French NGOs denounce unequal treatment between Ukrainians and non-European refugees

Several non-profit organizations working with asylum seekers have denounced French authorities for racial discrimination against non-European refugees while maintaining welcoming policies towards Ukrainians fleeing the ongoing war with Russia with open arms. local media reported.

“At a time when Ukraine has refocused its attention on refugees, it is important to remember… that people from many different countries are also here, fleeing the most terrible conflicts and fear of persecution. We should welcome them all,” the non-governmental organization (NGO) Care4Calais said in a Twitter post on Monday.

NGOs working in the Calais region of northern France near the English Channel, a major hub for unauthorized border crossings into Britain, have criticized government authorities on social media for the unequal treatment towards refugees and migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“In Calais, while associations have been asking for accommodation for people stranded at the border for years, places have been freed up in a few days for people arriving from Ukraine,” Utopia56 said in a Twitter post on March 4.

The NGO mentions that a home has been opened for Ukrainian nationals arriving at Calais station who are warmly welcomed by citizen associations.

“For all these exiles, from Ukraine or elsewhere, from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, sleeping on the sidewalks and the camps of Calais, Grande-Synthe, Paris, Rennes… the Ukrainian situation proves it : it is possible to decide to welcome with dignity,” said the Utopia56 tweet.

Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine on February 24, more than 1.5 million people have fled the fighting to central European countries. Many of these countries have dismantled strict border entry rules and relaxed policies for undocumented refugees to help Ukrainians find safe passage, temporary accommodation and transportation.

In a show of solidarity, the French public railway company, SNCF, announced that Ukrainian refugees can “travel for free” on its train network. Cross-border rail line Eurostar also said it would allow Ukrainians to travel to the UK for free.

“So why are black refugees left to drown in the canal? “Care4Calais tweeted on March 5.

“It’s a great initiative by Eurostar, but the contrast with non-EU refugees couldn’t be more stark. This demonstrates that safe routes for refugees are possible and that no one fleeing conflict should again risk their lives to cross the English Channel. A better way IS possible,” he said.

Ukrainians arriving in France also benefit from an official welcome from the authorities of the town hall, who open accommodation in hostels or via private families.

“We see before our very eyes what another potential reality might look like. The ability to welcome people and not trap them at the border exists. All that is missing is the political will to do so… The racial hierarchy and the hypocrisy of welcoming Ukrainians and repressing African and Asian refugees are dangerous and contradictory,” said the Calais Solidarity Association.

Jean-Philippe Lannoy, municipal councilor of Calais, also opposed the prevailing double standard.

“In Calais, Ukrainians are welcomed at the youth hostel opened by order of the mayor. Awesome! But what about Afghans, Eritreans, etc. who are already there? Do we leave them in the mud? he said in a letter posted on social media.

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart, who helps accommodate Ukrainians rejected by the UK government for trying to enter the UK without valid papers or visas, says the status of European refugees differs from that of non-Europeans.

“The status of migrants who are in Calais are people in an irregular situation, while the status of Ukrainians is a status of people in a regular situation” who are fleeing the war, she told BFMTV.

Even as the French government actively assisted fleeing Ukrainians last week, police in Grand Synthe carried out evictions at two refugee campsites.

“The shelters of the exiles have been completely demolished. At least 181 tents were destroyed. It is the State that organizes the precariousness of exiles”, underlines the group of Human Rights Observers.

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