Russia-Ukraine war reveals human solidarity in Europe

Michał Łabenda
Sunday 20 Mar 2022

Recently we have heard in the media a number of voices, including from Egyptian defenders of human rights, asserting that the Russian aggression towards Ukraine has revealed “racial discrimination” against Arabs in Europe. A number of accusations have been affecting Ukraine, that currently faces the war of unprecedented brutality, and have been as well affecting my country, Poland, that stays firmly supporting all the victims of Russian aggression. 

I know how sensitive issues of discrimination, xenophobia and racism are in the Middle East, including Egypt. I know what burden of hardships and negative experiences Egyptians and other Middle Eastern nationalities were going through in the past. But precisely due to that, I cannot stay silent when such false and harmful accusations are being spread. Let me therefore evoke briefly a number of points:

First, about the Polish-Ukrainian border. There are 7 border crossing points on the Polish-Ukrainian border, ready to serve a couple of thousands people per day. Since February 24th, until March 18th, over 2 million people have already crossed this border, mostly women and children, war refugees, fleeing Russian artillery and rocket fire. People who have not experienced this kind of trauma, when your house is getting ruined by Russian bombs and you have to run out with what you can carry, might not understand the severity of this situation. Within hours, hundreds of thousands refugees appeared at the border. There were no hotels, no restaurants, no services for such crowds of people, because it was impossible to prepare all of this in such a short time for this kind of human tragedy. But the circumstances on place were equal for all – everybody who gathered at the border was feeling cold, all had to wait long hours. According to basic humanitarian principles, women and children have priority. And that is the only rule. Without any discrimination.

Second, about entering Poland. Since the beginning of the war the EU borders have been open for thousands of all refugees, African, Asian, European and others alike, who have escaped Ukraine and returned home safely. Our authorities simplified all procedures. All citizens of all the countries, fleeing Ukraine, were granted permission to enter Poland, even without visas, even without passports – we understand that there was no time for visa procedures, in these tragic circumstances documents could be lost or forgotten. We made this decision precisely because of humanitarian reasons and based on non-discrimination approach. Among 2 million refugees, who entered Poland, there were almost 1000 Egyptian citizens. The Egyptian Ambassador and his team in Poland have been working hard to ensure that all their compatriots receive all necessary support and help, given extraordinary conditions. His Excellency Mr Hatem Tageldin was sharing his first-hand observation with Egyptian media many times. He was always underlining positive and non-discriminatory approach of Polish authorities, including of course the border guards. Hundreds thousands of refugees have crossed the border to Poland and other EU countries, finding there safe shelter or returning home, to their respective countries. How many have crossed through Russia?

Moreover, since a couple of days the Egyptian Red Crescent launched an aid centre for people crossing the border at Medyka. I am sure, that their first-hand impressions would be worth listening to as well.

Third, about Europe and its attitude. In 2020 there were 2,6 million refugees in Europe. Mostly from Middle East. It means that the migration is a fact, and Europe is assisting a lot of migrants. It happens that some public persons might make some provocative statements – and those are immediately rejected and condemned by all serious politicians and parties. But we have to keep in mind proportions. Taking things locally: sometimes I find aggressive and offensive comments under posts on our Embassy`s FB page. Does it mean that they are representative for Egyptians? Of course, not, they are isolated and rare. Let us believe the reasonable majority and the facts, not the fake news.

* By Michał Łabenda, the Ambassador of Poland in Cairo

Short link: