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Brandon Huntley, who sought refuge in Canada by citing his fear of black South Africans, is gearing up for a new bid after his refugee status was revoked.
This time, the former Cape Town man will try to convince Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board that he will come to harm if he has to return to South Africa, because the extensive media coverage of his case has placed him in the spotlight.
The decision by the board to grant Huntley refugee status in April 2008 received considerable publicity and was criticised as racist by the South African government.
Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration minister, Jason Kenney, later successfully sought to quash the decision in a Federal Court. The court granted his application for judicial review to set aside the decision, on the basis that it was unreasonable in light of the evidence.
A date for a new hearing is expected to be set within weeks, Huntley’s lawyer, Russell Kaplan, told the Daily News this week. He expects the hearing to take place within the next three months.
“The board would hear argument that he is at risk of returning to South Africa because of fear of being attacked by black South Africans, and because he is now a well-known white South African,” Kaplan said.
Huntley had at first applied for refugee status because of his fear of discrimination, harassment and possible death in his country of birth, and also after reportedly being attacked and assaulted by black South Africans.
He first went to Canada on a work permit in 2004 and was hired as an amusement park attendant. He returned to South Africa in November that year when the permit expired, but went back the following June.
When the second permit expired in December 2006, Huntley stayed in Canada illegally.
According to court papers, he married a Canadian citizen, Melani Crête, in August 2007, and successfully applied for refugee status eight months later.
The couple separated in December 2008.
At the time, the board had felt his allegations of the persecution of white South Africans were enhanced by the oral testimony of another South African, Lara Anne Kaplan – the lawyer’s sister.
According to court papers, she had testified that “things started to shift to the disadvantage of the white South Africans” after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his election as president.
Lara Anne Kaplan had also referred to black economic empowerment and had suggested that affirmative action involved the use of different standards to allow black South Africans to attain positions of influence and power.
She had also reported being accosted twice by black people and threatened with a gun.
The board had said her evidence was the lifeline to Huntley’s claim.
In papers to the Federal Court, Huntley had argued that there was an abuse of process in his case, because the minister had brought the review application in response to diplomatic pressure from the South African government. He felt this would create an apprehension that it was biased and lacked independence.
However, Justice James Russell rejected this argument and referred the matter back to the board.
Huntley then applied to the Federal Court of Appeal in October last year, but his appeal was dismissed.
According to media reports earlier this year, Kaplan said he had then applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to argue an appeal on Huntley’s behalf. But in April, Canada’s Postmedia News reported that the Supreme Court announced it would not hear Huntley’s appeal.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman, Bill Brown, said they were pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision and said the government was successful before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.
Brown said the Federal Court found that Huntley had a “weak claim for refugee protection” and that it was clear that his “reasons for coming to Canada were economic and had nothing to do with being a refugee”.
Kaplan said the appeal was on a separate argument to the refugee claim. The appeal was about the South African government getting involved in the case, he said. The court, he added, also would not consider Huntley’s claim about being a white South African victim.
He said he and his client had not yet decided whether the papers he would file for the board hearing would be made public
Kaplan said he had instructed Huntley not to speak to the media until after his board hearing.
If successful at the hearing, Huntley would become a permanent resident of Canada, but should he fail, he is allowed to appeal against the board’s decision.