Nigeria has begun repatriating more than 600 South African citizens following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks that have destroyed relations between neighboring countries.
A private Nigerian airline, Air Peace, has voluntarily departed people back to the commercial capital of Lagos, at least 320 Nigerians are expected to depart on Wednesday while the second flight departs on Thursday.
At least 640 Nigerians have registered to return home.
Repatriation comes after riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 1
Pastor Hugo Ofoegbu has been living in South Africa for nearly two decades. He sends his wife and three children back to Nigeria.
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"My family is not safe here," Oofoegbu told Al Jazeera.
The repressive attacks in Nigeria last week forced the South African business to be closed while the South African Embassy in Lagos temporarily closed its doors because of security concerns.
Not only Nigerians
More than 700 people from other countries, including Malawi and Zimbabwe, have sought asylum in community centers. Many left their homes with little more than a few bags when the violence began.
One is the Mozambican Oscar Setove, who signs up for a temporary travel document to return home. He has lived in South Africa for 30 years but lost everything in the riots.
"What made me run is that I saw people being attacked, attacked like dogs. And some of the people who attacked us were people who knew us for a long time. That hurt me. Mozambique and Zimbabwe are also considering some kind of repatriation of their citizens.
Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from Johannesburg Airport, said a small group had been returned because
] Ofoegbu said they would have to go to the Consulate of Nigeria to get the right documents before the trip.
This is not the first time foreigners have been attacked in South Africa.
At least 62 people, including South Africans, were killed in 2008. Violence and robbery directed at foreign-owned stores left seven dead in 2015.
"I'm so worried about my family's safety because these [xenophobic] attacks are still happening, so if I don't save my family now, I don't know when [this will] it starts again, "Ofoegbu said.
"This happened in 2008 and then in 2015, it is now repeated."
The root cause of the recent violence is still unclear, but high unemployment, poverty and crime may have played a role.
Foreigners in South Africa fear security after attacks
South African officials are hesitant to describe the violence as xenophobic attacks and instead have stated that it is a crime issue that the government is trying to tackle.
"Although there has been a significant drop in the number of incidents, police forces remain vigilant and closely monitor the hot spots to ensure that further violence does not erupt," said Defense Minister Nocivive Mapiva-Nikula. Police have arrested at least 653 people, mostly South Africans, but also some foreigners in connection with the attacks, said Police Minister Bheki Sele.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is due to visit South Africa next month to discuss violence and to seek a solution.