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Naledi Pandor shocked by racist treatment of African students fleeing Ukraine

Published Mar 1, 2022

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Pretoria: International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said she was shocked by revelations that African students fleeing the war in Ukraine, by attempting to cross into Poland, were being subjected to racism.

“I was fairly shocked this morning, to get a message that African students trying to get through the Poland border were being pushed to the back of the line because they are black, and being denied entry in the queue position in which they were in,” said Pandor.

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“This just goes to prove that we continue to suffer the awful blight of racism, and so we must not allow racism to be placed at the end of the queue in our attention to human rights.”

Pandor made the remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is attending the launch of South Africa's candidature for the Human Rights Council for the period 2023 to 2025.

She said the fight against racism global must stay at the apex of the agenda.

“It’s extremely important that we keep up the fight for everybody to recognise the equality of every human being,” she added.

This week in Pretoria, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) said it had been alerted to cases of racism directed at the African nationals fleeing Ukraine.

Thousands of people in Ukraine are evacuating to neighbouring countries due to the Russian invasion.

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Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said there were plans to move South Africans out of Ukraine.

“We have around 200 South Africans that are registered with our office and our ambassador in Ukraine Andre Groenewald has been busy organising their movement out of the country. Because of the situation in that country we have had to rely on trains as a mode of transport,” said Monyela.

He said that while the evacuation was taking place, they had been alerted to cases of racism directed at African nationals at the border of some of the neighbouring countries.

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“We have come across reports that African nationals, regardless of which country they come from, are getting ill-treated at some of the borders and we are hoping that this will be attended to, but it is quite disturbing that you still have episodes of discrimination just because of one’s skin colour, especially under such conditions,” Monyela added.

He said they had advised those stranded in Ukraine to contact the South African embassy or to call the 24-hour Operations Centre in the department.

Some South Africans stranded in Ukraine took to social media to express their fears.

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