Abuja — Nigerian media reports that the South African government has deported at least 97 Nigerians for various offences, as bilateral tensions seem likely to heighten between the two countries over “xenophobic attacks”.
According to Premium Times, the deported Nigerians arrived in the west African country on Monday night “in a chartered aircraft . . . from Johannesburg”.
They were made up of 95 males and two females.
A BBC report said that the department of home affairs had since confirmed the reports, with spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete saying that hundreds of undocumented foreign nationals had been deported.
Tshwete reportedly said that the majority of those deported were from the Southern African Development (Sadc) region.
Others included citizens from Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Somalia, “so it would be unfair to single out Nigerians”, Tshwete was quoted as saying.
Tshwete’s remarks came as Nigerians claimed that they had been unfairly targeted in recent attacks against foreigners.
Media reports quoted senior special assistant to Nigeria’s president on diaspora matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa as saying: “They [Nigerians] have been arbitrarily raided . . . More [deportations] will likely follow.”
But, speaking during an interview with News24, an official from South Africa’s department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), said it was important for foreign nationals to follow the law if they wanted to stay in the country.
“Why is it that one country feels targeted by the South African government? In any case, the Nigerians were only part of a large percentage of foreigners who were deported. You can’t break the law in another country and expect the government not to do anything about it,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A Nigerian delegate was reportedly set to visit South Africa soon to ascertain the “true state of affairs” regarding both Nigerian and other foreign nationals living in SA.
Outbreaks of xenophobic violence were recently reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Reports indicated that more than 20 shops were targeted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria, and at least 12 houses were attacked in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg.
Angry residents raided what they called drug dens, telling the tenants they did not want them living there.
They also called for “pimps” to release prostitutes and send them back home.