South Africa apologise to Nigeria, set up airport clinic

By Crystal Van Wyk

Posted on Friday, 9 March 2012 13:26

South Africa has apologised to Nigeria for the recent yellow fever row, which followed the deportation of 125 people from the West African country.

The Nigerians were turned back on arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg early this month after immigration officials queried the authenticity of their yellow fever vaccination certificates.

Nigeria retaliated by deporting 84 South Africans after accusing the immigration officials of xenophobia. They also threatened a crackdown on South African businesses in the West African economic powerhouse.

South Africa has large business interests in retail and telecommunications with retailer Shoprite and cellphone giant, MTN, leading the pack in Africa’s most populated country.

“South Africans will know we are very serious with this matter and that any deportation of any Nigerian, we will meet it with equal reciprocal measure,” Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru told a hearing at the National Assembly late on Tuesday, according to a Reuters report.

Most African countries demand a yellow fever vaccination certificate before allowing travelers entry. The certificate proves vaccination against yellow fever- a deadly mosquito-borne disease.

A special press conference was called in Pretoria after a high level government meeting, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim who apologised unequivocally to Nigeria.

“It is a regrettable incident and we humbly apologise and this incident will not affect our relationship” Ebrahim added: “The governments of South Africa and Nigeria view the development in a serious light.

“Accordingly, the two countries have, through diplomatic channels, consulted at the highest level on the ways of avoiding a recurrence of such developments”.

The two countries also agreed to revive the Immigration Working Group to iron out consular issues after Nigeria accepted South Africa’s apology.

“It was also agreed that South Africa’s National Health Department and the Gauteng Health Department should consider re-opening the vaccination clinic at the airport so that passengers without the yellow fever card could be vaccinated upon arrival at the airport, instead of being deported,” Ebrahim said.

The South African government has blamed the Home Affairs and Health departments for the embarrassing deportation debacle.

Pretoria has promised a high-level investigation into the matter but the Home Affairs department has since refused to take the blame.

Also read:

South Africa, Nigeria diplomatic tiff nothing new
Malaria: Trying to tame a killer
Country profile: Nigeria
Country profile: South Africa

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