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White Refugee
August 31, 2009 12:11 PM   Subscribe

This past Thursday the Canadian government granted refugee status to Brandon Huntley, a South African who has been living illegally in Canada since 2005. Huntley claimed that if he were to be repatriated back to South Africa he would be persecuted due to the fact that he is white. The South African government is not amused.
Tribunal panel chair William Davis said the evidence of Huntley "showed a picture of indifference and inability or unwillingness" of the SA government to protect "white South Africans from persecution by African South Africans".
posted by PenDevil (56 comments total)

 
African South Africans

English is funny, isn't it?
posted by The Whelk at 12:24 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I blame the prawns.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:28 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


African South Africans

English is funny, isn't it?


It's not as funny as Canadian political correctness backfiring. Now, I wonder if they have European South Africans in South Africa.
posted by waxboy at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2009


African South Africans

My brother used to live in Armenia he's Caucasian but not Caucasian.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:39 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


South African Canadian Consulate Envoy: "I don't think you really want to go to South Africa."
Roger Murtaugh Brandon Huntley: "Why not?"
South African Canadian Consulate Envoy: "Because you're black white."
Leo Getz: "You are. He is."
posted by total warfare frown at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


This has been going on for years, but until now it's mainly been professonals like doctors who were actively courted by various Canadian municipalities. And a good percentage of them end up going back to South Africa after a year or two. But Mr. Huntley has most certainly burned his bridges, so I don't think that will be an option for him.

There's no denying that South Africa is a country with very serious problems, but I bet you could find just as many (or most likely far more) black South Africans who have experienced the same kind of violent crime as Huntley. The root problem is grinding poverty, and a government that seems to be incompetent and corrupt in equal measures.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:00 PM on August 31, 2009


Isn't the failure a more general one; to protect South African citizens in general from high levels of violent crime?
Don't doubt racial epithets will have been used by attackers, or that certain perpetrators target whites as perceived to be wealthier, but would be interested in seeing what this compelling evidence was of a campaign of victimisation. Nationality issues came up in recent violence against Zimbabwean immigrants as I recall, but again madly reductive to reduce it all to identity.
On preview: I see Kevin Street is making a similar point.
posted by Abiezer at 1:01 PM on August 31, 2009


The South African government is not amused.

I've been trying to think of an example of a government being amused, but I'm drawing a blank.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:04 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Canadian newspaper reported that Huntley - who grew up in Mowbray, Cape Town - claimed he had been attacked seven times by black South Africans.

He said he was called a "white dog" and a "settler".

"There's a hatred of what we did to them and it's all about the colour of your skin," Huntley reportedly said.


I'm pretty sure I've read of these types of attacks happening before in South Africa over the issue of land ownership. There's a deeply complicated racial history in South Africa and I think it'd be a little glib to dismiss this incident as humorous.
posted by empyrean at 1:04 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to think of an example of a government being amused, but I'm drawing a blank.

I don't know, I hear Louis XIV was always highly amused when his courtiers trundled in little poodles to do the minuet for him.
posted by blucevalo at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the lawyer's sister, with the tortured brother (shouldn't that be the lawyer's brother as well?), can be used in every tribunal that that immigration lawyer handles?

That would make for a pretty effective immigration lawyer for white south africans.
posted by srboisvert at 1:28 PM on August 31, 2009


New Zealand is another country benefiting from the troubles in South Africa. An increasing number of South Africans who want to love and live in peace are making New Zealand there adopted home.

Apart from a few crazy ideas about rugby, they are hard working, honest and respectable people and they are adding to the fabric of our culture enormously.

You can see their loss though, having a beer on the porch on a balmy evening, when the conversation turns to home, their eyes stare out into the night, and tears steam down their cheeks.

South Africans have the same deep connection to the land that we Kiwis have and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have that taken from you.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:36 PM on August 31, 2009


South Africans have the same deep connection to the land that we Kiwis have and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have that taken from you.

Yes, it was horrible when 3.5 million South Africans were forcibly relocated by--

Oh, wait. You didn't mean those South Africans, did you?
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:45 PM on August 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


New Zealand is another country benefiting from the troubles in South Africa.
Didn't do England much harm in the recent Ashes series either :D
posted by Abiezer at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


South Africans have the same deep connection to the land that we Kiwis have and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have that taken from you.

Yes, it was horrible when 3.5 million South Africans were forcibly relocated by--

Oh, wait. You didn't mean those South Africans, did you?


Living in Massachusetts you directly benefit from the exact same sort of situation that white South Africans did, the only difference was that it happened a few hundred years earlier and our ancestors killed most of the indigenous peoples who lived there and drove the rest off.

Pot meet kettle.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:55 PM on August 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


It probably doesn't help the Canadian government that much coming on the tail end of a scandal where they denied a passport to one of their own citizens in Kenya for over three months.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:02 PM on August 31, 2009


I wonder what evidence he gave the Canadian government.
posted by clockzero at 2:26 PM on August 31, 2009


Refugee boards are fairly independent so he didn't give the evidence to the government per se. But this isn't doing the government any favours in terms of racism in Canada.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on August 31, 2009


But this isn't doing the government any favours in terms of racism in Canada.

Eh? Explain? If admitting this refugee is racist, I haven't picked up on it yet.
posted by grobstein at 3:10 PM on August 31, 2009


Living in Massachusetts you directly benefit from the exact same sort of situation that white South Africans did, the only difference was that it happened a few hundred years earlier and our ancestors killed most of the indigenous peoples who lived there and drove the rest off.

Yeah, well, Living on planet Earth you directly benefit from the exact same sort of situation that early mammals did, only difference was that it happened 65 million years earlier after a meteor or some shit killed most of the indigenous dinosaurs who lived there.

Don't worry guys, it's official: discrimination is now OVER!
posted by mek at 3:29 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


The racism element will likely come from the fact that in the past couple of years white folks having been getting helped by the government (a woman trapped in Mexico and now a white SAfrican being granted refugee status) meanwhile Omar Khadr, a Kenyan woman and a Somali male have all had to resort to the courts just to get back into their own country.

Also, as part of the government's plan to reduce false refugee claims - so they say - a sudden visa requirement imposed on Mexicans coming to Canada, out of the blue and without warning.

So even though the refugee boards are independent from government, I'm willing to bet this is going to be seen as another example of how whites and non-whites can expect to be treated by the feds.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:32 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


The government refuses to believe a Canadian black woman says who she says she is and tells the Kenyan government her passport was stolen, a Nicaraguan man was denied asylum in Canada because he couldn't prove he's actually gay but a white guy? He's definitely persecuted and is admitted as a refugee.

Note that getting beaten up in your country of origin isn't sufficient cause to apply for refugee status. The criteria are summed up here. The fact that millions of white south africans manage to avoid violence based solely on the colour of their skin every day indicates that this claim alone may not have sufficient merit, but obviously I'm not on the refugee board nor do I really know the particulars of this case.

Having said all this, most refugee claims are well-handled in Canada and it's unlikely there could ever be a process 100% free of controversy. But they could try a little harder.
posted by GuyZero at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


South Africans have the same deep connection to the land that we Kiwis have and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have that taken from you.

Yes, it was horrible when 3.5 million South Africans were forcibly relocated by--

Oh, wait. You didn't mean those South Africans, did you?

posted by nosila at 3:38 PM on August 31, 2009


South Africans have the same deep connection to the land that we Kiwis have and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to have that taken from you.

Ask the Maori.

Mek: That's a pitiful straw man/absurdist reduction. I like to think we all hold ourself to higher ethical standards than mere animals. A troll of true skill would have at least used an example with human beings. I mean, I'm pretty sure you can do that without getting into the complexities of just when the staute of limitations on "homeland" runs out.
posted by absalom at 3:39 PM on August 31, 2009


I lived in South Africa for a few months, and I knew a white farmer who had been threatened by groups who claimed they would take his land so I don't think that Huntley's story is totally unbelievable.

As far as I know (no expert and I don't always catch the news from there), South Africa hasn't done massive land reforms - I do recall reading about some where they redistributed land which was seized illegally and paid the landholders pretty much market value for - this was a civilized approach, but it wasn't large scale and left a lot of people (right or wrong) still angry about its outcomes. Its not hard to see how influences from Zimbabwe could cross the border and flare up in a few places.

That said, I still somehow doubt anything like this happeed to Huntley and I am going to chalk this one up to the CATCH-22esque nature of the Canadian refugee/immigration /foriegn policy process - which among its legit refugees has been known from time-to-time to admit thugs and warlords from places like Rwanda and Haiti; its general level of weirdness is mostly colourblind.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:56 PM on August 31, 2009


To me, it seems typical that our current government, renown for its abandonment of its citizens should they be so unlucky as to have dark skin while travelling outside the country, would happily welcome any ol' white guy who has a story to tell. I swear, we have a racist government right now.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:10 PM on August 31, 2009


And I forgot: Stephen fucking Harper [spit].
posted by five fresh fish at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2009


most refugee claims are well-handled in Canada

I wish that were true - my impression is that it's not. The one's making the decisions have too little experience, education on the issues, and accountability. I think it would better if it were more integrated into the Canadian justice system or at least worked harder at respecting the laws of natural justice.'

I don't know enough about other countries to know how it fares comparatively, but anecdotally I'm discouraged by the unsuccessful asylum seekers and the successful scammers I've come into contact with.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I've been trying to think of an example of a government being amused, but I'm drawing a blank."

Oh, c'mon. Raum Emmanuel is constantly smirking!
posted by markkraft at 6:06 PM on August 31, 2009


I've been trying to think of an example of a government being amused, but I'm drawing a blank.

I'd guess that would be impossible - even Queen Victoria was not amused, whilst ruling over the largest empire the world has ever seen.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 PM on August 31, 2009


A troll of true skill would have at least used an example with human beings. I mean, I'm pretty sure you can do that without getting into the complexities of just when the staute of limitations on "homeland" runs out.

How is it a troll? It seems you appreciate that with a bit more rhetorical polish mek would have a legitimate argument, and you even go so far as to half-spell it out yourself.

The Boers have been in South Africa for 300+ years. The ancestors of many Black South Africans actually migrated there later from the north. Simply possessing black skin doesn't automatically make you a native of every square inch of Africa. And if past territorial conquests or unwelcome migrations are somehow a mitigating factor for racial violence then did the Serbs have a point in Bosnia? What about the massacres of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia? Not to mention half the Middle East and Turkey. A White South African has every bit as much of a right to live in South Africa as a Black South African. Take your ostentatious White colonial guilt elsewhere.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


This past Thursday the Canadian government

Or, you know, an independent administrative tribunal. Whatevs.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:38 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know enough about other countries to know how it fares comparatively, but anecdotally I'm discouraged by the unsuccessful asylum seekers and the successful scammers I've come into contact with.

Internationally respected, actually, with higher -- in some cases *much* higher -- grant rates than other countries from the same source countries. For a clue, note statements by Harper at what a terrible system it is and how it has to go, and contrast with statements by the Canadian Council of Refugees on how good it actually is, if not perfect, and how it would function a lot better if the government would just get around to appointing a full complement of IRB Members, which our gov has been notoriously reluctant to do.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2009


This is really stupid. Crime in South Africa is nowhere near bad enough to warrant 'refugee status' - it's just absurd. It's not Grozny. For the most part you live life like an average suburban American - you travel between your office park or school, the strip mall, and home. You lock your door and you don't walk around the city much.
This guy is either incredibly unlucky or he is doing something wrong. If crime really is so bad in (pretty much central) Cape Town, he should move someplace more tranquil. They do exist, in South Africa even.
The ignorance we are being shown here (perhaps selectively!) really would make me question this board's judgement in other case (e.g. there' something like 5 million white people in SA - all sticking out like a sore thumb"??)
I mean, I feel for the guy wanting to stay in Canada and trying something so damn sneaky, but this is wrong and sets a bad precedent, and it's a pretty big insult towards South Africa.
posted by Flashman at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2009


There is no precedent setting. It's a case by case analysis. I haven't read this decision (has anyone here?) but there are all kinds of reasons why a particular person might be able to substantiate a claim of risk in a country that isn't dangerous to his or her group. Canada takes in many people every year, for example, that are targets of mafia-style organized crime, domestic violence cases, etc, and one of the elements which has to be overcome/met is that of "internal flight alternative", which means, at least according to the IRB, no, this guy couldn't reasonably escape to some other area within the country.

*shrug* They also get it wrong sometimes. There really are too few details to go on here to tell.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:05 PM on August 31, 2009


I mean, I feel for the guy wanting to stay in Canada and trying something so damn sneaky, but this is wrong and sets a bad precedent, and it's a pretty big insult towards South Africa.

Yes, he must be doing something "sneaky" because many other white people are able to live in ZA.
posted by grobstein at 7:05 PM on August 31, 2009


SA accepts white refugee ruling
A representative of the South African High Commission in Ottawa, Anesh Maistry, says South Africa has taken note of the decision by Canadian authorities to grant a white South Africa, Brandon Huntley, refugee status.

Huntley, 31, claimed that he would be persecuted if he returned home to South Africa.

Speaking from the High Commission's office in Ottawa, Maistry told News24 that Canada was a sovereign country that made its own laws. Canada had followed its own internal processes and was legally entitled to make whatever decisions it wanted.
posted by PenDevil at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2009


Oh, also worth noting, is that the "Canadian government" doesn't usually appear at these things, though it can -- if it has notice of a contentious refugee claimant ahead of time. And when it does, what side do you suppose it appears on? That's right. Opposing the claim. So really a bit of a longshot to impute some sort of intention to the gov here, and I say that not as a fan of the current admin to put it lightly.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:22 PM on August 31, 2009


Canada takes in many people every year, for example, that are targets of mafia-style organized crime, domestic violence cases, etc

Interesting. If that's the case, then they are probably going beyond the Convention definition of a refugee, and extending decisions to compassionate grounds that do not strictly fall within the UNHCR requirements.

The Convention definition is quite straightforward in its elements (emphasis mine):

A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Typically, under the interpretation of the definition in various nations' refugee tribunals & courts, "targets of mafia-style organized crime, domestic violence cases, etc" are not interpreted to fall under "membership of a particular social group" - which is the only one of those categories that they could even remotely belong to. (Remember that the Convention was drawn up in response to the Holocaust, and is framed very much with that kind of situation in mind, not just a generally shitty or discriminated-against life)

The "particular social group" is normally read as meaning a group of people with objectively noticeable & recognisable 'features' beyond the mere fact of being at risk of persecution. To pull an example out of thin air, it might mean albinos, or amputees. Chinese women with more than one child might qualify, but (from memory) usually fall short because the hardship they suffer is not thought to equate to persecution.

But overall, the idea that "being at risk of persecution" (eg by the mafia) constitutes a "particular social group" is a circular argument in terms of the elements of the Convention definition.

/former refugee lawyer
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:41 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act uses that definition, Ubu, but there's also s.97, for those already in Canada. That's usually what the organized crime and domestic violence cases fall under (though not always). There are humanitarian and compassionate cases, too, but those weren't the ones I was talking about.

If this ends up being particularly embarassing, the gov will simply take this to the federal court for judicial review -- if they think there is actually an error in the decision. They can't simply do away with decisions they don't like, the tribunal being independent and all, no matter what Harper has to say about "bogus" claims and the like.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:46 PM on August 31, 2009


most refugee claims are well-handled in Canada
I wish that were true - my impression is that it's not.


I have the same impression.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on August 31, 2009


Oh sorry, Ubu. Sydney. Here I thought you'd know the legislation.

Section 97 here, basically following the CAT standard, with a few wrinkles. Refugee law here is rather hard to parse from the outside. The Act itself is a bit of a mess.

And on preview:

I have the same impression.

Really? I thought about 10 comments ago you had no idea who was even deciding refugee cases. My mistake.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:52 PM on August 31, 2009


The Boers have been in South Africa for 300+ years.

Exactly. "African South African" was a stupid and IMO racist thing to say.

Or, you know, an independent administrative tribunal. Whatevs.

True, that, but it takes cues from the government. They aren't in a position to run afoul of Harper [spit!] and retain their jobs, let alone their mandate.

All IMO, and I do have a particularly strong hate-on for this current government. Fucking destroying us, they are.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:54 PM on August 31, 2009


it takes cues from the government.

Wow. I knew people were a bit misinformed, but to mischaracterize this particular relationship this severely... I'm actually a bit staggered.

I'm done here.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:09 PM on August 31, 2009


Yeah, well, Living on planet Earth you directly benefit from the exact same sort of situation that early mammals did, only difference was that it happened 65 million years earlier after a meteor or some shit killed most of the indigenous dinosaurs who lived there.

they were oversized lizards, fuck 'em
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 PM on August 31, 2009


Perhaps I'm just particularly pissed at Harper and Campbell as of late, but I don't doubt that if a tribunal makes a decision that makes those bastards look bad, there'll be hell to pay. That is bound to be influential at the best of times, and Harper certainly doesn't represent the best of times.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 PM on August 31, 2009


This doesn't appear to have made headlines in Canada. I'm kind of surprised.
posted by oaf at 9:22 PM on August 31, 2009


The ancestors of many Black South Africans actually migrated there later from the north

You are completely wrong. Native people lived in almost all areas of south africa by the time europeans settled there. Maybe they could claim table bay, but that's about it.
posted by carfilhiot at 10:10 PM on August 31, 2009


Maybe they could claim table bay, but that's about it.
Not even that, what wasn't settled by Nguni and Sotho tribes was settled by the Khoi and San.
posted by PenDevil at 1:10 AM on September 1, 2009


You are completely wrong. Native people lived in almost all areas of south africa by the time europeans settled there. Maybe they could claim table bay, but that's about it.

Sure, but the poster said "many", not all. The Zulus are just as guilty as the Boers are of pushing out the Khoi and the San. I think the point he was trying to make is that there is no "fair" status quo ante bellum to which we can return South Africa

It is absolutely true that all of Southern Africa was settled by black (let's not import inappropriate and confusing American terminology) peoples. But if we are to undo the injustices of colonialism, what "reset date" do we pick?
The Bantu groups such as the Zulu, and the Xhosa have not been in most of what is now South Africa for much longer (if at all) than the Afrikaner settlers.

I think there is an unfortunate tendency for Europeans and Euro-Americans to assume that there was some kind of equilibrium, some kind of "state-of-nature" among the "native" populations of the places they settled in Africa and the New World.
Of course this rubbish, and quite racist in a subtle structural sense. The history of South Africa did not begin with European settlement.

You can't simply say, "white people came here as invaders and should leave and return this place to the Africans", because that doesn't make any sense. The ancestors of the white settlers did come as invaders - though the groups they pushed out were Khoi-san hunter gatherers rather than Zulus mostly - but their descendants have now been there for hundreds of years.
Similarly, if you want to think of white South Africans as invaders, you must also think of the Zulu and the Xhosa as invaders.
Are we to "return" South Africa to the relatively few remaining descendants of the Khoi-San peoples?

Yes, of course Apartheid was a horrible thing, but that doesn't mean that we can't feel sympathy for Afrikaners who suffer racial violence.

I think we should try and give up this ridiculous game where we only feel sympathy for the group that was "wronged". I see it a lot on metafilter and it always disappoints me, listen people - we are all descended from rapists, murderers and genocides. Every single one of us. The advantage of being Dutch is that whatever genocides my ancestors carried out to gain control of the Netherlands happened in the bronze age before accurate written records are available. That doesn't mean I get to be smug and tell Americans that they never get my sympathy for absolutely anything because their country was founded on land bloodily stolen from its original inhabitants.
posted by atrazine at 3:10 AM on September 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


The advantage of being Dutch is that whatever genocides my ancestors carried out to gain control of the Netherlands happened in the bronze age before accurate written records are available.

Wait what?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not denying our/my colonialist past (one of my ancestors was the governor of Java), but now that we've been kicked out of our colonies, we can pretend that it's all in the past.

We don't currently live on land that we wrested by force from its original inhabitants in historical memory. This makes it easy for us to forget. I bet the average white South African thinks about the legacy of colonialism every day, the average Amsterdammer? Almost never.
posted by atrazine at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2009


I bet the average white South African thinks about the legacy of colonialism every day, the average Amsterdammer? Almost never.

Unfortunately you are probably right.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:42 AM on September 1, 2009


I look forward to the day we can talk about South Africa and not mention race.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:38 PM on September 1, 2009


Canada moves on SA refugee ruling
The Canadian government is going to court to try to overturn a controversial decision to grant refugee status to a white South African who said he suffered racist attacks at home, an official said on Thursday.
...
"With regard to the Brandon Huntley case, the government is seeking leave to challenge the IRB decision before the Federal Court," said a spokeswoman for Canada's federal citizenship and immigration department.
posted by PenDevil at 3:52 PM on September 3, 2009


Yep, as expected, the Minister is taking the case to the Federal Court, though it is not an "appeal" (the Refugee Appeal Division is still undeclared legislation) but judicial review, and, as opposed to a "rare move", it happens all the time.

Still, I guess that means they're getting more accurate. Sort of. By a bit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:33 PM on September 4, 2009


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