Home » Africa: Meeting Between Tinubu and Ramaphosa to Address Plight of 500,000 Undocumented Nigerians in South Africa Sparks Diplomatic Concerns

Africa: Meeting Between Tinubu and Ramaphosa to Address Plight of 500,000 Undocumented Nigerians in South Africa Sparks Diplomatic Concerns

by Atqnews23
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Amidst reports indicating that an estimated 500,000 Nigerians are living in South Africa without proper documentation, the forthcoming meeting between President Bola Tinubu and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa next month presents a crucial opportunity for both leaders to address and prioritize the challenges faced by Nigerian expatriates residing in South Africa.

By assuming that status unwittingly or otherwise, Nigerians concerned certainly put themselves in a precarious position; but the country has a duty to provide cover, particularly through international diplomacy, to all her citizens in times of need, wherever they may be according to a post published by guardian.ng

Moreover, many Nigerians have found themselves in the unenviable condition of practically fleeing the country away from suffocating economic predicaments at home. While Tinubu strives locally to rework the country’s economic and social circumstances, he should simultaneously spearhead an umbrella initiative for Nigerians abroad.

READ: Tourism: Nigerians in South Africa protest, demand justice over killing of a 30-year-old compatriot by police officer

This fate of Nigerians being jeopardised abroad including South Africa has become a regular matter for public discourse over the years. Not infrequently, some Nigerians abroad are reportedly stranded, socially uprooted, roped into crime, or imprisoned, and tragically, even died in foreign countries. It is hardly surprising therefore that Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Muhammad Haruna Manta, disclosed lately that 500,000 Nigerians are classified as undocumented citizens in South Africa. Of this number, 6,000 are categorised as students, while 2,900 are categorised as professionals with footprints in medicine, education, entrepreneurship, among others.

The tragic fate of undocumented Nigerians living in South Africa elicits humanitarian empathy as much as it beckons the Nigerian government, the private sector, voluntary organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), churches, mosques, and others to immediately rise up and erect a formidable framework of solidarity geared towards assisting her citizens stranded in South Africa.

READ: News: Consulate to protests the death of over 130 Nigerians in South Africa in the last one year

The transcendent perception of humanity dictates that the government urgently rises up to render assistance to stranded Nigerian brothers and sisters living in South Africa or anywhere else for that matter. No man is an island unto himself. Nobody is a single verse. The government and people cannot live in little cocoons in Nigeria unmindful of the plight of their brothers and sisters in South Africa.

Post-apartheid South Africa has experienced continuous xenophobic attacks, the most pernicious being the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa. This is why Nigerians living in South Africa complain bitterly that they are oftentimes dehumanised and treated with contempt in public. The increasing number of undocumented Nigerians living in South Africa is creating negative stereotypes and biases against Nigerians in South Africa. Many South Africans are developing a poor perception of the Nigerian community in South Africa. They now treat Nigerians with contempt as people with a high propensity to indulge in crimes and illegal immigration offences.

Besides, the presence of a large population of undocumented Nigerians in South Africa make them vulnerable to possible victimisation by South African law enforcement agents who may hold Nigerians living in South Africa responsible for some crimes committed by other nationals in that country. Criminals in South Africa may exploit the anonymity that comes with undocumented status to engage in illegal activities. Nigerians in South Africa may accept low-paying and exploitative jobs due to their lack of legal status. This can drive down wages for both the undocumented population of Nigerians and legal residents, potentially leading to social tensions and economic imbalances.

More importantly, the high number of undocumented Nigerians in South Africa has worsened the strained bilateral relations between Nigeria and South Africa. Disputes over immigration policies of the undocumented Nigerian citizens negatively impact diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa. The strained relationship between both countries is already affecting Nigerian visa applicants who are regularly denied visas to travel to South Africa.

Consequently, Tinubu should immediately remedy the lingering strained relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. Incidentally, Tinubu has been scheduled to meet with South African President Ramaphosa in November for a business-to-business interaction that will further strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Manta said President Tinubu would discuss business matters as they affect both countries, including visa permits for Nigerians travelling to South Africa. He has also assured all that everything is being done to ensure that the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa remains cordial, stressing that both countries have been powerhouses of the continent for years.

Therefore, Tinubu should try to reach a cordial understanding with Ramaphosa on the issue of undocumented Nigerians in South Africa and denial of visas to Nigerian visa applicants by the South African Embassy. The two leaders should also reach an agreement on simplifying and expediting the immigration processes of the two countries, making it easier for individuals to obtain appropriate visas and permits. Nigeria and South Africa should make the immigration application processes of the two countries clear, accessible, and efficient; encouraging compliance with legal requirements.

Tinubu could appeal to South Africa to consider implementing temporary amnesty programmes that allow undocumented individuals to regularise their status without facing immediate deportation. During such programmes, authorities can work with undocumented individuals to help them navigate the system and obtain necessary documentation. He could also appeal to South Africa to collaborate with non-governmental organisations and civil society groups to provide support and assistance to undocumented individuals, helping them understand and comply with immigration regulations. By and large, the governments of South Africa and Nigeria should maintain open channels of communication to address immigration concerns. They should engage in constructive dialogues to find mutually acceptable solutions that prioritise the rights and welfare of individuals.

All in all, the tragic fate of the undocumented Nigerians in South Africa and several other countries should act as a wake-up call for the Tinubu government to make Nigeria a livable place. Not a day passes without seeing hordes of Nigerians, especially young Nigerians, fleeing Nigeria to other countries in search of the so-called greener pastures. If Nigeria were a livable country, her nationals would not be fleeing the country to go abroad to seek a better living and to engage in all sorts of risks and unwholesome activities that often lead to their early death.

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