Interview by Kelly Hayes, Truthout | March 10, 2022
“Ithink we can reframe and re-understand the immigrant rights movement, not just as one of many movements, but something that is fundamentally connected to how we remake the world,” says Harsha Walia. In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Kelly Hayes and Border & Rule author Harsha Walia talk about the plight of Black students fleeing Ukraine, borders, the climate crisis and taking action in these times.
Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. We talk a lot on this show about movement building and what solidarity demands of us. Today, we are talking about borders and who gets left behind in times of disaster, and we will be hearing from Harsha Walia, author of Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. Right now, many of us are thinking about borders in the context of war — and more specifically, the war Russia is waging against Ukraine. More than 2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded. We have heard many harrowing stories of people attempting to escape a nation under siege — and those stories have sadly included the struggles of Black people who were beaten, forced off buses or trains, and turned away as they attempted to cross the border to flee Ukraine. There are also reports of Black students being terrorized by Nazi elements within Poland after crossing the border, including reports of students being killed. As Shamira Ibrahim wrote in her recent piece Africans In Ukraine: Stories Of War, Anti-Blackness & White Supremacy, “No matter how many iterations of ‘racial reckonings’ we contend with, Blackness is continuously assessed on a subhuman level, denied the basic dignities afforded to the ruling class.” In that piece Ibrahim elaborates on the experiences of Black students who have been attempting to flee Ukraine and the online efforts that have sprung up to assist them. I hope everyone will read it and do what they can to help.
In this episode, Harsha and I are going to zoom out, and talk about the broader anti-Black context Ibrahim was referring to, because the experiences of Black people fleeing Russia’s attacks on Ukraine are consistent with larger patterns of anti-Black border violence in Europe. What’s anomalous about this crisis, from an immigration standpoint, is that EU nations actually seem poised to absorb millions of refugees as the war continues. In late January, Poland began constructing a 115-mile wall, equipped with motion detectors and thermal cameras, with the goal of preventing asylum seekers from entering the country. Since Putin announced that Russia would invade Ukraine, almost 800,000 refugees have crossed into Poland from Ukraine.