Nigeria will repatriate about 600 citizens from South Africa this week following a wave of deadly xenophobic violence that has sparked sharp exchanges between the two countries.
“They are about 600 now” to be flown back, Godwin Adamu, Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, told AFP news agency on Monday.
A first flight will carry 320 Nigerians, Adamu said, adding: “We will have another one immediately after that.”
Bashir Ahmad, an assistant to Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari, said the president gave “instruction for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home”.
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) September 9, 2019
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 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 a third of people are unemployed.
The violence prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closure 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.
After a week of hardening rhetoric against South Africa, Nigeria pledged to “work as brothers” with Pretoria.
“Nigeria does not seek an escalation of the ongoing situation,” a senior aide to Buhari told reporters.