Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 10:58 UK

Africans 'under siege' in Moscow

A woman walks past graffiti reading "We love you!" with a swastika mocking migrants
Many African students in Moscow are afraid to go outside

Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia's capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.

Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.

A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once. Some 80% had been verbally abused.

But the number of assaults was down from the MPC's last survey in 2002.

The report's clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Moscow.

Extreme violence

Many of the African respondents said they:

  • Avoided using the Moscow metro
  • Were also careful to avoid crowded public places
  • Did not go out on Russian national holidays or on days when there were football matches

Many of the attacks on Africans were pre-meditated and extremely violent, the report found.

One Nigerian migrant interviewed by the BBC had been repeatedly stabbed in the back and then shot.

Another man said his attacker had attempted to remove his scalp.

Officially there are some 10,000 Africans living in Moscow, but far more are believed to live there illegally - many as economic migrants.

The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy is an English-speaking interdenominational Christian congregation that has ministered to Moscow's foreign community since 1962.

Read some of your comments about this story:

As a foreigner you will never feel safe in this country.
Shairaz, St. Petersburg, Russia

I'm Asian, not black, but that was one of the main reasons why I left Moscow years ago. I did hear and see the violent assaults on just any black people in Moscow, and our school actually told all the black students not to come in for two weeks around Hitler's birthday for feared attacks. I've lived in many different parts of the world but Moscow certainly was the worst one in that respect. Such a shame.
B., Moscow, Russia

It is dangerous to use Moscow tube for all kinds of minorities, not only for Africans. Moscow hooligans point out different targets from the crowd. While visiting Moscow I try to look alike typical muscovite to avoid attention attraction. If you are in a crowd it's safe to use the tube and any other public areas.
Kirill, Rostov-on-Don, Russia

However sad it is, I have to admit that these facts are true. We are in 21st century, but still attitude towards non Russian people here in Moscow remains the same. Foreigners at least are treated with suspicion; at most they are attacked, bullied. I don't see that many Africans on the streets, you can hardly find them in public places. Even though I know that many study in Moscow. When you see Africans in Moscow, they always go in large groups of four or five people, never alone. Seeing a black person here is still exotic. Ordinary people just stare at them, but there are groups of youngsters, who think that Africans should not be here. Listening to all of this horrible stories on radio, TV about Africans being attacked, I am surprised why there are any who choose to come to Moscow.
Svetlana, Moscow, Russia

For me it comes down to one thing, these people are living in the past. We welcome every foreigner including Europeans back home. The only way we can improve our own communities, we come and learn, then take back our experiences back home. Unless someone realises this, tough time are ahead of us.
O., Moscow, Russia

Really? I lived in Moscow for four years and never once witnessed the subject of the report. It was something reported in the foreign press which mysteriously I and my colleagues never saw. Like most everything else reported on Russia, it was not true. However, I have seen rampant and very unpleasant prejudice twice in my life once in Nova Scotia and once in Salisbury in Wiltshire.
Michael Hockney, Vancouver, Canada

While I didn't live in Moscow, I did live in St. Petersburg for the winter of 2005 on a study abroad trip. Even then, the racial violence was startling... people were being attacked on the streets just for the colour of their skin. The anti-caucasus sentiment as spread to a nationalistic furore against any foreigners, students included. There was a contingent of African students at the university where I studied, and they all lived in the dormitory in the same building as the classes. They all travelled together if they had to go anywhere, while I felt fine walking alone in the dark winter days. I felt so guilty for feeling safe inside my white skin, and so horrified that innocents were being attacked just because they were there. This is a problem that the West has roundly ignored for too many years.
Trista, Virginia Beach, VA, USA

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