France suspends expulsions of foreign students fleeing Ukraine

·2 min read
© AFP/Attila Kisbenedek

The French government says it will suspend expulsions of foreign students fleeing the war in Ukraine, a sensitive issue that has seen European countries accused of racist double standards.

"We have introduced a moratorium for students until September," a government source said on Monday.

This means "no requirement to leave French territory will be applied or any new ones decided on until the new university year", Joseph Zimet, a senior official in charge of hosting Ukrainian refugees, told Le Monde daily.

New arrivals would have to comply with "the same criteria as students who request a visa in France" regarding their study plans and financial resources, he added.

Some 3,500 third-country citizens who fled Ukraine, including students, are currently under temporary protection in France.

European Union rules agreed at the beginning of the conflict require them to return to their country of origin if it is deemed safe.

Paris believes fewer than 200 students may end up staying in France after reapplying in September.

'Unequal' treatment

Large numbers of people began fleeing Ukraine following Russia's invasion on 24 February. The number still outside its borders was estimated at over five million by the United Nations last month.

But from the beginning of the exodus, some Africans and others from outside Europe who had been resident in Ukraine reported unequal treatment when trying to cross into the EU, often turned away from border posts or sent to the back of long queues.

Congolese pharmacy student Jean-Jacques Kabeya told French news agency AFP in March he had tried to leave Ukraine but had been prevented by border guards from crossing into Poland.

"They told me 'You're going to stay here. You're fleeing the war. Stay here. You are going to fight with us. You're not leaving, least of all you blacks'," Kabeya said.

The African Union has decried "shockingly racist" handling of foreign students attempting to leave -- although Ukrainian and Polish officials insisted there was no unequal treatment.

Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa said in March there had been 16,000 African students in the country before the conflict flared.

Speaking to Le Monde, Zimet also said that French families hosting around 10,000 Ukrainian refugees in their homes would receive financial support of up to 200 euros for several months.

(AFP)

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