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Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan

On 25 October 2021, the Refugee Council of Australia made a submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.

Read the full submission here.

We highlighted a number of important issues for consideration by the Committee, including:

  • the costs of Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan
  • the adequacy of Australia’s preparation for withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • the need for an emergency response to the crisis
  • the impacts and implications for diaspora communities
  • facilitating diaspora contributions
  • mitigating negative impacts on diaspora communities in Australia
  • reuniting Afghan-Australians with their families
  • pathway to permanency for Afghans on temporary visas
  • provide avenues for the continued evacuation of people at high risk
  • ensure neighbouring countries keep their borders open
  • increasing resettlement for Afghans at risk
  • safety for people from Afghanistan in the Asia-Pacific Region
  • impact of Australia’s offshore processing policy on people from Afghanistan
  • the the situation for people from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Australia, including in detention

We made the following recommendations to the Committee:

Recommendation 1 Funding for international humanitarian relief

The Australian Government should increase funding to humanitarian organisations that are on-the-ground in Afghanistan to ensure adequate response to vulnerable communities in the context of heightened humanitarian needs.

Recommendation 2 Independent monitoring mechanism

The Australian Government should support the call for an independent mechanism to monitor and report on violations and abuses, to collect evidence, advance accountability and deter further crimes in Afghanistan.

Recommendation 3 Diaspora Advisory Group on Afghanistan

The Australian Government should establish a diaspora advisory group on Afghanistan (in addition to the Advisory Panel on the settlement of Afghan nationals) to consult on issues relating to Australia’s future engagement with Afghanistan, including in relation to diaspora remittance channels, overseas development assistance, humanitarian relief efforts and diplomatic engagement.

Recommendation 4 Identify and prioritise applications in the Special Humanitarian Program from Afghan nationals

The Australian Government should identify and prioritise applications from people from Afghanistan within the Special Humanitarian Program backlog.

Recommendation 5 Prioritise family reunion applications in the Migration Program for Afghan nationals

The Australian Government should prioritise applications for family reunion in the Migration Protection from sponsors from refugee backgrounds, including those from Afghanistan.

Recommendation 6 End policies that place refugees who arrived by boat at the lowest priority for family reunion

The Australian Government should abolish Direction 80 and the SHP prioritisation that places family reunion applications from refugees who arrived by boat at the lowest priority.

Recommendation 7 Grant refugees from Afghanistan on a TPV or SHEV a permanent visa

The Australian Government should provide all refugees from Afghanistan on a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) a permanent visa, in recognition that they will never be able to return to Afghanistan. By granting Afghan refugees a permanent visa, they will be able to fully contribute to the Australian community and economy.

Recommendation 8 Emergency rescue for Afghans at risk

The Australian Government should continue to work actively to identify and support individuals facing significant risks, including granting In-Country Humanitarian or Emergency Rescue Visas to those requiring immediate evacuation.

Recommendation 9 Support for neighbouring countries hosting displaced Afghans

The Australian Government should substantially increase its contribution of humanitarian and development assistance to states hosting the greatest numbers of displaced Afghan nationals in order to support access to protection.

Recommendation 10 Special intake of 20,000 humanitarian visas for Afghan nationals

The Australian Government should allocate a special intake of 20,000 humanitarian visas over two years for Afghan nationals in addition to the regular Humanitarian Program intake.

Recommendation 11 End the ban on resettlement for refugees in Indonesia

The Australian Government should end the ban that prevents refugees in Indonesia who registered with UNHCR after 30 June 2014 from accessing resettlement.

Recommendation 12 Work towards an integrated response to displacement in Asia

The Australian Government should convene a forum with NGOs, refugee-led organisations, peak bodies, intergovernmental bodies and other relevant stakeholders to advance the development of an integrated and strategic response to displacement in Asia, including consideration of the roles of international development assistance, diplomacy, capacity-building and the strategic use of resettlement.

Recommendation 13 Work with resettlement states to maximise collective impact

The Australian Government should work with UNHCR to bring states involved in refugee resettlement together to explore how they can work to maximise their collective impact in Asia, using the support offered through resettlement to encourage host states to improve the protection of refugees within their borders.

Recommendation 14 Immediately prioritise resettlement for people on Nauru and PNG

The Australian Government should resettle all people subject to offshore processing, including those from Afghanistan, and their immediate families to safe countries.

Recommendation 15 Prioritise and urgently assess asylum claims of people from Afghanistan

The Australian Government should urgently prioritise and assess the claims for asylum of people from Afghanistan. Those who have been refused a protection visa should have their claims automatically reviewed given the changed circumstances in Afghanistan.

Recommendation 16 Urgently review the need to detain people from Afghanistan

The Australian Government should review the detention of each person from Afghanistan currently in onshore immigration detention facilities.

 

Read the full submission here.

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