Begun in 1979, Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Discrimination is an extension of the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Racism is an issue that permeates the globe. But while each country or region’s history of racial inequality may differ, the consequences of racial discrimination are the same: marginalization, economic and social inequity, health outcome disparities, and more.
This week, we want to draw attention to the importance of eliminating racial discrimination, especially the role it plays in the asylum process.
Most recently issues of race and nationality have been a point of contention at the border of the European Union for those trying to leave Ukraine due to the ongoing war with Russia. Amidst a surge in Ukrainians leaving the country to seek asylum in neighboring countries, reports quickly circulated of black Ukrainians being denied entry onto trains and buses leaving the country or turned away at borders. The issue also stems beyond black Ukrainians and has affected foreign students, primarily from Africa and South Asia, hoping to return to their homes.
These reports are a reminder of the way race and nationality have become illogically bound. In fact, these recent stories have sparked attention to previously niche conversations around the idea of how race operates in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. It is also a stark reminder of the barriers asylum seekers from non-Western countries have faced from Western governments in recent years.
Undoubtedly, opening borders to asylum seekers is the right thing to do at a human level. However, the situation in Ukraine has created a starker elucidation of the role that race and discrimination play in the process of granting asylum, which–even on the surface–creates the image of prioritizing the safety of white people over people of color.
Steps to remove visa requirements for those leaving Ukraine is an important step in removing the barriers for those seeking asylum; the next step is removing assumptions of nationality that are rooted in racial identity.