‘Fleeing the same war’ in Ukraine but treated differently: Black doctor laments Swiss limbo

Dr. Mustapha Abdul Mumin never really believed in racism. People are used to being around members of their own race, they sometimes feel uncomfortable around others, and to some extent that discomfort is normal and part of life, he said.

All of that is shattered for him now.

What the 27-year-old saw and felt as he tried to board trains out of Ukraine — his home for eight years, where he can practice general medicine and where he was months away from earning a fellowship in orthopedic surgery — made him understand for the first time. that he is different.

That realization has become even more apparent as he sits in an isolated Swiss emergency shelter on a mountain an hour and a half from Bern, the Swiss capital. He has been waiting in the old juvenile detention center for a month to find out if he will get a permit to stay temporarily, and nothing is known yet.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration wrote that most applications for these permits are processed within a few days. But people working to help international students fleeing Ukraine, like Abdul Moomin, say people of color often expect much more.

‘I do not understand why’

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Swiss government created a special protection status for fleeing Ukrainians, known as an S permit, which allows them to stay temporarily for a year without having to apply for asylum.

The hook? If you are not a Ukrainian citizen or a dependent of one, and your original home is considered safe, you do not qualify. Instead, he must apply for asylum and show that he would be seriously disadvantaged and specifically persecuted if he returned home.

Why is there differential treatment? Anyone fleeing this war should be considered a refugee.– Gwen Madiba, co-founder of the Global Black Coalition

That leaves people like Abdul Mu’min in the lurch; his residence card in Ukraine does not give him any rights. He would not be in danger in his native Ghana, but he said that he no longer knows the country. His family lived in Côte d’Ivoire before he moved to Ukraine when he was young, and the country has made him the man he is today; he doesn’t want to leave it.

“Unfortunately, you are not Ukrainian, and only at this moment do you understand that, yes, you are different. And I appreciate the fact that I am different, but that does not mean that I should be treated the way I am.” am,” Abdul Moomin said Tuesday from a waiting room at the emergency shelter on the outskirts of Bern.

“Throughout every process you can see a certain level of discrimination, and I don’t understand why. I mean, we’re running from the same war.”

Process results in racial disparity, advocates say

The system results in predominantly white Ukrainian families being welcomed at the Swiss border with open arms and offers of accommodation from citizens, and many Ukrainian residents of color being housed in sometimes very isolated shelters with the threat of deportation. looming over them, said Gwen Madiba, who co-founded the Global Black Coalition to help students like Abdul Moomin, in a recent interview.

It made me feel like I was born in the wrong place.– Dr. Mustafa Abdul Mumin

“Many of them just don’t want to go back to their country because it was already difficult for them to get to Europe, to be able to continue their studies in Europe. And if they had to go back [home]going back to Europe may be extremely difficult for them,” Madiba said.

For the first time in Abdul Mu’min’s life, he feels lost.

“During all the process [of fleeing]In each one [step], made me feel like I was born in the wrong place. I’ve worked so hard my whole life to become who I am, to educate myself as much as I can… but it doesn’t matter what you have to offer. What matters… is that you don’t have a Ukrainian passport,” she said.

One of Switzerland’s emergency shelters for people fleeing the war in Ukraine has been set up at this stadium in urban Bern. Some international students of color have been housed in shelters like this one for weeks with no clear answers about whether they can stay, according to the Global Black Coalition. (Mike Evariste/Global Black Coalition)

‘It’s too much to bear’

“I lost my livelihood, I lost my job, I lost my plan. For the first time in my life I don’t know my sense of direction, where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m doing… and being educated to this level and then you get to a country and everyone rejects you… it’s too much to bear.

For now, Abdul Moomin plans to wait all week in the Swiss shelter for news of his S-permit application. But someone else who had lived in Ukraine for 24 years was recently turned down, so he feels he doesn’t have much of a chance.

If he is rejected or still doesn’t hear anything, he plans to cancel his application altogether so he can travel to Germany and try his luck there.

“You understand that throughout your life, you just need to keep fighting. There’s no time you have to rest… as good as you are, you have to keep fighting, in everything you do. And it’s just sad.” he said.

‘Anyone fleeing this war should be considered a refugee’

Madiba says he recently returned to the Ottawa area after spending about a month traveling through six countries in Europe, including Switzerland, meeting people fleeing war and trying to help.

At train stations, volunteers from aid organizations waved banners welcoming people who had fled Ukraine, “and what’s heartbreaking is that you know [the welcome is] not for everyone, and everyone should have the same right to safety,” he told CBC Radio. ottawa morning earlier this week.

“It’s very hard to watch, it’s very hard to live with, and when you’re volunteering and trying to help them, it’s also hard to understand why people are treated like this. Why is there different treatment, when everyone should be considered a refugee? ” she said. “Anyone fleeing this war should be considered a refugee.”

The Global Black Coalition has been raising money to help some of these students. In Switzerland, they are working with Nadra Mao from Society Moko to provide assistance in emergency shelters.

Some students have been waiting for three weeks without clear answers about what will happen to them, Mao said. Some have had their passports and residence cards withheld in Ukraine until they can prove they are leaving the country, he added.

CLOCK | Some black residents struggle to access protected status after fleeing Ukraine, says one activist:

Some black residents struggle to access protected status after fleeing Ukraine, advocate says

Gwen Madiba, co-founder of the Global Black Coalition, says members of the black community without Ukrainian citizenship face discrimination after fleeing war, with more limited access to special permits and protected status in other European countries. 1:03

No answer to question about racial disparities

In an email, a spokesperson for the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration wrote that, as of last Thursday, the country had received 38,339 applications for S permits, of which 31,413 were granted.

86 permits had been denied. When asked how many people are facing deportation so far, the spokesperson only wrote that people can stay for 90 days.

The spokesman did not respond to a question about racial disparities resulting from his system, writing only that anyone can apply for asylum and will be admitted “depending on the threat they face.”

Regarding the housing of applicants for the S permit in isolated rural areas, the Secretary of State for Migration had to “quickly open several emergency shelters to house and care for the large number of refugees.”

In some cases, military infrastructure had to be used, which was readily available and compliant. Most of the centers are in urban areas, the spokesperson wrote.

LISTEN | Gwen Madiba full interview with ottawa morning:

ottawa morning12:39Help black refugees leave Ukraine

Ottawa resident Gwen Madiba is back in Canada after spending several weeks in Eastern Europe helping black refugees fleeing Ukraine. She says that many of them are international students who have experienced discrimination and racism while trying to cross the border. 12:39

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