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Write to your MP and Senators: a special intake for refugees from Afghanistan

As the crises in Afghanistan continue, we need the Australian Government to do more to support our friends. One way to get involved is to write to your Member of Parliament and your State’s/Territory’s Senators to let them know that this issue is important to you.

Below is text that you can use as the basis for your letter. Adding your personal insights, ideas, and experiences would also add to the sincerity and meaningfulness of your letter.

Draft letter text below (amend with the name of your MP/Senators and anything else to personalise it).

 

Dear Parliamentarian,

I am writing to you to request that you encourage the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration to announce a special intake of 20,000 places for refugees from Afghanistan. The excellent work of the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force personnel in evacuating more than 4,000 people out of Afghanistan in the final two weeks of August now needs further life-saving work through a significant commitment to the resettlement of Afghan nationals over the coming two years.

The special intake is necessary and fair because of:

  • The compelling humanitarian need in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, with more than 670,000 people forcibly displaced so far this year, adding to the 5.7 million Afghans displaced at the beginning of 2021. UNHCR has suggested that up to 500,000 more Afghans could seek refuge in neighbouring countries in coming months, as those at greatest risk from the Taliban seek pathways to temporary safety.
  • The importance of Australia working closely with other resettlement states (particularly US, Canada, New Zealand, UK and EU countries) to offer support through resettlement, to encourage Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan to keep their borders open to people seeking safety.
  • The depth of Australia’s connection to Afghanistan, including through the 39,000 Australian Defence Force personnel who were deployed and the 41 Australians who died during our 20-year military engagement, as well as the $1.5 billion in aid to support women’s empowerment, human rights, economic development, education, health and effective governance.
  • The overwhelming number of Australians offering to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees through offers of employment, housing and donations of goods and also offering to be involved in welcoming refugees to their local communities.
  • The positive record of previous Coalition governments, including the Abbott Government’s decision in 2015 to allocate 12,000 additional refugee visas for Syrians and Iraqis over two years, resulting in 46,085 Syrians and Iraqis being resettled in the five years to June 2020. From 1976 to 1981, the Fraser Government resettled 50,158 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, leading to more than 130,000 Indochinese refugees being resettled over 15 years to 1991.

I also wish to draw your attention to the reductions in the Refugee and Humanitarian Program which have taken place since early last year – the shortfall of 5,579 visas issued in 2019-20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortfall of more than 7,800 visas in 2020-21 and the annual cut to the program of 5,000 places announced last October. While the 2019 Budget allowed for 75,000 refugee and humanitarian visas over the four years of the forward estimates (2019-23), the four-year total to June 2023 is now less than 47,000.

This means that over 28,000 refugee visas have been lost. In this sense, a special intake of 20,000 visas for Afghan refugees would not be additional but only a partial restoration of the visas the Government was intending to issue as of early last year.

It is also clear that Australia should continue to respond generously to the situations of refugees in other parts of the world, as happened during the height of our response to the crises in Syria and Iraq. Australia’s role in refugee resettlement is highly valued nationally and internationally, as is our capacity to respond flexibly at times of even greater need.

I would encourage you to share with the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration this request for a special intake of 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, looking at this in the light of the shortfalls in the issuing of visas in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and last year’s reduction to the annual Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

Yours faithfully,

[Name and contact information]

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