The evacuation plan for distressed Nigerian nationals, although delayed, is expected to take flight on Wednesday, said a Nigerian diplomat on Monday.
The Nigerian foreign affairs ministry announced that the owner of Nigeria airline Air Peace Airlines chief Allen Onyema has volunteered an aircraft to evacuate those with hopes of returning to Nigeria due to the ongoing xenophobic attacks.
Nigeria plans to repatriate about 600 citizens from South Africa this week following a wave of xenophobic violence that caused tensions between the countries.
Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a surge of deadly attacks against foreigners, many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.
Godwin Adamu, the Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, said to AFP that there were about 600 now due to be flown back.
Nigerian airline “Air Peace is beginning the airlift by Wednesday, the first flight with 320 Nigerians”, he said.
“We will have another one immediately after that.”
The airline was previously expected to take its first flight on Saturday, September 7, with interested parties urged to provide their full names, villages of origin, next of kin, contact number, and copies of their passport or identity documents as well as two passport photographs.
Over 10 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed.
Foreign workers are often victims of anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa, the continent’s second-biggest economy after Nigeria, where they compete against locals for jobs, particularly in low-skilled industries.
The violence in the country 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 requested 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.