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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Ransom

The Double Standard of Being a Refugee: Ukraine Crisis

By Morgan Ransom, Opinion Editor

“Unsatisfactory and discriminatory”; that is what Jeff Crisp, former leader of policy, development and evaluation at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) called the racism experienced by Black and brown people fleeing Ukraine. While millions are in search of refuge, as so many other countries under siege have done in the past, many journalists, politicians, and global citizens alike have noticed a striking difference in the global response to Ukrainian refugees entering their borders.

This openness that we see displayed through social media, mutual aid funds, news reports, political and governmental statements, are only afforded to white Ukrainians. Many Black and brown people residing in Ukraine, whether as study abroad students, immigrants, or refugees themselves, have been detained, denied entry, or put in camps instead of receiving the same welcome that their white neighbors have received globally.

The flee from Ukraine has left many study abroad students in a lurch, unable to leave, unable to receive their degree, and unable to graduate. Black and brown students struggle to leave and to survive, and while the EU opens its borders to white Ukrainians, many non-white folks have been literally pushed back into Ukraine and forgotten about. Twitter account #BlackForeignersinUkraine documents individual students seeking refuge outside of the country, looking for safe passage and shelter in neighboring countries.

Many Black and brown activists outside of Ukraine are thinking outside the legislative and traditional methods to get loved ones home. A group of three Black women, Korrine Sky, Patricia Daley, and Tokunbo Koikim, all study abroad students, took matters into their own hands and formed Black Women for Black Lives, an organization founded on awareness, mutual aid, and helping Black people not just survive, but thrive even in the most trying of circumstances. Through their work, they managed to start GoFundMe efforts to help African refugees flee Ukraine. On their twitter and website, Black Women for Black Lives has kept detailed records of how much money has been raised, distributed, and to whom. And they aren’t the only ones. Through the messaging app Telegram, they created a group chat of over 4,500 Black people in Ukraine to distribute resources, mutual aid, and raise donations for resources, food, and transportation.

However, this effort, while showing the strength of community, should not read as heartwarming. The ugliness of our world is reflected clear as day in the treatment of Ukrainian refugees in relation to non-white refugees— Ukrainian or otherwise. The way the international community has opened its doors to displaced Ukrainian refugees should be the standard for all displaced people, regardless of status. Additionally, as study abroad students ourselves, there should be more outrage and attention on this situation. Non-white students should not have to be turned away at the border, forced to leave their belongings and have their literal identities taken from them in trying to get home. As American study abroad students, we must recognize the privilege we have, being so safe and sheltered, while people just like us, our age, are fighting to get home, to be seen as human, as someone in need. Skin color shouldn't dictate the level of care or treatment an individual deserves. And it should not take a Western country to be under siege for us to recognize this disgusting, racist disparity displayed on the global stage.

*Disclaimer: As we know, this crisis is unfolding day by day, and disseminating the facts from fiction through the internet is difficult. The events are changing by the hour, so please take this article with a grain of salt.

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