Australia may be about to open the door to fast-track visas for white South African farmers. Some accuse Australia of double standards after the UN recently slammed Canberra for illegally detaining asylum-seekers.
Australia's home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, reiterated his own earlier comments that Canberra was looking at ways of fast-tracking "in-country persecution" visas for white South African farmers to travel to Australia as part of a refugee or humanitarian program.
"I think in this circumstance we do need to look at the persecution that's taking place," Dutton told Sydney's 2GB radio on Thursday.
He said the South African expat community in Australia "work hard and integrate well into Australian society."
"They contribute and make us a better country," Dutton added. "They're the sorts of migrants that we want to bring into our country."
On Wednesday, Dutton, whose ministry oversees immigration, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph white farmers in South Africa face "horrific circumstances."
Some Australian media have reported recently that an average of one white farmer a week is murdered in South Africa and that over 400 were attacked in 2017.
'A civilized country'
"I've asked my department to look at options and ways in which we can provide some assistance because I do think on the information I've seen people do need help, and they need help from a civilized country like ours," Dutton said.
Dutton said an announcement could be made soon. "We're just looking at the moment at what might be feasible and hopefully we'll make an announcement in due course," he said.
According to the 2006 Australian census, 104,128 Australians were born in South Africa, and 79,513 Australians claimed South African ancestry.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at a rally to commemorate Nelson Mandela's centenary year on February 11
A South African exodus?
South Africa's new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said he wants to "escalate the pace" of redistributing land from white farmers to black farmers. Some in South Africa have expressed fears that this could provoke a mass exodus of white farmers along the lines seen in Zimbabwe.
Ramaphosa cited an audit according to which white people still own about 72 percent of individually owned farms and the black majority owns just 4 percent.
He told parliament on Wednesday, however, that there would be no land grab.
"We will not allow land grabs. We will not allow land invasion because it is illegal. It begins to violate rights of other South African citizens," he said.
"There's no need for anyone to be scared or to fear anything," South African government spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the BBC on Wednesday. "We remain a united nation here in South Africa, both black and white."
The ruling ANC party backs expropriation of land without compensation.
Dutton's comments come only months after asylum-seekers and refugees held in a Pacific camp were awarded AU$70 million ($56 million, €45 million) for being illegally detained and treated negligently in the country's largest ever case of this kind.
Canberra denied liability.
Dutton's ministry has been criticized by the UN and human rights groups for failing to protect asylum seekers and refugees, with reports of physical and psychological abuse on two Pacific islands since 2014.
jbh/sms (AFP, dpa)