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‘Racism alive and well in South Africa’

A specialist immigration lawyer said this week that ‘racism is alive and well in South Africa” in the wake of the controversial granting of asylum in Canada to crime victim Brandon Huntley.

In his application for asylum, Huntley argued that whites are targeted by black criminals in South Africa and that the government had not taken steps to protect them. He claimed he was attacked seven times during attempted robberies and muggings.

The African National Congress condemned the Canadian decision, rejecting it as “racist”, “sensationalist” and “alarming”.

Gary Eisenberg, who is considered one of South Africa’s top immigration lawyers, told the Mail & Guardian: ‘The ANC has reacted in this way because it affirms that racism is alive and well in South Africa, and this is something that many people in South Africa still deny. I call it a politics of denial.”

‘I am saying this because we had a very serious spate of attacks on foreigners across South Africa. Any one of those foreigners who had obtained permanent residence or refugee status in SA could well have applied like Huntley, or could have walked into a Canadian emigration office in Cape Town or Johannesburg and applied for refugee status in the same way as Huntley did, and in my opinion would have been as successful as he was.”

Canada’s federal government now intends challenging the ruling before the federal court, following a request by SA government.

Eisenberg said there were plenty of precedents for Huntley’s actions, and there would probably be many more people with even stronger cases.

‘I find the ANC’s reaction totally ludicrous because according to Canadian refugee law, a UN convention refugee is a person who walks into a Canadian emigration office, and who makes out a case for having a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country, on the basis of race, religion, nationality, association with a particular social group, or political thought,” said Eisenberg.

‘In this particular case, Huntley made out a case of well-founded fear of persecution as a result of his race, on the basis that this government of SA was unwilling, or unable or indifferent to protecting him from persecution.”

Canadian tribunal panel chairperson William Davis ruled that Huntley would stand out like a “sore thumb” due to his color in any part of South Africa and ruled that Huntley’s fears of persecution are justified based on the evidence he submitted.

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