Where is our government in the Afghan crisis? People who helped us are in danger

Aug 18, 2021

The sudden collapse of Afghanistan’s political, military and administrative structures has highlighted how ill-prepared Australia and the world was despite the fears of many ordinary Afghans over many months.

The immediate focus now needs to be on what we can do to assist and support those stranded in Afghanistan – whether they are citizens, visa holders or people with substantial ties to Australia.

Afghan citizens whether in Afghanistan or displaced in the region are now living in precarious situations. Many are ethnically Hazaras, a group targeted by the Taliban as so called “heretics”. Their situation becomes doubly more precarious.

What can Australia do?

  1. Working with UNHCR, neighbouring countries and our international partners to create safe havens for people who have managed to leave Afghanistan  and are presently in countries from where orderly management of movements can then occur to final destinations,
  2. Commit to processing and resettling Afghans who have family ties to Australia and have been living in precarious situations in camps for decades, particularly in Indonesia and Pakistan. They must be reunited with family members in Australia.
  3. Re-open rejected asylum cases. The circumstances in Afghanistan have so dramatically changed that there really is no option but to reassess their claims. It is law.
  4. Provide greater psychosocial support for people in Australia. Their distress and concern for family members is unimaginable. At this time of need we as a community need to stand strong and together with a community in deep pain.

We as a nation are complicit in this crisis, despite warnings over many months we have been slow to act – only 400 visas issued so far to interpreters is a drop in the ocean.

There are precedents that the government seems to have forgotten. We were quick to act in Kosovo and East Timor and were leaders in the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese refugees. Where are the task forces now?  Our government’s greatest concern when it comes to people movements is with a potential upsurge of boats. Forget our humanitarian responsibilities!

We need to act now on all aspects of the human tragedy playing out in Afghanistan and for the millions who are displaced in the region. To do less betrays our values and who we are.

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