More than four months have passed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, and nearby European countries have been providing their support through military aid and refugee admission. However, European countries have suddenly changed their attitude towards refugee immigration, suggesting a racial double standard regarding the treatment of refugees.
First and foremost, the data regarding the number of admitted refugees already convincingly shows the difference in attitude towards refugees of different racial backgrounds. Refugees from Ukraine, an overwhelmingly white country, have had much more generous admission rates than refugees of color, for example, those fleeing from Arab and African countries. In the case of Germany, the largest member of the European Union, almost 400,000 Ukrainian refugees have already been admitted in the foregoing two months compared to the 700,000 from Syria in the past ten years following the beginning of the Syrian civil war, demonstrating a far slower rate of admission for Syrian refugees.
Although Ukraine is a predominantly white nation, many students and other residents of diverse backgrounds have also attempted to flee from the newly war-torn country with far less success than their white counterparts. While European politicians continue to assure their welcoming attitude towards Ukrainian refugees, this overwhelmingly only applies to white refugees, as many Ukrainian refugees of color, originating from Africa and India have been denied passage at the eastern border of Poland, the nearest European Union and NATO member to Ukraine.
Many Ukrainians of color have, as a result, resorted to organizing their own escape efforts, given that European host families and refugee support organizations have clearly shown little interest in assisting the equally-desperate refugees.
Attitudes towards Refugees and Resources
Citizens’ attitudes toward Ukrainian refugees have also been significantly different in tone than that of refugees from non-white war-torn countries. Reports and polls suggest that Europeans view the admission of Ukrainian refugees as a “duty” and a service to a fellow European country in a current struggle, while they view Arab refugees as a “burden on society” and likely committers of criminal activity. Many politicians in Europe, such as French politician Eric Zammour, also say that “Ukrainian refugees are welcome in [their] country, but not Arabs.” When interviewed, many German refugees from Afghanistan and Syria said that they felt like second-class citizens in comparison to Ukrainians—who have been mostly received without objection and societal disgust—even coining the term “second class refugees,” given the government’s relative “first-class” treatment of Ukrainian refugees.
Media coverage has also compared Ukrainian and Arab refugees in such a manner. French journalist Philippe Corbé stated on live television, “We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin. We’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives,” suggesting that Ukrainians deserve more sympathy for their situation solely because of their “European” culture and predominantly white racial makeup. Even some American sources have embraced this racist approach regarding the comparison of Ukrainian refugees and those from other war-torn regions, especially in the Middle East. CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata infamously said on air that Ukraine “isn’t a place…like Iraq or Afghanistan” in a “relatively civilized, relatively European” country.