani nationals, people of Middle Eastern descent and others have sent urgent reports documenting life-threatening racist and xenophobic treatment as they attempt to flee the violence in Ukraine.

Some report being denied access to bomb shelters within Ukraine, many report border guards preventing them from crossing the border or pushing them to the back of queues for transportation that would grant them safe passage out of the country and, in some cases, they report being denied access to consulates of their countries of origin in neighboring countries. Many — including babies — are being forced to wait longer in below freezing temperatures with no shelter. In all of these cases, these individuals and groups are being singled out for discriminatory treatment through racial, ethnic, and national profiling that is prohibited under international law, even in the context of armed conflict.

The reality is that non-white migrants and refugees face deadly discrimination all over the world as they attempt to cross international borders. The images and testimonies from non-white people attempting to flee Ukraine attest to this fact, and they should motivate immediate action to ensure that racist and xenophobic treatment — whether official or unofficial — is brought to an end.

In a separate statement, I have joined other independent experts to call attention specifically to the discriminatory treatment of people of African Descent and others. But government officials, humanitarian entities and other actors including the EU and its Member States, must also take urgent action to ensure the protection of all individuals and groups facing racially and ethnically discriminatory treatment as they attempt to flee Ukraine.

International law requires non-discriminatory protection of human rights, and all actors must respect this fundamental principle of non-discrimination, especially in times of great crisis.

Finally, even as racism and xenophobia continue to heighten the threat faced by non-white people directly affected by the conflict, it is important to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of support these groups have received, including from private individuals, in the cases where they have been able to cross over to safety. I call on government and humanitarian authorities to ensure safe passage and life-saving protections for all people affected by the conflict.”


Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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