Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Urgent action to reinstate the Refugee and Humanitarian Program to previous levels is required immediately
As Australians watch in horror at the escalating humanitarian situation unfolding in Ukraine, we the undersigned organisations, members of Australia’s refugee communities and refugee supporters are calling on the Australian Government to immediately restore the Refugee and Humanitarian Program to previous levels.
Over the past two years, more than 28,000 humanitarian places which were promised by the Government in its pre-election 2019-20 Budget have been lost. In 2020-21, the Government filled the 160,000 places in its Migration Program, but the Refugee and Humanitarian Program dropped to just 5,947 places, its lowest level in 45 years. This has occurred while serious conflicts have been escalating in Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea and now Ukraine.
The 2022 Budget provides an opportunity for the Government to reset its response to global refugee needs. The restoration of the 28,000 lost humanitarian visas should begin with a two-year additional intake of 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan and the restoration of the annual Refugee and Humanitarian Program to its 2013 level of 20,000 places.
The special emergency intake for Afghan refugees would enable Australia to respond more effectively to those most at risk among the 6.5 million people now displaced inside and outside of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban’s violent takeover of Afghanistan in August, more than 150,000 Afghans have applied for humanitarian visas in Australia but, despite the dire situations they face, few have much hope of reaching safety in Australia.
This special intake would also create more space for refugees from other nations. The two-year special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees announced by the Abbott Government in 2015 enabled Australia to resettle 39,100 Syrians and Iraqis and 28,600 refugees from other nations over four years. A similar measure now would enable Australia to play a greater role in contributing to solutions for the 5.6 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East, the 4.6 million refugees in eastern Africa, the 1.1 million refugees from Myanmar and refugees now being displaced in large numbers from Ukraine.
The crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine have prompted many Australians over the past year to contact refugee support agencies to offer to welcome and provide practical support to newly-arrived refugees. Many of us are proud of how our government and community have stepped up over the past 75 years to respond to significant refugee crises and how our nation has benefited from the impressive contribution of former refugees.
We believe the Government can and should do more to ensure a consistent, holistic, and generous response to support people affected by ongoing, protracted conflicts around the world. We urge you to address this request as a matter of urgency.