Australia is acting like a tortoise and not a hare in the Afghan humanitarian crisis.

Aug 22, 2021

While our Prime Minister callously turns his back on a whole people that 20 years ago, we promised to help, a small country is offering a temporary safe haven for them from where they can then be resettled, primarily to the US

The comparisons could not be starker we are country ranked 14th in the global GDP reports, Albania (the country in question) is ranked 120th.  Our GDP per capita stands at $57,000, Albania’s at $6000.

Our Prime Minister doggedly repeats a mantra of closed borders, invokes national security bogey men and says nothing will change our visa programs and so believes, that he looks strong and is a leader

Nothing could be further from the truth real leadership has come from those willing to act and act fast. Albania and its neighbouring states Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia have all indicated that they are willing to provide a safe haven with US support.

It is not the first time that Albania has shown moral leadership. After the second world war its Jewish population had increased because it chose to protect its own communities and to give a safe haven to those from neighbouring countries. During the war in Kosovo it hosted some 500,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars displaced from their homes. And, today it still provides a safe place for Iranian exiles.

Albania may face many problems; it may not be our idea of a liberal democratic country, but it has shown a willingness to be part of the solution not perpetuating the problem and turning their backs on a whole people.

What has Australia done?

Despite the Interpreter visa program regulations and processing arrangements being put into place over 10 years ago some 400 people have so far arrived. Considering the average family sizes, it realistically means some 40 to 50 actual interpreters have arrived. How many did Australia employ over 20 years? Probably several thousand. How many have we abandoned?

Ministers try to confuse and bamboozle us with the complexities of processing and security clearances before visas can be issued. It Is an excuse to do nothing.  Over the decades we have faced these issues time and again. We have been able to make arrangements that protect our security and ensure vulnerable people caught in the middle of conflicts can be taken to a place of safety.  We have had arrangements for emergency rescue visas, we have negotiated with neighbouring states for temporary living arrangements until processes can be completed. We evacuated temporarily to Australia thousands of East Timorese and Kosovars when conflicts there placed whole populations at risk. Has national security been compromised? The evidence would suggest not we remain a peaceful and caring community so why does our government want to be so cruel?

The Prime Minister says he won’t be rushed into increasing the humanitarian program like the UK or Canada because it is not that simple it is like his mantra on Climate change he “won’t be rushed because it’s what you do not what you commit to”.  Unfortunately for him you need to commit to know how to do. If we announced a 20,000 program, we know it would be over several years. We know we will have to work on priority groups. We know we will need to design a processing system that provides integrity in the decision making while working in a volatile and unsafe environment. We know we will need to partner with other agencies to enable safe conduct. We know we might have to plan for temporary stay in a transit country. None of this is impossible we have done this time and time again. Avoiding an announcement just reinforces our reputation as a mean-spirited settler society uncaring about our fellow human beings wherever they may be. In the end the Prime Minister and his minsters will be dragged into increasing the number – he and his government will look weak as indeed they are.

It would also appear that with the collapse of the Afghan government the greatest fear of our government is not for the safety of the interpreters in Afghanistan, or the many thousands of Afghans who had worked beside Australian soldiers, Officials and NGOs, but rather, would boat arrivals resume and how to make sure that they don’t.

It would be a tragedy if people felt so insecure that they would be willing to risk their lives on treacherous sea journeys, but desperation makes people take desperate measures as we saw with the confusion at Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul. If boats start up it won’t be because our ring of steel is working it is because fear has overwhelmed people so much that any deterrence we may have in place is meaningless. How we can stop the boats is not by threats but by giving hope – by increasing resettlement places and helping families torn apart by wars and arbitrary bureaucratic rules to be reunited.

We can do the right things because we know it is right just like Albania and Kosovo. We know it is our duty to not turn our backs on people  and that indeed given the recent history of Afghanistan we have a moral responsibility to act.

 

JOHN MENADUE. The Coalition and media myth about stopping the boats.

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