Human rights defenders call on Ukraine’s neighbouring countries to open borders to nationals of all countries who are forced to flee the war

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The situation on the Ukrainian-Polish border in recent days has been critical for all people who tried to cross it, regardless of citizenship. The reason for this crisis is the shelling of cities all over Ukraine, and ground invasion, firefights and terrorist attacks committed in Ukrainian Northern, Eastern and Southern cities by the Russian army.

Ukraine is doing everything in its power to overcome this crisis. Among other measures, additional humanitarian trains were launched and four additional border crossings were opened. Additional infrastructure is being set up by state bodies and civil organisations to secure basic needs of different countries’ nationals near the border crossings.

Ukraine has restricted the possibility of leaving Ukraine only for male Ukrainian nationals aged 18-60 years due to martial law and mobilisation requirements. At the same time, no restrictions are set for foreign nationals: both women and men can leave Ukraine, and the Ukrainian side does not interfere in this matter.

Due to difficult situation on the border, there is currently no separate “green corridor” for foreign nationals, who are leaving the country by joining the general queue of women and children. The number of people who were forced to leave is so big that the border crossing infrastructure barely cope with it, and people, disregarding their nationality, sometimes have to spend days in the queues.

We have received several reports about people who were prevented from entering the evacuation trains’ vehicles or enter the queues in a proper way. In the situation of war evacuation, difficult humanitarian situation, general distress and fear among many evacuees such situations might indeed occur, but they have nothing to do with official regulations or policy of the Ukrainian authorities.

We also have reports regarding problems arising from the side of the neighboring EU countries, refusing to accept non-Ukrainian and non-European evacuees who do not have EU visas. This leads to spread of panic and despair among non-EU countries’ nationals at the border, which in turn provokes conflicts at checkpoints.

We call on Ukraine’s neighbouring countries to open borders to nationals of all countries who are forced to leave Ukraine due to Russian invasion.

We call on all countries whose nationals are currently in Ukraine, to communicate with the EU leadership and member states the need to arrange for timely and visa free entrance so that all foreigners who wish to leave Ukraine are able to do so.

We call on all parties involved, both as regulators and on the ground, to counter any instances of personal or institutional discrimination, xenophobia or racism amidst this crisis, providing support to representatives of underrepresented or historically marginalised groups currently staying in Ukraine.

We are extremely grateful to all volunteers and humanitarian organisations from both sides of the border for the support they provide to people in distress. Your work is vital and invaluable. We urge you to continue and, to an extent possible, broaden your support, and paying attention to possible special needs of all those in need, including foreign nationals who are now forced to leave Ukraine due to the actions of Russian occupiers.

Human Rights Center ZMINA

No Borders Project 

Social Action Centre

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Center for Civil Liberties

Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group

Regional Center for Human Rights

CHESNO Movement

Media Initiative for Human Rights

Human Rights Center ‘Diya’

Human Rights Union ‘Prave dilo’

Kharkiv Human Rights Group