South Africa has criticised an Australian government minister for suggesting that white South African farmers should get special visas so they can flee “horrific circumstances” in the country.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who oversees immigration and has drawn international criticism for heading a tough crackdown on asylum-seekers from Asia and the Middle East, said the South Africans deserve “special attention” for acceptance on refugee or humanitarian grounds.
He cited reports of land seizures and violence targeting the minority white farmers, who control a disproportionate share of the country’s land.
“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.”
The offer was swiftly rebuffed by South Africa, with its foreign ministry saying that no section of the country’s population was in any danger.
In a statement on Wednesday, South Africa’s foreign ministry said: “There is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government.
“That threat simply does not exist.”
The statement added that South Africa regretted that the Australian government “chose not to use the available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or to seek clarifications on the land distribution process in South Africa”.