Dozens of Polish nationalists gathered on Tuesday evening near the train station in Przemyśl, where refugees from Middle East and Africa fleeing the war in Ukraine are being sheltered, and attempted to attack them. The attackers, linked to the local football team’s ‘hooligans’, approached groups of African and Middle Eastern students who had just arrived in Poland from cities in Ukraine that have been invaded by the Russians, and harassed them, shouting slogans and anti-immigrant chants.
“Around 7 pm, these men started to shout and yell against groups of African and Middle Eastern refugees who were outside the train station,” two Polish journalists from the press agency OKO, who first reported the incident, told me. “They yelled at them: ‘Go back to the train station! Go back to your country!’”
Polish police reacted by chasing some of the nationalists and dispersing the crowd.
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“I was with my friends, buying something to eat outside,” says Sara, 22, from Egypt and a student in Ukraine. “These men came and started to harass a group of men from Nigeria. They wouldn’t let an African boy go inside a place to eat some food. Then they came towards us and yelled: ‘Go back to your country!’”
Sara says that Middle Eastern and African refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine have faced discrimination and violence at the country’s border posts by Ukrainian authorities.
On Monday, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, said: “All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN convention, and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference,” citing reports that Ukrainian police had obstructed Nigerians.
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According to reports, Ukrainian officials “showed racist acts”, attempting to force African refugees to the back of the queue at the frontier with Poland.