As an employer and support network of many Afghan migrants, and a supporter and advocate of people’s rights, we find the news of Afghanistan falling to Taliban control particularly distressing. We have already seen and heard so much in the short time since this occurred. We also know that the people will be under severe physical risk or affected in many other ways.
As such, SMRC has added its name as part of a joint statement being sent to all federal parliamentarians. Penned by the Refugee Council, this submission outlines several practical responses that can be made by the Australian Federal Government. These are as follows:
1. Do everything possible in coming days to evacuate people who are at grave risk within Afghanistan
2. Urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan, including and particularly Pakistan and Iran.
3. Offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as the Australian Government did in 2015 with 12,000 additional places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
4. As many people are now at risk from hunger and lack of shelter due to their forced displacement, immediately increase Australian aid to the region to support programs to assist people who have been displaced across borders and, wherever possible, support organisations still offering assistance within Afghanistan.
5. Extend the temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia, as the Government did in May for citizens of Myanmar, to assure people that they will not be at risk of imminent forced return.
6. Extend permanent protection to 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.
7. Assist Afghan Australians, 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 and should include giving priority to finalising family reunion applications.
We hope the action taken is quick and decisive. SMRC is here to offer support to anyone affected by the situation currently unfolding.