Updated: Oct 21
Many factors displace those of African descent, including climate change and conflicts which often result from devastating colonial legacies. It is reported that refugees and asylum seekers of African descent not only risk disproportionate victimisation from conflict, but are confronted with grave violations such as human trafficking and exploitation as they undertake perilous journeys in order to reach safety. The additional obstacles of gender-based violations, sexual exploitation, and abuse at the hands of traffickers is also a lived reality for many women and girls of African descent.
Troubling accounts of racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other violations of international human rights laws have spread online, with a recent case being the treatment of Africans escaping Ukraine. Media accounts revealed racial discrimination among authorities led to a ‘Ukrainians first’ policy, in which Ukrainian men, women and children were allowed to board trains and buses to the borders first. In one instance, a Nigerian woman was told ‘if you are Black, you should walk’. Once most Ukrainians were evacuated, only then did Africans stand a chance. It was also lamentably reported that Africans were physically attacked by the police and endured maltreatment from those in authority, and many were left stranded and helpless in Ukraine with freezing temperatures.
Many of us around the world were outraged at such harrowing stories, questioning how there was room for racism in a matter of life or death. International human rights law provides a robust framework for the protection of all refugees, therefore not only should their lives be safeguarded, but ensured that their dignity also preserved.
Photo © UNHCR/Adrienne Surprenant