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South Africa Says Australia Retracted Claim of ‘Persecuted’ White Farmers

Last year, the Australian government paid $ 53 million in damages to migrants who said they suffered abuse in the camps. Mr. Dutton, who controls immigration policy, has been a staunch defender of offshore detention and has argued that Australia should not accept refugees who would be a burden on the country’s social safety net.

With his comments on South African farmers, Mr. Dutton was wading into a volatile, racially tinged debate. South Africa’s long-governing party, the African National Congress, proposed the land expropriation amendment because most South African farmland remains under white ownership more than 25 years after the end of apartheid.

In an initial response to Mr. Dutton’s comments, Ms. Sisulu said that nongovernmental organizations had been distributing inaccurate statistics about the killings of white farmers and sowing panic.

On Tuesday, Mr. Dutton’s office released a statement countering Ms. Sisulu’s assertions that the Turnbull government had retracted his comments.

Photo

A cross marks a road to a monument in Ysterberg, South Africa, that commemorates white farmers who have been killed. The issue of violence against farmers in South Africa has become a rallying point for white nationalists and the far right. Credit Gulshan Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The statement does not accurately reflect the prime minister or minister for foreign affairs’ position on this matter,” the statement said. “There was no rebuttal of the words of Minister Dutton.”

Mr. Dutton’s comments on the farmers drew sharp condemnation from refugee advocates who, citing his perceived indifference to nonwhite asylum seekers who are being held on Manus Island and Nauru, saw him favoring certain refugees because of their race.

“Refugee advocates found Dutton’s comments so alarming because we have a fundamental belief in a nondiscriminatory immigration policy,” said Jana Favero, who works with the Asylum Seeker Resource Center, which is based in Australia.

“The comments that Dutton made about how ‘they would integrate’ and that ‘they’re the sort of people we want coming to Australia’ insinuates that there are the wrong kind of people coming to Australia,” she added.

While Mr. Dutton’s remarks drew widespread criticism, they also struck a chord among some white nationalists for whom the plight of South African farmers had become a rallying point.

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In late January, Lauren Southern, a far-right Canadian commentator, published a trailer for her upcoming documentary “Farmlands” on the killings of South African farmers that featured dire warnings of an impending race war. The trailer carried the tagline “CRISIS. OPPRESSION. GENOCIDE?”

The issue has also been covered at length on AltRight.com, a website run by Richard B. Spencer, the American white nationalist.

In a television interview last month, Ms. Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, appeared to dampen talk of special visas for South Africans.

“I believe the humanitarian programs’ credibility comes from the fact that it is nondiscriminatory and that each application is assessed on its merits,” she said. “That’s been the case under the Turnbull government and as far as I’m aware, there are no plans to change that visa program.”

In the wake of Ms. Sisulu’s remarks about the retraction, the Australian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the country’s visa system did not favor certain races.

“The prime minister and the ministers for foreign affairs and home affairs have been clear and consistent in reiterating that Australia’s current humanitarian visa program is nondiscriminatory, with each application assessed on its merits,” the statement said. “The program can accommodate those fearing persecution.”

Source: NYT > World

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