Escape, Racism, Health, and Solidarity in the Russia-Ukraine war

On the 24th of February 2022 Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started and is forcing millions of people to leave their country. A lot of people migrating in a short time increases the risk of infectious diseases, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the start of the war covid infections in the Ukraine increased 555% according to an UN report. Being forced in small quarters and bomb shelter puts people at higher risk of getting infected with Covid, tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox, or even polio. Hospitals are full will trauma patients and access to medicine has decreased. (Global News) Humanitarian aid is in place and host countries have now the responsibilities of keeping the people fleeing from the Ukraine safe and healthy. However, humanitarian assistance is not available for everybody.

(TW Racism)

While EU countries are opening borders and welcoming Ukrainian refugees, Black international students are left outside. Videos are circulating on social media showing that Black people are not allowed on buses and trains and cannot cross the border. Articles and speeches by politicians underline the racist behavior by expressing their emotions with statements such as ‘European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed everyday’ (Metro UK, Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor David Sakvarelidze, on BBC News) .

Experts are talking about hypothermia, dangerously low body temperature, among refugees at the borders. Ukrainians are free to enter the EU countries, even without possessing the legally required passport. This however does not apply to third-country passport holders with visas for Ukraine. Ukrainians are legally allowed to stay up to three years in the EU and a goal is to make healthcare accessible for at least a year without going through the asylum process. The solidarity with the Ukraine is inspiring and important but is influenced by racial bias. People from African ancestry, living in the Ukraine face racism at the borders. Additionally, the current EU migration policy shows a double standard. Where white people from the Ukraine are welcomed with open arms, this solidarity was/is lacking for people from Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, and counting.

The war is displacing people and puts them at risk of infectious diseases and hypothermia. Additionally, it shows the differences that are being made between different ethnic groups. The migration policy is changing and making it easier for people to enter the EU. The war shows that it is possible to make the EU and its services easily accessible to refugees. Hopefully, this will also be made possible for refugees from outside Europe in the future. Solidarity should not be racist.

For additional reading:

‘Short supply’ of medical products in Ukraine – WHO | Express & Star (

Europe’s different approach to Ukrainian and Syrian refugees draws accusations of racism | CBC News

Ukraine migrants given right to reside and work in EU for three years amid Russian attack (

Ukraine refugees: Racism still exists during war and can’t be ignored | Metro News

Ukraine-Russia war forces EU refugee policy reversal – InfoMigrants

اعرف المزيد

Read more about Barriers to Undocumented Migrants’ Access to COVID-19 Vaccines and how similar challenges affect healthcare access for marginalized groups.

Learn about the Mind the Gap: Migrant HIV Summit and efforts to address health inequalities among migrant populations.

For health-related guidance and preventive measures in crisis situations, check out our article on World Aids Day: This is how to reduce your risk of getting HIV (a WHO guide).

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