The Politics of Border Crossing In a Time Of War
Recent reports that purported that some Nigerians were denied safety crossings at the Ukraine-Poland border post have raised concerns about alleged racism in a time of ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. These reports have flooded social media and caused severe concerns for Nigerians trapped in the war and their relatives back home. Fears have been raised further with Stephanie Hegarty of the BBC news characterizing the situation thus: “Africans fleeing Ukraine report discrimination at borders.”
Concerns were raised about the politics of border crossing when people began sharing messages across social and news platforms that they had endured long trekking to the border only, to be denied crossing on alleged basis of skin color, race or the absence of valid visas to get into Poland. This agitated most platforms. Notably, this nationalist anxiety found expressions on Twitter, which is quite popular with most Nigerian professionals and activists.
For instance, on 26 February, Oby Ezekwesili, former Vice President of the World Bank and former Nigerian federal minister of Education tweeted: “I went in search of *Answers* to disturbing news we’ve been(sic) reading about Nigerians seeking entry into Poland. If you are Nigerian, got to any Border Control in Poland and were turned back by Polish Immigration officials, can you DM a Scanned Copy of your Passport, please?” Expectedly, her message garnered responses.
Retweets were sent. Investigate journalist and award-winning reporter, David Hundeyin, could not bear the national anguish. But he had earlier shared his own frustrations a day earlier when he tweeted, “I’m in despair!”
The desolation at home and the desperations of those fleeing the war are reflective of the social and political mood at the Ukraine-Poland border, especially as it concerns Nigerians, blacks and Africans. But humanity can do much better than this. There are UN protocols that guarantee the rights of people fleeing war zones. Could it be that not everybody at the border is aware of our common humanity? But the BBC journalist has reported that: ‘however, a Polish border force spokesperson says: “Everyone who arrives at the Polish border from Ukraine is being allowed entry regardless of nationality.”’ This only leaves us with hope for those at the border crossing.