(NEW YORK) — As Ukrainians flee across Europe amid the onslaught of attacks from Russia in Ukraine, non-white refugees have faced discrimination from extremist groups patrolling the border, reporters and residents in the area told ABC News.
On March 1, dozens of self-identified right-wing nationalists marauded through the city center of Przemysl, Poland, and harassed refugees who looked to be people of color, the witnesses said. Many non-white refugees have arrived in the city while they evacuate Ukraine.
As this humanitarian crisis goes on, many fear extremism will continue to cause trouble for refugees of color trying to escape the war.
More than 836,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since Russian forces invaded the eastern European country on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
At least 453,000 of those refugees have escaped to Poland as of March 2, UNHCR said.
Near the Przemysl train station on Tuesday, where thousands of refugees are passing through, anyone who looked to be African or Arab were being targeted by the extremists in the attack, witnesses reported.
Julian Würzer, a reporter for the German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost who is stationed in Poland, told ABC News that extremists aggressively shouted at refugees to get out of the country and allegedly assaulted them.
Online videos seen by ABC News show police in riot gear diffusing the incident, which Würzer said went on for about 20 minutes before police arrived.
There have been no reports of injuries.
Local authorities did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment on the incidents.
These extremists are a minority in the country, however. There has been an overwhelming effort by local citizens to help those fleeing across the Polish-Ukrainian border. ABC News reporters on the ground say that volunteers across the region have been offering to house, feed, and clothe the many refugees.
At the border, witnesses tell ABC News that extremists have reportedly been accepting Ukrainians but vowing to “defend” Poland against an influx of non-Christians. These extremists are believed by some to be backed by Russia.
Poland’s government has aligned itself in recent years with right-wing ideals and has been criticized for anti-refugee sentiment. Last year, Poland refused to let thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the country after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko forcibly drove them out of his country.
Commissioner Filippo Grandi of the UNCHR has confirmed that there have been instances of discrimination in the admission of certain refugees from Ukraine. Some third-country nationals have reported being stuck or being rejected from passage in their attempts to flee, he said.
Grandi said that state policies are not causing instances of discrimination, and that “there should be absolutely no discrimination between Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans.”
“Everybody is fleeing from the same risks,” Grandi said at a March 1 press conference. “We will continue to intervene, as we have done several times to try to ensure that everybody is received in the same manner.”
ABC News’ Tomek Rolski and Christopher Donato contributed to this report.
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