They file into neighbouring countries by the hundreds of thousands — refugees from Ukraine clutching children in one arm, belongings in the other. And they’re being welcomed, by leaders of countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania.
But while the hospitality has been applauded, it has also highlighted stark differences in treatment given to migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa, particularly Syrians who came in 2015. Some of the language from these leaders has been disturbing to them, and hurtful.
“These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said earlier this week, of the Ukrainians. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…”
“In other words,” he added, “there is not a single European country now which is afraid of the current wave of refugees.” Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad says that statement “mixes racism and Islamophobia.”