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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Canada challenges SA refugee case

A man holding two knives
South Africa has an annual murder rate of 18,000

Canada's government has launched an appeal against the granting of refugee status to a white South African man after protests from Pretoria.

The decision was branded "racist" by South Africa's ruling African National Congress party.

Brandon Huntley, 31, said he had been the victim of seven attacks, including three stabbings, which he said were racially motivated.

Race remains sensitive in South Africa 15 years after the end of apartheid.

Hundreds of thousands of white South Africans have left the country since the end of apartheid, many citing rising crime and the difficulty of finding jobs.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu told the BBC that the case had tarnished South Africa's image.

Black: 80%
White: 9%
Coloured (Mixed race): 9%
Asian: 2%

Canada's federal citizenship and immigration department is seeking leave to challenge the decision in the Federal Court.

"The government felt that because this is a fairly unique claim, it's something we felt would be wise to put before a higher authority," said Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The decision was granted last week by an independent panel - the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Mr Huntley's lawyer said he had been granted asylum because the South African authorities were unable to protect their citizens.

'Sore thumb'

Mr Sokutu said President Jacob Zuma was committed to fighting crime in South Africa, which has an annual murder rate of 18,000, but not on the basis of colour.

South African views on the Brandon Huntley race row

"We're committed to creating a stable and safe environment for all South Africans, regardless of the colour of their skin and we think that dealing with crime along racial lines can only serve to divide the South African nation," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

Canada's Ottawa Sun newspaper quoted the IRB chairman William Davis as saying Mr Huntley would stand out like a "sore thumb" due to his colour in any part of South Africa.

Mr Huntley's lawyer Russell Kaplan said the asylum was granted because of discrimination - not only over crime - but also because as a white man he would find it difficult to get a job.

"The big question throughout was - was this just an act of criminality or was there a racial motivation? And every single time there was evidence that they were not just victims of criminality, that there was a racial component in the incidents," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

On the streets of Johannesburg, opinions were mixed about the case.

"Thugs attack you because they believe you have something they want," said Diketso Lekhelebane.

"There is still the perception that white people have money all the time maybe that's why he was targeted."

"As a white South African I understand and support the basis for affirmative action but as a mother of three I'm concerned about my children's future and what kind of jobs they will get," university lecturer Tracey McKay told the BBC.

White people still dominate Africa's biggest economy, with average living standards far higher than for other racial groups.

But some complain they are being deprived of jobs by the government's black affirmative action programme.

The government says this is needed to help the black majority recover from years of discrimination during apartheid.


1 comment:

Toronto real estate said...

Well, I don't think the decision not to grant the asylum was right. However, can we really consider it racist? I mean, the man is white, just like the majority of Canadians. Therefore it does not seem really racist, I would rather say it was stupid.


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