ABC News, via Radio New Zealand – 15 March 2018
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister is investigating how to bring white South African farmers to Australia on humanitarian grounds.
White farmers facing violence in South Africa “deserve special attention” from Australia, Peter Dutton said.
He said he had watched television footage and read articles that convinced him the farmers needed help, and had ordered his department to investigate how to bring the farmers to Australia.
He had “hope” some of the farmers could be settled in Australia, declaring: “We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted.”
Violence on South African farms is a racially charged political issue.
Afriforum, a rights group that mainly represents the views of the white Afrikaner minority, says white farmers are murdered at four times the rate of other citizens, but these figures cannot be independently verified and have been challenged.
Mr Dutton said he wanted to explore whether the farmers could access visas or humanitarian programs.
“People do need help and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” Mr Dutton told News Corp.
“There are existing visa categories where we can accommodate people and we’re just looking at the moment as to what might be feasible and hopefully we’ll make an announcement in due course.”
Another federal Cabinet minister, Steve Ciobo, agreed the farmers should be given special attention by Australia, arguing the situation in South Africa was “cause for concern”.
“Let’s be frank, if we see in this case – people who are being thrown off their land, being persecuted, I’ve read of people being shot, rapes, all sorts of different things – then I do believe that there’s a role to be played.”
Labor senator Kim Carr said he was pleased the Government had “taken an interest” in humanitarian migration programs.
“We want to make sure we have a non-discriminatory migration policy and I trust that’s what this government is seeking to maintain,” he said.
“Our human rights record ought be second to none in the world. It should be done on a non-racial approach to immigration.”
But the South African Government has dismissed fears expressed by Mr Dutton for the safety of the farmers, saying its citizens are not in danger.
Afriforum expressed gratitude to Mr Dutton for acknowledging the attacks on white farmers. But deputy chief executive Ernst Roets said most South Africans would prefer to stay on home soil.
“We would like to solve the problem in South Africa. So we don’t necessarily think the solution is for everyone to leave the country,” he said.
The Australian Government should engage with South African officials, Mr Roets said.
Mr Dutton said the farmers could make a contribution to Australian life.
“The people we’re talking about want to work hard, they want to contribute to a country like Australia,” he said.
“We want people that want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare and I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.