'I can't feed my family': Uncertain future as Nigerians leave SA after xenophobic violence

Nigerian nationals are being repatriated this week following a wave of xenophobic violence in SA. Families boarded buses in Johannesburg on September 11 2019.
Nigerian nationals are being repatriated this week following a wave of xenophobic violence in SA. Families boarded buses in Johannesburg on September 11 2019.
Image: Alon Skuy/TimesLIVE

Busloads of Nigerians have said their final goodbyes to SA.

Despite staring poverty in the face, four busloads of people who experienced xenophobic violence in Johannesburg left from the Nigerian consulate by bus in the morning, headed to OR Tambo International Airport as part of a repatriation process.

According to Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, at least 320 Nigerians are expected to be flown out on Wednesday afternoon. Al Jazeera added that a "small group of people were turned back due to incorrect documentation".

Ben Okoli from the Nigerian Citizen Association SA (Nicasa) said most of the people who got on the buses had owned shops and businesses in SA for several years.

Okoli said they expressed a desire to leave after several threats to their lives and insecurity about their safety.

"Their means of livelihood have been completed destroyed," he said.

"I don’t think these ones who are leaving today are going to come back, because they actually expressed their desire to leave. They feel that they are no longer happy staying here after what they have experienced."

Although he could not confirm the exact number of people who left the consulate on Wednesday morning, Okoli said many were leaving with all their family members.

Four SA women were also on the last bus that departed.

More Nigerians are expected to leave in the next few days.

A Nigerian man who has been living in SA for several years expressed his concern to TimesLIVE.

"Imagine your family going home without concrete arrangements. I wonder how some of us must cope," said the man, who asked not to be named.

"The situation is very bad. At the end we can't afford to lose our lives for simply seeking greener pastures.

"This is simply criminality. There is no [other] way some would break into my shop and loot everything and attack us. I was not happy with what was happening. We can go, if they tell us to go."

Despite uncertainty on how to make a living in Nigeria, Nigerian families are leaving SA after a wave of looting, assault and arson directed against foreigners in Johannesburg.
Despite uncertainty on how to make a living in Nigeria, Nigerian families are leaving SA after a wave of looting, assault and arson directed against foreigners in Johannesburg.
Image: Alon Skuy/TimesLIVE

Another man, a shop owner in Johannesburg, came to drop off his family members. He said he will be staying in SA for a few months before deciding whether to go home to Nigeria.

"My family back home in Nigeria is so worried. I just want my family to be secure and leave SA because of the way things are going. My shops and everything have been burnt down, so there is no way I can feed them now," he said. 

He asked if the government would compensate people who had lost their stock and shops in the recent spate of looting and arson.

*This article was updated to clarify that the buses left from the consulate to travel to the airport in Johannesburg, where sponsored flights have been arranged to repatriate Nigerian nationals.


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