Statement by Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia
The Australian Government needs to move right now to provide safety and leadership amid the situation in Afghanistan.
The Refugee Council of Australia has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for urgent action from the Australian Government:
- The Prime Minister and the Government should do everything possible to evacuate people at grave risk within Afghanistan. These include those who 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.
- Our Government should also urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan, particularly Pakistan and Iran.
- Additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees are needed immediately in Australia, 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 also 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.
- Australian aid to the region needs to increase as soon as possible to assist people who have been displaced across borders and, wherever possible, support organisations still offering assistance within Afghanistan. This is crucial as many people are now at risk from hunger and lack of shelter due to their forced displacement.
- Temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia need to be extended, as the Government did in May for citizens of Myanmar, to assure people they will not be at risk of imminent forced return. As part of this extension, people whose asylum claims have been previously rejected should be supported to submit new claims in the light of the changed circumstances in Afghanistan.
- Permanent protection is needed for the 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.
- Afghan Australians also need assistance, 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.
Members of Australia’s Afghan diaspora are hearing directly from family members and friends about terrible violence within the country. There are many reports of executions and forced marriages of young women and girls occurring right now.
Action is needed now from our Prime Minister and our Government. The Refugee Council of Australia and our members stand ready to assist the Prime Minister and the Government to address these urgent priorities.
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