NEWS
25/06/2018 11:55 SAST | Updated 25/06/2018 14:00 SAST

'Humanitarian' Visas To 'Civilised' Australia For White Farmers: 89 Applications Already Received

In March, it was reported that Australia was considering fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers because of the "horrific circumstances" they allegedly suffered, owing to farm attacks.

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Australia's Department of Home Affairs has received 89 applications for humanitarian visas from South Africa, involving 213 people, Australia's The Age publication reported. This was revealed in the Australian Senate.

In March, it was reported that Australia was considering fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers because of the "horrific circumstances" they allegedly suffered, owing to farm attacks.

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton reportedly said white South African farmers deserved "special attention" for being granted asylum on refugee or humanitarian grounds.

He told a Sydney publication at the time, "If you look at the footage, you hear the stories and you read the accounts, it's a horrific circumstance that they face," Dutton told Sydney's Daily Telegraph late Wednesday.

"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 civilised country like ours," according to AFP.

Home Affairs deputy secretary Malisa Golightly reportedly said the criteria that needed to be met in order to qualify for the visa was "evidence of persecution". There were "no other requirements from the minister", she reportedly said.

Dutton's comments caused a diplomatic row, with Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya telling the BBC that there was "no need to anyone to be scared or to fear anything", adding that no section of the population was in danger.

South Africa was "offended" by Dutton's comments, and in a statement, the department of international relations said it expected a "full retraction" from Australia.

The row was ended by the end of March, when Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop effectively retracted Dutton's offer, the Daily Maverick reported. Bishop reportedly said that while Australia did monitor murder rates, which had increased "dramatically" in recent years, Australia's humanitarian programme would consider any application on its merits. She said the programme was "non-discriminatory" and that South Africans would be considered alongside any group who applied from anywhere in the world.

International relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu later received a letter from Turnbull and said, "We are quite satisfied." A source told Daily Maverick, "The matter is now closed."

In May, AgriSA released figures showing that farm murder rates have decreased to their lowest rates in 20 years, according to News24. There was, however, a slight increase in farm attacks, which increased from 478 in 2016/17 to 2017/18.

But this is nowhere near the numbers in 2001/02, when 1,069 farm attacks reportedly took place. Farm murders, on the other hand, decreased from 66 cases in 2016/17 to 47 in 2017/18.

According to The Age, Australian headlines in March screamed, "South Africa's white farmers attacked, raped and forced from land" and "Whites persecuted, but who cares?"

African Farmers' Association of SA president Vuyo Mahlati told The Age that constantly presenting the problem as black people against white people was "very problematic and actually very irresponsible".

"This statement of Mr Dutton... makes us wonder why white South African lives are more important, " Mahlati reportedly said.