South African expats in WA cautiously welcome farmer visa plans

South African expats living in Western Australia have cautiously welcomed a move by the Federal Government to fast-track visas for farmers living in their homeland, amid escalating violence and land seizures.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has ordered his department to investigate how to bring the farmers to Australia in light of what he describes as "horrific circumstances".

Marc Deas is a farmer in Boyup Brook in the state's South West.

He moved to Australia from South Africa 12 years ago, forced from his homeland because he feared for the safety of his family.

"There are gangs of predators moving around the countryside targeting people on farms; men, women and children who are defenceless," Mr Deas said.

"They are committing the most atrocious deeds. People don't sleep well, they have security everywhere, they're forced to carry firearms. It's pretty scary."

Mr Deas said there is a strong appetite for farmers to leave.

"It's pretty tough living there," Mr Deas said.

"For us, life has changed massively. In the beginning it was really strange not to have to lock our doors.

"Now we can sleep at night. We can concentrate on doing our jobs, contributing to the economy and living our lives as a person really should be able to."

Calls for Australia to go further

Reeva Cutting runs a community group for expats in Perth.

She said the issue was a very emotive one for South Africans but the response to the Minister's comments has been overwhelmingly positive.

"There's a lot of talk about it, mostly in a positive light," Ms Cutting said.

"There are some people that want the [Federal] Government to take it a step further, extend it to more people, different races as well because it's not just a white problem.

"Everyone in South Africa is being a victim of crime at the moment but I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is specifically about farmers that have been targeted in a much worse way than the general population in South Africa.

"It's just horrific really and something needs to be done about it.

"If the South African Government is not going to do anything to start protecting these people then maybe it's a good thing that other countries are starting to recognise the serious problem that it is."

The South African Government has dismissed Mr Dutton's fears for the safety of farmers, saying its citizens were not in danger.

For more information about financial planning for Australian expatriates or expats, please visit the Whole Wealth - Expatriate page.

This article was published and provided by the Australian Broadcast Corporation.

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