Just Another Guy with Opinions

Refugee Claims South Africa is Racist

Posted by shadmia on September 7, 2009

Brandon Huntley

Brandon Huntley, 31, an unemployed water-sprinkler salesman, said he had to flee South Africa after he was attacked in Mowbray seven times — and stabbed in three of those incidents — by blacks who called him a “white dog” and “settler”. Testifying before an Immigration Board in Ottawa, Canada, he argued his life would be in danger if he returned home because of the color of his skin.

Huntley came to Canada on a visa in 2004 to work as a carnival worker. He returned in 2005 on a one-year visa and stayed for a second year illegally. He went back to South Africa, then entered Canada a third time, and filed his refugee claim in 2008.

Russell Kaplan, a human rights lawyer, who left South Africa 20 years ago, represented Brandon Huntley. He said that not only was he harassed and attacked by black South Africans, he was unable to find work under new legislation that seeks to “empower” black Africans in the work force. Newspaper clippings were presented as evidence of life in South Africa during the August 18 hearing.

Mr Huntley admitted he did not report any of the alleged crimes to the police, saying there was no point because as a white person they would not be interested in pursuing the crimes.

The Immigration and Refugee Board agreed with Huntley and granted him refugee status. William Davis, the board’s chairman, said:

Mr Huntley was “a victim because of his race rather than a victim of criminality” and would “stick out like a sore thumb” in any part of the country because of his skin color. He also said that there was “a picture of indifference and inability or unwillingness” by South Africa to protect “white South Africans from persecution by African South Africans”

He ruled that Huntley’s fears of persecution are justified based on the evidence he submitted.

Clive Levin, 40, a white South African, and freelance film cameraman, who lives in Mowbray, has a very different story to tell than the one portrayed by Huntley.

“I just love it here, I fell in love with Mowbray the moment I discovered it. It is this eclectic mix between suburbia and the city. It is a great community, very mixed,” he said.

“This guy was feeding off the paranoia people have about crime. He made it up and it fed into people’s perceptions because he wanted to stay there. Crime is an issue, it is everywhere in this country, but whites are not more in danger here from it than blacks or anyone else,” he said.

Luke Mills, an Englishman who has lived in Mowbray for seven years, agreed the country was getting a “bad rap”.

“The idea that as a white person in South Africa you have somehow drawn the short straw is ludicrous, when you look at the average white person’s life-style and the opportunities which come their way it is laughable… This guy is a con man,” he added.

It is far from the hell hole painted by Mr Huntley. His former white neighbors don’t believe a word of his tale and — strangely, they say — no one seems to have heard of him, not even the owner of the biggest water irrigation business who claims to know “every salesman in the area”.

Anesh Maistry, head of the political section at the South African High Commission in Canada, said board’s decision is wrong and belies the reality of South Africa. Maistry also said the board never asked for South Africa’s views on Huntley’s claims nor did it seek to confirm his allegations of repeated attacks.

“This decision is incorrect, it is not factual, it does not represent the facts on the ground. It portrays South Africa in a negative light and it misrepresents the work that has been done in the last 15 years to build a nonracial society in the country,” Maistry said.

Deepak Obrai, Canada’s parliamentary secretary to the minister of Foreign Affairs and a Conservative lawmaker in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, expressed outrage over the board’s decision in a statement and said it shows a serious lack of judgment.

“Having grown up in Africa and witnessed the devastating effects of apartheid, in this case against blacks and Indians, it is beyond my understanding how a Canadian institution makes a decision on a racial basis,” said Obrai, who was born in Tanzania.

In South Africa, the case has infuriated the ruling African National Congress. Both government and the ANC slammed Canada’s decision as racist, saying it perpetuated false stereotypes that black people attacked white people, whereas both were victims of crime which newly elected President Jacob Zuma has pledged to reduce.

“We find the claim by Huntley to have been attacked seven times by Africans due to his skin colour without any police intervention sensational and alarming,” said the ANC’s Brian Sokutu. “Canada’s reasoning for granting Huntley a refugee status can only serve to perpetuate racism.”

Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for the Home Affairs Ministry, slammed the Canadian move as preposterous.

“It would have been courteous for the Canadian authorities to contact the South African government to verify this case,” he told reporters. “The allegations are as preposterous as they are laughable.”

See video clip below:

The Canadian government, under pressure from South Africa, said it would challenge the ruling of the immigration board’s decision  in 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, in this case the Federal Court,” said Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

However, there will be no quick decision by the court.Kelli Fraser, spokesperson for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration explained the process:

“It usually takes four to six months to learn if the Federal Court will hear the case, and several months after that for a decision. If the Federal Court agrees with the government’s position, it will ask that the case be re-determined,” she said.

Abraham Nkomo, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Canada, said he had been told of the Canadian government’s decision and that the court would take between 30 and 90 days to review the asylum ruling.

“They have understood our case and submission, and want to place on record that they have a very high regard for South Africa’s track record, its inter-racial harmony and democracy that have been observed in our country,” he said.

“They also take into regard the bilateral relations between our two countries, which are very strong.”

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