South Africa’s foreign minister says blocking Africans from evacuation out of Ukraine proof of racism

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor delivers a speech during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on February 28, 2022. The UN Human Rights Council voted to hold an urgent debate about Russia's deadly invasion of Ukraine at Kyiv's request, amid widespread international condemnation of Moscow's attack. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP )
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor delivers a speech during a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on February 28, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Reports that Africans were denied access to evacuation means out of Ukraine is proof that racism continues to plague the world, according to South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor.

Pandor made the remarks on Monday night in her keynote address at the launch of South Africa’s candidature for the Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025, in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I was so shocked this morning to get a message that African students trying to get through the Poland border were being pushed to the back of the line because they are black and being denied entry in the queue position in which they were in. And this just goes to prove that we continue to suffer the awful plight of racism,” she said.

“We must not allow racism to be placed at the end of the queue in our attention to human rights. It is extremely important that we keep up the fight for everybody to recognize the equality of every human being,” she added.

Social media platforms have been awash with amateur reports of Africans being stopped from boarding evacuation buses and trains out of Ukraine, where Russia is conducting a military operation.

On Monday, the African Union said it was disturbed by such reports and urged that Africans should also “enjoy the same rights to cross to safety.”

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach international law,” the continental body said.

The South African government is facilitating the evacuation of its nationals from Ukraine, using missions in neighboring countries as temporary accommodation bases for them before they travel back to South Africa.

South Africans are among thousands of Africans, mostly students, who reside in Ukraine.