ANTI-IMMIGRANT attacks push many to abandon jobs, homes and their very hopes.

They fled mob attacks and the torching of their stores and arrived with nothing but their children and their suitcases. More than 300 Nigerians landed in Lagos on flight from Johannesburg because their old lives - as immigrants living in South Africa - had become untenable.

They arrived after dark, descended from the plane and lined up at the door of a yellow transit center, eyes glassy with fatigue. Sign here, officials told them. Wait there. They had little money and almost no plans.

Hatred of foreigners, they said, had long been a problem in South Africa, and it is what finally drove them out.

''If I had stayed,'' said Socarvin Onuoha, a Nigerian who owned a cellphone shop for more than a decade, ''I would have died.''

Africans from around the continent have emigrated to South Africa for years, expecting to find a land of opportunity, a place to raise their families.

Now many are fleeing, carrying the painful realization that the country they once thought would deliver their dreams had instead turned nightmarish.

Hostility has been building for at least a decade, with many South Africans blaming foreigners for their country's economic ills and sometimes accusing immigrants of taking jobs and housing.

Nigerians have said that they experienced particular prejudice, often stereo typed as drug dealers and thieves.

That animus burst into violence this month when people in and around Johannesburg began looting and burning foreign-owned shops.

The attacks killed at least 12 people and prompted a diplomatic rift between South Africa and Nigeria, threatening relations between the continent's largest economies.

In an attempt to make amends, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa sent an envoy to Nigeria last week who delivered ''sincerest apologies'' for the attacks and promised that the perpetrators would be prosecuted.

But the Nigerian government has gone ahead and begun airlifting its citizens out of South Africa, arranging flights for anyone who wants to leave, with the help of a private airline.

The World Students Society thanks author Julie Turkewitz.


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