Australia wants to fast-track visas for ‘persecuted’ farmers in South Africa

A farmer inspects the soil ahead of planting at a maize field in Wesselsbron, a small maize farming town in the Free State province of South Africa, January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The Australian government is considering fast-tracking visas for white farmers from South Africa due to the “horrific circumstances” that they are facing.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who is in charge of immigration, said his department is looking into ways to help the farmers get to Australia through refugee or humanitarian visas.

“If you look at the footage, you hear the stories and you read the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance that they face,” said Dutton. “I’ve asked my department to look at options and ways in which we can provide some assistance because I do think on the information I’ve seen people do need help, and they need help from a civilized country like ours.”

South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is pushing to implement legal changes that will allow the appropriation of farmlands without compensation to be redistributed to black South Africans.

According to an audit, 72 percent of individually owned farms are owned by white people, while the black majority owns just four percent.

The introduction of the policy has led to reports that there have been murders of white farmers in the country, with as many as one being killed per week.

In response to Dutton’s comments, South Africa’s foreign ministry said it regrets that the Australian government did not use available diplomatic channels to raise concerns or seek clarification.

South African authorities also said that there is no reason for Australia, or any country, to worry that any section of the South African population is in danger from its leaders.

“There’s no need for anyone to be scared or to fear anything,” said government spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya. “The land redistribution program will be done according to the law. We want to say to our friends across the world that there’s no need to panic.”

Mabaya added that South Africa is a united nation, both black and white.