We, representatives of civil society organizations from different countries, acknowledge that Ukraine is going through a disaster caused by the Russian military invasion. We would like to attract attention to the situation of those with nationalities from third countries fleeing Ukraine.
Ukraine is not a homogenous country and has many nationalities and people of different citizenships living there. According to a 2021 International Organization for Migration report on Ukraine, there were 293,600 foreigners with permanent residence and more than 150,000 with temporary residence. Foreign students attending Ukrainian higher education institutions come from 155 countries, mainly from India (23.6%), Morocco (11.5%), and Turkmenistan (7%). In addition, there are people who are not required to register as citizens in Belarus staying for up to six months. The overwhelming majority of Belarusian citizens residing in Ukraine arrived in 2020–2021 after mass repression in Belarus and, in most cases, they went through administrative detainment and/or lost jobs for political reasons in Belarus; many also risk facing criminal prosecution in their home country.
All these people have an equal right to seek safety. The principle that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum” is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and is supported by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
However, we are receiving multiple signals that nationalities from third countries are facing discriminatory treatment in their attempts to flee from Ukrainian territory, including their not being allowed to take spaces in evacuation transport (trains, buses) and Ukrainian border guards not allowing them to leave the country. There are also reports that in some reception countries, third country citizens are receiving less support.
Solidarity should not be selective – citizens of Ukraine and migrants living in Ukraine are equally at risk in the face of war. We ask border guards and decision makers in other countries, as well as anyone who provides or intends to provide assistance or housing to those who arrive, not to distinguish between people by country of origin or skin color – everyone needs help in this circumstance.
Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
Sienos Grupė, Lithuania
Zagreb Solidarity City, Croatia
Diversity Development Group, Lithuania
ERIM research project, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia
Illustration: An abandoned suitcase and a baby cart are left by the roadside as Ukrainian refugees escape from a Russian invasion at a border crossing in Medica, Poland, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Photo: AP/SCANPIX