White Refugee in Canada …

Brandon Huntley, a white 31 year old South African applied to the Canadian Refugee Board for asylum on the basis that as a white male, he was at risk and unsafe in South Africa. In his application, he claims that he had been attacked seven times by black South Africans (criminals), had been stabbed four times during these attacks and that he had been called a dog and a settler. He also argued that he was unable to find employment because of affirmative action. In general, Huntley made his claim for asylum on the basis that he was being discriminated against and being persecuted for being white and that the South African government was doing nothing to protect him.

The basis of applying for and being granted asylum
Huntley applied for asylum in terms of the United Nations Convention Relating to Refugee Protection that came into force in 1954. In terms of this Convention, a person may apply for asylum (protection) from another government or country, if he or she has a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ and if his or her own government is ‘unable or unwilling’ to protect him or her.

In granting Huntley refugee status, the Canadian Refugee Board thus believed the case being put forward by Huntley that (a) he was being persecuted or at risk of being persecuted because he is a white male (well-founded fear of persecution); and, (b) that the South African government is unable or unwilling to protect him In terms of the UN Convention, which both Canada and South Africa have ratified, every person has the right to apply for asylum and if the claim is found to be valid, to be granted such asylum. It was thus well within his rights for Huntley to apply for asylum and for the Canadian Refugee Board to grant him status as a refugee.

Note that technically, it is not the Canadian government that granted him asylum – the Refugee Board was created as an independent statutory institution to make these decisions ‘on behalf of’ the Canadian government. The purpose of creating such an independent body was precisely to avoid political interference in decision-making abouth whether to grant asylum or not. The controversy is thus not about the legality or validity of the process, but rather about whether Huntley’s case meets the requirements of the Convention. So even if Huntley does have a well-founded fear of persecution (which many commentators are disputing), is it also correct that the South African government is unable or unwilling to protect him? Note that both requirements need to be met for a claim to be successful.

What evidence was presented in Huntley’s case?
It is not entirely clear on what evidence the decision was based, other than Huntley’s own accounts of him having been attacked and called racist names – though by his own admission, none of the attacks were ever reported to the authorities and we thus only have his word that the attacks happened. Sources also suggest that in presenting evidence on his behalf, Huntley’s lawyers in Canada made use of press statements by opposition party leaders, newspaper reports and so on, in which claims are made about whites being targeted by criminals and in which the (ANC) government is depicted as being racist against whites. Whatever the evidence was that was presented, it appears to have been sufficiently compelling for the Refugee Board to accept the merits of the case presented by Huntley.

The significance of the decision
The importance of the decision of the Canadian Refugee Board (which is an independent Board) should not be under-estimated. While the decision about whether or not to grant refugee status is meant to be made on a case by case basis, taking into account the merits of the evidence presented by the applicant, the decision to grant asylum affirms not only that the individual is at risk, but in some ways more importantly, it also affirms that his or her own government is unable or unwilling to protect him or her and this is of course an indictment of the government in question.

If applied more broadly, the decision of the Refugee Board thus concurs with the view expressed by Huntley; namely, that white South Africans are at risk of being persecuted and that the South African government is unable or unwilling to do anything about it. In what appears to be a rather bizarre unspoken message, the SA government is implicated in the persecution of whites, directly or indirectly. It is thus no surprise that the South African government has reacted angrily to this decision.

Abuse of the asylum process
It is well-documented internationally, including in South Africa, that people who wish to emigrate to another country will attempt to make use of (abuse) the asylum system to do so. In the case of South Africa. for example, many would-be immmigrants know that their chances of using the normal migration channels to work and live in South Africa are rather slim. As an alternative, they enter the country as asylum seekers, knowing that it would take at least a year, more likely two to three years for their application to be fully processed, during which time they are allowed to legally live and work in the country.

This is by no means to suggest that all or even the majority of asylum seekers fall into this category, but we do know that it does happen. In the case of Huntley, there does appear to be an element of abusing the asylum process.

Newspaper reports suggest that Huntley had tried to emigrate to Canada and that it was only after his second work permit expired and after he had been in the country illegally that he applied for asylum- a pattern which is typical of people who do not meet the requirements to obtain a normal immigration permit.

Setting a precedent
Huntley is probably not the first white South African who has thought of or actually applied for asylum on the basis that as white South Africans they are being discriminated against/persecuted , though he is the first to succeed in his application. This is of huge significance in setting a precedent because by definition, any other South African, black and white, can now apply for asylum on the basis of being at risk and that the government is unable or unwilling to protect them.

Undoubtedly, the Canadian Refugee Board considered this and, therefore, would not have made this decision lightly. This would suggest that the evidence presented by Huntley was sufffciently compelling (in his case) to warrant a decision and a ruling that would not apply in other cases. We have no idea what this might be, but even so, it does not prevent other South Africans from trying their luck and applying for asylum, and by law, their applications would have to be considered on a case by case basis and by the rules of jurisprudence, the onus would be on the Refugee Board to demonstrate why Huntley succeeded in his application and others may not.

The mind boggles at what appears to be a rather bizarre decision of the Refugee Board and though the Board should be commended for exercising its mandate ‘without fear or favour’, unless they can produce conclusive evidence that the Huntley case meets the two fundamental requirements of granting refugee status (a well-founded fear of persecution and the inability/unwillingness of government to provide protection), the mind will continue to boggle.

To conclude
A few years ago I was participating in a live radio call-in programme. One of the people who called in was an elderly white woman from Sea Point, who said that she was at risk of being a victim of crime and that she generally felt unsafe and unprotected. Her question was whether, if she applied for asylum in another country, she would be granted refugee status. My answer was an emphatic NO- on the basis that she would have to prove a well-founded fear of persecution AND that government was unable or unwilling to protect her. Now, following the decision in the Huntley case, perhaps my answer to the same question would be less emphatic. In fact, as a tongue-in-cheek response, I would probably say that if anyone felt really strongly about being persecuted and being unsafe because of the high levels of crime and the inability or unwillingness of government to protect them, they should try and make their way to Canada and submit an application for asylum. Who knows, they might just be successful!


20 Responses

  1. Thank you Sam for placing this debate in the correct forum so we can all follow it. Thank you Vincent for raising this issue because it tells us much of race relations in this country.

    This judgement, in my view, could have been based on several facts. Firstly, white South African farmers are on GenocideWatch, being murdered in disproportionately high numbers as a population percentile. The generic murder rate in SA, massaged or not, qualifies SA as a low intensity conflict zone but more civil wars have been fought with lower casualties than the annual SA murder rate.
    Secondly, there is a politician problem in this country. Those who downplay violent crime do so on the understanding that there is only a perception of violent crime. This creates the impression that nothing should be done because nothing is wrong. Couple this to an ex-police chief with contacts to organised crime, a current police chief with no experience (apart perhaps from leg breaking) and a president who openly advocates public violence, then something is being done, but nothing legal worth mentioning.
    Thirdly, there is a general public impression that there is no equal protection from the law. From how cases are reported to how laws are applied unequally between politicians and the rest of society, and I have recently heard that white men have no recourse in cases of unfair dismissal, an impression is given life that there is no isonomy worth speaking about in SA.
    Lastly, when a pot-smoking laddish labourer can obtain asylum when just as many black women would have a more legitimate claim on refugee status, we can be assured that we have a governance problem worth speaking about.
    It does not help the ANC to dismiss this judgement as a racist one. It is becoming an organisation more polarised on race because it is convenient and expedient and such racialised debates require that no real work be done to change this nation and create a prosperous one based on non-racialism, isonomy, and free, law-abiding agency.

  2. Justin is correct when he says that this case tells us much about race relations in South Africa. Whether or not one supports the claim made by Huntley or the decision of the Canadian Board to grant him asylum, I cannot help but wondering whether Huntley himself believes his claims.

    My instinctive reaction to the case was that it was clearly a well-orchestrated ploy by Huntley to make use of the asylum system to achieve his goal of being allowed to live and work in Canada and that somehow, he had managed to dupe the Canadian Board into accepting his claim as sincere and genuine. Now I’m no longer so sure.

    I’ve been reading some of the comments by readers on the IOL website and am rather surprised by how many people share the view expressed by Huntley that whites are being targeted and who believe that there is a vendetta against white people. At the same time, the vehemence of the reactions of those who rubbish the claims made by Huntley and his supporters is also rather disconcerting.

    Clearly there are white people in South Africa who really believe that black people are out to get them and rather than take these perceptions seriously and trying to find ways of addressing these, those who express this view are being pooh-pooh’d as racists. I’m not for one moment suggesting that there is any validity to the claim that blacks are out to get white people or that Huntley was justified in claiming asylum, but the fact that many white people seem to believe that this is the case confirms what Judith and I were talking about in the early hours of this morning – that there are a whole lot of unresolved issues that need to put on the table.

    So- while some of our reflection may be about the validity of Huntley’s claims and the decision of the Canadian Board to grant him asylum, it seems more urgent that we reflect on what the responses to the case tell us about who and where we are as a nation.

    I still think that Huntley opportunistically abused the asylum system – but what if he really believes himself?

    • He surely can’t believe himself – his claims are absurd. No protection from the government and there’s no record of his reporting any of his seven alleged attacks to the police?! Newspaper reporters who tried to interview his parents said they were embarrassed. Apart from all the other issues does this echo the “did you see lions on your trip to Johannesburg” ignorance we don’t expect from Canadian immigration authorities but wouldn’t be very surprised at from others living so far away?

  3. Having refugee status does not guarantee admission. South African Ambassy

  4. Just out of interest, in yesterday’s star, the judge, Justice Motala, was quoted as saying during his arrest for DUI something to the tune of, ‘the whites cannot tell us what to do because we [presumably black South Africans]’ are running things now.’

    Perhaps, and I speculate, white South African perceptions are fuelled by a percieved attitude that black South Africans do not feel the need to include or engage on a deep and meaningful level with whites of SA because arrogance on the part of the ruling elite and all the little coattail riders implies that whites are neither citizens, equals or fellow sufferers.

    Whites appear only acceptable to the ruling class, if class has anything to do with it, so long as they contribute to the distributive justice programme of the current government or the pockets of politicians, al la Kebble or Shaik.

    Also, feelings of resentment and anger, of perceived and real offence, all grow way out of proportion when an entitlement claim is being made. In order to lend credibility to a moral distributive justice question, which usually ends up being resolved in favour of the politically connected, quotas in productive asset redistribution and derived economic benefits allow hyperbolic claims to become more frequent and politically suitable. Whatever the beneficiaries are saying becomes the dominant discourse.

    So we sit with a governance problem, in which arrogance places the ruling class above the laws they themselves pass, unlimited greed for personal gain disguised as distributive justice, exaggeration and hyperbole as a predominant determinant of discourse, and reasonable and moderate points of view marginalised to the point where reasonable people exist as a lunatic fringe.

    From the personal perspective, Huntley did the right thing – he removed himself from a discourse to which he cannot contribute, from a society that does not want his contribution, and emigrated to a country that bought his version of events, or the events his overpriced lawyer articulated on his behalf.

    In a way, we are all catering to a dominant set of prejudices, and this Huntley case has brought it out, – that whites are racist and whingeing chickens and that blacks are racist, intolerant and violent. What we all hold in common is an inability to take criticism on the chin which fuels our collective bigotry and intolerance. I suppose having to confront truth is what offends us the most.

    • Utter rubbish. Huntley was correct in what he did. The Immigration Board was correct in its decision.
      What is hard to believe is the naievity of those who think they understand a situation in which they have never been.
      Namecalling, as in “whingeing chickens”,as opposed to description, racists, annuls any points worthy of consideration.

  5. I don’t know who it is that it writing as the South African Ambassy (sic), but I suggest that you go have another look at international refugee law. Of course having refugee status guarantees admission – that is the whole point of the international asylum system i.e. to provide protection to persons at risk of persecution because their own governments are unable or unwilling to do so.

    P. Smythe – the whole point of the blog is to provide an opportunity for discussion. It would actually have been helpful if you explained why you think Huntley and the Board were correct. This kind of – ‘you’re talking rubbish, you’re naive and I won’t talk to you’ response is one of the reasons why we have problems about so many things.

    It is OK that we disagree about whether or not Huntley and the Board were justified in their actions. It will be better if we are able to openly talk about the reasons why we disagree. Maybe this will help us to move forward…

  6. WwAwR: Why we Are white Refugees is a joint project, by various RSA bloggers, and concerned individuals….

    (a) LETTERS: Emails/Letters sent to Canadian, or South African Officials;
    (b) NEWS ARTICLES: White Refugee Main Stream News Stories;
    (c) BLOGGER OPEDS: Blogger OpEd Opinions on White Refugee Issues,
    (d) REFERENCE: White Refugee Supporting Documentation…..

    If you have written a letter to a Canadian Official, on the Huntley White Refugee issue, please email us a copy, so that we can put it in the letter database.
    Email it to: jmc.pa.tf.white-refugee@gmail.com


  7. It is my view that the primary challenge we sit with is that most white people continue to refuse to acknoweldge the pain and the objective reality of the past. The fact that after searching for a job for less than a year in a country (as far as I can tell from the media reports) with a 40% unemployment rate Huntley claimed affirmative action as the reason for not being employed is tantamount to being unable to make an analysis through a “white victim” lens. If that is such a hardship for a white person then we need to get over ourselves because that is chump change compared to what black have dealt with in the past (soem still do in the present) and continue to experience as a result of systemic exclusion based on race.

    Until white people acknoweldge that 400 years of systemic exploitation has led us to the situation we find ourselves in and accept that there does need to be systemic redress and do so with grace; it is unlikely that anger towards white people by individual black people will diminish. It is astounding to me just how much grace we continue to demand of black people without truly acknoweldging the past.

    I do feel that we have to continually mollycoddle white people and treat them in a special way in order for them to feel like they belong. It is in our hands to choose to belong and our actions and our words need to demonstrate this choice instead of whining most of the time. Employment statistics broken down on a racial basis still demonstrate that white people are less unemployed than other race groups, white poverty is a miniscule portion of overall poverty and I do not believe that white men have no recourse after being dismissed. I know two white men personally who have been paid out after a CCMA process. Part of the problem is hearsay vs fact and i think it is irresponsible to continue to promote hearsay.

    Claiming persecution on the basis of individual incidents in which a black judge or a black criminal uses racial commentary is in my view an insult to the many people in the world who truly do experience systemic persecution. While serious violent crime is a serious matter and the greatest threat to our democracy; it is not limited to white people and it is not only white people who are subjected to serious verbal abuse during the course of crime taking place.

    What is however true is that crime that affects white people is told in significant detail in the press and is given more prominence around dinner party tables in the white community than the violent crime that bedevils all the people who live in South Africa.

    The primary question that I think needs to be asked is when will white people themselves start to deracialise their perceptions of what is taking place in the world and begin to understand that it is not only their movie – there are other actors.

    The starting question in my view is not “are the perceptions of white people accurate” but rather “what prejudices drive the perceptions that MANY BUT NOT ALL white people have that they are excluded?”

    It is tiresome to me that everytime I feel like we are making progress towards accepting that our history is an important determinant in the way we should interact then some silly white male sets up a situation where we have no choice but to racialise the discourse in order to make white people feel like they are being paid attention to and whereby my burden becomes to rebuild trust with the black people in my life. The black community is likely to always have a mistrustful racial view on white people until we stop demanding special treatment .

    I too have experienced very violent crime – perpetrated by people both black and white. I too have had to look for a job and not gotten the first twenty I applied for. Crime and a search for a job is a reality for ALL the people who live in South Africa and until white people get with the programme we will have to racialise all our conversations and is certainly naive to think otherwise.

  8. Hi. I notice my previous comment to IDASA on Huntley appears to have been censored.

    Here it is again:

    WwAwR: Why we Are white Refugees is a joint project, by various RSA bloggers, and concerned individuals….

    (a) LETTERS: Emails/Letters sent to Canadian, or South African Officials;
    (b) NEWS ARTICLES: White Refugee Main Stream News Stories;
    (c) BLOGGER OPEDS: Blogger OpEd Opinions on White Refugee Issues,
    (d) REFERENCE: White Refugee Supporting Documentation…..

    If you have written a letter to a Canadian Official, on the Huntley White Refugee issue, please email us a copy, so that we can put it in the letter database.
    Email it to: jmc.pa.tf.white-refugee@blogger.com


  9. Hello, I was just commenting on the nature of the debates – my opinion is that Huntley is not the first to claim refugee status – there are over 600 South Africans across the globe with it, and all of them made the same case as Huntley. Why are we only picking on this white guy when a woman with two children, after her husband had been brutally killed, tried to get into Australia as a refugee and was denied?

    We are all citizens and our fortunes are all linked. If we make 400 year generalisations or not does not change our racism, and our national predisposition to bigotry.

    Our standards of decency vary and our standards of morality are all relative but our constitution is supposed to be the moral aspiration we strive towards. If we fail to uphold it, in favour of promoting prejudice and exclusion in whatever form it may take, then I suggest we may as well become like those curs that put two God-fearing people in ICU after beating and raping the wife and attempting to kill her by beating the back of her head in until it had a hole in it, and just about smashing in the face of her husband while hurling racial epithets at them.

    Is it perhaps that more people think that JM Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’ has merit to the story than we will admit? Or is it that we know that this nation has always been comprised of aggressive peoples who simply look for an excuse to be violent? There is no excuse for what we are doing in this country and we have to take responsibility and hold those who are bigoted responsible for their actions and words.
    In the Citizen last week, an ANC notable was reported as saying that God does not hear people who pray in Afrikaans – this is how genocide starts and how people rationalise the evil they do. Who will take issue with this, the Equality Court or Judge Hlope?

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  11. Interesting how USA and Canada make the distinction White / Black. That is where the root of the problem is. If the man is French -> then call him French.. If the man is Nigerian – then he is Nigerian. Have at least that much respect for ones culture would you. I cant count all the teeth i knocked out of dumb americans for calling me a white boy

  12. Hi Anon,

    I don’t know where you are from, but I’d be happy to call you whatever you want me to call you.

    Just one thing — I am not of the ‘South African’ culture. My culture does not kill animals with bare hands, and make them scream with suffering. My culture does not endorse the cutting off of genitals, whether for female or male genital mutiliation, or to do so while the person is still alive and screamiing their heads off, so that the screams can give the ‘muti’ more potency. My culture does not endorse the raping of babies to cure AIDS..

    I could go on and on and on and on and on…

    If others are happy to endorse those practices in their culture — thier choice and their karma. Me –Thanks but no thanks.

    I am a white South African, my forefathers who landed in South African, instituted laws to abolish slavery in Africa, in 1636, over 200 years before William Wilberforce’s abolitionist movement.

    I am more than happy to leave Africa — if Africans want me to leave, because they hate the colour of my skin; because I do not endorse their savage cultural behaviour. I do not have a problem going back to Europe. But it appears that black Africans are incapable of even the simple honesty of saying ‘We would like whites to go back to Europe and to get the hell out of AFrica, so let us do what we can to make that possible.’ No, instead they would prefer to have us mass murdered — that is the ‘thank you’ for bringing them western civilization, abolishing slavery, etc etc..

    But of course, these are highly politically incorrect issues to be discussing, we are not allowed to have honest conversations about race, and criticism of black culture. Only white culture is allowed to be critized and nothing about white culture is ever to be acknowledged…. right?

  13. I am a white person currently living in south-africa and i am afraid of having children due to fears of their safety in this country. I am sure there are non-white people who share the same view as me for south-africa. But the fact is white people are being targeted by the anc government who are singing hate songs that calls for the killing of white people. There is no question about it, whites are being persecuted and systematically mass murdered for being white. We are seen as sub human in the eyes of the anc. Just read the news. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8602512.stm for proof

  14. Where do I go.

    Hi. Until the Huntley ‘White Refugee’ status is firmly enshrined as a possible escape valve for ‘white refugees’ from Africa; I would suggest you

    (a) help to educate on the need for such white refugee legal precedent.

    (b) research your family tree, and find out if your mother/father, grandparents etc have any dutch ancestors. If so, then find your original stamvader/progenitor, and the linkage from you to that stamvader/progenitor. Then fill out the “Assessment regarding eligibility for a Dutch Citizenship/passport” including all the lineology information from you to your original Dutch ancestor. You can find out more, or download the form, or about other EU nations we are trying to encourage to adopt the Dutch law, at “Right of Return to Europe; for African White Refugees”. There is a link to the facebook page, on the White Refugee blog.

  15. I’m going to tread lightly here, but this saddens me greatly to read some of these comments. Is the way forward really through FEAR?? Do we have to go back to talking points about White Genocide and Black Oppression just to talk to one another? Are South African whites simply going to arm themselves to the teeth or flee? Surely a healthy response is not to simply give up on the process.

    We can stay in our little “camps”, flee the country, opine about Brandon Huntley, or claim cultural superiority,or we can take risks and try and understand each other, admit our faults,be truthful about xenophobia in this country towards whites and immigrants, and ask for justice and peace for ALL of South Africa. I work with black south africans, live among them, and am not afraid to go in the the Township ( within reason) or ask hard questions of my friends and colleagues. Are there problems? Of course. Are whites being murdered needlessly? ABSOLUTELY. But you can’t build a healthy nation on fear and anger.

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