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VIDEO: African nations to repatriate citizens from S Africa

AFP | South African protesters in Johannesburg on Friday

Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique on Saturday prepared to evacuate their citizens from South Africa following weeks of deadly xenophobic attacks which have displaced thousands.

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South Africa is home to an estimated 5 million immigrants and anti-foreigner violence there has sparked regional outrage.

Unrest, which first erupted in the coastal city of Durban, has left at least six people dead and spread to the economic hub of Johannesburg.

"In South Africa, xenophobic attacks over the last three weeks have... displaced over 5,000 foreign nationals," the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said, adding that it was "extremely concerned".

"We would like to underscore that those affected in these xenophobic attacks are refugees and asylum seekers who were forced to leave their countries due to war and persecution," the UNHCR said.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, said the repatriation of about 1,000 Zimbabweans from Durban would start on Sunday.

Mozambique and Malawi have also announced they would help their citizens return home, saying they had “no choice but to leave”.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have been forced by the wave of violence to seek safety in camps.

On Saturday South African President Jacob Zuma announced he had cancelled a state visit to Indonesia in order to deal with the wave of xenophobic violence.

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