Move sparked by Johannesburg violence

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

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

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 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, Mr. 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.