Australia's conservative government is considering fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers so they can flee "horrific circumstances" for a "civilized country."
The offer was swiftly rebuffed by South Africa, with a government spokesman saying that no section of the country's population was in any danger.
Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who oversees immigration and has drawn international criticism for heading a tough crackdown on asylum-seekers from Asia and the Middle East, said the South Africans deserve "special attention" for acceptance on refugee or humanitarian grounds.
He cited reports of land seizures and violence targeting the white farmers.
"If you look at the footage, you hear the stories and you read the accounts, it's a horrific circumstance that they face," Dutton told Sydney's Daily Telegraph late Wednesday. "I have asked my department to look at the options and ways in which we can provide some assistance, because I do think on the information I've seen people do need help, and they need help from a civilized country like ours."
But South African government spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the BBC that there was "no need for anyone to be scared or to fear anything."
"The land redistribution program will be done according to the law," he said, adding: "We remain a united nation here in South Africa - both black and white."
Normally South Africans have to apply under other categories, including as a skilled worker or through family connections. Nearly 200,000 South Africans already live in Australia. Late last year, thousands of white farmers blocked roads in South Africa to protest against what they said was an explosion of violence against their communities in rural areas. Campaign group AfriForum, which advocates for its largely white membership, many of whom speak Afrikaans, cited dozens of murders.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power last month, has vowed to "escalate the pace" of redistributing land from wealthy whites to poorer blacks. Land ownership is a sensitive subject in South Africa, 24 years after the end of apartheid rule.
White people still own around 72 percent of individually-owned farms, with the black majority holding just four percent, according to an audit cited by Ramaphosa this week. The country's ruling ANC party has backed expropriation of land without compensation.
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