Nine months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, IWS’ Jennifer Kamau has a discussion with three BIPoC women*, who were studying at university in the Ukraine.

At the time of the outbreak of the war, there were around 80 000 students from the Global South living in the Ukraine for their higher education. When forced to flee, they did not receive the same level of solidarity or access to resources as their white counterparts. The EU extended its support towards Ukrainian citizens rapidly, but the intersectional issues that BIPoC refugees faced when the invasion erupted were ignored by the mainstream discourse. Beatrice (aerospace student from Kharkiv), Janet (4th year student from Kharkiv) and Asya (5th year medical student from Kyiv) share their experiences of crossing the border and speak about their life after arriving in Germany.

This IW*S RADIO episode highlights the intersectional challenges that BIPoC refugees are confronted with in the state of displacement: from the way that border officials prioritised white Ukrainians over BIPoC migrants, to the countless institutional barriers, the spread of misinformation and the sexual violence that women* face in these vulnerable situations – to name a few.

How was the process of entering Europe? Where did the discrimination start? How was the registration process and how helpful was the registration office? What are the uncertainties while waiting for the permission to stay in Germany? These stories reveal the trauma, abuse, exploitation, dehumanisation and inferiorisation that BIPOC women and men* endure, as racialized and undocumented subjects within the EU border regime. From these conversations we also learn about the strength of Black solidarity and community within a system built on racism and exclusion.

Beatrice

“At midnight, that’s when the Black people were allowed to pass. That was where the discrimination started. At the Poland border.”

“Once I entered  [the EU], I did not know what’s next. Where am I going, how am I going to register myself and everything. So I just got a host, and a host hosted me for like a week. She told me ‘I can’t continue hosting you’. So I had to find another solution. What other country can I go to? Which other place can I get help?”

“After every two weeks I had a panic. Like I am homeless. Now, where am I going to go? Which organisation is going to give me me the first help? I was lucky.”

Janet:

“Seven people died. Because if you are Black they were not allowing you to enter inside. Only Ukrainian people were allowed to go inside.”

“I was studying pharmacy, I was almost in my final year. By then, I had my future planned. But since this war came, it’s like I’m losing hope, I’m losing faith. It’s like I am just living. I do not know if I should continue school or if I should stop and if I stop school what will happen to me later? I am a little traumatised.”

“They don’t want you to get this help. Immediately, they see that you are a foreigner and when you enter they start crushing you, so that you can stop doing whatever you are doing and you can go back to your country. They have the information but they don’t want you to get it”

Asya:

“You go from being a student to losing your entire identity and becoming a refugee. It was difficult for me. I didn’t access any of the community support in Poland because it took me a minute to realise I am a refugee. It made absolutely no sense. You are dehumanised. You are made to feel like a burden on a system that you didn’t ask to be a part of. You are told things like ‘why don’t you go back to your country’ or ‘ why are you here?’. There is a criminalisation of who you are and a lot of things that you didn’t have to contend with before. While I was a aware of the plight of refugees before and I believe I was sympathetic to it, I don’t think I had completely understood it until I became one.” 


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