Security is tightened up at O R Tambo airport in Johannesburg in response to the row
Security is tightened up at O R Tambo airport in Johannesburg in response to the row

A diplomatic row is escalating between South Africa and Nigeria over tit-for-tat deportations.

The government of Nigeria has vowed to take tough action against countries that engage in "ill-treating Nigerians", the minister of foreign affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, said.

He told the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs that the tougher stand was initiated in response to South Africa's deportation of 125 Nigerians.

They were deported on arriving at Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport for allegedly carrying fraudulent yellow fever vaccination cards, Nigeria said.

Ashiru said the real reason was xenophobia against Nigerian immigrants in South Africa.

He also accused the South African authorities of breaching diplomatic protocol by failing to inform the Nigerian high commission of the deportations.

"When you deport two Nigerians from your country on flimsy excuses, there will be appropriate reaction," he said. "It will not be retaliation, but you will know that we are reciprocating one way or the other. South African immigration authorities or officials do not have a monopoly on deporting travellers.

"Even if those deportees were actually carrying fake yellow cards, the worst the South African authorities could have done was to have quarantined them and given them the necessary inoculation," he added.

Since the deportations from South Africa, Nigeria authorities at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed airport have deported at least 84 South Africans, citing similar concern over their vaccination cards, AP reported.

The Nigerian government has summoned the South African envoy to demand an apology and to ensure that the officers involved in the deportation are punished, Ashiru said.

Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa's foreign ministry, said a statement would be issued.