The Australian department of home affairs has revealed how many South Africans have applied for ‘humanitarian visas’ to move to the country – as well as the criteria being considered for the applications.
This follows the controversial announcement by Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton in March, in which he confirmed that the country is considering fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers.
Dutton’s announcement led to the issuing of a diplomatic démarche by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to the Australian High Commissioner, in which she demanded a retraction of the comments made by Dutton on the South African land redistribution process.
Despite the South African government’s uproar surrounding the visas, Australian Home Affairs deputy secretary Malisa Golightly has confirmed that more than 200 South Africans are in the process of applying for Australian humanitarian visas, reports 9News.
“The type of criteria they of course have to meet – or the key one – is evidence of persecution, so that’s exactly what we will be looking at,” Golightly told a senate committee meeting on Tuesday (22 May).
Golightly said the minister had not asked her to prioritise South Africans and, as far as the department was concerned, there was no special attention being given.
“Basically, like anybody, South Africans can apply for any visa they wish and they’ll be assessed against the criterion set out in the law,” Golightly said.
“In terms of processing, the normal arrangements apply where we assess the claims against whichever is the relevant criteria.”
In April, Australia’s attorney-general Christian Porter confirmed that he would back Dutton’s proposal of special visas for South African farmers.
“More than any other place in Australia, South Africans have made their home in the north coast of Wester Australia, in my electorate,” Porter said.
“They are hardworking and make a huge contribution to our local community.”
He added that over the past five years his office had helped a steady stream of South Africans with immigration issues.
“I have always thought that, given their contribution, the more South Africans in our local community the better,” the attorney-general said.