WASHINGTON — The head of the world’s largest humanitarian network said Monday that Europe’s speedy acceptance of millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s aggression demonstrates its “double standard” in dealing with people fleeing violence in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere who cross the Mediterannean Sea and are not welcomed.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a news conference Monday he doesn’t think there is any difference between someone fleeing eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and someone escaping from the Boko Haram extremist group in Nigeria.
“Those who are fleeing violence, those who are seeking protection, should be treated equally,” said Rocca, adding that “we hoped that the Ukrainian crisis would have been a turning point in the European migration policies. But unfortunately, this was not the case.”
Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine and been welcomed with “open arms” by European neighbors.
Rocca said by contrast, at least 19,000 people have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean to get to Europe since 2014, and those who arrive often face abuse and struggle to get access to essential services.
“Ethnicity and nationality should not be a deciding factor to saving life,” Rocca added.