Nigeria set to repatriate 600 from South Africa

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 11:00 |
Violence in South Africa. Photo/Courtesy

Abuja, Monday

Nigeria will repatriate about 600 citizens from South Africa this week following a wave of xenophobic violence which sparked sharp exchanges between the two countries, a Nigerian diplomat said today. 

“They are about 600 now” to be flown back, Godwin Adamu, Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, told AFP.

A first flight will carry 320 Nigerians, he said, adding: “We will have another one immediately after that.”

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners last week, including many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

At least 10 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed while more than 420 people were arrested. More than 100,000 Nigerians are estimated to live in South Africa, Adamu said.

Foreign workers in South Africa -- the continent’s second-largest economy after Nigeria -- are often victims of anti-immigrant sentiment in a nation where almost one in three people are unemployed.

The violence prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

Nigeria last week summoned the South African ambassador to condemn the violence while sending an envoy to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The envoy returned to Nigeria over the weekend, the presidency said.

After a week of hardening rhetoric against South Africa, Nigeria pledged to “work as brothers” with Pretoria on Thursday. ”Nigeria does not seek an escalation of the ongoing situation,” a senior aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, told reporters.

Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa today condemned weekend violence in Johannesburg that claimed two lives after security forces clashed with looters involved in fresh xenophobic attacks.

At least 10 people have been killed since the start of the month in a surge in attacks targeting foreign-owned businesses in and around South Africa’s largest city.

Major destination

Riot police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets on Sunday to disperse crowds targeting shops in Johannesburg’s gritty central business district and other neighbourhoods.

Ramaphosa “has condemned in the strongest terms a resurgence in public violence that claimed two lives in Johannesburg yesterday,” the presidency said in a statement.

Many shops remained closed today in the central business district, an AFP reporter said. Shops were set alight and burned on Sunday in the neighbouring Malvern district.

Officials said most of the 10 people killed since last week were South Africans. Local residents say at least one of those was killed when a shop owner defended their property.

South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. But others come from Nigeria and as far as South Asia looking for work in the continent’s number two economy.

Immigrants are often the focus for anger among South Africans hit by chronic job shortages and the limited progress made by the majority black population since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

The recent violence has also strained relations between South Africa and Nigeria, which summoned Pretoria’s envoy and boycotted an economic summit in Cape Town in protest.  -AFP

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