Oslo – Organisers African Student Association UiO, Manifold and Salam recently launched a campaign to help “Refugees of Colour from Ukraine” through Spleis, a Norwegian crowdfunding platform powered by SpareBank1. The campaign has already raised over NOK 52,000 from 170 donors.
The campaign started after social media accounts and media outlets reported on the biased treatment of non-Ukrainians of colour, many of whom are students, at the borders. The Oslo Desk has been following first accounts stories of those crossing fleeing the war in Ukraine.
The organisers said, “We are now raising funds for those students who have a background other than Ukrainian, who are waiting for assistance from their respective countries and do not always get the help they need from the local authorities. These students need transport to the airport where there may be flights waiting for them, transport to accommodation from the borders, a place to stay while they wait as well as food, water, sanitary products, baby food for those who have children with them, etc.” No funds will go towards administrative fees.
The organisers are currently in touch with colleagues from Salam in Romania and contacts in Hungary who are on the ground helping those who managed to cross the borders, “Every day new refugees are arriving, and our colleagues need all the resources they can get so they can assist with shelter food, first-aid kits and so on.”
Natalie Babos Giving Emergency Aid in Hungary
Natalie Babos is one of those contacts, a South African residing in Hungary who is helping people fleeing from Ukraine. Babos is currently working for a British telecom at home while also coordinating accommodation and receiving people crossing the border. She has lived in Hungary for three years and met her Hungarian husband whilst she was teaching English in South Korea.
Babos is part of a Facebook group called South Africans living in Hungary and got an open call for contacts who are willing to help people crossing the Hungary border. She jumped at the opportunity and from there she got to also know Mona Frank, a member of the African Student Association UiO.
Natalie Babos. Photo: Private
“An hour later, I get a phone call saying that there were four girls at the border, so what is the plan? Where are we going to house them?” She quickly went onto the internet and began searching for accommodation for the girls. She managed to find someone to house them. “So then, a few hours later, I get another call and another message that more people were coming within the few hours.” She repeated the process and got them housed.
“It was challenging for me in so many ways, emotionally. I went to fetch the group of students and walked them to their accommodation or just to receive them. It was at that point, where I got to hear some stories about the racism they experienced.”
Since she didn’t live through them she didn’t want to talk on their behalf, but she did share a story she heard. One of the Ghanaian students she helped accommodated, had been walking for 7 hours in the cold and he was a part of a larger group fleeing Ukraine. The group split and two of the female students went to the Poland border with some other students. He then met with those students again at the Hungary border and learned that the two female students got shot and killed, which was why they turned back and headed to the Hungary border instead.
“He said that they [Ghanaian students] need to check where their people are and do some kind of a headcount or a population count. So that everyone is accounted for. They needed to find out who those girls are. There needs to be some form of justice.” Though Babos said that he did admit that it would be hard to find justice since it happened at night.
The Oslo Desk at the time of writing cannot verify this story, but believe that it is still important to share the accounts of what people on the ground have heard.
Babos has been catching up with her work and her employer has been understanding of the situation, “We have to be especially in an emergency situation, we have to think about others above ourselves and I think people don’t do that enough, especially in this situation with people of colour in a place where it’s much harder to find accommodation for them. Who will fight for them?”
The border at Hungary had been welcoming people of colour who were fleeing Ukraine, but at the time of the interview, she said a South African family was detained for 12 hours and were released.
“For me, I care for all people. When a Ukrainian woman phoned me, I would go out of my way to find accommodation for her. I helped her too. And I helped four Ukrainian families. 13 people in total.” In one week, Babos has helped over 50 people from different countries, such as Morrocco, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, India and Ukraine, to find accommodation in Budapest.
Through the crowdfunding campaign, Babos said, “My deepest desires are that people get home safely that cannot afford to! And whatever they choose to do, either stay and continue studies or go home, I would like us to support those we can in this journey, just until they are on their feet! We need to be a pillar of strength and a hand to help others in need.”
Natalie Babos helped these Nigerian students, Takunda Mangizvo, Nyasha Chitambira, Elroi Matsangaise, Laison Moyo, Philemon Chizororo, Tinashe Mafa, find accommodation. Photo: Natalie Babos / Private.
Protest for Non-European Refugees in Ukraine
Today, a protest will be held outside the Norwegian parliament in solidary with non-European refugees in Ukraine. They demand equal treatment of refugees regardless of the background and call for the discrimination and violence against non-European refugees to cease. The protest will be held between 4pm and 6pm.
Below is a list of affiliated organisations associated with the protest:
Assata Activist Library
Oslo socialist students
The Gambian Association in Norway
The Organization Against Public Discrimination (OMOD)
African Student Association UiO
Uganda Association in Norway (UAN)
Association of Kenyans in Norway (AKIN)
Kenyan Students Association Norway (Kesan)
Joint Council of Africa
Students ‘and Academics’ International Aid Fund (SAIH)
Northern Ghanaian Association-Norway
Black History Month Norway
Union of Nigerian Nationals in Norway (UNNN)
The Gender Equality Center ONLY
Salam – The organization for queers with a Muslim background
“I am disappointed at how even in times of crisis, people have the time to discriminate. Everyone is fleeing the same war. People of colour are also vulnerable, yet we see that many governments are failing to see or acknowledge the needs of People of Colour fleeing the country,” said Rahwa Yohannes, activist and director at Manifold Norway.
For more information: Help Refugees of Colour in Ukraine campaign
#africansinukraine #POCinUkraine #AsiansInUkraine #BlacksInUkraine #africanstudentsinukraine