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South Africa berates European nations at UN over treatment of Africans fleeing Ukraine

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Ambassador Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has called on European countries to resolve the situation where African nationals have reportedly been barred from leaving the war-torn nation.

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South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Mathu Joyini has called on called on European countries to resolve the situation where African nations have reportedly been barred from leaving the war-torn Ukraine. File picture: REUTERS/Alexander Mikhailov

THE South African government has thrown its weight behind the statement of the African Union (AU), which expressed concern over the treatment of Africans fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Ambassador Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations delivered a statement at an emergency sitting of the UN’s General Assembly on Tuesday night, calling on the European countries to resolve the situation, where African nationals have reportedly been barred from leaving the war-torn nation.

“South Africa endorses the statement issued by the African Union Commission expressing concern at the treatment given to African nationals and people of African descent at the borders of Ukraine, some of whom are not allowed to cross and move to safety,” said Joyini.

“We urge European countries to take steps to resolve this situation as all people have a right to cross international borders during times of conflict.”

Joyini highlighted that South Africa remains deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

“We welcome the commencement of talks between Ukraine and Russia. We hope that these discussions will lead to a diplomatic solution that will result in a sustainable political solution,” she told the special session.

“South Africa is of the view that this armed conflict, like all others, will result in unnecessary human suffering and destruction with global ramifications. In situations of conflict, the most vulnerable tend to suffer most, during and post the conflict.”

South Africa’s diplomat said it is regrettable that at a time when the world is struggling to emerge from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it suddenly became seized with a conflict that will further delay the world’s recovery.

“UN Secretary-General, (António])Guterres reminded us of this when he stated that the conflict will have a huge impact on the ‘global economy in a moment when we are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, and so many developing countries need to have space for the recovery’,” she said.

Earlier this week, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said she was shocked by revelations that African students fleeing the war in Ukraine by attempting to cross into Poland were being subjected to racism.

“I was fairly 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,” said Pandor.

“This just goes to prove that we continue to suffer the awful blight of racism, and so we must not allow racism to be placed at the end of the queue in our attention to human rights.”

Pandor made the remarks in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is attending the launch of South Africa’s candidature for the Human Rights Council for the period 2023 to 2025.

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