Special visas for white South African farmers looking to enter Australia is back on the agenda for the Liberal Party, according to a new report in the UK Guardian newspaper.
This follows the controversial announcement by Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton in March, which called for white farmers from SA to get fast-tracked entry into Australia on humanitarian grounds.
According to Dutton, white farmers face “horrific circumstances” in South Africa, and said that a ‘civil’ country like Australia should welcome the skills these farmers have.
Former prime minister and Liberal Party member Tony Abbott told Sydney radio 2GB that “something like 400 white farmers have been murdered, brutally murdered, over the last 12 months”.
Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, however, said that the country’s humanitarian visa programme won’t change to fast-track local farmers’ entry into the country – adding that there are no plans to do so.
The Guardian reported on Friday that Liberal Party members plan to make special treatment for asylum-seeking farmers an official party policy.
This idea, according to the Guardian, was put forward by the West Australian branch of the party who called on the government to “enable the South African minorities targeted by hate crimes to seek asylum in Australia”.
Perth in Western Australia has a particularly large and vocal South African expat community.
There has been an big jump in the number of South Africans who have emigrated to Australia in the past few years, according to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
According to its 2016 report, as at June 2015, as many as 178,700 South Africans were living in Australia, up more than 33,000 (from 145,683) people from the 2011 data, and representing 0.8% of the total population.
This number is likely to have increased even further in 2017 as many emigration experts pointed to a rise in the number of South Africans looking to leave the country under the troubled presidency of Jacob Zuma.
A month ago, the Australian Department of Home Affairs revealed how many South Africans had applied for ‘humanitarian visas’ to move to the country.
Despite the South African government’s uproar surrounding the visas, Australian Home Affairs deputy secretary Malisa Golightly said that more than 200 South Africans were in the process of applying for Australian humanitarian visas.
“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.”