Lauren Cohen, Times (Johannesburg), September 1, 2009
A WHITE South African man has been granted refugee status in Canada after an immigration board ruled that his “fear of persecution by African South Africans” was justified.
Brandon Huntley, 31, who grew up in Mowbray, Cape Town, made his refugee claim in April last year.
On Thursday, in Ottawa, Ontario, the only member of the immigration board to hear Huntley’s application, William Davis, ruled that Huntley would “stick out like a sore thumb due to his colour in any part of the country”.
Davis added that the unemployed irrigation sprinkler salesman had given “clear and convincing” proof of the state’s “inability or unwillingness to protect him”.
Huntley’s lawyer, Russell Kaplan, said that he is a human-rights lawyer who emigrated to Canada 20 years ago to escape the apartheid government’s discrimination against black South Africans.
Kaplan told The Times that Huntley had been attacked seven times in South Africa by black people who called him a “settler” and a “white dog”.
Kaplan’s sister, Lara, who emigrated to Canada last year, testified about the torture and murder of her other brother, Robert, by robbers in South Africa in 1997. Both Lara and Huntley gave evidence in camera in a full-day hearing on August 18.
Between 30 and 40 newspaper clippings were presented as evidence of life in South Africa.
“One article exhibited was published in [the Daily Sun in 2004] by Africa Ka Mahamba. [It was] entitled ‘Taking from whites is not a crime’,” Kaplan said.
The article quotes the leader of the “Uhuru cultural club” as telling youngsters who attended a Human Rights Day celebration to steal from whites because “it is the right thing to do”.
“The judgment was a direct criticism of the South African government,” Kaplan said.
He said that affirmative action and black economic empowerment were two of the aspects that were taken into account in considering Huntley’s application for refugee status in Canada. “These legislated policies, even though there is an explanation for them, are discriminatory. ”
Huntley first went to Canada on a six-month work permit in 2004, working as a carnival attendant. He returned in 2005, staying on illegally.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said it would have been “preferable, before such a decision was made, that the South African government’s view was sought. “Quite clearly, the allegations are as preposterous as they are laughable–which they would be if they were not serious,” he said.