South Africa to protest race-based argument accepted by Dublin court
By Bill Corcoran
The Irish Times, October 15, 2009
Cape Town — The South African government is to lodge a protest with the Irish ambassador in Pretoria against a race-based argument that was accepted by a Dublin court leading to one of its citizens being granted temporary residency.
The decision last week by the High Court to grant South African Dianne Jefferson Irish residency for five years, partially based on her fears that she would be targeted by black criminals if deported, has reignited a race row in her country of origin.
In her affidavit to the court Ms Jefferson said that as a 'white South African' she believed her life would be put in serious danger if deported because criminals would target her because of the colour of her skin.
Ms Jefferson (22), from Doughiska, Co Galway, launched her legal bid to secure residency last month after she was told by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that she had been refused a residence card, and should return to South Africa.
The young woman left South Africa in 2002 as a 14-year-old following the death of her grandmother, and came to live in Ireland, where her father is based. She has attended secondary school, gone to college and married an Irishman. She has no relatives in South Africa.
In her affidavit Ms Jefferson said: 'I say and believe that as a white South African there is a real possibility of criminal racial discrimination against me and I fear for my wellbeing and ultimately my life if I am returned.'
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, director general of South Africas department of international relations and co-operation, has questioned the veracity of the affidavit.
The courts decision, while accepted by South African officials, has prompted the state to seek a meeting with the Irish Ambassador to object to Ms Jeffersons argument, because it is similar to one put forward by a South African man who was given asylum in Canada in August.
Cape Town-born Brandon Huntley was given refugee status by Canadas independent immigration board last August after the 31-year-old said he would be targeted by black criminals if he returned to South Africa. He said he had been attacked seven times and stabbed four by black criminals. He never reported the incidents to the police.
An outraged South African government took issue with the boards ruling and approached their Canadian counterparts to contest the decision in court, which they have agreed to do.
According to the South African government, Mr Huntleys claims that whites are targeted by black criminals does not reflect the reality, and does little to bring the two ethnic groups together in the post-apartheid era.
Sanda Kimbimbi, southern Africas representative at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, said there were limited scenarios under which South Africans should be granted refugee status in Ireland, and fear of common law crime was not among them.
The ruling has also caused widespread debate in the South African media, and in public forums, among those who think whites are targeted more because of the colour of their skin.
The latest figures show a crime epidemic in South Africa. More than 18,000 murders were committed in the 12 months to last March, and the number of burglaries has risen steeply over the same period.
On Monday a South African government spokesperson said that after receiving a full report from the embassy in Ireland on the Jefferson decision, the government had decided to pursue the matter to ensure the countrys good name was not tarnished by suggestions that whites are targeted by blacks.
'We have decided to take the issue up with the Irish Ambassador in South Africa, and international relations and co-operation deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim will raise our objections against the position taken by the young woman,' said spokesperson Malusi Mogale. A source told The Irish Times that as of yesterday no protest had been lodged with Irish officials in Pretoria.
Dr Ntsaluba said it was tragic that the countrys efforts to build and pursue policies of national reconciliation were being undermined and abused by Ms Jefferson and Mr Huntley. 'Any notion that crime in South Africa, which is a scourge that our government is spending a lot of time on trying to address, any notion that it is racially motivated is obviously without any basis,' he said.
The Dublin ruling has sparked fierce debate among South Africans. Some argue that the Irish and Canadian cases highlight legitimate concerns among some in the white population who fear for their lives, while others see them as nothing more than an attempt by white South Africans to secure legal status abroad by any means.
According to Irelands refugee application statistics 975 South Africans have applied for asylum in Ireland since 1999, and 46 of these have been granted.