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As the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani meets with Australian leaders, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is calling for a stay on forced returns of Afghan people seeking asylum in the light of the serious violence continuing within the country.

Several thousand Hazaras are currently in Australia and fear deportation to Afghanistan due to the persecution they have endured and continuing violence against Afghanistan’s religious and ethnic minorities.

In an updated expert opinion on violence in Afghanistan, Professor William Maley of the Australian National University’s Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy has highlighted the particular risk to Hazaras and members of other minorities, citing recent killings and attacks at protests, mosques and markets in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif and elsewhere in the country. While many of these attacks have been at the hands of the Taliban, the emergence of ISIS within Afghanistan has added considerably to the risks faced by members of the Shiite minority.

Professor Maley said the risk to members of the Hazara ethnic group was demonstrated by a December 2011 attack on a Shiite festival in Kabul which killed at least 55 people. “The key point to note is that no one with any knowledge of Afghanistan could seriously doubt that Hazara Shia were specifically targeted on this occasion. To depict this attack as an isolated incident misses the underlying history of antagonism towards Hazaras that is pertinent to assessing what the future holds. It is the kind of reasoning that would have defined the 1938 Kristallnacht experience in Germany as an isolated incident.”

This risk has been demonstrated by an upsurge in violence in 2015 and further attacks in July, October and November last year where Hazaras have been targeted.

Paul Power, RCOA chief executive officer, said, “There has clearly been brutal, episodic violence, particularly targeted at minority groups such as the Hazara. While this violence continues we urge the Australian Prime Minister Turnbull and President Ghani to not consider deporting or receiving people who risk death or persecution at the hands of terrorists.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura Stacey 0488 035 535