The number of people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine has surged to more than half a million and at least 102 civilians have been killed since Moscow’s troops entered the country, according to the United Nations.
“More than 500,000 refugees have now fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Monday.
More than 500,000 refugees have now fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries.
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) February 28, 2022
UN officials said at least 102 civilians had been killed as of Monday. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the United Nations, placed the death toll at 352, including 16 children.
Long lines of cars and buses were backed up at checkpoints at the borders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and non-EU member Moldova as civilians continued to flee Russia’s assault. Others crossed the borders on foot, dragging their possessions away from the war and into the security of the European Union.
The latest and still growing count of civilians fleeing the conflict had 281,000 people entering Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, more than 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said.
The rest were scattered in unidentified other countries, she added.
There were reports that some African people fleeing Ukraine faced racism and discrimination at the border with Poland from officials on both sides.
Thousands of young African students are studying in Ukraine, mostly from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries, drawn by the high standard of education and low costs.
Some reported being rudely stopped from crossing the border for days despite the cold and their lack of food or other supplies, even as officials let white refugees enter the country.
Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said he received reports of “Ukrainian border guards hindering the exit of Nigerian citizens”.
3/4 The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine reverted to state: "It’s official: no restrictions for foreign nationals to leave the country exist. Problem is the result of chaos on the border and check points leading to them".
— Geoffrey Onyeama (@GeoffreyOnyeama) February 27, 2022
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukrainian border guards have been instructed to allow all foreigners to leave.
Ghanaian foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said in a statement on Monday that students from Ghana had not faced any problems at the border.
She said 38 of the 220 Ghanaians who had left Ukraine had crossed the Polish border without hindrance. However, more than 460 people were still on their way out of Ukraine to neighbouring countries.
Polish officials told the German news agency DPA that accusations against their officers were “nonsense”.
“The officers of the Polish Border Guard help all people fleeing the war zone in Ukraine. Nationality or citizenship do not matter,” they said.