Xenophobia attacks: Nigeria's evacuation plan for stranded citizens in South Africa lacks the urgency of its Libya evacuation in 2018

Credit: News Agency of Nigeria
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday, September 4th, that airline Air Peace would be evacuating Nigerian victims of xenophobic attacks from South Africa on September 6th
  • The evacuation plans hit a setback after it was discovered that a number of affected Nigerians in South Africa have expired passports
  • The rescheduled date for Air Peace to depart for South Africa is either Monday September 9th, or Tuesday the 10th
  • Nigeria's evacuation efforts from South Africa don't measure up to last year's efforts in Libya

Private sector decision, Public sector announcement

Private airline Air Peace made a decision to volunteer an aircraft to evacuate Nigerian business owners affected by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa who were willing to return home. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted a press release announcing the decision on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019.

Why didn't the Nigerian government take the lead in evacuation efforts?

In November of 2017, after a CNN report showed African migrants in Libya being auctioned as slaves, the Nigerian government sprung into action and commissioned indigenous airlines Medview and Max air to repatriate Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya back to Nigeria. The exercise was led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Last year, Isiaq Na’Allah, Executive Director, Business Development and Commercial, Med-View Airlines, said the following :

"This kind of responsibility is meant for Nigerian carriers because it’s our responsibility and we have the capacity to carry out this operation. We have demonstrated the capacity that we can do it and we are honoured to have been appointed by the Federal Government through NEMA."

This year, there has been no word from NEMA on evacuation efforts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only made an announcement after an aircraft had been volunteered by a private airline.

Was the Libya situation a bigger emergency than South Africa?

It can be argued that Nigerians in Libya and South Africa faced the same level of risk which is loss of life. Slavery and human trafficking at the hands of Warlords in Libya is just as terrifying as being physically attacked by bloodthirsty xenophobic mobs in South Africa. Both situations should warrant the same reaction from Government.

Next steps

The Air Peace flight was scheduled to depart for South Africa on Friday, September 6th, but was delayed due to a number of Nigerians not having the required travel documents. The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa is carrying out a registration exercise for those individuals. The projected date for departure is now Monday September 9th or Tuesday the 10th.


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