Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says Canberra is considering fast-tracking visas for white farmers so they can flee their "horrific circumstances". South Africa dismiss Dutton's out of hand comments.
Australia is considering fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers so they can flee their "horrific circumstances" for a "civilised country".
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who oversees immigration, said they deserve "special attention" and is examining whether they can be accepted into Australia through refugee or humanitarian visas.
"If you look at the footage, you hear the stories and you read the accounts, it's a horrific circumstance that they face," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph late Wednesday.
"I've asked my department to look at options and ways in which we can provide some assistance because I do think on the information I've seen people do need help, and they need help from a civilised country like ours."
South Africa immediately dismissed Dutton's comments out of hand.
"That threat does not exist," the foreign ministry said. "There is no reason for any government in the world to suspect that a section of South Africans is under danger from their own democratically elected government."
"We regret that the Australian government chose not to use the available diplomatic channels available for them to raise concerns or to seek clarification," it added.
White South Africans work hard?
Dutton's comments come just months after asylum-seekers and refugees held in a remote Pacific camp were awarded $56 million for being illegally detained and treated negligently in Australia's largest human rights class action settlement.
Canberra, which denied liability, sends asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat to facilities on Nauru in the Pacific and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
Dutton added that white South African farmers work hard and "I think these people deserve special attention and we're applying that special attention now".
He indicated that those wanting to leave may be able apply under an "in-country persecution" visa category, or through a refugee-humanitarian programme.
Land reforms in favour of poorer black
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power last month, has vowed to "escalate the pace" of redistributing land from wealthy whites to poorer blacks.
"This is the historic task that we have as South Africans to address this question once and for all," he told the parliament on Wednesday.
Land ownership is a sensitive subject in South Africa, 24 years after the end of apartheid rule.
White people still own around 72 percent of individually-owned farms, with the black majority owning just four percent, according to an audit cited by Ramaphosa this week.
The country's ruling ANC party has backed expropriation of land without compensation.
Dutton suggested an announcement could be made soon.
"We're just looking at the moment at what might be feasible and hopefully we'll make an announcement in due course," he said.