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15/03/2018 10:33 SAST | Updated 15/03/2018 10:33 SAST

Australian Minister Reiterates His Desire To Save White SA Farmers

"I think... we do need to look at the persecution that's taking place," he said.

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Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Sydney - Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has doubled down on his comment about "persecuted" white farmers from South Africa and his desire to bring them to "a civilized country like ours."

Dutton first gained attraction after he said Wednesday evening the white farmers deserve "special attention" because they face violence and land seizures.

Dutton said he has directed his department to explore whether the farmers can be accepted into Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other visas, including the in-country persecution visa Category.

"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.

Dutton said the South African expat community in Australia "work hard and integrate well into Australian society."

"They contribute and make us a better country. They're the sorts of migrants that we want to bring into our country."

The issue of land ownership in South Africa has been a fraught topic as almost 75 per cent of its farmland is in white hands though they make up less than 10 per cent of the overall population.

Dutton's comments about "the horrific circumstances" faced by the white farmers ignited a diplomatic row overnight.

"We regret that the Australian government chose not to use the diplomatic channels available for them to raise concerns or to seek clarification," South Africa's foreign ministry said.

"There is no reason for any government.. to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government."

Dutton's own department has come under heavy criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups for a harsh immigration policy and failing to protect asylum seekers and refugees, who have been languishing in Australian offshore detention centres, with reports of physical and psychological abuse, on two Pacific islands since 2014.

dpa

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