Hundreds of Nigerians to take free evacuation from SA

South Africa: Nigeria to repatriate 600 citizens amid violence

South Africa has faced widespread criticism for its latest outbreak of xenophobia or "Afrophobia" attacks as official responses included Nigeria boycotting the World Economic Forum Africa hosted in Cape Town last week, while Zambia and Madagascar also cancelled planned soccer games with South Africa's national team.

It's not the first time South Africa has witnessed xenophobic violence.

With diplomatic ties between Nigeria and South Africa now hanging by a sagging, loose thread in the wake of the attacks and reprisals back in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria declared that his government was going to be evacuating its nationals who want to return home.

Moyo added that Harare would "escalate" the evacuation if the situation deteriorated.

Deadly riots last week in Pretoria and Johannesburg, which targeted foreign-owned businesses, left at least 12 people dead.

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And while the root causes of the latest attacks are unclear, analysts suggest high unemployment and grinding poverty are fueling criminality. Logistics for the evacuation will be provided by Air Peace, a Nigerian airline which has offered to airlift Nigerians.

Police have arrested 653 people in connection with the attacks, mostly South African but including foreigners, police minister Bheki Cele said.

Nigerian authorities in South Africa subsequently arranged temporal travel certificates for most of those that had offered to return home. Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia topped the list of countries where people applied for asylum or refugee status in 2018.

It was not immediately clear how many people boarded the flight, but Nigeria's government said it estimated 313 people were on their way home.

Several South African-owned businesses in Nigeria also came under attack in a wave of retaliatory violence.

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