South African Whites Seek Asylum in the U.S.

by Jason Dzubow on March 15, 2012

in Asylum Seekers

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An asylum claim by a white Afrikaner farming family from South Africa has sparked a debate about whether their claim is based on a real fear of persecution or is “the result of paranoid (and racist) whites wanting to leave because they want no part in a black-governed South Africa.” 

Some Afrikaners fear that in South Africa, white is the new black.

The family’s claim seems to be that they are being discriminated and persecuted by the government.  Also, they face a severe risk of racially motivated crime and the government is unwilling or unable to protect them.

The family’s attorneys have been searching for an expert witness, but they have been rejected by several academics:

Professor Mark Behr, of Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Dennis Laumann, of the University of Memphis, have rejected requests that they help the family.  “I am not interested in assisting Afrikaners claiming discrimination in a non-racial, democratic, post-apartheid South Africa,” wrote Laumann.  “In my scholarly opinion, there is absolutely no basis for their allegation – whatever evidence they may present.”

Such rejection seems to me to represent the worst of academia.  To assume that any claim of asylum by a white South African is based on paranoia and racism is bad enough, but to publicly state that “there is absolutely no basis for their allegation – whatever evidence they may present” is completely irresponsible.  As a top asylum attorney once remarked: No country is safe for everyone all the time.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the family will face an uphill battle for asylum.  For one thing, it appears that much of the case is based on the claim that the South African government discriminates against whites.  Assuming this is true, discrimination is not sufficient for a grant of asylum.  Also, to the extent that the family faces violence, they would need to show that there is nowhere in South Africa where they could relocate and live safely.  Given that there are about 4.5 million whites living in South African, I am not sure how the family can demonstrate that internal relocation is not an option.

Finally, the articles about white South Africans cite a figure that I find misleading.  They state that between 2001 and 2010, a total of 129 South Africans were granted asylum in the United States.  The articles imply that all these South African asylees are white.  DHS statistics show that 129 South Africans were granted asylum, but there is no reason to believe that these asylees are white.  Indeed, given that only 9% of South Africans are white, it is likely that the majority of asylum seekers coming to the U.S. are not white.

In any case, the asylum claim of the white South African family–like all asylum claims–should be evaluated on its merits.  Despite the irresponsible public comments of some academics, if the family has a well founded fear of persecution in South Africa, their application should be granted.

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