Refugee decision 'shocking'

2009-09-02 08:02

Johannesburg - The decision to grant a white South African refugee status in Canada because he feels he will be oppressed if he returns to the country, "borders on racism", says Jacob van Garderen, director of Lawyers for Human Rights.

The Canadian immigration and refugee board ruling regarding Brandon Huntley, 31, is also not in compliance with international refugee laws, Van Garderen said on Tuesday.

"It's a shocking verdict which is based on untruths and serious misperceptions, that only white people are affected by crime, and that the government does nothing and silently allows the situation to continue. It's nonsense.

"In order to comply (with the requirements for refugee status) under Canadian law, you must prove that you are politically persecuted, your life is in danger due to your political convictions or race, and that the government can't or won't do anything about the situation. That is not the case," he said.

Huntley alleged that he had been attacked seven times and was called a "white dog", "settler" and "boer" by black attackers.

Decision could be reversed

William Davis, chairperson of the tribunal panel, found that Huntley's fear of persecution by black South Africans is justified. Among other things, he referred to affirmative action and black economic empowerment in his verdict.

However, this verdict could be revised.

Although the Canadian immigration and refugee council did not want to make specific comments regarding the case, citing confidentiality clauses, they did say the decision could be revised.

If the Canadian government or a person who is involved with the case wishes the case to be legally revised, they must first obtain authorisation from the country's federal court. If they were to be granted authorisation, the court would decide whether the case was handled within the confines of the law, council spokesperson Stéphane Malépart told Beeld on Tuesday afternoon.

If the court should find that the case was not handled within the confines of the law, it will be referred to the refugee protection department of the council.

A new council member must then revisit the case, he said.


Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Tseliso Thipanyane, said Huntley's case was a ridiculous attempt at obtaining citizenship in Canada.

He feels the reasons Huntley gave to obtain refugee status, send a very bad message to the country's people. The impression is created that there is reverse racism here, but the country is "many, many decades away" from that.

"On the contrary ... land ownership, housing and medical benefits still mostly benefit the white community."

Thipanyane said it's been 15 years since the inception of democracy in South Africa, and white people still possess the largest part of the wealth.

"Sixty-one percent of the top posts are still in the hands of white men."

Thipanyane added that with this kind of blame, the wrong message is also being sent out into the rest of the world.

He feels it is malicious.

No comment from Huntley

On Tuesday Brandon Huntley did not respond to e-mails and Facebook questions. Russell Kaplan, his legal representative, was also unreachable.

Earlier, Huntley mentioned on Facebook that people should read the report about his refugee status in the Ottawa Sun.

"Look, I'm famous now. lol" (which means "laugh out loud").

A certain Belinda Burger Morris wrote on Huntley's Facebook wall: "Very proud of you for telling the other side of the story. Hopefully it will open people's eyes."

Huntley belongs to Facebook groups including "Player 23's behind our Boks”, “South African braai network” and “Canadian South Africans”.


Meanwhile, Huntley's refugee status has elicited wide reactions back home.

According to Mowbray ward councillor Cedric Thomas, Huntley sheds a bad light on this "multicultural" neighbourhood.

"I've never heard about the incidents he has described. It surprises me that he made these statements."

Jonathan Hobday, chair of Mowbray's Community Policing Forum, said the chances are equally likely that Huntley could be assaulted in any other part of the world.

He described Mowbray as a relatively peaceful suburb, and said he doesn't think Huntley's allegations are an honest reflection of Mowbray or of South Africa.

"I think we need to take his words with a pinch of salt. He's trying to make a point, but I think he's exaggerating."

- Reporting by Retha Grobbelaar, Kobus Pretoriusen and Marelize Barnard