Australia denies refugee status to SA families amid surge in applications
Johannesburg - A number of South Africans who tried to enter Australia by applying for refugee status have been disappointed after their visas were not approved.
The families, according to Australian media, were applying for protection and humanitarian visas, but received rejection letters that read: “The risk of murder and serious physical/sexual assaults is one faced by the population of the country in general and not by the applicants personally.”
There had been a recent surge in applications two years after Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton suggested that South African white farmers were being persecuted and should be given special attention under his country’s humanitarian programme.
He had instructed his department to consider claims from persecuted South African farmers whose families had suffered murder, torture or rape.
According to its website the Australian home affairs department considers a refugee to be someone who has a well-founded fear they will be seriously harmed because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group.
In Australia, politician and South African expat Savanna Labuschagne told Australian media that she was frustrated that South Africans were prevented from receiving assistance by the government.
The home affairs department said there were many other visas open to South Africans that include skilled, temporary and family visas. Nearly 80000 visas had been granted to South Africans since July 2018. South Africa is the ninth-largest source country of permanent migrants in Australia.
Lobby group AfriForum has highlighted the problem of farm attacks in South Africa. However, it does not believe applications for refugee status in Australia will solve the problem.
“We are looking to deal with it here, in South Africa,” said chief executive Kallie Kriel.
“If you are going to ask for that kind of visa, you would have to prove that some kind of genocide is happening. That is why, from the outset, we have never used the term genocide. What we are saying is that disproportionate numbers of farmers are being killed. Just like there are a disproportionate number of people being killed in gang violence in the Western Cape.”
He said AfriForum was calling for the SAPS to set up a special task force to deal with farm murders, as has been done in the fight against rhino poaching and copper theft.