Deportation: S/Africa apologizes to Nigeria
South Africa has tendered an ``unreserved apology'' to Nigeria on the deportation of 125 Nigerians who were said to have entered the country with fake yellow fever vaccination card.
Ebrahim Ebrahim, South Africa's Deputy Minister for International Relation and Cooperation, said at a news conference on Thursday in Pretoria that the incident was ``regrettable''.
``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 development.
``Furthermore, the South African government has sent a letter of apology to the Nigerian government following this regrettable incident which the South African government believes could have been handled better,’’ Ebrahim said.
He said that the two countries have a long standing bilateral relationship and
``share a common commitment to the unity and prosperity of African continent as well as a just and equitable world.
``We will continue to work together at various levels to achieve this common objective, notwithstanding the recent unfortunate events involving immigration matters which may have created contrary impression,’’ Ebrahim said.
He said both countries were considering implementing a variety of measures to strengthen the historic bilateral relationship between the two sisters African countries.
Ebrahim said the two countries have agreed that the Nigeria- South Africa Bi-National Commission should be revived as soon as possible so as to forestall future occurence of such disagreement.
The two sides also agreed that the Immigration Working Group under the Commission be revived to iron out consular issues.
He said 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 OR Tambo International Airport so that passengers without the yellow fever card could be vaccinated upon arrival at the airport, instead of being deported.
According to him the two nations health authorities will also exchange vaccine batch numbers and details of the official institution that administers the vaccine for verification at the port of entry.
``This information would also be made available to our missions in Lagos and Abuja who issue visas based on the proof of a yellow fever certificate. The airlines will also be informed about the verification process.
Ebrahim said the two sides had agreed that their immigration officials should be first to deal with passengers at the port of entry and if they experience any challenge they could invite officials of other units for assistance.
He said where there was a need for mass deportation of Nigerians from South Africa senior officials of the department should be counsulted.
He said if fully implemented these measures would ``address the current immigration challenges affecting citizens from the two sister African countries and help us avoid a recurrence of the regrettable incidences we have seen recently’’.
The Southern Africa correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that two officials of the Nigeria High Commission in South Africa attended the briefing. (NAN)