Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, made headlines this week when he suggested that white South African farmers “deserve special attention” from Australia due to the “horrific circumstances” of land seizures and violence, calling for the country to fast-track visa applications.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation would go on to slam the idea as “sad” and “regrettable”.
Looking past the uproar, the concept of white South Africans seeking refuge from racial “brutality” and “genocide” post-1994 is nothing new.
Here are three cases, successful and not, that made international headlines in recent times.
South African citizen, Brandon Huntley, entered Canada on a temporary work visa in 2004, applied for refugee status in 2008 and was granted refugee status in 2009. Huntley claimed that he was being targeted in South Africa because of his skin colour. He said that he no longer felt safe in a country where political parties sang songs that translated to “kill the whites”.
According to Huntley’s affidavit, he was assaulted and stabbed at least six times since he was a teenager by black South Africans because of his race and he received delayed medical treatment (stitches and x-rays) in favour of black patients at a hospital where all the staff were black. He never reported his alleged attackers and incidents of racism to the police because he said he refuses to “talk to the government”.
In 2014, a Canadian court found that Huntley no longer met the criteria for refugee status and his application was rejected because he had failed to exhaust all possible means of obtaining protection from his home country before leaving home and applying for refugee status in Canada.
The Nel family
In 2010, a white South African family – Charl and Naira Nel as well as their daughter – left South Africa and applied for refugee status in Canada.
They told the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) that they feared being victims of crime and violence — the women feared rape, which is prevalent in South Africa, and all feared violence targeting whites.
They also said they felt increasingly threatened because since they left the country, leaders of the governing ANC, including then president Jacob Zuma, had sung the anti-apartheid song Kill the Farmer, Shoot the Boer, even after a South African court ruled it was hate speech.
In 2013, the IRB rejected their claim but the Nel’s appealed the decision at the Federal Court and the IRB’s ruling was overturned in 2014, granting the Nel family asylum.
The Endre family
Last year, another family’s application for asylum in Canada was rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board after they were accused of submitting “white-supremacist hate literature” to support their claims of violence by black people.
Eric Williams Endre, his wife Sonja, their two children and Sonja’s parents, all went to Canada in 2016 to visit relatives and made their refugee claim just 10 days later.
The family said they were victims of a carjacking in 1995, were assaulted and robbed by four black men on their farm in 2004, had their home burglarised in 2013, their car stolen from outside their house in 2014 and, that same year, three black men tried to steal Sonja’s cell phone while she was working.
The IRB rejected their application saying there was no reliable evidence the family was attacked due to their race and that the attacks were most likely a result of their material possessions and economic standing.
The Endre family appealed to the Federal Court of Canada saying that the board failed to consider the lives of the children who they claimed were not able to safely play in parks in South Africa because they feared bullying and being assaulted.
The Canadian government defended the decision of the IRB and said the fear of white children being raped by blacks was highly offensive as the information the family relied on was “white-supremacist hate literature” that should be ignored. The family’s appeal was rejected.
Canada accepts few refugee claims by South African citizens. In 2017, none were accepted. In 2016 there were 12, in 2015 there were 18, in 2014 there were two, none in 2013 and there were two in 2012.