Peter Dutton’s department blocked white South African farmer’s asylum bid
13 Apr 2018 – The Guardian
A man who applied for asylum on the grounds of ‘harm on the basis of his race’ had his claim denied
Peter Dutton’s department blocked a white South African farmer’s asylum bid because its evidence showed “the vast majority of crimes against whites are not racially motivated”.
A delegate for Dutton also shut down a second, separate asylum bid by a white South African woman who feared racially motivated persecution, arguing there was no evidence she “had been targeted because of her race or gender or that she would be targeted for this reason upon her return”.
To be granted refugee status, an asylum seeker must have a well-founded fear of persecution for one or more of a number of legislated reasons: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
The two decisions, both made by immigration authorities in 2015, appear to be at odds with Dutton’s recent stance in support of protecting white South African farmers.
In March Dutton said the farmers deserved “special attention” from a “civilised country” like Australia on humanitarian grounds. Dutton’s comments followed reporting and opinion writing in News Corp newspapers that white farmers in South Africa were being targeted, and was backed by Tony Abbott.
It sparked a rebuke from the South African government and was rejected by the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, who noted that Australia’s humanitarian visa program was “non-discriminatory”.
This week Dutton received a written request from a man in the South African community to “fast track” a quota of South Africans. It came amid reports of government MPs discussing options to take several thousand in one go, likening it to the 12,000 humanitarian visas given to Syrians fleeing the deadly civil war.
The first decision to deny a white South African farmer’s asylum bid, which was upheld by the administrative appeals tribunal in September last year, involved a man who asked for protection from the immigration department in January 2015, because he “fears harm on the basis of his race” should he return home.
The man told the immigration department he was the victim of a serious attack at his home in 1998, where his wife and another five people were murdered, and he was left with serious injuries. The claim was corroborated by media reporting.
But the immigration department knocked back his asylum request in July 2015, arguing there was little evidence of racially motivated crime against white farmers or white South Africans.
The department’s stance was only made public because the farmer appealed the decision to the administrative appeals tribunal, which again ruled against the farmer’s application for protection.
“The delegate of the department in the decision record dated [July] 2015 referred to country sources which indicate that although white farmers are targeted for crime at a rate higher than other white people in the country, there was also significant crime against black farm workers,” the tribunal’s decision read.
“Furthermore, the department referred to sources which indicate that the vast majority of crimes against whites are not racially motivated, but rather are crimes for financial gain.”
In ruling on the farmer’s appeal, the tribunal also downplayed the notion of racially motivated violence against white South Africans. It accepted he genuinely feared harm in South Africa, and agreed he had experienced “horrific and terrible” crime himself.
“However the evidence discussed above indicates that the motive of the perpetrators of crime is considerably more likely to be based on economic need, and a violent subculture, rather than race,” the tribunal ruled. “Sources also indicate that there is a general level of violence arising out of criminal activity in South Africa, which affects the entire population.
“Some groups, such as young black men or women in black townships, are affected disproportionately, with one commentator stating that people in ‘suburbs can buy security that people in townships cannot’.”
In the second case, a delegate for Dutton rejected an asylum bid by a white South African woman in March 2015 after the woman asked for Australia’s protection.
The woman was not a farmer but said she and her son would be targeted in South Africa “because they are ethnically white South Africans”. Dutton’s delegate argued there was no evidence to support her claims of racial persecution.
“The delegate accepted that the applicant had been the victim of crimes in 2002 and 2008, but did not accept she had been targeted because of her race or gender or that she would be targeted for this reason upon her return,” an appeal judgment said.
The situation in South Africa has changed since the two decisions were made by immigration authorities. Earlier this year, the nation’s parliament passed a motion that may lead to the seizure of land from farmers without paying compensation. The South African government says it is attempting to redistribute land fairly, but insists no one is being persecuted or having their rights taken away.
Dutton was contacted for comment but did not respond.