Opinion: There Is Racism Against Ukrainian Refugees

There is racism in the willingness to receive Ukrainian refugees and the media coverage of the conflict

Flag of Ukraine

A refugee is a refugee, no matter where he/she comes from or what religion he/she practices. Photo: LatinAmerican Post

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

The war in Ukraine has turned the entire European Union upside down. An armed conflict in their neighborhood has shown that the peace that they have built and protected so much on the continent is once again threatened by the Russian giant. However, for many people in Europe, war is not new. Precisely, many refugees have escaped the horrors in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Libya, or sub-Saharan Africa to reach Europe.

What does change is the way in which the continent, especially certain countries, have expressed their desire to host Ukrainian refugees over refugees from other parts of the world. Not recently, several governments such as those of Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, among others, have refused to receive more migrants from the Middle East. For example, in November of last year, hundreds of migrants were trapped on the border between Poland and Belarus. Although this was precisely an attempt by Belarus to sabotage the European Union, the empathy with the refugees was almost non-existent on the part of the Polish government.

You may also be interested: The Real Reason Behind The Invasion of Ukraine

Even the media have collaborated with this same speech. On Twitter, there are several threads from news networks that highlight the skin color of the current refugees. Why don’t we see them as important? Refugees from wars looking for a better opportunity and fleeing the conflict. This way we can measure everyone in the same way, without distinguishing skin or eye color.

The main reason I have heard from some Europeans is that: “Ukrainians are Europeans like us” or “they look like us” and this has generated the necessary empathy. “These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans”, were the words of the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov.

Are white refugees from Ukraine (who also deserve to be welcomed with open arms) more worthy of support in the face of a catastrophe like war? It seems that for Europeans, the answer is yes.

The African Union of Nations warned that this welcome with open arms is not that wide. Or at least depending on the color. According to the organization, there are reports that people of color who lived in Ukraine are having problems when crossing the borders. More than a passport, it seems that they are seeing the color of their skin.

I also heard someone mention that geographically, Europeans should accept them. Obviously, you just need to take a map to understand that the first choice of Ukrainians are countries of the European Union. But, then, where are those from Afghanistan going? To Syria, Iraq, Iran? All of those countries are in crisis and do not provide stability for anyone. In addition, we are unaware that many countries in the area have already tried to receive them, but their capacities are tiny, compared to the Europeans.

Another reason I have heard is “is that the Ukrainians are culturally more close to us. It is true that they are Orthodox and not Protestant or Catholic, but they are more similar than Muslims. It is easier for them to adapt to Europe than people from other cultures.” This is simply Islamophobia. First, because not all migrants from the Middle East are Muslim, nor are Ukrainians Christian. In addition, and if they were, it is not a reason either. That the adaptation of migrants is a challenge for the countries that receive them is true. But they must have thought that too when they invaded and dropped bombs on third world towns… or when in the past they decided to invade and colonize territories in Africa, enslave its inhabitants and steal all its wealth.

Because the most important thing that we are forgetting about all this is that, for the first time, the refugees who request asylum in Europe are not fleeing from a conflict promoted by the (Western) Europeans themselves. Here the intervention of Vladimir Putin and Russia, but in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya and all of Africa, it was the same Europeans who helped destabilize these countries.

Let us not forget that the Europeans were the creators of many things, but perhaps their invention with the greatest legacy is colonization. It was precisely the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States and Germany itself (among others) who have colonized or tried to colonize various territories in Africa, South America and Asia. In different forms and in different periods, all of these were responsible for these problems. Without mentioning the refugees due to climate change that is produced (mostly) from North America and Europe.

The possibility of receiving all Ukrainian refugees in the countries of the European Union is being considered without them even submitting an asylum application. Exactly what they need: social coverage, work permits and schooling for minors. Countries are putting victims in the place they deserve and this, hopefully, is the beginning of a much more inclusive European migration policy and in this way they will show us that race, religion or culture is not the reason why they receive migrants. Because a refugee is a refugee, no matter where they come from or what religion they practice. If this is so, the supposed “European values” will be just the facade of racism (which many already think so).

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