'They stigmatised Nigerians': Air Peace CEO as more flee xenophobia in SA

19 September 2019 - 10:27
By TimesLIVE

More than 500 Nigerians fearing xenophobic attacks have now been repatriated by air after a second flight carrying adults, children and infants left South Africa on Wednesday.

Air Peace evacuated 315 people in the latest flight with the airline’s CEO Allen Onyema promising that evacuations would continue as long as people wanted to return home.

Last week 187 Nigerians were repatriated by the airline.

“This is all about the returnees; not about me. Some of you don’t even know the kind of stories they have got,” Onyema was quoted as saying by This Day.

Air Peace cabin crew.
Image: Facebook/Air Peace Air Peace cabin crew.

“Forget the political statements coming out of South Africa. A lot of gory things happened to these Nigerians. Some of them were stranded for the last 10-to-12 years with nowhere to go and afraid to move around because they have over-stayed their permit," he said.

“They stereotyped and stigmatised Nigerians. This evacuation was a lifeline for them and they grabbed it with both hands. A lot of them were very happy coming home.”

The second airlift came just two days after President Cyril Ramaphosa apologised for xenophobic attacks on Nigerian citizens. Jeff Radebe tendered the apology on his behalf in Nigeria on Monday.

Ramaphosa dispatched a team of special envoys to deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of state and governments across the continent in the wake of looting and xenophobic sentiment in South Africa.

Nigerians who returned home were offered medical check-ups, counselling, gifts, cash, airtime, data and loans to start businesses.