On the Move with Begüm Başdaş (36) – Discriminatory borders: Ukraine

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Begüm Başdaş talked with lawyer and researcher Petra Molnar and journalists Katy Fallon and Franziska Grillmeier on how Europe’s welcoming response to refugees from Ukraine starkly reveals the EU’s discriminatory border practices. Başdaş’s guests, who were recently at the borders of Ukraine to monitor and report on the situation, explained how refugees arriving in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary were received in these countries. Grillmeier noted that people arriving at the train stations from Ukraine brought very little, only the essentials, with them and said, “People were in shock and not realizing what really happened. People still had their house keys in their pockets.” Fallon further commented that while there continues to be strong solidarity with refugees, cities such as Warsaw and Krakow are struggling to accommodate people as they reach their limits.

Molnar, who were at the borders also to support UN Special Rapporteur on Discrimination commented on the differential experiences people have when they cross the borders and said, “it is one thing to talk about an experience a young mother and her children might have vs. a medical student from Nigeria also coming from Ukraine or a Romani family who is immediately racially profiled at the border and surrounded by police offers. The border is contextual, even in a crisis.”

While the discussion focused on EU’s response to the situation, Fallon also highlighted that there is a lot of goodwill among the British people which runs in contrast to the government’s actions and noted, “immigration was a huge factor at Brexit and the UK government would argue that it is continuing its proud tradition to support refugees which translates into a very bureaucratic and lengthy visa application processes.”

Fallon also commented on the serious accounts of human trafficking that many women and children face as they are escaping the war in Ukraine, and she said “I know children are going missing. I heard of multiple cases of children going missing in the past weeks, where children have disappeared crossing the border or just before they cross the border. Once they enter the EU it is very difficult to figure out where they are gone because it is easy to cross to other countries without being checked.”

Franziska Grillmeier is a freelance journalist based on Lesvos Island. Her work explores themes of EUs migration policies, health care in conflict and the consequences of forced displacement. She has previously studied International Development and Politics of Conflict Rights and Justice. Her work is published mostly in German speaking media such as Der Spiegel, die Zeit but also in English in Guardian and elsewhere.

Petra Molnar is a lawyer and researcher specializing in technology, migration, and human rights and the Associate Director of the Refugee Law Lab at York University. She is currently working on a project looking at the impacts of migration control technologies on the lives of people on the move. Her work has appeared in numerous academic publications and the popular press, including the New York Times. Petra is also working on a book called Artificial Borders: AI, Surveillance, and Border Tech Experiments.

Katy Fallon is a journalist based in Greece focusing on migration and social affairs. She publishes in the Guardian and Al Jazeera. 

Image copyright: Franziska Grillmeier

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