Austrialian Minister wants emergency visas for South Africa’s white farmers

White South African farmers “deserve special protection,” Peter Dutton, Australia's home affairs minister, who oversees immigration, said in an interview on Wednesday

A top Australian official said this week that white farmers from South Africa should be granted emergency visas, saying they needed protection in a “civilized country” amid a debate over redistribution of their lands to black citizens.

Mr. Dutton, who oversees immigration in Australia, said in an interview on Wednesday that the white farmers “deserve special protection.” He proposed offering the farmers expedited visas to resettle in Australia on humanitarian grounds.

“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare,”  Mr. Dutton said. He also cited news reports that white farmers in South Africa were in danger for their lives.

The comments from Mr. Dutton, a member of the center-right governing Liberal Party, also raised eyebrows in Australia, where immigration is a hot-button issue and Liberal Party politicians have been accused of using race as a political tool.

According to government statistics, more immigrants to Australia are born in South Africa than in any other African country. As of 2016, 181,400 Australian residents were South African natives, according to the latest census. The government does not break down that figure by race, but white South Africans have been moving to Australia in large numbers for decades.

The question of redistributing white-owned farmland to blacks in South Africa became an issue again in February when Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president.