African students, of Eswatini (Swaziland) nationality, recover near the tents after they manage to pass the Romanian-Ukrainian border crossing point in Siret, northern Romania, 27 February 2022 | Photo: EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT
African students, of Eswatini (Swaziland) nationality, recover near the tents after they manage to pass the Romanian-Ukrainian border crossing point in Siret, northern Romania, 27 February 2022 | Photo: EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT

Alexander Somto Orah, a 25 year-old Nigerian man, has denounced racism in Ukraine. He said there were two lines at the train station in Kyiv for those who wanted to get on a train to cross the border: one for Ukrainians and Europeans and another for Africans, Asians and people of color.

A 25-year-old Nigerian man who fled the war in Ukraine and is now in Warsaw said he has faced racism -- not at the Polish border but in Kyiv.

Alexander Somto Orah said there were two separate lines at the train station in Kyiv for those who wanted to board a train to Poland -- one for Ukrainians and Europeans and the other for the 'others': Africans, Asians and people of color.

Racism is not even stopped by war, said Orah, who is now helping other Nigerians who have not been able to flee Ukraine yet leave the country. He is contacting friends who are in different parts of the world so they can donate money to help these people flee, he said.

On Twitter, he posted his interview with the NBC network in which he spoke about "racism and hostility" endured by Africans who are trying to flee the conflict.

Speaking to ANSA on the phone from Warsaw, he said: "When we left Kyiv, police officers gave precedence to Ukrainian refugees, women and children" at the train station. "They divided us into two lines, on one side Ukrainian women and children and on the other African women and children, as well as Asians and people of color. We protested, we screamed that they were only letting whites" get on the train and that they "weren't asking for passports. This meant that it would take us many more days to flee."

"In the end, they let us get on the train," he said. The journey continued without problems, he continued. "We were all together, in the same wagons with Ukrainians. We travelled with them until the end."

Lines 'due to visas', according to some reports

Reports of two separate lines have been confirmed by four Congolese men who were at the station in Krakow together with other refugees to get assistance, a warm meal and a place to stay.

Dozens of people from different cities of Ukraine were gathered together to get help from volunteers. Some of their stories, however, differed from the one provided by Alexander.

Jonathan Steven Jons, a 20-year-old business student at the University of Dnipro, confirmed that there were two lines at the station in Kyiv but said "it was due to a matter of visas."

"There is also something else to say: if you pay for a ticket, you get on a train more quickly and you arrive first in Lviv or at the border. If instead you want to leave with a free train ride made available by authorities, you wait and get on a wagon when there is room," he said.

Another eye witness, called Samuel, also a student in Dnipro who travelled with Jonathan and three friends to Krakow, said he also faced discrimination.

"When I arrived at the border -- we were still on the Ukrainian side -- I got into a shop to get something to eat, but they told me it was closed. A short while later, a group of Ukrainians went in and they gave them food", he said.

The reports cannot be independently verified. But many sources have reported discrimination against migrants. For this reason, Alexander says that as soon as he left Ukraine he started to work to help those who are still there, to help them flee the conflict as soon as possible.

He contacted "African" friends, he said, in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and asked them for money to book rooms on the other side of the Ukrainian border, in Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. In this way, he said, the Africans he helps can at least have a good night's sleep once they cross the border.

 

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