Ukraine Crisis ‘Double Standards’? — Europe’s Opens Arms to Ukrainian Refugees Reveals Western Biases and Prejudices

Written by | Saturday, March 19th, 2022

The evacuation of children in urgent need of care from Ukraine will be prioritized by the European Union, EU health ministers agreed on Tuesday (15 March)following talks of a coordinated EU approach to the health crisis in the country. As the war in Ukraine continues to intensify by the day, EU health ministers said they wanted “the most effective health cooperation possible”, particularly in caring for sick children.“We are in the process of formulating an initial proposal to facilitate evacuations, particularly of children with cancer, we are in discussion with Kyiv and Poland,” said French Health Minister Olivier Véran,adding that the first transfers could take place by the end of the week.“The war affects their mental and physical health. We must give great importance to psychological care and do our best so that they can stay with their loved ones,” he said.For millions of Ukrainians fleeing from the war, EU countries have lifted Covid-19 travel restrictions, though the ECDC and WHO Europe have highlighted the importance of ensuring vaccination coverage among refugees in host countries.
In less than a month, almost three million people have now fled Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations. The immediate focus in countries like Poland, where refugees are arriving exhausted and scared, has been to provide kindness, food and emergency shelter. European countrieshave also already started thinking about how to help them settle in for the longer term, including by being allowed to find work. To that end, while sympathizing with the plight of Ukrainians, refugees from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and other conflict-torn regions are now questioning double standards in the international response.In contrast to the experiences of refugees from countries in Asia, Middle East and Africa– who have been met with militarized borders, deportation and squalid camps – Europe has pledged to give safe haven to millions of refugees from Ukraine. Also media outlets have been criticized for comparing the conflict in Ukraine with those in less “civilized” non-European countries, while African and Arab refugees fleeing Ukraine have reported widespread instances of racism and mistreatment.
Drawing on their own experience, some Afghans have warned that today’s support can quickly change into tomorrow’s abandonment. Referring to the parallels between the Ukrainian to the Afghani experience, Arash Azizzada, a co-founder of the progressive diaspora group Afghans For A Better Tomorrow, warned that “There’s this outpouring of solidarity, and western powers likewise made a lot of lofty promises to us. But over the last few decades, the experience has been one of abandonment. They washed their hands of us once it became convenient.” Also Zeena Saifi, a CNN editor, adds to the choir of voices criticizing the perceived Western double standards. “Amid this outpouring of empathy, however, stark contrasts have arisen in the way Europe has dealt with Ukrainian refugees over those coming from conflicts in the global south,” she writes. “The two wars occurred at different times and on different continents, but unlike the Syrians fleeing conflict, Ukrainians are finding a much warmer welcome in Europe.” The far-right French presidential contender Eric Zemmour summed it up succinctly: “Everyone knows that Arab or Muslim immigration is too distant from us and it’s more difficult to acculturate and assimilate them. So effectively, we are closer to European Christians.”

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