South Africa shuts embassies in Nigeria amid revenge for xenophobic violence on foreigners in SA
South Africa has closed its embassies in the Nigerian capitals, Abuja and Lagos following attacks on South African businesses.
According to news reports, the embassies were targeted in retaliation for xenophobic violence that erupted earlier this week in South African cities, including Johannesburg.
"After receiving reports and threats from some of the Nigerians we decided to temporarily close while we are assessing the situation," AFP quotes foreign ministry spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele as saying. “The diplomatic missions were shut on Wednesday”, the minister is quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, according to a BBC report, Nigerians in South Africa are being offered a free flight to return home “following the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals“, Nigeria's foreign ministry has said. The report further stated that the owner of Air Peace Airlines was willing to evacuate Nigerians free of charge on Friday, the report said”.
Nigerian nationals interested to be evacuated were advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement,” according to the statement.The attacks on foreign-owned businesses in South Africa have angered many Nigerians who feel they are being unfairly targeted.
But according to the Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, no Nigerians had been killed in the unrest, he told a news conference on Wednesday according to the information available. Five people have been reported to have died as a result of the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa. There has been no reported cases of any Gambian casualties in the violence.
Xenophobia in South Africa
Foreigners in South Africa have always experience Xenophobia. Immigrants in South Africa faced discrimination and even violence in some cases. After the election of majority rule government in 1994, the incidence of xenophobia increased contrary to expectations. According to reports, between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people have died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks.
In May 2008, a series of attacks left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens. The attacks were motivated by xenophobia. Then in 2015, another nationwide spike in xenophobic attacks against immigrants in general prompted a number of foreign governments to begin repatriating their citizens.
According to a Pew Research poll conducted in 2018, 62% of South Africans viewed immigrants as a burden on society by taking jobs and social benefits and that 61% of South Africans thought that immigrants were more responsible for crime than other groups. According to statistics, the immigrant community in South Africa has increased from 2 million people to 4 million people between 2010 and 2017.