18 August 2021
Re: Seven urgent and practical steps Australia can take to provide safety and leadership on the situation in Afghanistan
Australians are watching with alarm as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan. The events are particularly distressing to members of Australia’s Afghan diaspora who are hearing directly from family members and friends about the terrible violence within the country. There are already many reports of executions and forced marriages of young women and girls.
Years of work to support the education, safety and autonomy of Afghanistan’s women, including programs generously supported by Australian aid, is being destroyed and many people are in fear for their lives. They include people who have worked with Australian and other western governments and organisations as translators, security and support staff, NGO workers and journalists. Members of religious minorities are also at grave risk, including the many Shia members of the Hazara community.
We, the undersigned organisations, businesses, and community groups, appreciate the Government’s existing effort in working to provide visas to locally engaged staff, and ask that you urgently intensify these efforts to help these people evacuate Afghanistan. We believe that Australia can help to provide international leadership through its own response and by encouraging other governments to act. Civil society groups in the Asia-Pacific region, refugee-led organisations such as the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees and members of Australia’s Afghan diaspora have shown wide consensus on seven important and urgent actions the Australian Government can take:
- Do everything possible in coming days to evacuate people who are at grave risk within Afghanistan, including those who have worked for or assisted the Australian Government and Australian organisations (including the embassy, armed forces, NGOs and media), human rights defenders and women and girls whose lives and security are under great threat.
- Urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan, including and particularly Pakistan and Iran.
- Offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as the Australian Government did in 2015 with 12,000 additional places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Canada has already announced its commitment of 20,000 additional places for Afghan refugees. Australia could match this offer and urge other resettlement states to do the same, sending a strong and positive message to states receiving Afghan refugees that the world is ready to share responsibility in the protection of lives at risk.
- As many people are now at risk from hunger and lack of shelter due to their forced displacement, immediately increase Australian aid to the region to support programs to assist people who have been displaced across borders and, wherever possible, support organisations still offering assistance within Afghanistan.
- We welcome the extension of temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia announced by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on 17 August. A vital next step of this is to ensure that people whose asylum claims have been previously rejected be supported to submit new claims in the light of the changed circumstances in Afghanistan.
- Extend permanent protection to 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas, recognising that members of this group are unlikely to be able to return in safety for many years to come and need the assurance that they can continue to live in Australia without the constant fear of forced return.
- Assist Afghan Australians, including people with temporary and permanent protection visas, with urgent family reunion applications for relatives who are at particular risk, as members of minorities targeted by the Taliban or people likely to be targeted because of their connections to western nations. This should include giving priority to finalising family reunion applications which have previously been lodged but are waiting on a decision from the Department of Home Affairs.
We urge you to address these critical priorities.