South Africa Xenophobic Attacks – Finding A Solution

We have all heard about the recent xenophobic attacks on migrants in SA (not just Nigerians). The important question on everyone’s mind is what can the Nigeria government do? How can the government protect Nigerian citizens abroad who face violence such as this?

There are a host of mechanisms Countries can adopt to protect citizens such as diplomatic representations, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, judicial action in the International Court of Justice and economic measures. On the part of migrants, they can find a private organization or non-governmental organization interested in providing help and support for foreigners abroad. The present case seems most likely a matter of diplomatic protection.

Under International Law, diplomatic protection refers to the right of a State to take up the claim of its nationals and assert their right against another state. However, one cannot compel the government to exercise diplomatic protection. Moreso, foreigners abroad and migrants are bound by the laws of the country they visit or live, irrespective of the oddity of said laws. If a Nigerian commits an offence in SA then he is bound by the law and should face the consequences. However, it is obvious that beating up migrants, harassing them, looting their goods, and even taking their lives is grossly unconstitutional. It is on this ground, the Nigerian government must stand. Citizens who suffer such should have the option of reporting to the necessary body and even the Consular office in SA. Germany, for example, has Constitutional and legislative requirements to provide consular assistance or take action where the life of a citizen abroad is under threat.

Evacuation can also be a viable option for those who are ready to leave the country and those under threat of deportation. The Australian government during the 2006 war with Israel evacuated around 6000 people incurring high expenditure. The present situation may not be war but we do not wait for it to become such, all it will cost is money which the government can definitely afford by cutting down on unnecessary expenditure for the protection of the integrity of the Country and respect for citizens.

Given the reality of things, Nigerians abroad should take extra care in ensuring their safety, as the Nigerian Government is not forthcoming in providing a permanent and effective solution. My advice to migrants is this; promote the welfare of the country you live, work hard, respect the women, men & children, pray for the Country because upon its success depends your own. May God help us all.

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