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South Africa may impose 10-year travel ban on evacuated Nigerians

Xenophobia

The various obstacles reportedly imposed by the South African airport
and immigration officials during the evacuation of the first batch of
Nigerians that opted to leave the country over xenophobic attacks, seems
to have a strategic end-game of a travel ban.

NUBUNK reported earlier that the Air Peace Boeing 777 aircraft arrived
the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos at 9.34 pm as
the 9am flight did not depart the OR Tambo International Airport until
4pm.

It was learnt that the South African Foreign Affairs ministry saw the
evacuation as “a yellow card to Nigeria-South Africa relations”, hence
the imposition of a biometric capture of all returning individuals.

Some officials said that the biometric exercise which saw the
cancellation of South African visas possessed by the Nigerians, was
instituted to blacklist the evacuated Nigerians.

An official told Punch, “When you are evacuating your citizens from a
country, it is like sending a strong message to that country about your
relations with them. No country would be happy with the evacuation of
foreign nationals from its territory.

“South Africans were very strategic. We arrived at Joburg by 6.15 am.
The intention was to leave by 9 am, but after clearing about 85 out of
the 313 who were scheduled for airlifting, they insisted they should do
biometric capture for those who were willing to leave.

“So, they had to come down from the plane and start the clearance
process afresh. Now, there are reports that if they capture your
biometrics and you leave, you won’t be allowed into South Africa again
or you may be barred from visiting for at least 10 years.

“So, some Nigerians who planned to come to Nigeria to relax for some
time and then go back eventually decided to stay back for fear of being
barred from visiting South Africa, where they have investments and
families.”

A Nigerian foreign affairs ministry disclosed that about 135
Nigerians decided to stay back following the new conditions imposed by
the immigration authorities.

He stated, “The immigration asked those who were travelling with
children to present letters of consent from their spouses. If they
didn’t have the consent letter, they would not allow the children to
leave with the mother.

“Initially, it was 313 persons who were billed to come back with the
flight, but 135 went back. They included those who were travelling with
children without letters of consent and those who did not want to do the
biometrics so that they wouldn’t be barred from returning to South
Africa again.

On if the Nigerian authorities were informed of the rationale for the biometrics of the returnees, the official said;

“There was no formal announcement to this effect, but there were
reports that anyone who left may be barred from visiting South Africa
for life or for at least 10 years.

“The credibility of the report was strengthened when the immigration
officials were cancelling valid visas, as they were clearing those with
valid travel documents.

“Even if you have one or two years visa, it was cancelled, and this
means you have to apply afresh and it may be difficult for you to get
the visa again. Nigerian officials were frustrated. The Minister of
Foreign Affairs sent an official to represent him at the airport, but
the person was not allowed access to the cargo wing for a long time.”

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