Saturday, September 05, 2009

Brandon Huntley: Dead Man Walking

In not one instance has The Times bothered to interview ordinary white South Africans like those that have written to me, instead opting for the opinions of academics some of whom are not even white! This is poor journalism if it can be called that at all.

The Times

White refugee faces deportation

Brandon Huntley, the South African refugee, may be forced to return to the country he turned his back on.

Huntley, who was granted asylum in Canada on the basis that black criminals were targeting white South Africans, has unleashed a backlash that could result in his deportation.

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board granted him refugee status last week after ruling that South African authorities were unable or unwilling to protect him and that, as a white South African, he would “stick out like a sore thumb” in his homeland.

But that country’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration has applied for leave to appeal the board’s ruling in the Federal Court.

Yesterday an emotional and embarrassed Robert Huntley, Brandon’s father, refused to speak to the Sunday Times when approached at his home in the seaside village of Pringle Bay, Western Cape.

“He’s a grown man. I’ve got nothing to do with it,” he said before closing the front door.

SA’s High Commissioner to Canada, Abraham Nkomo, welcomed the decision, saying “reason has prevailed”.

Immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg said he believed the ruling would be overturned and Huntley deported.

“It’s going to be difficult for the same guy to go to another jurisdiction, especially in another developed economy like the US, Australia or any European country and apply for asylum based on the same evidence,” Eisenberg said.

He added that if the Federal Court did agree to consider the matter, Huntley could be in trouble.

“The danger for him is that the Federal Court will test how reliable the evidence was that he presented to the board.”

South Africa would have no choice but to accept Huntley back into the country if he was deported. “He is still a South African citizen with rights,” said Eisenberg.

Huntley is likely to stay in Canada for now, though. Canadian Immigration Department spokesman Kelli Fraser said it would take up to six months to learn if the Federal Court would hear the case and “several months” after that for a decision to be handed down.

Academics have joined the chorus of protest over Huntley’s claims, writing to the Canadian government to condemn his version of his homeland as insulting and an outrageous distortion of reality.

This week a group of 133 academics from 13 South African and six overseas universities, wrote an open letter to Canada’s charge d’affairs in Pretoria, Jeff White, distancing themselves from Huntley’s views.

“Huntley paints a picture of white South Africans as a victimised minority, persecuted by a vengeful and racially vindictive black majority,” they wrote.

“This is deeply insulting to the great majority of black South Africans who have embraced reconciliation and also to those many white South Africans who value the opportunity to participate in building the non-racial, non-sexist society envisioned by our constitution.”

The group, which includes Professor Jonathan Jansen, the vice-chancellor of the University of Free State, and political commentator Adam Habib, added that the “outrageously distorted representation of contemporary South Africa does not square with the realities in our country”.

Huntley — a well-built martial arts fanatic and former lock in his school’s first rugby team — applied for refugee status, saying he had been attacked by black thugs who preyed on whites.

He claimed he had been robbed, and stabbed, seven times, but never bothered to report this to police.

Huntley also claimed his attackers called him a “white dog” and a “settler”.

His claim was met with scepticism in South Africa, with a senior police officer telling the Sunday Times: “We looked into it and couldn’t find any record of him having been a victim. It’s bizarre for someone to say he’s been a victim so many times and never report it.”

Huntley made various attempts to stay in Canada, including trying to join the army and marrying a Canadian citizen. He played his final stay-in-Canada card by seeking refugee status.

Huntley’s version of victimhood also does not gel with his school friends.

Classmate Paul Yates-Round said: “Brandon is someone with domkrag (brute strength). People didn’t mess with him because he was so big and strong.”

Huntley boarded at the De Villiers Graaff High School — about 100km from Cape Town — in the Villiersdorp valley near Franschhoek. He was a prefect there in his matric year, 1996.

A picture of him then shows him wearing an old South African flag on his chest — two years after the advent of democracy.

Wesley Wild, who shared a dormitory with him, said: “Brandon was a Bruce Lee fanatic. He just loved martial arts and rugby. He is a big guy, over six foot, and very outgoing. He wasn’t one to back down from a challenge.”

He first arrived in Canada on a six-month working visa in 2004, and returned to South Africa when it expired. He went back to Canada in 2006.

The main witness in Huntley’s case was the sister of his lawyer, Russell Kaplan, who herself has emigrated to Canada.

Laura Kaplan said her family had also fallen victim to black South African criminals.

Canadian David Moore, a professor of development studies at the University of Johannesburg, said the whole saga was an “embarrassing gaffe”.

“I am embarrassed even though it’s not the Canadian government’s fault. But they are reviewing the ruling and I bet that it will be reversed because it’s just so ridiculous,” added Moore, who has been in the country for 10 years.

Huntley went to ground this week, removing his picture from social networking site Facebook.

Interviewed by the Ottawa Sun at his home in the eastern end of the city on Thursday, he was described as “subdued”.

“I can’t go back now. I’m just hoping nothing goes wrong with all of that,” he told the newspaper.

His lawyer did not return calls and William Davis, who adjudicated Huntley’s application, was not available for comment.

An extract from Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board ruling has been made available on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website — although the document does not state the entire scope of evidence provided by Huntley and Kaplan.

“I find that his subjective fear of persecution remained constant and consistent up to and including the time he made his refugee claim,” Davis said.

He added that he had found Huntley a credible witness who had been attacked “on at least six or seven occasions because of his white skin”.

“He has scars on various parts of his body, stomach, right eye, right side of his body and hands. I find that the claimant has presented ‘clear and convincing’ proof of the state’s inability or unwillingness to protect him,” Davis said.

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