Since the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, Afghans in Australia have woken up to the news that the Taliban had taken over yet another district, the provincial capital, and swaths of territory in Afghanistan.
In the process, the Taliban destroyed homes, displaced thousands of people and reintroduced draconian laws synonymous with their previous rule. As the Taliban took control, women could not so much as leave their homes without a veil. Now international forces have completely withdrawn, and the Taliban takeover is complete.
The response from the Australian government has been little more than to call out breaches of humanitarian law, encourage the Taliban to take steps toward peace and respect human rights, and talk about floors and ceilings, alluding to how many additional humanitarian visas will be granted to Afghans fleeing to safety without any clear assurances being made.
At the same time, the Australian government has also tried to absolve itself of responsibility by repeatedly stating it is up to the Afghan people and its leaders to end the conflict in Afghanistan. But it cannot absolve itself following almost two decades of intervention and promises to the Afghan people that included protection for persecuted groups, women, democratic freedoms, and the rule of law.
Australia was part of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, and for most of the two decades, Australia made promises to the Afghan people.
Since the start of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, Australia also made promises to evacuate Australian citizens and permanent visa holders, and Afghans that risked their lives working with Australian forces or the Government. We now know that some of them have been left behind despite the hasty evacuation effort in August.
After two decades of intervention and promises, Australia has a moral obligation to take steps toward protecting those most at risk of the Taliban.
The Afghan Australian community is calling on the Australia government to take immediate action in response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan by:
Ensuring that the Australian government urgently commits to an additional humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 places prioritising the most vulnerable persecuted people. Similar to Canada’s announcement accepting 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, and similar to Australia’s response to the Syrian conflict in 2015 in accepting 12,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees.
Granting pathways to permanent protection to refugees from Afghanistan living in Australia, held in immigration detention and people from Afghanistan who currently reside in Australia and fear returning to a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. This includes refugees held in detention offshore and onshore.
Prioritising the family reunification visas of people from Afghanistan in Australia, including those who are prevented from reuniting with their families due to an unconscionable ministerial directive that requires the Department of Home Affairs to deprioritise family reunion of hundreds of people from Afghanistan in Australia.
Lifting the ban on resettlement of refugees to Australia through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia, a ban which has been in place since 2014. This ban continues to limit resettlement options for 10,000 refugees from Afghanistan awaiting safety and protection.
You can take #ActionForAfghanistan by:
- Joining close to 200,000 Australians from all walks of life who have signed an open letter, petitions, and emailed their MPs in support of the Afghan Australian community.
- Make a submission to the Federal Inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan. Submissions close 8 October 2021.
- To find out how you can support the Afghan Australian community visit www.actionforafghanistan.com.au.
Arif Hussein is a Senior Solicitor at Refugee Advice and Casework Service. He also coordinates the Judicial Review program, which helps people get access to one last chance at safety.