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refuge in Canada by citing his fear of black South Africans, is gearing up for a new bid after his refugee status was revoked.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 SA, because the extensive media coverage of his case has placed him in the spotlight.
The board’s decision to grant Huntley refugee status in April 2008 received considerable publicity and was criticised as racist by the SA government.
Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney later successfully sought to quash the decision in the Federal Court. The court granted his application for judicial review to set aside the decision, on the basis 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 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 believed his allegations of the persecution of white South Africans were enhanced by the oral testimony of another South African, Lara Anne Kaplan – his 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.
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 SA 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.
Kaplan said the appeal was on a separate argument to the refugee claim. The appeal was about the SA government getting involved in the case, he said.
The court, he said, would also not consider Huntley’s claim about being a white victim.
If successful at the hearing, Huntley would become a permanent resident of Canada, but should he fail, he will be allowed to appeal against the board’s decision.