The Refugee Council of Australia is calling for the Australian Government to increase efforts to assist people at risk to get out of Afghanistan, as the first anniversary of the Taliban’s violent takeover of Kabul approaches.
The Taliban takeover of Kabul took place on 15 August 2021 resulting in a large-scale increase in forced displacement, with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR estimating that there are now more than 5.8 million Afghans displaced – 3.5 million inside Afghanistan and 2.3 million as refugees in neighbouring countries.
In the past 12 months, the Australian Government has issued around 6,000 humanitarian visas to Afghan nationals, with the largest number being to people who were evacuated out of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries in the weeks after the fall of Kabul.
CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia Paul Power said the Australian Government had received refugee and humanitarian visa applications from more than 210,000 Afghan nationals since last August and this demonstrated the overwhelming need for Australia to offer solutions for people at great risk.
“The majority of people who have sought Australia’s help are still stuck inside Afghanistan and facing persecution because they belong to minorities targeted by the Taliban, they have previously worked for organisations opposed by the Taliban or they have advocated for the rights of women and girls,” Mr Power said.
“As a nation which, over 20 years, deployed more than 39,000 military personnel to Afghanistan and invested more than $1.5 billion in programs to promote human rights, economic and social development and good governance, we have a particular responsibility to stand by the people of Afghanistan who shared Australia’s vision for the future of the country.
“We recognise the many complications involved but Australia should focus as much effort as possible on continuing to assist people at great risk in Afghanistan to get to safety.
“While members of the Afghan diaspora in Australia have significant concern for refugees in Pakistan, Iran and South East Asia, the gravest fears are for those still inside the country and most likely to be targeted by the Taliban and other extremist factions.”
In its announcements in January and March this year, the former Morrison government committed to 26,500 humanitarian and 5,000 family visas over the five years from 2021-22 to 2025-26, including 16,500 visas through a four-year special intake from July 2022.
“While the overall commitment is significant, the planned pace of issuing visas is far too slow to meet the compelling need for immediate action for people at great risk.
“In the time Australia has taken to issue 6,000 visas to Afghan refugees, Canada has resettled more than 17,000 people, Germany more than 20,000 and the United States more than 75,000.”