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Morrison Government must increase humanitarian refugee intake after months of inaction on Afghanistan: Senate inquiry hears

Human rights and legal organisations from around Australia will today tell a Senate Inquiry investigating Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan that the Morrison Government must do more for the people of Afghanistan.

The Law Council of Australia, Save the Children Australia, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Refugee Advice & Casework Service and more organisations will give evidence to The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s Inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.

The organisations are united in their call for the Morrison Government to take meaningful action on Afghanistan as community pressure for an additional humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 people and permanent protection to refugees from Afghanistan in Australia have gone ignored. Read More

It has been three months since the Taliban seized Kabul and Australian troops, as well as the U.S. and other forces, withdrew after a 20-year long invasion. There are currently an estimated half-a-million displaced people in Afghanistan and over 130,000 people from Afghanistan have applied for protection in Australia through the Special Humanitarian Program. However, the Morrison Government’s response has been wholly inadequate.

Tim Watkin, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Australian Council for International Development said: “The humanitarian situation is dire but we are sounding the alarm that the worst is yet to come as winter sets in. Today, over half of the Afghan people are living in extreme poverty, and without action this is predicted to rise to 97% by mid next year.

“We need urgency from the Australian Government on tackling the immediate humanitarian crisis; leadership on resolving challenges which are restricting the provision of life-saving aid; and urgent planning on how we can protect the development gains Australia has helped to achieve.”

Fiona Nelson, Senior Legal Advisor at Australian Centre for International Justice said: “Any assessment of Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan must consider the response to allegations of war crimes by Australian forces. Prosecutors need to ensure that Afghan witnesses and victims can participate effectively in any future proceedings. And the Department of Defence must act to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law in future conflicts.”

“The crisis in Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s civil society. The Australian government should immediately increase humanitarian intake from Afghanistan and ensure that Afghan human rights defenders are among those protected.”

The Law Council of Australia said: “We commend the Government on its package of measures to assist Subclass 449 visa holders. Looking forward, Australia’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan should be multi-faceted and include a significant increase in places allocated to Afghans within the humanitarian program and increased, sustainable financial support for legal assistance services to provide legal advice to persons seeking humanitarian visas and family reunion.”

Mat Tinkler, Save the Children Deputy CEO and Director of International Programs said: “Save the Children is determined to continue our work in Afghanistan to support the millions of children in need of life-saving aid. We are calling on the Australian Government to urgently increase humanitarian funding and to boost our intake of Afghan refugees to 20,000. Save the Children urges the Australian Government not to abandon the children of Afghanistan.”

Sarah Dale, Centre Director & Principal Solicitor, Refugee Advice & Casework Service said: “Response to the crisis in Afghanistan must be proportionate to our intervention and promises made. We made promises to those who served alongside Australia, we’ve made promises to defend democracy, we’ve made promises to protect those most vulnerable in Afghanistan. The overwhelming call from the community of Afghanistan for Australia’s protection is a result of our connections and commitments. We have an obligation to act, and presently our response lacks a recognition of 20 years of engagement in Afghanistan and decades of allyship with this community.”

Carolyn Graydon, Principal Solicitor at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “Australia participated in the Afghanistan conflict yet treated the fleeing victims with callous disregard for their basic human rights. Rather than providing safety, an intentional program of harm was inflicted upon them by the Australian Government, with many left to perish for years in offshore processing centres, subjected to protracted detention, denied durable protection and denied the ability to settle and be reunited with even immediate family members.”

“This cruelty has severely damaged the Australian Afghanistan community, many of whom are still in limbo and now face the additional psychological torture of being helpless to help their families in Afghanistan struggling for survival, who should have been brought to safety in Australia years ago. Australia has a lot to make up for and should immediately provide an additional 20,000 humanitarian visa places, abolish temporary protection and provide accelerated family reunion pathways to those separated from their families, as well as others at risk in Afghanistan before more lives are lost.”

You can read submissions here

Media Contact: Sam Brennan, [email protected]

*Note a previous version of this release incorrectly said that it was four months since the fall of Kabul

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What’s next for Afghanistan?

Hava Rezaie, Hayat Akbari, Zaki Haidari

28 September 2021 Eureka Street

It has now been over a month since the Taliban seized Kabul. As attention inevitably shifts elsewhere, the painful question arises: What next? Is this another back to the future moment? The signs are grim. Over the last two weeks, the Taliban have issued a number of edicts which demonstrate that their attitudes to women have not changed.

On 18 September, they banned girls from attending secondary school. Then on Sunday 19 September, the Taliban instructed female employees in Kabul’s city government to stay home. Men would replace them where possible. Read more

No matter where we come from or how we got here, everyone needs a safe place to call home.

But for nearly eight years, successive governments have enacted harmful policies against people seeking asylum, including the indefinite detention of those who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013.

Today, there are over 250 people held against their will in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Over 1000 women, men and children have been transferred to Australia for critical medical treatment and now live in ‘transitory’ visa limbo. Over 150 of those people are held in locked immigration detention centres known as APODs (alternative places of detention).

Countless Parliamentary and Departmental inquiries, UN investigations, reports by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and numerous whistleblowers, including the government’s own doctors have repeatedly told us the same story of systematic abuse, violence and medical neglect of people held in detention facilities. Tragically, 13 people have lost their lives as a result of Australia’s offshore detention regime.

After nearly eight years, it’s time Scott Morrison and the Government commits to the resettlement of people seeking asylum and refugees in a safe and permanent home.

It’s time for release from detention.

It’s time for a permanent resettlement solution.

It’s time for a home.

Sign the Petition