Nigeria to evacuate 640 citizens from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against xenophobia outside South African High Commission in Abuja on September 5, 2019.

(CNN)Nigeria will evacuate hundreds of its citizens from South Africa following a string of xenophobic attacks, a government official told CNN on Monday.

Flights carrying the returnees will start leaving Johannesburg by Wednesday, said Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairwoman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission.
"We have 640 Nigerians that want to come back from South Africa, and that will require two planes. There may be more people who want to leave, but we will know when we get to South Africa on Wednesday," Dabiri-Erewa told CNN.
    Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is deeply concerned about the "intermittent violence" against its citizens in South Africa and called on the country's government to take steps to end it, his media aide Femi Adesina said.
    "President Buhari is worried that the recurring issue of xenophobia could negatively affect the image and standing of South Africa as one of the leading countries on the continent, if nothing is done to stop it," Adesina said in a statement.
    A Nigerian real estate firm, Landwey Investment, which offered free flights for those who want to come back last week, said 10 Nigerians have taken up the offer, according to CEO Olawale Ayilara.
    Looters run off an alleged foreign-owned shop in Johannesburg last Monday
    Ten people, including two foreigners were killed in a spate of anti-immigrant violence and looting that erupted in Johannesburg, Pretoria and elsewhere in the country last week.
    Most of the business targeted in the attacks were owned by immigrants from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Kenya, sparking diplomatic tension and backlash against South Africa.
    Nigeria recalled its ambassador to South Africa and some of its citizens retaliated by looting and destroying some South African-owned brands. Madagascar and Zambia pulled out of a football match against South Africa's Bafana Bafana in the wake of the attacks.
    On Sunday, two people were killed, and 16 others were arrested in fresh riots that erupted as looters targeted shops in a business district in Johannesburg.