A top Australian official has called for emergency visas for South Africa’s white farmers, who are reportedly facing rising violence amid government calls for land expropriation in favor of black citizens.

“If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,” said Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. “I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”

“I do think, on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help and they need help from a civilized country like ours,” Dutton said, commenting on a documentary about violent rural crime in South Africa.

The claim followed a wave of stories related to the alleged persecution of white farmers in South Africa after the authorities approved new legislation allowing the redistribution of lands owned by white farmers to black South African citizens. In the predominantly black population of 50 million people white citizens reportedly own 72 percent of farmland.

Dutton’s call was slammed by South Africa’s Foreign Ministry. “There is no reason for any government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected government. That threat simply does not exist,” the ministry’s spokesman said in a statement.

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