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People of color struggle to escape Ukraine war


Driss El Ghazouani is a scholar and faculty from Mohamed V University in Rabat. His research interest focuses on social policy. His recent paper A Case Study of Sub-Saharan Female Immigration to Morocco was published in 2019.

With the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War in February 2022, it caused indelible damage to both the nationals of Ukraine and the long-term residents of Ukraine. The influx of refugees from Ukraine into other European countries was accompanied by incidents of racism and discrimination. In response to this question, the Center conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. Driss El Ghazouani on the issue of racial discrimination by people of color in the War of Ukraine, hoping to find out his answers to the impact of refugees caused by the Russo-Ukrainian War on Europe, whether European countries would improve the treatment of refugees and what measures the EU would take to improve the dignity and self-sufficiency of refugees.

Driss El Ghazouani War and racism: People of color struggle to escape Ukraine war


For Ukrainians and long-term residents, the last few weeks have been traumatic, both physically and emotionally. The United Nations counts more than 2.8 million refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, leaving behind their entire lives. Many of these refugees come from countries around the world. Many are students from Africa, India, North Africa... Since the first attacks on Ukraine, testimonies of racist incidents and discrimination involving people fleeing Ukraine because of their skin have multiplied. While Ukraine has promised to investigate the case, Poland has denied that border guards separated the fugitives. "Only Ukrainians are allowed to cross the border !" This is what a Moroccan medical student said after sleeping on the street for 4 days.


In this context, many influencers on social media demanded that Europeans treat Arab and african refugees the same way they are treating by Ukrainians. This is especially after some of the measures adopted by the European Union in this regard. Even in debates or on television, several statements have recently pitted Ukrainian refugees against Syrian, Afghan and Middle Eastern refugees. At a time when Europe is mobilizing to welcome those fleeing the Russian invasion, critics denounce a two-speed media and political treatment.


One of these measures is the "temporary protection" granted by the European Union to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, whether they are Ukrainian nationals or long-term residents of that country. This unprecedented measure will allow them to stay in the EU for a renewable year, to work or to access housing. Foreigners residing in Ukraine who do not have a long-term residence permit (temporary workers, students...), however, are not concerned.


Usually European and Western countries in general deal with crises in a condescending manner. When it comes to Europeans, they are united on all sides, but when it comes to Arabs and Africans, they don't give it any value. History tells us how Europeans have treated African immigration and Syrian, Libyan and Yemeni refugees. At the same time that they opened their doors to the Ukrainians, they supplied arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to attack the Yemenis. These hypocritical and contradictory acts is difficult to change, at least in the short term.


"We're not talking about Syrians fleeing the regime's bombing (...). We are talking about Europeans who are leaving in their cars that look like our cars, and who are just trying to save their lives". "Europeans with blond hair and blue eyes", "high quality immigration, from which we will be able to take advantage", "relatively civilized city, relatively European". These statements by several journalists show that the media coverage of the crisis is biased. Not to mention the racist statements of some politicians, such as the Bulgarian Prime Minister who said: "These are not the refugees we are used to (...) These people are Europeans. They are intelligent, they are educated. All this confirm that it is difficult to change how Europeans treats future refugees crises in other contexts.


Europeans as a whole differ between the Ukrainians and the Middle East. In their view, the latter is the source of all the evils of the world. They are uncivilized, dictatorial, undemocratic, and have a conservative view of women and Muslims... and other stereotypes. As for the Ukrainians, they are European, Christian or Jewish, civilized, educated and democratic...This differentiation of perspectives will make the Ukrainians more integrated and more welcoming in European countries, and thus will not constitute a humanitarian crisis as such as the 2015’s crisis. This does not hide the difficulties they are facing at the border. But what complicates the situation is the presence of fugitives from other countries with Ukrainians.


European leaders recognized the need for a humane, thoughtful and comprehensive approach to addressing the realities of displacement when they adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It is appropriate, therefore, that the EU builds on this Declaration and a new approach involving not only Member States, but also countries of origin, host and transit. A reasoned, pragmatic and common approach to the issue of refugees and migrants is possible and feasible within the EU framework. The United Nations Refugee Agency, proposes a vision for achieving this through a comprehensive European asylum and refugee management policy to be implemented in the future, both in its internal and external dimensions. This kind of creative and forward-looking thinking is by no means new to Europe - it was evident in the creation of the EU itself. The creation of the EU itself, which was founded on the common principles of respect for fundamental rights, responsibility, solidarity and trust.




Interview Date: 2022.04.02

Interviewees: Chen Liyuan, Zhang Jiabao

Translator: Wang Xuetong

Corrector: Xu Houkun


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